168. Part 12 – My 3rd Vrindhavan Trip

Few hours in the small forest

The Forest Overview

The Forest Overview

Covered on all sides by a high wall, the Nidivana forest is within Vrindhava town. The trees are small in height here. Peeping into this “courtyard” of forest, are houses all around, offering its residents a view of the holy land. The view is priceless compared to a million dollar beach estate ! This is the area where Krishna and Radha rested after enacting their Rasa lila pastimes.

When I reached the spot, it was late morning and the Sun was intense. Covering my head with a cloth, securing my spectacles from the monkeys, starting a fresh round of chanting and taking a deep breath of happiness, I entered the forests, praying that my mind doesn’t wander away too much.

Forest Within

Forest Within

Once again, it’s the cool ground that captures your attention first. Then, there is the shade. What a contrast. Super hot outside and cool on the inside. There were many village visitors from in and around Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bengal. They were singing very melodious bhajans at many spots within the forest. It was nice to sit amongst them and listen to their haunting voices.

Forest Path

Forest Path

This was one such spot where the travelers sat and sang for almost 30 minutes. An old lady would sing and her family members would sing back the same lines. Also, the spot where I sat and completed a few rounds of my chanting. What a pleasure ! Sitting under the thin trees, on the ground and with leaves up above. The mind was peaceful. It was great. I was told by a tour guide last year that the trees bent down and its branches touching the ground during day time and at night they all get up, readying themselves for another night of beholding Radha Krishna’s pastimes. No one stares at this mystical forest at night, it seems in order to respect the personal of time of Lord and that residents around the wall have their windows shut.

Forest Visitors

Forest Visitors

Besides humans and monkeys, the place also attracted many hyperactive squirrels. They happen to be my favourite animal (after cow, of course !). They seemed happy as they had no one to run away from.

I was in no hurry to finish the parikrama. Did it as slow as I could. Took in as much of the smell, sounds and sights as possible. If one wasn’t enough, I went on  3 rounds of parikrama ! And I wasn’t tired at all. In fact, I felt more relaxed. More rested.

Read more about this forest at http://vrindavana.dasya.com/index.php/Nidhivana

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164. Part 8 – My 3rd Vrindhavan Trip

Spending time at the Bhaktivedanta Swami Museum

I am not sure how I missed this place in my 2 last trips. But I did. I knew it was there but I never took  the time to go and check it out.

During one of the days at Vrindhavan dham, as I was carrying on with my chanting inside the temple, I noticed that I was getting distracted. The temple was very busy and all sorts of people can be seen visiting the centre and starring at the wonderful deities. Except me. I would be chanting away but my eyes were focused on all the people who were there. Villagers, priests, sanyasis, kids etc etc.  I decided that perhaps it was better to step outside and complete the rounds in order to pacify the mind which was like a monkey jumping from tree to tree. But right on top of the wall outside was a real monkey waiting to snatch things from the devotees below. Where do I go now? Prabhupad samadhi was also full of people too. I decided that I would go back to my room.

As I walked towards the exit, I noticed one or two devotees coming out and going into a room on my right. I knew this was Prabhupad’s quarters but have never been there. I figured that I would check out the place for a few minutes before I return to my room to finish my rounds. Distracted again !

Prabhupad busy at work

Prabhupad busy at work

As I entered the room, I saw Prabhupad sitting towards the corner. There was a shelf behind him, well lit and containing most of his books. Were they the first copy ever published? I don’t know.

There was a priest conducting a puja. I have never seen anyone perform the act like the way he did. He took all the time in the world to carry out, with so much precision, the various rituals. He was enjoying it and it was great to watch it too. He was like an artist. For him, prabhupad was right there in front of him. And this was no time to make any mistakes. As he circled the ghee lamp in front of him, it looked as if he was painting something very carefully in front of his canvas. I liked it. If I ever get a chance to be involved in conducting pujas, this young bramachari will be my reminder on how lovingly and carefully it must be done. No hurries whatsoever.

