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Shri Vraja Dhama

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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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Radha Kund claims the life of a tourist

Radha-kunda

Radha-kunda, 2018.07.19

A young man who came to Braj to do Govardhan Parikrama with his family, has left his body in Shri Radha Kund. The youth, 21 year old Akash from Dhaulpur Rajasthan, was taking snan in Radha Kund when he slipped and got submerged in the kund. Radha Kund police called divers to remove the body, which was sent for post-mortem.

The incident happened on Wednesday at Midday. The day before this tragic incident, DM Sarvagyaram Mishraissued the orders the Public Works Department about what should be done to beautify the area for the upcoming Mudiya Mela.

A similar incident occurred in 2017, although in that case, locals saw the man struggling and pulled him out but the man became unconscious and no one with first aid training was present to revive him.

Drowning incidents are common in Braj as many people who take snan are unable to swim. The absence of lifeguards even at popular bathing spots also increases the danger.

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Vivek-Oberoi-in-Vrindavan.jpgBraj, 2018.07.17

The management of Radharaman temple has announced that on, Guru Purnima, the temple will remained closed after 2.50pm due to a lunar eclipse. Many other temples are likely to remain closed on th evening of the 27th, which is disappointing news for the hundreds of thousands of visitors who manage to get away from the daily grind come to Vrindavan. Darshan of Vrindavan’s Thakurjis is not something that is easily achieved.

The eclipse will no doubt also decrease the number of people doing parikrama in the evening as it is thought that the best thing to do at such times is to stay inside and sing or chant.

Longest-lunar-eclipse-564x317.jpgThe eclipse is being described as the longest eclipse in the century. The Lunar Eclipse Starts – 23:54:26 on 27th July and ends at 3:49am on 28th. During this time, the moon will appear red as the earth’s shadow blocks the other wavelengths of light. Precautions are taken at this time because evil influences are said to be more prominent and it is not recommended to sleep during an eclipse as such prominent celestial events can cause nightmares.

The clash of Guru Purnima and the lunar eclipse is unfortunate although perhaps some will take advantage by having their own jagran (fast from sleep) program.

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Dwarkadheesh jhula

Dwarkadheesh temple has announced that Lord Dwarkadheesh’s Jhulan Yatra (swing festival) will begin from the evening of 28th July. During the month of August, Braj’s temples will all hold Jhulan Yatra festivals. The swing festival is held for several days, even weeks in some temples. Many temples begin the festival from Hariyali Teej (13th August) by installing Thakurji’s swing among decorations made from greenery. The festival continues until Raksha Bandhan (26th August).

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Jagannath Ratha Yatra, Vrindavan 2018← Jagannath Ratha Yatra, Vrindavan 2018

Vrindavan, 2018.07.15

While Jagannath’s Ratha Yatra was held in Puri amid tight security, fanfare, religious fervor and enthusiasm, here in Vrindavan it was simple and absorbed in emotion. It is a unique experience that all the Chariots of Jagannath coming out from different temples of Vrindavan for circumnambulation of Gyan Gudri.

The chariots from the three ancient temples of Govinda, Gopinath and Madan Mohan; the Jagannath temples at Bishram Bat and Jagannath Ghat and Sadhumai ashram etc. were the major attractions.

It is not just about celebrating Rath Yatra in Vrindavan, it is more than that. Most people don’t know the significance of Jagannath Ratha Yatra in Vrindavan. People hardly know why all the chariots of Jagannath gather in Gyan Gudri.

After research and interviewing many acharyas and scholars, we have discovered the significance of Jagannath Rathyatra in Vrindavan. When Aurangzeb invaded Vrindavan, the deities of Govinda, Gopinath and Madan Mohan were moved to Jaipur. The original temples of the Lordships remained empty, without any deity. The Acharyas of the time decided to place Jagannath deities in the empty temples.

Acharya Naresh Narayan explains that after the new temples of Govinda, Gopinath and Madan Mohan were built and their replicas were installed, the deity of Lord Jagannath was also seated in the new temples. As Lord Jagannath was seated in the temples it became necessary to take Him out on Ratha Yatra. The Acharyas decided that the best place for the Yatra would be Gyan Gudri, where Uddhava heard about Divine love from the Vraja Gopis.

