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Sheela_Mata_Temple_Agroha.jpgBraj (Devanagari: ब्रज), also known as Brij or Brijbhoomi, is a region in Uttar Pradesh of India, around Mathura-Vrindavan. Brij, though never a clearly defined political region in India, is very well demarcated culturally. The area stretches from Mathura, Jalesar, Agra, Hathras and Aligarh right up to Etah, Auraiya and Farrukhabad districts. It is believed to be the land of Krishna and is derived from the Sanskrit word vraja. The main cities in the region are Mathura, Jalesar, Bharatpur, Agra, Hathras, Dholpur, Aligarh, Etawah, Auraiya, Mainpuri, Etah, Kasganj and Firozabad. The term "Braj" means "Pasture", and a settlement of herders and cattle breeders or Abode of Yadavs/Aheers or yaduvanshsthali. The residents or natives of Braj are called Brijwasi. Braj bhasha or Brij bhasha, closely related to spoken Hindi with a soft accent, is spoken throughout the region.

Брадж или Вра́джа (хинди ब्रज), также Бра́джбуми, Враджабху́ми — исторический регион в индийских штатах Уттар-Прадеш, Раджастхан и Харьяна. Является священным местом паломничества для вайшнавов, так как согласно Пуранам и другим текстам индуизма, в этом месте родился и провёл свою юность Кришна. Самые крупные города на территории Враджа — это Матхура, Агра, Алигарх и Майнпури. Географически и культурно Врадж расположен в самом центре доаба Ганги-Ямуны, который с древности являлся центром развития индийской культуры. Врадж занимает территорию в 3800 км² и располагается в "золотом треугольнике" Дели-Джайпур-Агра. Врадж можно разделить на два региона — восточную часть, в которой расположены такие места, как Гокула, Махаван, Балдео, Мат и Баджна; и западную часть, где находится округ Матхура с такими местами паломничества, как Вриндаван, Говардхан, Кусум-саровара, Варшана и Нандаграм. Врадж расположен на территории современных округов Матхура (Уттар-Прадеш), Бхаратпур (Раджастхан) и Палвал (Харьяна). Регион Враджа простирается от местечка Котбан в 95 км от Дели до Рунакты в районе Агры — места, получившего известность в связи с великим поэтом Сурдасом. Жителей региона называют "бриджбаси" или "враджабаси". Население Враджа разговаривает на диалекте хинди браджбхаша.

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Rath Yatra, the Festival of Chariots, is celebrated in Puri with grandeur, enthusiasm, fanfare, elaboration and religious fervour. In Vrindavan, simple amazement sets the tone for this auspicious day.

If you are in Vrindavan during Rath Yatra, you can be a part of a wonderful experience when the beautiful chariots come out in the streets in a lavish procession, from the many temples here. The experience is delightful when these chariots circumambulate Gyan Gudri. The major attractions are the chariots from the three ancient temples of Gopinath, Govinda and Madan Mohan and also the temples at Jagannath Ghat, Vishram Ghat and Sadhu Mai Ka Ashram.

It's not simply about Rath Yatra celebration in Vrindavan. There is more to the story than it meets the eyes. Many people are unaware of the meaning of Rath Yatra and its special significance in Vrindavan. Do you know why all the chariots meet at Gyan Gudri? Let us tell you this beautiful story.

Jagannath Deities placed in the empty temples

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Radha Gopinath temple Rath Yatra

We spoke to many scholars and Acharyas who narrated the story behind Rath Yatra in Braj. After the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb raided Vrindavan, the idols of Gopinath, Madan Mohan and Govinda were moved to Jaipur, India's Pink City, and so, as a result, the original temples had no Deity. Gopinath Lal Dev Goswami of Gopinath temple explains that the acharyas of that period decided to place the idols of Jagannath in those empty temples.

Once the new temples of Gopinath, Madan Mohan and Govinda were built and the replicas placed, Lord Jagannath's Deity was also set up in the new temples. Since the idol of Jagannath was in the temple, it was necessary to take the Lord out on Rath Yatra. According to Sanatan Kishore Goswami of Madan Mohan temple, the ideal place for Rath Yatra was Gyan Gudri, where Sri Uddhava, one of Shri Krishna's disciples, heard about Divine love directly from the Braj gopis.