Meanwhile, Prabhupad was busy behind his desk. He had a bead bag on his hands. His eyes were fixed on a piece of paper on a desk in front of him. I peeped from the side to read it. Hope he doesn’t mind. It was a letter he had written to a devotee in the USA, probably on the very day, 40 years ago. I read it with much delight and was amazed at how Prabhupad, even though he was so acclaimed by now, still wrote so lovingly to his devotees with so much care, love and patience. He, also was not in a hurry. It was a long letter encouraging a devotee there to have faith in Krishna, to chant and continue with the preaching activities.

Me at work too!

Me at work too!

I also decided to write. I took my diary out and began to jot down all the happenings of the day to be later used for this blog. I wrote pages and pages and pages. Time was ticking away and I had no idea. Hardly, did anyone venture in. A few devotees were in the room, but they were chanting away softly. I was seated in a corner, near the window at the back of the room, right behind Prabhupad’s bed. It was raining heavily now. And a cool breeze flew in with ease through the heavily wired window. Perfect, ain’t it? Cool air, silence, no distraction and Prabhupad in front. 

The bed where he lay on

The bed where he lay on

That was the bed I was talking about earlier. This is where he lay on during his last days before entering samadhi. Devotees who entered the room paid respects to it and so did I. It was carefully spread and a photo of Prabhupad was on the pillow.

Prabhupad chanting

Prabhupad chanting

The lights were switched off with only a table lamp lighting the room. There was water in a silver cup on the table. In the two rooms behind him were his artifacts, used personally by Srila Prabhupad. One can see in the glass cabinets items like pots, massage oils, manuscripts, his early “Back to Godhead” magazine, letter to a member from his first organization, “League of Devotees”, shaving kit, typewriter, rubber stamps etc. The one that took my interest the most was the 3-tier cooker. This was what he used to cook his rice, vegetables and lentils all at one go. I also want one ! Next time.

Absolute focus and determination

Absolute focus and determination

I have never seen this picture before. The picture was right above my head where the end of the bed was. It was only when I stood up to leave the room, that I saw it. To see him so frail and grave, moments before he left us all, was heartbreaking. It truly was. In the background, devotees can be seen reading from a holy book and there is a microphone above his head. He must have been speaking about ISKCON, Krishna, Lord Chaitanya etc. He looked so royal, focused and determined even at such a sad and fearful stage of one’s life.

I was inspired. I felt bad that I was taking his instruction to chant so lightly. He had put so much efforts so that each and every devotee of his, then and now, would relish the chanting of the holy name. I sat back on the ground, near the front of the bed this time and closer to Prabhupad. I said, “Sorry” and with determination, closed my eyes and chanted. 

Prabhupads lotus feet

Prabhupad's lotus feet

As I finished, I looked up at Prabhupad. I felt so good. Chanting went well and only few times the mind wandered. The caretaker of the room came near me and said it was closing time and he was preparing to switch of the fans and lights there. As he left, I looked back at Prabhupad. And the first thing I saw was his lotus feet. It looked so real. I gazed at it for a long time before deciding to take a photo of it for you all.

By serving this feet and those of his devotees, one gets all the inspiration, motivation and dedication to provide the world with the light it desperately needs as it continues to enter a period of great darkness. Even though Prabhupad could not write a letter like how he had done so personally to many devotees and like the one I saw on the desk previously, he still took the time to guide me in his very room, in his own unique way.

163. Part 7 – My 3rd Vrindhavan Trip

Goverdhan Parikrama – The Finish

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Kusuma-Sarovara : The beautiful face of Goverdhana

Kusuma-sarovara is one of the most beautiful architectural wonder I have ever seen. Throughout my school days of learning Indian history, the many wonders of India books that I had read or the numerous documentaries I have seen on TV, never before have I ever been introduced to this palace. It was in my first trip to Vrindhavan 2 years ago that I came across this place. I remember then, how wonder struck I was. It’s just beautiful. The building was erected around 1764 by the King of Bharatpura, Maharaja Jawahir Singh. Its dedicated to the transcendental pastimes loving pastimes of Sri-Sri Radha and Krishna that were enacted here on the banks of this lake. I usually sit here for 45 mins of so, staring at the blue sky above, the palace in the middle and the lake below.

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Manasi-ganga : The Celestial Lake

 After many more kilometers of walk, I finally reached the banks of Manasi-ganga.