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Radha Raman sits on a chariot for His Vijay Yatra, P.C. Anjana Aggarwal

In Vrindavan, alongside Jagannath, Shri Krishna’s Ratha Yatra is also held on this day and the festival is associated with the Gopi’s Divine love for Shri Krishna. Acharya Naresh Narayan said that Shri Krishna rode a chariot for the first time in Vrindavan. The chariot was sent by King Kamsa transport Krishna and Balaram to Mathura.

Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami said, it was the separation from Vrindavan that made Krishna take the form of Jagannath. Once, Rohini Ma was speaking to Krishna’s wives in Dwarka about His pastimes in Vrindavan and the Gopis’ love for Him. Meanwhile, Krishna, realizing that He was being talked about, came to hear Rohini’s wonderful narration. Shri Krishna stood to listen with His brother Balaram, standing on the right and their sister, Subhadra, on the left.

Hearing the stories, Krishna became overwhelmed with intense feelings of separation for Vrindavan. He was so much absorbed in relishing His own Vrindavan pastimes, that His heart began to melt. Krishna and Balaram became so ecstatic that their internal feelings were exhibited externally. Their eyes became very wide. Their heads compressed into their bodies and their limbs retracted. They appeared just like the forms that are worshipped in Jagannath Puri today as Lord Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra.

Gradually, they returned to their normal consciousness and forms. When Krishna had recovered fully, He could understand that it was Narad ji’s doing, as Narad ji had given the idea of requesting Mata Rohini to speak about Vrindavan to Krishna’s wives. Narad ji thought Krishna would be angry, but, to his relief Krishna was happy with him.

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Shri Krishna wanted to give a benediction to Narad Muni. Narad ji requested that Krishna, Balaram and Subadhra remain in those forms somewhere in the world, so that devotees can have Their darshan. Moreover, this form should be known as ‘Patita Pavana’, the savior of the fallen and liberator of the entire world. Krishna accepted Naradji’s wish to give darshan in the form of Jagannath in Puri.

It was the feelings of separation from Vrindavan that made Krishna take the form of Jagannath.  So, while most people associate Jagannath’s Rath Yatra with Jagannath Puri, the festival is also deeply connected with Shri Krishna’s Vrindavan pastimes.

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Jagannath, Baladev, Subhadra at the Vrindavan's Jagannath Ghat← Jagannath, Baladev, Subhadra at the Vrindavan's Jagannath Ghat

Vrindavan, 2018.07.14

The deity at Jagannath Ghat was originally installed in Puri. Perhaps wanting to taste the sweetness of Vrindavan Dham, two hundred years ago, Lord Jagannath made arrangements so that a devotee called Haridasa brought Him to Vrindavan.

Haridasa lived in Vrindavan and spent his time on the banks of the Yamuna meditating on the Lord’s form as Jagannath, Lord of the Universe. He wept day and night for Shri Jagannath’s darshan, and finally, Lord Jagannath appeared before him.

When Lord Jagannath appeared before Haridasa, Haridasa was so charmed by Shri Jagannath’s beauty that he could not stop looking at Him. But he could not look for long and soon became unconscious.

As soon as he regained consciousness, Haridasa fell at the feet of Lord Jagannath. Lord Jagannath said, “Haridasa. I am pleased with your devotion and I yearn for your loving service. You go to Jagannath Puri. This year, in the month of asadha, the image of Jagannath will be changed. You Bring the old image to Vrindavan to be installed here and served”. (The Jagannath deity in Puri is changed every 36 years).

In the introduction to the chapter on Haridasa in The Saints of Braj, OBL Kapoor explains that the Lord incarnates in physical form to allow to His devotees serve Him, which helps them become free from Maya (illusory energy). The Lord also longs for the loving service of the devotees and creates a relationship with them by pretending to be dependent.

After instructing Haridasa to bring Him to Vrindavan, Lord Jagannath disappeared. Haridasa was so aggrieved at His disappearance that he became unconscious again. On regaining consciousness, he remembered the Lord’s command and began to prepare for his journey to Puri.

There was no railway in those days. Haridasa went on foot with some of his disciples; crossing the jungles and rivers, all the while singing the glories of the Lord. When he reached Jagannath Puri, the town was alive with visitors from all over the country who had come to celebrate the festival of the changing of the Jagannath deity.

