70. Return of the fool

Its been a while since I posted something here. That’s because I was once again away to Sri Vrindhavan Dham and just returned few days ago. Its dawning on me slowly that I miss this place terribly and I only hope that I am able to visit the dham once every year at least. I have done it twice now. I have so much to tell you all but why bore you. Instead I have some photos below. Maybe I will say a few words between photos if I feel like showing off.

Started day 1 with Sri Vrindhavan Parikrama

Started day 1 with Sri Vrindhavan Parikrama

 I arrived on the eve of Sri Krishna Janmasthami. And as usual it was packed !!! The kirtan, the abhishek and the feast at Sri Krishna Balaram mandir was just pure beautiful. I danced and jumped amongst the hundreds of devotees like there was no tmrw. The TV crew stood spell bound watching all the excitement around them. Next day at the temple they had the gurukul boys trying to break the pots hanging from the roof in the courtyard with a stick and blindfolded. That was exciting especially when everyone scrambled on to the floor to collect the spilled yogurt from the broken pots.

  

The smell of food was everywhere in the air, especially in the evenings.

The smell of food was everywhere in the air, especially in the evenings.

I forgot to mention that the River Yamuna was so full that it flooded the parikrama routes. The monkeys and cows looked bewildered. But personally, I enjoyed walking through the cool waters early in the morning.

The striking Madan Mohan temple

The striking Madan Mohan temple

I spent a bit of time at this temple along with others such as Banke Bihari, Radha Damodar, Radha Gopinathji, Govindaji, Radha Shyamasundara etc. As usual, it was my daily routine. But I had some very soecial moments this time around. 

In this visit, I entered the rooms of Srila Prabhupad for the first time at Radha Damodara temple and I was overwhelmed with emotions. Shed a few tears of happiness…don’t ask why…cause I have no clue. Maybe it happened when the senior ISKCON devotee in the adjoining room at Radha Damodara who is looking after these premises said, “This is your place too. You can come whenever you want and sit with Prabhupad”. It was the perfect invitation. He then gave me a huge garland which was on Srila Prabhupad the day before. I sat there for an hour with it and chanted the rounds very slowly too.

Also, at all the 7 original and most important temples of Vrndavana, I closed my eyes and sang the “Jaya Radha Madhava” kirtan in front of the deities. I received good wishes from the devotees at Radha Gopinath temple especially. In fact they joined me in the kirtan and it was great because it was the first time I had ever led one.

One lady came and asked me, “Are you an ISKCON kid? That’s why you sang so well”.

One old lady began to weep. For me this was the most moving experience. She must be in her late 70s and has been frequenting this temple for years and years it seems. I saw her last year as well. Basically, she was happy that young people were taking to Krishna so well and glad that I did the kirtan with everyone. I gave her a small picture of an ISKCON baby krishna painting from my wallet. She was ecstatic. I have never before seen this show of emotion. She laughed and laughed looking at the deities and the small pocket photo.

She cried out, “See..See…He is the owner of everyone..and look at Him sitting so innocently…”. She then closed her eyes and prayed. She then asked the priest to make sure that I have prasadam and go. And boy, when the prasadam arrived, I finished it in 3 seconds I think. That’s how tasty it was.    

Thats me leaving the Shahji temple after the morning darshan

Thats me leaving the Shahji temple after the morning darshan

I love sitting and chanting or doing a small kirtan round in these huge and silent ancient temples, early in the morning time. There is so much of calmness, no distractions and you come out so fulfilled. Also, I found it so easy to wake up in Sri Vrindhavan for the 4am mangal aarti and stay up till 10pm ! In Australia, its a huge effort for me to separate myself from the cold bed.

Nice cold milk based prasadam in an earthen cup. I had to share this with some monkeys.

Nice cold milk based prasadam in an earthen cup. I had to share this with some monkeys.

This trip I faced no problems with the notorious monkeys. They all left me alone and decided that my spectacles weren’t that interesting to toss in the air. I was a bit nervous with the ones in Seva Kunj though. They never took their eyes of me and didn’t move an inch from the parikrama path inside.

A exotic resting place for one of the local dogs

An ideal resting place for one of the local dogs

 This dog gave various poses for the camera. I can’t enlarge the photo in this blog but if you look closely, its actually smiling ! Really !

I miss these alley ways too!