Manasi-ganga intensely enjoys the pleasurable taste
of the boating pastimes of Gandharvika and Muru-vimardhana
With her plentiful waves she pushes about piles of effulgent
rocks from Goverdhana Hill. May this lake give me protection.
– Vraja-vilas-stava 64 by Raghunatha dasa Gosvami

This celestial lake is the largest of all the sacred kundas found in the Vraja area. Like the Goverdhana Hill, the lake is also shrinking everyday. One who bathes in this lake, not only gets rid of all their sins but will also achieve prema-bhakti, the highest platform of love for Krishna. Woohoo !!

The starting and ending point

The starting and ending point

And that’s it. Shortly after the time spent at Manasi ganga, I reached the starting point. The parikrama was over. I know you won’t believe it if I say…but I took close to 10 hours to finish this parikrama as compared to the normal 4 hours! This is because I didn’t want to hurry up. I walked slowly, took in as much of the scenery as I could, read as much as possible about each spiritual sites and also complete my chanting rounds properly. And the best part was that I wasn’t an ounce tired, had no cuts to my feet and I was super satisfied with the outcome. Fully pumped up and ready to do another one!

162. Part 6 – My 3rd Vrindhavan Trip

 Goverdhan Parikrama – The Kundas

Mahaprabhus Baithaka

Mahaprabhu's Baithaka

Finally, I reached the spot on the banks of Shyama-kunda, where Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sat in contemplation under a tamala tree. Shortly afterwards, He discovered the sacred ponds of Radha and Shyama Kunda. There is a tamala tree here which is an offshoot of the original one. Within the red granite shrine is the impression of Lord’s lotus feet. This small temple is a great location to sit, relax and contemplate, mainly for two reasons – (1) It’s usually empty with very few visitors spending a considerable amount of time here (2) one can get a great view of both Radha and Shyama kunda.

Mahaprabhus Baithaka

A wall painting

On the wall above, was a beautiful painting of Lord Chaitanya with Haridas thakur in His arms. Sitting on the floor, cool air around and pin drop silence, the picture had so much to communicate. It was motivating. In Chaitanya Charitamrita, Krishna Kaviraj Gosvami explains how much the Lord loves His devotee, what the Lord is willing to do for them and how much He is intoxicated with happiness by their love for Him.

During that time a beautiful palanquin was made and Thakur Haridas’s body was laid on that. The Nama Sankirtan procession went from Siddha Bakula to the ocean. Vrkesvara Pandit was dancing, Svarupa Damodara and others were singing, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu out of love for his beloved devotee led the procession, dancing in ecstasy until they arrived at the sea.

There Mahaprabhu personally took the body of Haridas Thakur. The Supreme Personality of Godhead lovingly held that body and personally bathed it with his own hands in the waters of the sea. And then Sri Caitanya proclaimed loudly that for all time to come this sea in Puri was now a holy place of pilgrimage because it has bathed the body of Thakur Haridas. Lord Caitanya bathed in the sea every single day, but in His opinion now it had become a holy place of pilgrimage because it bathed His blessed devotee’s body. And as Sri Caitanya was bathing Thakur Haridas’s feet the devotees were drinking that water and sprinkling it on their heads in ecstatic love.

Syama-kunda

Syama-kunda

I got up from the shrine and moved towards the bank below – the lovely Shyama Kunda. Offering full obeisances and sprinkling drops of its water over my head, I began to read about the pond. Lord Krishna came to this spot to enjoy pastimes with Radharani after killing a demon in the form of a bull, Aristasura. But Radharani forbade Him to come near unless He purified Himself from the sin of killing a bull by bathing in all the holy rivers of the world. Rather than leave Vraja, Krishna ordered the rivers to come to where He was. The rivers emptied themselves into a hole that was created when He struck the ground with His feet.

Through the courtyard

Through the courtyard

As I turned around from Shyama-kunda to make my way towards Radha-kunda, I noticed an aged pujari watching from the platform above, where Mahaprabhu’s baithaka is located. He began to say something in Bengali and I couldn’t understand. I just smiled and walked towards him. He motioned me to follow him. I was intrigued. A surprise waiting around the corner, I thought. Just behind the baithaka area was a small house with a tiny door. He swiftly went inside leaving me outside. I looked around and wanted to ask someone what was inside. But there was no one. Taking a deep breath, I wandered inside. I saw a beautiful, clean and well lit courtyard in front of me. There were a few men in a corner checking out some new tulasi beads. The man who had taken me inside was in a corner peeing out of another door and asked me to come. I crossed the courtyard. What was he going to show? Looks like a secret.