Haridasa went to the sevaiyat in the temple and asked for the old deity. The sevaiyat said, “I am not authorised to give the deity to anyone. You should approach the king”.

Haridasa went to the king. The king did pranam to Haridasa and asked how he could be of service. Haridasa told him about the command of Jagannath and asked for the old deity. The king was confused about what to do. He said, “Maharaja. Jagannath has commanded you but he has not given any such command to me. According to the long established tradition, every time the deity is changed, the old image is consigned to the sea.”

Haridas breathed a deep sigh and said, “So let that be. With the consignment of the old image of Jagannath, my body shall also be consigned to the sea.”

Haridas took a vow to undertake an indefinite fast. He sat on the sea shore, waiting for the time when he would drown himself in the sea with the image of Jagannath.

In the introduction to his wonderful book about the devotees of Braj, OBL Kapoor explains that, sometimes, great devotees act in ways that are difficult for us to understand. Knowing the will of the Lord, the great devotees act in accordance with His transcendental games.

That night, Jagannath appeared before the king in a dream and said, “My devotee came to you to ask for my image on My command. You did not do well by turning him away. He is now fasting on the sea shore. Go and apologize to him and send my old image with him to Vrindavan.”

The king was struck with fear. Immediately he woke up and went to the sea shore. He apologized to Haridas and promised to send the deity with him to Vrindavan.

After the installation of the new images, the king ordered that the old images of Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra  be seated on a chariot and taken to Vrindavan with an army escort. He also gave Haridasa sufficient money and paraphernalia for the service of Lord Jagannath in Vrindavan.

The return journey took several months. Haridas and his disciples would stop and hold celebrations at places along the way. Finally, they reached Vrindavan.

Haridasa built a temple at the place on the banks of the Yamuna where he used to sit. The place came to be known as Jagannath Ghat. Jagannath Ghat is just past Keshi Ghat on the Parikrama Marg. The deities in the temple here are the original ones that Haridasa brought from Puri. The temple welcomes people of all nationalities.

Vrindavan’s Jagannath goes on Rath Yatra at the same time as the Jagannath in Puri.

Source: The Saints of Braj OBL Kapoor

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VarshanaDuring famines like as the Agra Famine of 1838, sadhus are among worst effected. A great who lived in Varshana called Jagannatha Dasa Baba used to keep a store of food grains to offer to sadhus in times of food shortages. He kept medicines in his hut and at times cooked for sadhus. When the famine hit, he did not touch the food stuffs that he had stored in pots – he did not keep them for himself and, at this time, the sadhus were in need.

During the famine, the people of Varshana had no food to offer as madhukari (alms).  Jagannatha Das Baba felt compelled to leave, but, whenever he thought of leaving Varshana, his heart would sink and tears would flow from his eyes. At a young age, Jagannatha Das Baba left his hometown, Vardhaman, to come to Varshana in the hope of having darshan of Radharani. After several days without any food, he resolved to leave.

He bundled up his belongings and started walking, but, before he had gone far, he met a Brajbasi girl that he recognized.

“Where are you going Baba?” she asked

“Somewhere” He replied, with tears in his eyes.

“But why?”

“Why? There is a dearth of madhukari here in your village. How can I live without madhukari?”

“What are you saying Baba? Dearth for you? My mother keeps madhukari for you every day. Why don’t you come? Even today she has kept madhukari for you in the kitchen. Go and take it and do not leave this place.”

Babaji was very hungry. He thought that since the girl’s mother has already kept madhukari for him, he should take it before going anywhere. He went back to his hut and put his belongings there, then went to the girl’s house.

As soon as the girl’s father saw Baba, he said, “Baba, you have come very late. There is no madhukari  now. Why didn’t you come earlier?”

Baba replied, “I have come on the invitation of your lali who told me that her mother has kept madhukari for me in the kitchen.”

“My lali?! But she is not here. She moved to her husband’s house a long time ago. You must have mistaken some other girl for my lali.”

“No, no. It was her, I am sure.”

The Brijwasi smiled. He turned to his wife and said, “See if there is something in the kitchen that you can give Baba to eat. He must be hungry.”