I miss these alley ways too!So colorful and attractive

I love alleyways. I don’t know what it is with them but I can just stand there and gaze at them for a long time. To me it highlights some sort of close proximity between people, the long path leading to some surprise just around the sharp corner or the emptiness waiting to be filled by someone all of a sudden. Even in Melbourne, sometimes, I take the back entrance to the temple which is via an alley way too.
Just watching these sadhus get ready for their morning chanting was exhilarating.

Just watching these sadhus get ready for their morning chanting was exhilarating.

At the many temple complexes, especially close to the River Yamuna, one can watch and study the determination of the Vaishnavas from the various other vaishnava schools also. Their bathing, their heart felt prayers, the applying of the tilaka, the loosening of the japa beads and the chanting. I saw many of them sit cemented to the ground and finish their chanting rounds before they got up again.
And me? I sit for a while then I have to shift the body to the other side, then I need to stand, then walk, then sit, then shift…so many breaks in the flow. These sadhus would close their eyes and with out moving an inch would utter the maha mantra slowly, clearly, loudly and with great respect.
The much anticipated Sri Goverdhan Parikrama

The much anticipated Sri Goverdhan Parikrama

The last time I did the Sri Goverdhan Parikrama, I could not walk for 3-4 days! My sole had blisters, sun burned terribly and had no idea where I was going though I managed to complete it. This time, it was totally different. I started out the walk at 5am and finished by 2pm. I know that’s way too long. But when I started, my mind set was that I was in no hurry. I was going to do the japa slowly, watch the Goverdhan to my hearts content, rest plenty at the various kundas etc. And thats exactly what I did. I also listened to many kirtans on my iPod which made the exercise even more spiritual. The highlight of the parikrama was me not getting a bit tired or acquiring sore legs or getting lost. Also, the moment I got into the car, it rained so harshly that the car could barely move. It was fierce. Back at the MVT, we found it so hard just to cross the road and get to the Sri Krishna Balaram mandir on account of the heavy rain. But it made the whole dham so spectacular with fresh smell of soil, leaves looking greener, monkeys nose diving into pools, chill air….
This is how you pose with a calf !

This is how you pose with a calf !

I met this prabhu and his god brothers in one of the goshala during the Goverdhan parikrama. It seems this is their first ever photograph and begged me to send them copies of the snaps. Oops! I forgot their address. Perhaps, next time I can hand it over. The parents of this calf were so beautiful and ever watchful as we clicked this kodak moment with their little one.
 
The first Kunda I ever saw - Surabhi Kunda

The first Kunda I ever saw - Surabhi Kunda

This was the first kunda I saw in my first trip to Goverdhan last year. Since then, it has been very close to my heart. I spent a long time just sitting here in the early morning and taking in the fresh air. I also noticed a large and lonely bull sitting on these structures doing pretty much the same thing I was doing.
An old Vaishnava on the parikrama route

An old Vaishnava on the parikrama route

This sadhu was an inspiration. This is how you spend the final days of your existence on earth. You do the Goverdhan parikrama everyday. I look at this photo many times in a day and wonder if I will ever give up all these comforts of work, family and location to follow such individuals. I think he had the tilaka tatooed on to his forehead. And he was sooooo gentle in his talking, walking and chanting. WoW !
A Goverdhan resident

A Goverdhan resident

I am sure you would have noticed how calm, pious and gentle the residents of Goverdhan are. I met some kids who just sat on the roads or outside their house playing with branches and pebbles and looked so meditative. I have a photo of his brother too. The parents yelled from inside to their kids to smile. I like it this way.
Late evening at Vrindhavan

Late evening at Vrindhavan

That’s me above in one of the alley ways of Vrindhavan. This is the route that leads to Radha Gokulunananda and Radha Ramanana. I made sure that I visit as many and stayed as long as possible at the temples. Its a favourite pic of mine – me in the dark taking shelter of light.
 
Thats it guys! 
After a week at Vrindhavan, I am back to the commercial world. The day I left Sri Vrindhavan dham, I gave a lift to a senior western ISKCON devotee who was also celebrating his 25 years with the Hare Krishna movement. He was such a delight and also sings beautiful kirtans at the temple. He had come to Vrindhavan when he was in his early 20s and never went back. 
He recalled Sri Krishna’s message, “those who comes to My forest and then decides to leave are fools!”. Although, it made perfect sense and something I will never forget, this fool has returned back to Australia, leaving the very purpose of life and the greatest of location in the universe…
The prabhu also said as he got off the rickshaw, “but if you leave to talk about Sri Vrindhavan dham, then its ok”.
So, this blog article is my first attempt in that exercise.   
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