Voila !

Voila !

And woah ! As soon as I entered this room, he opened a blue door and right there was Lord Chaitanya ! The pujari began to rapidly recite a story but I couldn’t figure out what he was saying. And I couldn’t find any information in the book I was carrying. All I could gather from his speech were the words  “Chaitanya Mahaprabhu” and “theen (three)”. I figured out that he was specifying something about the 3 forms of Lord Chaitanya in front of me. The burning incense was beautiful, the silver clothes shone even more brightly in my camera flash and the velvet covering on a box below had a lovely green color.  And it was very dark. Must be a very special place and I have no idea about its significance. But I will come back in the future and gaze it again and again.

Radha-kunda

Radha-kunda

This attractive place is surrounded by various kinds of trees – kadambas, rows of campakas, excellent new asokas, numerous mango trees, punnagas, bakulas and by lavanga and malati creepers. It is the best of places, where the two ponds beloved to Radha and Madhava meet along one edge. May I find shelter here, the favourite location of the two lover’s pleasure pastimes.
– Vraja-vilas-stavas 52 by Raghunatha dasa Gosvami

So, finally I reached the personal bathing place of Srimati Radharani and is revered as the holiest of all holy places.  And I am standing in front of it for the 3rd time. I did think many times how lucky I was. How would I have ever known about this place if it wasn’t for the hard work of Srila Prabhupada and his wonderful devotees all these years. How many people do I need to thank? THANK YOU ALL !!!!

Like before at all the kundas, I again remembered Srila Prabhupad’s instruction on a devotee’s behaviour at a kunda. Once when he heard that devotees were splashing about in the waters of Radha Kunda, he was not happy and said that one should not disrespect Radharani by kicking and jumping in the waters. He advised that devotees take 3 drops of the water and sprinkle on their heads as it was as good as bathing. So, after paying a full obeisances on the steps and lying there for sometime thanking you all and asking for the courage and confidence to pursue Krishna Consciousness, I took the 3 drops of the cool water, sprinkled it on my head and concentrated on the tiny drops slowly trickle down the back of my head.

Krishna immediately took His bath in Radha-kunda, declaring that anyone who bathes here will develop love for Him on the same level as Rasharani’s love. Srimati Radharani then took bath at Shyama-kunda and declared that anyone who bathes in Shyama-kunda will develop love for Her on the same level as Krishna’s love.
– The Color Guide to Goverdhan Hill by Rajashekara dasa Brahmachari

 

To be continued….

161. Part 5 – My 3rd Vrindhavan Trip

Goverdhan Parikrama – Meeting people

Goverdhan kids

Goverdhan kids

As I continued my walk around the hill, I bumped into these kids who were playing a sport that was a mix of cricket, soccer and rugby. Plenty of noises and plenty of fighting amongst one another. Some rolled on the ground, another made punching sounds and all were laughing in abundance. I sat and watch them. So much happiness. These days in the cities, the kids are stuck with video games, cafes and movies. But here, the earth was giving them all the toys for their childhood pastimes. And when they saw my camera, there was an instant cheer amongst all ! They ran towards me in full gutso and began to pose, each one begging for their photo to be taken. And when they saw their image on the screen, they had a hearty laugh. They asked me to give them a copy. I hope I remember to give it to them in my next trip. I am reminded of the Krishna Balaram deity at Vrindhavan when I look at the kid in the singlet with his hands on the boy in checked shirt.

Goverdhan teens

Goverdhan teens

After some kilometers, I decided to take a break. I wasn’t tired but I took as much opportunities as possible to sit, observe and contemplate the surroundings and sights around me. Best places to rest would be at the foot of Goverdhan hill, under trees, on bridges, near hidden away temples and important samadhis. One place that will be etched in my mind for a long time will be the above road side tea-shop. It belonged to the above 4 brothers. Can you spot the 4th?

