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
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.
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
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 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.
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
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.
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….