As soon as she opened the door of the kitchen, she shouted, “Oh my God, how wonderful! Who has kept this plate of vegetable, roti, dhal and rice here? I didn’t.”

The girl’s father was surprised, but suddenly a thought came into his mind: “It must have been Radha Rani herself  who invited Baba in the guise of my daughter and who put the plate in my kitchen for Baba. Who else could it be?”

Baba also had the same understanding. He was so overwhelmed with bhava that tears streamed from his eyes. With an intense feeling of gratitude towards Radha Rani, he felt as if he was drowning in the ocean of Her mercy.

The Brijwasi woman gave the plate of food to Baba. It was his habit to accept only pieces of roti as madhukari, but this time, he accepted a full cooked meal, because it was from Radha Rani.

As Baba was leaving the house, both the girl’s parents said, “Baba, do come every day for madhukari”.

Baba was reminded of Shri Krishna’s assertion in the Bhagavad Gita that He Himself takes care of His devotees. He also remembered this story, about a Brahmin who doubted that Shri Krishna personally looks after devotees:

The Brahmin lived on alms and was very devout. He would spend his time reading and meditating on the Bhagavad Gita. Once he was meditating on verse 9.22

“Those who are exclusively devoted to me and always think of me and nothing else, I myself own the responsibility of fulfilling all their wants and protecting them from all ills”

The Brahmin thought that the word vahamyaham, which means “I Myself carry the burden of fulfilling their wants”, was inappropriate. He thought that it should have been karomyaham which means “I arrange for someone to fulfill their wants”. He thought, why should the all powerful Lord Krishna carry this burden on his head? So he struck out the word vahamyaham and wrote karomyaham.

One day, it rained so heavily that the Brahmin could not go out to beg for alms. He and his wife both went hungry. He went out the next day, when the rains had stopped.

Not long after he left, a handsome boy who was carrying provisions on his head and whose forehead was bleeding from a scratch, arrived at the house and said to the Pandit’s wife, “Ma, Pandit ji has sent this Prasad”.

The Pandit’s wife was charmed by the boy’s lovely face and sweet voice but was pained by the sight of blood dripping from his forehead. She said, “My child. Who has hurt you?”

“Pandit ji” he said

“Which pandit ji?”

“Your husband”

“My husband?! He is so simple and kind hearted. Why would he hurt a lovely boy like you?”

“I am telling you the truth Ma. It was your husband who pieced my forehead with the point of a dart.”

“But why?”

“He alone knows why.”

When the Brahmin returned home, his wife told him what had the boy had said. There was no end to Pandit ji’s astonishment, grief and resentment. It did not take him long to understand that the Gita is a verbal image of Shri Krishna and by cutting one of its words with a pen he had actually pierced the body of Krishna.

By himself carrying the food to the house on His head, Shri Krishna demonstrated the literality of the statement that he himself carries the burden of responsibility for fulfilling the wants of his devotees. The Brahmin was so filled with guilt and remorse that he fell senseless on the ground.

As Jagannath Das Baba thought of this story, he said to himself, “If Krishna can be so merciful to his devotees, how can Radha Rani lag behind? She must be even more merciful.”

This story is mentioned in Gaudiya Vaishnav Jivana. Here it is mentioned Banakhandi, a descendant of the family that used to give madhukari to baba was the wealthiest man in Varshana, and perhaps the happiest too.

Source: 'The Saints of Braj' by O.B.L. Kapoor.

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36919077_202482573937252_4900306665372385280_n.jpg← Forest Department Officials checking the dead peahen

Vrindavan, 2018.07.11

A spate of monkey attacks in Vrindavan has become a cause of concern not only for residents, but for birds and animals too. Everyone is living in fear, particularly children and senior citizens. Several people in Vrindavan, have died due to monkey attacks and almost everyone has been bitten at some stage.

On Wednesday, a pack of monkeys attacked a peahen at the Lata Bhavan ashram, situated at Tehari Wali Bagichi near Atalla Chungi. People residing at the ashram rescued the severely injured pehen, which succumbed to the injuries after some time.

The Forest Department was immediately informed, but the peahen died before they could reach the spot.
The ashram is owned by Baba Shri Hit Kinkar Sevak Sharan ji, who is known as the father of the environmental movement in Vrindavan. Many of Vrindavan’s activists aspire to follow in his footsteps.