We spoke for about an hour on Krishna, Goverdhan Hill, chanting and how lucky it is to be a brijabasi. They said they were the luckiest because they could see Goverdhan everyday and that they were the sons of the holy soil. And I said that I was just as lucky too because I could chant the names of God everyday, do the parikramas, tell people about Krishna all over the world and meet the brijabasis. In good humor, I said that I was even more lucky. They asked how much I chanted. When they heard that I, like other devotees chanted the 16 names on 108 tulasi beads and 16 rounds equalling 27, 648 per day which equaled 100,915,20 a year, they were shocked! They said, “Why?”. This led the discussion to – why chanting. I began to recollect the many classes that I attended, the japa blog articles, Srila Prabhupad’s instructions etc. I think they found it very interesting. Phew. My first class. That too at Goverdhan. But I told them that I would never be in a position to understand the spontaneous love like the way the locals had. To which they said, “We will pray to Goverdhan that you too get this..”

Woohoo ! I was happy. I have been blessed. After wishing them all the best in their business, asking for their forgiveness and touching the ground close to their feet, I resumed my walk.

Cows on their rounds too!

Cows on their rounds too!

Cows. Beautiful ones. I saw many cows on the paths walking without an owner. Perhaps, they were completing the parikrama too ! I did think about the importance of saving cows and how to get people interested all over the world. I feel that we are too passive on this issue. Majority of the Hare Krishna devotees/temples should actively promote Cow Protection the way WSPA, PETA or RSPCA do. They undertake animal protection issues by way of exhibitions, magazines, lectures, advertisements and peaceful demonstrations. We can hand out flyers, put up posters and arrange for lectures to be given at leading universities. Even radios and TV can be used. Maybe, when I come back, I will start with me and see what I can do to create some awareness among the public. Also, many posts ago I had mentioned about the task of visiting dairy farms and trying to convince the farmers, not to give the cows away for slaughter. Perhaps, these farmers can be paid some money for not giving them away. The money would come from devotees in that country who would adopt a cow. The cow would remain in the same farm and the farmer would get recurring income. Just a thought.

A fellow traveller

A fellow traveller

This is a man who joined me on the bridge while I took a break. Many people like him travel many many many miles on trains, boats, bus and foot to get to Goverdhan/Vrindhavan. They come and they go. No digital cameras or laptops or flights to catch. They do farming all year around and then once a year, with their family and a good part of their life savings, they visit Krishna’s land. They earn so little and slipping in a Rs. 5 or Rs. 1 into a hundi must be a huge amount for them. Yet they do it with so much love even if it means that they might not have enough money for their next bus ride or dinner.

Fellow travellers wife

Fellow traveller's wife

As soon as I clicked the man’s photo, his wife demanded that I take hers too. That’s her above. As soon as I took hers, her sister wanted one too. The above lady’s main purpose of the trip was to ensure that she took as much care as possible to see that her husband conducted his pilgrimage without any difficulties.

Inspired by all these, I walked faster. A few miles more and I would reach the cool ponds of Radha and Krishna.

To be continued soon….

160. Part 4 – My 3rd Vrindhavan trip

Goverdhan Parikrama : The Sights (1)

Walking through the quiet foothills of Goverdhan, chanting the maha mantra, gazing at the holy hill every now and then, fresh air…something I had been waiting to do for over a year now.

Lush green

Lush green

I should have stopped and sat under one of these trees for a while. But I didn’t. Just walked past them. Aren’t they beautiful? I was thinking…they are not just trees and plants…but souls, due to their previous pious deeds got a chance to carpet the holy tract of land and provide shelter to wandering pilgrims. Thousands of years ago, this is where Krishna enjoyed many childhood pastimes surrounded by His intimate associates – the beautiful milk maids and cowherd boys of Vrindhavana.

O Goverdhana !

O Goverdhana !

O Goverdhana, O king of Mountains,
O hill whose nectarian name – the best of Hari’s servants –
flows from the moonlike mouth of Sri Radha,
O hill that the Vedas declare to be the tilaka marking of Vraja,
please grant me a residence near to you.