Shri Krishna and Balaram Move to Mathura

Lord Krishna's Rath Yatra is also held in Vrindavan along with Jagannath. This festival is related to the gopis' divine love for Devkinandan Krishna. Shri Krishna rode a chariot for the very first time in the holy land of Vrindavan. This chariot was sent by Krishna's uncle King Kamsa to bring Devkinandan and Balaram to Mathura.

Shri Krishna takes the form of Jagannath

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Govinda Deva Rath Yatra

The separation from Vrindavan made Krishna take Jagannath's form. The Utkala Khanda of the Skanda Purana tells the story of Krishna's manifestation as Jagannath. During a solar eclipse, Devkinandan, Balaram, Subhadra and Dwarka's other residents went to take a holy dip in a pond at Kurukshetra. Lord Krishna's parents Nanda and Yashoda, Radha and the other residents of Vrindavan were burning due to the separation from Hari. Knowing about Shri Krishna's whereabouts, they all went to meet Him.

Balaram's mother Rohini Ma spoke to Krishna's wives in Dwarka about His favourite pastimes in Vrindavan and the Gopi's divine love for Him. Rohini's narrative was kept exceedingly confidential. That's why she posted Subhadra near the door, so that no one could enter the premises.  Realising that Rohini Ma was talking about Him, Devakinandan and Balaram came close to the door, standing on Subhadra's left and right sides.

Hearing of these stories, Devakinandan was overcome with strong feelings of separation from the holy land of Vrindavan. Shri Krishna was so fascinated hearing about His pastimes in Vrindavan that His heart started melting. Both Devakinandan and Balaram were so overjoyed that Their inner feelings manifested outwardly.  Their eyes were dilated, heads pressed together into their bodies and their limbs drawn back. Witnessing these physical transformations in Krishna and Balaram, Subhadra too felt euphoric and took the same form. After hearing about Krishna's pastime in Vrindavan, Devakinandan and Balaram with Subhadra in the middle unveiled their ecstatic form and it is this form that is worshipped as Lord Jagannath, Balaram, and Subhadra in Puri.

Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra in their special forms

After Shri Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra returned to their normal forms, and Devakinandan had recovered completely, he realised that it was Narada's trick because he planted the idea in Rohini's mind to narrate the story of Krishna's pastimes in Vrindavan.

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Madan Mohan temple's Rath Yatra

Though Narada Muni thought that his activities would make Krishna angry, but to Narada's relief, Shri Krishna was pleased with him.  In fact, the Lord wanted to shower His blessings on Narada Muni. So Narada prayed to Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra to appear in those forms at some place in the world to give Darshan to their devotees. The special form is also called ‘Patita Pavana', the rescuer of the fallen and liberator of the universe. This is why Shri Krishna welcomed Narada's wish to give Darshan to His devotees as ‘Jagannath' in Puri.

The separation of Shri Krishna from Vrindavan made Him take Lord Jagannath's form. Though we associate Rath Yatra with Puri, the holy festival has its roots deeply seated in Vrindavan, where Shri Krishna has His favourite pastimes.

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Fulfilled by Their Grace

imageproxy.jpgBabaji Maharaj (Shri Ramdas Baba) is chanting jap in a silent, meditative mood. Many disciples are gathered around him, also chanting jap. After some time, the conversation turns to Shri Harinaam Sankirtan. Babaji Maharaj is delighted by this, and his voice trembles as he murmurs a few quiet words to himself. Then he says to the assembled devotees, who have taken shelter of him:

"Look; Shri Harinaam Sankirtan destroys all sins. It cleanses the heart and mind, and it grants us Krishna prem and Krishna’s seva. All these things come automatically when one chants the Holy Name. Thus Shri Krishnadas Kaviraj has said:

sankirtan hoite paap sansaar naashan
chitta shuddhi sarva bhakti saadhan udgam
krishna premodgam premaamrita aaswaadan
krishna-praapti sevaamrita samudre majjan

"Through sankirtan, all sins and worldliness are destroyed. The mind and heart are cleansed, and devotion is attained, with its different limbs of sadhan. Even Krishna prem itself is attained through sankirtan, and the chanter savours the immortal nectar of that true love. At last, he or she attains Krishna himself, and drowns in the ocean of his blissful seva." (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya-lila 20.13-14)