Baba’s love for nature, trees, birds, mongoose, squirrel and other species is well known among the natives of Vrindavan. Every day, grains are spread on a large surface of the garden. Peacocks, parrots and other birds visit the garden in search of food.

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Monkeys waiting to eat the grains and attack birds

Talking to ‘Vrindavan Today’, Shri Gunakar, a close associate of Baba Sevak Sharan said, “Peacocks visit our garden often in search of food. We spread the grain for the birds everyday. In Vrindavan Peacocks are even more vulnerable to monkey attacks than humans. Monkeys ransack the entire garden. They don’t allow the new trees to grow.”

“When we saw the peacock being held by the pack of monkeys, we ran to rescue it from them. The monkeys had already ripped off its feathers and bit it in many places. We immediately informed the Forest department for help. But the peahen died before the help could reach it,” added Shri Gunakar.

It should be noted that peacocks are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act.

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14_15.jpg← Pollution in Manasi Ganga

Govardhan, 2018.07.05 (VT):  Local activists are demanding that the water in Manasi Ganga be drained and refilled with clean water before Mudiya Mela (23rd to 27th July).

Extra arrangements for bathing are also being requested to be made as the fountains below Mukut Mukharvind temple at Manasi Ganga will be inadequate to provide for the millions of devotees to take snan in this most holy kund during Mudiya Mela.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has requested information about the sewer lines in Govardhan and efforts are underway to ensure that no polluted water goes into Manasi Ganga but the long term solution will not take effect before the upcoming Mudiya festival.

The quality of water in Manasi Ganga has been a cause of concern for many years and previous attempts have been made to clean the water, however, despite significant expenditure, the water quality has not improved.

Eight years ago, High Court Justice Girdhar Malviya visited Govardhan and was disgusted to see sewage water going into Manasi Ganga. He ordered that the water be taken out and replaced with clean water.

In accordance with the order, the ‘Prevention of Pollution and Revival of Mansi Ganga scheme‘ worth Rs230 million was approved by the Central and State Governments. Under the scheme, a sewerage treatment plant was built in Govardhan and an aeration system was installed in Manasi Ganga to stop the water from becoming stagnant.

After the initial work, the responsibility for ongoing maintenance was handed over to the Municipality. The water quality has again deteriorated.

Hariom Sharma, convenor of the Govardhan Vikas Manch, has demanded that clean water be supplied to Manasi Ganga before the Mudiya Purnima Mela.

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Manasi Ganga after draining in 2010

Stormwater drains across Braj are now being cleaned to avoid a re-occurrence of the flooding that damaged property and caused inconvenience to thousands of people at the end of last month.

Efforts are being made to improve roads, but, many roads in Govardhan are in bad condition. Many roads roads were dug up to lay sewer lines in the middle and then were not properly repaired. The work of fixing Govardhan’s roads is unlikely to be completed before the Mela. Many new roads are also waiting to be built, including the ring road and link roads that will divert traffic away from Govardhan Parikrama Marg. Arrangements for parking on the outskirts of town are expected to be finalized this week.

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Giriraj Charan Shila at Radha Damodar temple

The busiest day in Govardhan and Vrindavan will be 27th July, which is celebrated as both Guru Purnima and Sanatan Goswami‘s disappearance day. Performing Govardhan Parikrama on this day is particularly auspicious for devotees who aspire to follow in the footsteps of Shri Sanatan Goswami.

Sanatan Goswami went on Govardhan Parikrama almost every day, even after he reached an advanced age. His devotion was so intense that he insisted on doing the full Parikrama every day. When he was too old to do Govardhan Parikrama, Shri Krishna appeared personally and handed him the Govardhan Shila that is now in Radha Damodar temple. Parikrama of this special Shila, which has Shri Krishna’s footprint embedded on it, gives the same benefit as performing the entire Govardhan parikrama.

It is said that after Shri Sanatan Goswami left his body, hundreds of Brijwasis shaved their heads and did Govardhan parikrama in his honour. From this time on, in Braj, Guru Purnima is celebrated as Mudiya Mela.

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Samadhis demolishedGovardhan, 2018.04.07

Dozens of samadhis have been demolished in the midst of protests by locals. A heavy police presence accompanied Forestry Department Officials and machinery operators who cleared the shrines within minutes.