– Stavai by Ragunatha Dasa Gosvami

Goverdhana Hill is acknowledged throughout the Vedic scriptures as the most sacred mountain not only in the whole of India but in all the three worlds. It is therefore no wonder that when Goverdhan Hill appeared, all the great mountains of the universe came and worshipped him as their King. They also declared that Goverdhana had descended from Goloka Vrindhava in the spiritual world and is the crown jewel of Vraja.
– from the “Color Guide to Goverdhana Hill” by Rajasekhara dasa Brahmacari

Directions

Directions

This is the map that I have used over the last 3 trips to ensure that I circle the hill without getting lost. Its found in the book that I mentioned above and I recommend it highly. Whenever I stop and study this guide, the locals gather around to spot their known locations.

Monkeys best mate

Monkey's best mate

He was there again. The grave looking fruit seller. This is how I always remember seeing him. Seated on his fruits-on-wheels shop, he looks around to shoo the monkeys away. The fruits are meant to be bought by the pilgrims who in turn uses it to feed the monkeys. As usual, I didn’t buy anything from him. I just wanted to continue with my walk. If I stop to feed the monkeys, not only will I lose precious time but they won’t leave me for a long distance. In the photo, you can see some horses as well as few members of the deer family. There were plenty of peacocks around, “cooing” away. Not only on the ground, but I spotted a few on the trees above and even one that flew over a large distance. Never seen a peacock fly before!

Why?

Why?

I am not sure if its a good idea to lay a brick path. One of the most wonderful part of the Goverdhan parikrama is feeling the cool sand underneath ones feet. So, I am not sure why the above artificial path is being laid? Is this an initiative from the government or the local forest department? Or is it a donation, an act of service by a devotee? Don’t know. But I personally don’t favour it.

I passed through the many samadhis at Jetipura area, which can be seen at the foothills of Goverdhan, just before you reach the Jetipura village. Jetipura was named after Srila Madhavendra Puri, who stayed here during the time he was worshipping the Gopala deity. Soon, we reached “Mukharavinda Sila”, or the lotus mouth of Goverdhana. There were plenty of pilgrims here pouring milk over the large sila. After paying my obeisances, I quickly went over to the place that has the danadavat-sila. 

Dandavat-Sila

Dandavat-Sila

In the guide, it is mentioned that, “anyone who circumbulates this Goverdhan-sila seven times and offers full dandavats will be relieved of all offenses that may have been inadvertently committed while doing Goverdhan parikrama“. And like a good student, carried out the ritual with much sincerity.

After having a fun chat with the above 2 caretakers of the temple, who also happen to be great fans of the Hare Krishnas, and after making a little donation, I continued my journey.

To be continued….

159. Part 3 : My 3rd Vrindhavan trip

Goverdhan Parikrama – The start

The walk around the sacred Goverdhan hill was something that I was very much looking forward to. It truly is an exercise of warming up the soul. Walking through the quiet forest at the bottom of the hill, chanting away the maha mantra, controlling the wandering mind, recollecting the pastimes of God and His eternal consort, feeling the muscular fatigue and yet fueling the will to go on, is something that one yearns never to forget. Recollecting the entire episode,is just as ecstatic as the real thing.

The morning of the walk is full of anticipation. Will the car come to pick me up? Will I be able to complete it? What if it rains? Will it be safe? This is my 3rd parikrama and some of these thoughts still crossed my mind. As usual, such worries were quickly submitted at Srila Prabhupad Samadhi. The taxi had already arrived at sharp 4:30am and by 5am, we were made our way through the narrow lanes of Vrindhavan and on to the high road. A close friend of mine from Bangalore would accompany me on this trip. Last year, it had been another close friend.

At the start of the parikrama, an obeisance and a prayer was made and with full resolute to complete the round properly, and with no thoughts about the body, I started to move forward. The last few days had witnessed some heavy down pour and the spiritual path was covered with mud. Loose stones had been washed away. I had a tough time in the past with sharp stones cutting my feet, hot tar road causing swellings on the feet, blistering headache from the hot sun and a tired body overall. But this time, seeing and walking over the cool and wet earth brought great relief. Looks like this walk will be easy on the sole.