But it is also said that no matter how much we chant the Holy Name, if we also commit offences (aparadh), then we will not attain Krishna prem.

heno krishna-naam jadi loy bahu baar
tathaapi naa hoy prem naa bahe ashrudhaar
tabe jaani aparaadh aachaye prachur
krishna naam beej taahe naa hoy ankur

"If you chant Krishna’s Name many times and you still do not attain prem – if tears of love do not flow from your eyes – then know for sure you have committed a lot of offences. Thus the seed of Krishna’s Name has not even sprouted in you."(Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila 8.29-30)

"We are Kali jeevs [ie. we live in such a degraded age]. Offences are bound to happen. Is there no hope for us then? There is no need to worry like this. In this age, our Shri Nitai-Gauranga have come. They do not see faults, nor do they count offences. By their grace ... just by taking their Name ... prem is attained.

chaitanya-nityanande nahi e sab vichaar
naam loite prem hoy bahe ashrudhaar

"But with Shri Chaitanya and Nityananda, such things are not considered. By taking their Name, you will surely attain prem and flow with tears of love." (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila 8.31)

Speaking thus, Babaji Maharaj let out a deep roar of ecstasy. All the others fell silent. It was as if the discussion had been completely fulfilled by Shri Nitai-Gauranga's grace.

(Translated by Vishakha Dasi from the Hindi book "Shri Baba Ramdas Kathamrit" by Dr. OBL Kapoor)

 

 

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mansi-ganga-tank-mathura-indian-tourism-entry-fee-timings-holidays-reviews-header.jpgGovardhan, 01.06.2019

With Mudiya Mela approaching this month (14thJuly to 20th July), it is an apt time to meditate on the glories of Shri Manasi Ganga – the Ganga that Shri Krishna manifested from his mind (manas). Manasi Ganga is not only connected with Shri Krishna’s pastimes, the Kund also connects with Chaitanya Lila, as Sanatan Goswami meditated nearby; as did Nanda Das, one of the Ashta Chhap poets who are most dear to the followers of Pushti Marg.

There are a wealth of legends surrounding Manasi Ganga, and while some seem to be conflicting, we can easily see how others are parallel threads of the same truth. For example, some say that Manasi Ganga was manifested because, seeing Krishna’s great love for the Yamuna, Ganga Devi also wanted to be present in Braj. Some connect the reason for Shri Krishna manifesting the Ganga with Nanda-Yashoda, while others say that Krishna manifested it to bathe after killing a demon. Manasi Ganga plays several roles in Krishna Lila but none would deny that Ganga Devi’s desire to be in Braj is part of the reason for her presence here as Manasi  Ganga.

The legend of Shri Krishna manifesting Manasi Ganga for Yashoda and Nanda Baba is held dear to many people’s hearts, as it carries the message that it is not necessary (and may be detrimental) to leave Braj to go on pilgrimage. If there is no Ganga in Braj, there may be a reason to leave Braj to take a bath in this holiest river. Despite their advanced aged Nanda Yashoda were planning to go for Ganga snan but Krishna manifested Manasi Ganga so that his parents would never leave Braj.

Manasi Ganga is also connected with Shri Krishna’s demon-killing pastimes as the killing of the calf-demon, known as Vrisbhasura or Aristasura. Killing a cow is a grave sin and it was necessary for Shri Krishna to cleanse himself by bathing after killing this demon who had taken the form of a calf, so He manifested Manasi Ganga and bathed in her cleansing waters.

The area around Manasi Ganga is densely populated with temples including Hardev temple, Mansa Devi temple, Chakaleshwar Mahadev temple and many other historical temples.

Amer’s King, Bhagwan Das is believed to be responsible for building the permanent ghats on Manasi Ganga in the early 1600s. The ghats were later extended by Raja Man Singh.

Many believe that Govardhan Parikrama should be initiated after a cleansing bath in Manasi Ganga, as this was recommended by Srila Rupa Goswami in his Mathura mahatmya. Most pilgrims will include a stop here.

The most renowned place to enter Manasi Ganga is Mukut Mukarvind temple, below which there are water spouts to make taking snan in the kund easier.

Recent reports of pollution causing Manasi Ganga to change colour may put some devotee off taking a full bath, however, most will sprinkle a few drops of water for ceremonial cleansing.

To the North of Manasi Ganga is Chakaleshwar Mahadev temple. Chakaleshwar Mahadev is one of the four protectors of Braj. Nearby is Sanatan Goswami’s Bhajan Kutir. One of the legends associated with Sanatan Goswami is that it is said that he planned to leave the area due to the mosquitoes, however, Lord Shiva appeared and begged him not to leave saying that he will get rid of the mosquitoes.

The 1611 record lists the departure of Srila Sanatan Goswami on the day of Guru Purnima. At this time, scores of Brajwasis shaved their heads and did Govardhan Parikrama in his honour. This tradition is alive and well today with people coming from across India to celebrate Guru Purnima in Braj and do Govardhan Parikrama.

On the south side of Manasi Ganga is Mansa Devi temple which was rebuilt by Hathi Singh Jat,  the ruler of Saunkh, after was destroyed by Aurangzeb in 1670.

The Aswatha tree near the temple marks the sitting place of Nanda Das, one of the later Ashta Chhap poets (8 great poets of 16th Century Braj); a disciple of Shri Vittalnathji (Gusainji), the younger son of Shri Vallabhacharya.

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Header-Slider-Sunset-tiny.jpgShri Bhaktamal is a poetic work in Braj Bhasha that contains short biographies of more than two-hundred devotees. It was written by Shri Nabha Das ji, a saint belonging to the Ramananda tradition, in 1585. These descriptions of devotees are a much-loved subject of Katha speakers as hearing about the lives of devotees brings hope and inspiration to those who long for a connection to the Divine.

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Shri Madhav Das was a Brahmin who renounced the world when his wife left her body. Renouncing the world, he headed to Jagannath Puri. Once he reached Puri, he sat on the beach and became absorbed in meditation. He was so absorbed that he didn’t pay attention to the need to eat and drink.

Seeing this, the most merciful Lord Jagannath ordered Laxmi Devi to take the finest food on a golden plate to him. When Shri Madhav came out of his entranced state, he saw the plate and began to weep tears of joy.

He offered the food, then ate it and kept the plate to one side. He became absorbed in meditation once more.

When the temple priests saw that the plate was missing, they flew into action to find it. Eventually, it was found next to Madhav Das. Understanding him to be a thief, they began to whip him. But that night, in a dream, the Lord appeared saying that the pundits will be ruined unless they beg forgiveness at Madhav ji’s feet.

Madhav Das became sick an. He could not walk. Someone came to serve and clean him. When he regained consciousness he realized that it was Prabhu Himself. Holding on to His feet, Madhav Das said

Why didn’t you just cure me? Why did you do so much hard work?

I cannot stand to see my devotees suffering. That is why I came to serve you. You know that it is necessary to suffer the consequences of actions, that is my rule, so how can I break it? I only serve devotees and prove this truth to the world.

People came to know about this incident and word about Madhav Das began to spread far and wide. People started to surround him. This didn’t suit him so he began to wonder around as a madman uttering the Lord’s name.

Once he knocked on a woman’s door to ask for alms. In anger, she threw a wad of cloth at him. Madhav was happy. He dried the cloth and used it as a wick in the temple. After this, the woman became a great devotee who was always joyfully absorbed in meditation on the Lord.

Once a Shastri scholar named Digvijay Pandit challenged Madhav Das to a debate. Madhav Das refused but the Pandit would not listen. Eventually, Madhav Das wrote a note saying, “Madhav has lost, Digvijay is the winner.”

Pandit ji was overjoyed and immediately returned to Varanasi to tell people about his victory. He started to show people the proof, but when the other pundits read the note, it said, “Pandit ji lost, Madhav won.”

Pandit ji was so angry that he returned to Jagannath Puri. He challenged Madhav Das to another debate and insisted that the loser must have their face painted black and ride around town on a donkey.

Madhav Das tried to talk him out of it, but Pandit ji was not ready to listen.

A debate was held in front of a crowded hall. Madhav Das did not attend, but the Lord took his form and won easily. When Madhav Das found out that Pandit ji was being taken around town with a black face, he begged the Lord to forgive the Pandit then he helped Pandit ji get off the donkey and begged his forgiveness. The Pandit’s anger faded.