The Inner route

The Inner route

As usual, I took the inner route. This route was shown to me by a western devotee 2 years ago. The outside route belonged to those who aimed to complete the journey using their vehicles. It was quick and easy. They do not know. Some one said, “Success is counted sweetest by those never succeed”. This journey of 20 odd Kms, or for that matter any journey undertaken on foot is a tough task. Having done numerous wilderness walks in India, Australia and New Zealand, I can surely say that besides beholding wonderful sights along the way, the happiness that comes from completing the circuit is inspiring. The “You did it !” feeling, the fact that you pushed yourself beyond what you thought you could do, the fact that you didn’t give up no matter how tough the going was and the fact that you are now the beholder of many wonderful stories to share with all, is life changing. Yes, those who do not undertake the out-of-the-beaten track, do not know.

Govindha-Kunda

Govinda-Kunda

One of the first item that I saw on the parikrama was Govinda Kunda. A few children followed us for money and gifts. The sun had just come out by then, the sky was a bit dull from the previous night’s rain and there was a cool breeze. This Kunda is the celebrated kunda that was created when King Indra (King of the Gods) performed the bathing ceremony (abhiseka) of Lord Krishna.

Humiliated and afraid of the reactions for his having acted proudly, the king of the demigods took hold of Govinda’s feet. With unabashed enthusiasm he then coronated Govinda as Lord of the cows by having Mother Surabhi bathe him with water from the celestial Ganga. From the water of that bathing manifested Govinda-Kunda, which I hope, will always be visible before my eyes.
Vraja-vilas-stava 74 : Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami

That villager / pujari

That villager / pujari

As I continued the walk, I came across another spiritual item which I had missed the previous 2 years. As I was walking on the sandy inner tract of land, a villager appeared on the path and motioned us to follow him to an area closer to the hill. He began to explain with great joy the significance of a stone he was pointing to. He said that the stone below him, Balarama Mukut-sila, was the spot where Lord Balaram placed his crown.

The stone with the sadhu in the distance

The Balarama Mukut-sila and the sadhu in the distance

It was from this place that Lord Balaram watched Lord Krishna enjoy the rasa-lila with the gopis. Crouching, Lord Balaram was completely absorbed in watching Krishna’s beautiful bodily movements.

As he explained, a young lean bearded sadhu also reached the spot, circumbulated the area, took some water from his pot, cleaned the stone and began to climb the hill. Uttering some prayer or mantras, he had quickly gone as he had appeared. Getting back to the task at hand, I shared a few rupees with the shy caretaker of this place and joined the parikrama route again. The cool breeze was still in the air.

Surabhi-Kunda

Surabhi-Kunda

Soon I reached Indra Kund and shortly afterwards, one of my favourite spots, Surabhi Kunda. At this place Surabhi, the transcendental wish fulfilling cow (kamadhenu), offered beautiful prayers to Lord Krishna and asked Him to forgive Indra for his offenses. The whole area around the pond was extremely thick with wet mud. I decided to cross it. Like melted chocolate, the earth moved through my toes. It was slippery. And at some places, it was deep too. Once near the pond, I spent some time getting the mud of my feet. I noticed that the pond was filled with strong algae compared to the clear pond that it was in my last visit. What was disturbing to see was that there were a few plastic water bottles in the water. Why would someone do this? Anyways, climbing down the steps, I picked a few drops of the water and sprinkled it over my head. And continued with my circular route.

As we walked, I noticed a small stone hut on the left. It had a small window and few steps in front. It was facing Goverdhan. Last year, I had seen 2 men at this very spot preparing a dwelling. And now it was ready. Was anyone living there? As I walked past the hut, chanting away, I turned to look inside. I saw a lady in the front room, cleaning some dishes and inside I could see a bearded man reading aloud a scripture or perhaps chanting his set of mantras. There was big book opened in front of him. Yes, I saw all this as I walked past the house. Pretty cool, huh? Just as I looked at him reading, he looked up at me. By then, I had passed the dwelling and I heard him call out. I stopped and went back.

The man in the stone hut

The man in the stone hut

He came out. He was tall, bearded and was wearing a boxer short. He had a huge smile and a deep voice and you can sense his kindness. He greeted us, glorified the Holy hill in a few words and asked his wife to give us some prasad.

Le Jalebi

Le Jalebi

Eating that Jalebi was like eating a truckload of sugar. Oh boy ! Was it sweet? But with the butter on the edge and having full faith in all that devotees prepare, I enjoyed the sugary wonder. After the short snack, I continued my journey beholding more of the grand Goverdhan hill and its residents.

To be continued….