Blessed are the kind-hearted devotees who forgive us and care about our salvation.

 

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Screenshot-178-1024x570.pngShri Bhaktamal is widely believed to be an unbiased account of Bhaktas across all sectarian paths. Written almost 500 years ago in Brajbhasha by Nabhdas of the Ramananda Sampradaya, the work is rich in tales that carry layers of hidden meanings.

This story relates to a Lila that happened in Dwarka but will remind Vrindavan devotees of many similar Braj Lilas – as when Bihariji, Radharaman ji and other Deities have also left the temple to visit devotees…

In the village of Dakor in Dwarka, lived a devotee named Ramdasji. Every Ekadasi he would go to Ranchodh Temple to perform all-night kirtan at Jagran programs. When his body became old and weak, the Lord instructed him to give up the Jagran seva.

Ramdas ji would not hear of not performing all-night kirtan. Seeing His devotee’s firm determination, the Lord was overcome and said,

I cannot stand to see you in such difficulty when coming to the temple, so I will come to your house. Next Ekadasi, bring a cart and put it under the back window of the temple. I will arrange that the window is open. Then you pick me up and make haste in leaving.

On the next Ekadasi, Ramdasji brought the cart. People thought that he came that way because he had become old and weak.

The Jagran program in the temple was conducted, as usual, on Ekadasi. On the evening of the next day, Ramdasji took the Deity away. The next morning, when the Pujaris saw that the Deity was gone, they set out to find who was responsible.

People immediately suspected Ramdas ji since he had come to the program riding on a cart.

When the Pujaris arrived at Ramdas’ house he told them that he had followed the Lord’s instructions. He told them that Ramchodh ji had happily come and even drove the cart Himself.

The temple priests beat Ramdas causing him many injuries but when they looked around they could not find Ranchodh Bhagavan. They started to worry that they had beaten Ramdas without reason. Someone said that they had seen Ramdas coming from the stepwell, so they went there to look.

When they arrived, they saw the Deity in the water, which had turned red. Shri Ranchodh told them that, when his devotee was beaten, He had taken the wounds upon Himself. He expressed unwillingness to go back with them and told them where to find another Deity for the temple.

To this day, the village is named Dakor (bandit), to commemorate this incident and Ramdas’ descendants proudly identify as the Deity Bandits.

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416px-Danghati-Temple-Govardhan-Mathura-1.jpgGovardhan, 20.06.2019

As preparations for Govardhan’s famous Mudiya Mela get underway, transport authorities have announced that 1500 buses will be deployed to ferry people back and forth to the Mela. The same amount of buses was deployed last year and despite the extra buses, there will be standing room only.

Govardhan’s Mudiya Mela is being celebrated this year between 14th July to 20th July. The biggest day of the fair will be Purnima, Tuesday 16th May.

Purnima is always a big day for Govardhan Parikrama, as devotees enjoy circumambulating Giriraj on the night of the full moon. These days, the hot weather makes night time Parikrama even more popular and Govardhan becomes a 24 hour city.

The crowds are so dense that walking at a quick pace becomes difficult so Parikrama takes a little longer than usual and the unbroken chain of people makes people imagine that Giriraj Maharaj is wearing a garland of devotees.

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The festival commemorates Guru Purnima, which coincides with the disappearance day of Srila Sanatan Goswami, the doyen of the six Goswamis of Vrindavan. The term mudiya refers to the shaving of heads that the Vaishnavas performed in mourning for Sanatan Goswami. Since Sanatan is often credited with restarting the practice of circumambulating Giriraj, this became the principal way of commemorating him. But visiting the major temples around Govardhan, including Mukharavind and Danghati, and bathing in the Manasa Ganga and other tanks around Govardhan form part of the ritual.

While it is a bit early for international tourists, many consider that the festival season begins in Braj with Guru Purnima. Locals watch as the town wakes up from a seeming slumber during the summer months and pandals appear in every available space.

Gurus who have come from across the state and interstate to follow their dream of building a temple/ashram in Vrindavan are visited by disciples from their home town or village. Jagran programs are popular, so those who don’t do Parikrama can enjoy all-night kirtan. Guru Purnima is the foremost opportunity of the year to pay tribute to our shiksha and diksha Gurus; Those who give us the gems of knowledge that brighten our days.

Whether you celebrate by doing Govardhan Parikrama or by remembering your own Guru, Guru Purnima is a prime opportunity to meditate on the great saints of Braj – people like Sanatan Goswami whose renunciation and simplicity endeared him to all.

Instead of aspiring for flashy Deity worship, Sanatan Goswami told Madan Mohan ji that, since he lived mostly by eating plain bread balls, he would not be able to guarantee that he can provide salt, even if that is the wish of the Lord. For Sanatan Goswami, the internal aspects of devotion far outweighed the external practices. He spent his days meditating on the Pastimes of the Lordships.

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Sanatan Goswami’s Govardhan shila

It is said that the mercy of the Dham is magnified by the saints who have walked on this holy land. Sanatan Goswami is one saint from which we all receive countless blessings. His dedication to Govardhan Parikrama was so intense that he attempted to do it daily, even in advanced age. Wanting to save his devotee from hardships, even those willingly undertaken, the most merciful Lord Krishna personally presented Sanatan Goswami with a Govardhan Shila, whose Parikrama gives the same benefit as the entire Govardhan Parikrama. This Shila is now installed in Radha Damodar temple in Vrindavan, so, even today, devotees benefit from the boon granted to Sanatan Goswami.
 

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Vrindavan, 16.06.2019

Vrindavan Temples will celebrate Jal Yatra on 17th June. Jal Yatra is organised every year during the Purnima of Jyestha month (June) as per the Hindu calendar to give some relief to Thakur ji from the scorching heat. The festival is thought to have originated from the Puri tradition, where Jagannath takes bath on this day, then ‘falls sick’ and does not give Darshan for the next two weeks.

In Vrindavan’s historical Sapta Devalaya temples, the focus of the festival is on providing pleasure for the Deities through water play. Padmalochan Goswami of Radharaman temple said that Jal Yatra is an old tradition. Together with other summer services, such as the fragrant phul bangala decorations and Chandan Yatra, it is designed to give relief to Thakur ji.

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Shri Radharaman ji during Jal Yatra

In Radharaman and other temples, fountains are arranged on the altar.  Visitors to the temple also benefit from the fine spray of water, making the day one of the most enjoyable summer Darshans.

Shri Radha-Shyamsundar, Shri Radha-Gokulananda and the rest of the sapta-devalaya temples all celebrate this festival, so the festival is a great time to tour Vrindavan’s temples.

Jal Yatra coincides with the Snan Yatra of Lord Jagannath in Puri. The Skandh Puran mentions that King Indradyumna arranged this ceremony for the first time when Jagannath, Baldev and Subhadra were first installed in Puri, Odisha. In this sense, Snan Yatra is considered the birthday of Jagannath Dev. The Lord comes out of His temple on procession and is offered a ritual bath with 108 pots of water, in the presence of His devotees.

In the two Jagannath temples on Vrindavan’s Parikrama Marg, the Snan Yatra is celebrated with Abhishek in the afternoon. After this, Darshan will remain closed until 3rd July. On the afternoon of 4th of July, Shri Jagannath Baladev and Subhadra’s Rathayatra will be taken out on the streets in Vrindavan.

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14.06.2019

While some managed to keep a fast from water on this most important Ekadasi of the year, others worked to get the benefit of Nirjal Ekadasi by distributing sherbert water, which is also thought to bring benefits.

People organized distributions outside many of Braj’s temples, braving the heat themselves to distribute cold drinks to devotees. Others made donated water pots and fruits, as Vishnu is thought to be particularly pleased by donations on Nirjala Ekadasi.

Distributions were organized at Mathura’s Bhuteshwara temple and Vrindavan’s Luteri Hanuman temple, among others.

Devotees who attended Radharaman temple in the late evening were treated to mango Prasad as the mangoes used as decoration were thrown out into crowd.

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Radhavallabh Naukar Vihar

There were special decorations and arrangements for Thakurji’s pleasure in many temples. Radhavallabh celebrated Naukar Vihar (boat festival) and the altar of Mukut Mukarvind temple in Govardhan was decorated by luscious flower bungalows.
 

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Vrindavan, 12.06.2019

Devotees enjoyed the first day of Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami’s Seva Mahotsav yesterday. In the lead up to Maharaj taking over the leadership of Shri Radharaman ji’s service, it was announced that the service would be organized according to a secret theme.

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Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami

Seeing the lush green decorations, the crowded room of devotees understood that the theme was the ‘groves of Vrindavan’, which is fitting since that Shrivatsa Goswami Maharaj is known as ‘the environmentalist Goswami’. There were several ‘trees’ on the Jagmohan, which had been recreated from branches and were adorned with flowers.

Shri Radharaman was sitting on a small podium in the middle of the recreated forest. The podium looked like a temple within the temple. The sides and dome of the podium were created from carved banana tree trunks with ornate floral themed carvings. Lattices of white Mogra flowers weaved over colourful cloth added colour and made for a pleasing aesthetic effect.

Radharaman ji was wearing a fine silk saffron coloured suit enriched with sequin designs. The most striking thing about His appearance was His large eyes. Unlike many Deities, Radharaman ji’s eyes change. Sometimes He has thin, mischievous-looking eyes, but yesterday He had big eyes, lotus eyes to look at and shower mercy on all those who came before Him.

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Shri Radharaman ji 11.12.19
Photo: Shubankar Goswami

There were yellow and green flags covering the roof and pink and yellow cloth adorning the podiums at the back of the temple where Tulsi Maharani and Giriraj Maharaj reside.

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Tulsi Parikrama after Sandya Aarti at Radharaman temple

Each Goswami family has their own approach to Radharaman ji’s seva and devotees say that Thakurji’s mood and characteristics change according to the individual artistic style and devotional mood of the family in charge. Devotees often comment that when Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami and his sons are in charge, Radharaman ji looks like a young prince.

The regal atmosphere is enhanced during the evening Aarti.  During Sandya Aarti at 7.30pm, two straight lines of men stand in straight lines the outskirts of the inner group of Aarti participants holding silver flagpoles.

Maharaj’s seva will continue until the 22nd June. Shrivatsa Maharaj’s seva period arises every two years. The special Darshans at this time are not to be missed.

 

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Shri Lalacharya was a saint in the line of Ramanujacharya Maharaj. He had the most respect for anyone wearing the dress of a Vaishnava. He used to honour all those who wore Vaishnava attire. He considered all Vaishnavas as his brothers. His wife understood his mood, but others often didn’t understand.

One day Mrs Lalacharya went to get water with a few of her friends. A body with the markings of a Vaishnava, including Tulsi neckbeads, washed up on the shore. Teasing her, her friends said

Look at him carefully. Is he your husbands older brother or younger brother? When his wife told him of this incident, Lalacharya began to cry. He was thinking,  my brother was a Vaishnava saint and has now attained the abode of the Supreme. Then, they went to the river to perform final rights according to tradition.

On the thirteenth day, Lalacharya organized a feast in honour of the Vaishnava. He invited the Brahmins of his local community but they all declined, thinking that Lalalacharya is trying to corrupt them by inviting them to a feast in honour of a person whose caste and history is unknown. The Brahmins who were against the feast convinced the others not to go, so, in the end no one was willing to come to his house for the feast.

Lalacharya was concerned about this matter so he explained what happened to Shri Ramanujacharya ji. Rananujacharya ji said,

Don’t worry, those Brahmins are just ignorant about the glories of Vaishnava Prasad.

Then Ramanujacharya himself proceeded to Lalacharya’s house to partake of the Prasad. The local Brahmins who saw him tried to stop him but were a bit taken aback by his divine glow. They waited outside and planned to interrogate Ramanujacharya further when he came out of the feast.

After the feast Ramanujacharya left Lalacharya’s house, not by road but by rising up into the sky. When the local Brahmins saw this, it opened their eyes so that they could see their mistake. They fell at Lalacharya’s feet crying and begged forgiveness.

Lalacharya was a great Vaishnava. He did not want to make anyone ashamed so he said to them,

You are all Brahmins. You make me ashamed by talking this way. It was by your actions that I had the Darshan of a great saint. I am grateful to all of you.

The Brahmins no longer had any doubts about Lalacharya’s philosophy. They went to his house and took the grains that had fallen on the ground as Prasad. They became filled with joy and many took Vaishnava initiation.

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