The samadhis were cleared from the Jatipur area of Govardhan to make way for the forest reserve. The Forestry Department previously attained permission to remove the samadhis but did not immediately carry out the work. On Tuesday, officials took the help of police to clear the area.

In the face of the heavy police presence, locals were powerless and many have been left with a feeling that their religious sentiments have been disregarded.

In a recent ruling of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in relation to the enforcement of the No Construction zone around Govardhan, the Tribunal ruled that there is no need to remove the temporary constructions that sadhus make to carry out their bhajan and penance at the foot of Shri Govardhan. The samadhis of these babas, however, were not spared.

Govardhan resident Shri Gopal Sharma said, “The samadhis were part of the landscape of Shri Govardhan. People would do pranam on seeing these monuments to great devotees. The samadhis inspired reverence and had historical significance. They should not have been removed.”

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Mudiya Purnima festivitiesBraj, 2018.06.28

While most people in India celebrate Guru Purnima (27th July) as a one day festival, there is a week long celebration in Braj at this time called Mudiya Mela.  In anticipation of the crowds, state Roadways has announced that 1500 extra buses will service the area and the Radha Kund Railway Station will become operational before the Mela.

Previously, people who arrived by train all departed from Govardhan station, so, those who wanted to start parikrama from Radha Kund, had to catch a tempo for 2.5 km from Govardhan station to Radha Kund. Now people will be able to exit from a newly build station at Radha Kund.

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Govardhan train station

Roadways Assistant Regional Manager Akshay Kumar says that the administration has asked for 1500 buses for the fair. The extra buses will run from Agra, Aligarh, Etawah, Ghaziabad, Moradabad, Bareilly and Meerut.

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U.P. Roadways buses at Govardhan bus station

While every Hindu festival is celebrated with great pomp and fanfare in Braj’s temples, Guru Purnima is a particularly big festival here. Many ashrams and temples have been built by Gurus after they gathered a following in their home region, and many of Braj’s local gurus become popular around the country.  In the lead up to Guru Purnima, people flock to Braj to see their guru to offer their respects and daksina (gifts).

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Devotees listening to Bhagavat Katha

The biggest crowds will go to Govardhan, but Vrindavan streets are also transformed, with pandals appearing on every street corner as temples make arrangements for hundreds of devotees who come to hear Bhagavat Katha.

Guru Purnima also marks the disappearance day of Sanatan Goswami. In Braj, the festival is called Mudiya Purnima because, after Sanatan Goswami left his physical body, Vaishnavas shaved their heads and did Govardhan parikrama.

On the eve of Mudiya Purnima, abhishek is held at Madhan Mohan temple and devotees pay tribute at Sanatan Goswami’s Samadhi, adjacent to the temple.

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Sanatan Goswami’s samadhi at the Madan Mohan temple

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Shri Radha Vallabh← Shri Radha Vallabh

Vrindavan, 2018.06.28

The Goswamis of Radha Vallabh are alleging that Radha Vallabh’s precious sapphire eyes have been replaced with fakes. An investigation is now underway into the crime, which allegedly took place almost two and a half years ago.

It is alleged that Shri Radha Vallabh’s eyes were swapped on the 12th April 2016. A letter asking for an investigation into the issue was received at the District Magistrate’s office on 21st April 2016. The DM passed on the complaint to the Area In Charge, who is now conducting an investigation.

Goswamis fear that Radha Vallabh’s original eyes have been sold and will now be difficult to trace.

Yadvendra Vallabh Goswami who has been serving at Radha Vallabh temple for 40 years said that Radha Vallabh’s sapphire eyes are “set in silver. They are missing and we hope that they will be returned”.

There has been a long standing disagreement between the two dynasties of Radha Vallabh Goswamis. A court appointed receiver helps to distribute temple income.

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How Shri Radha Vallabh came to Vrindavan

Radha Vallabh temple was established during Kartik in 1535. It is said that, Shri Hit Harivansh received a Divine command from Sri Radha, telling him, ‘You will meet a Brahman who possesses a Deity of Shri Radha Vallabh. Marry his two daughters and take the Deity to Vrindavan to worship’.

Shri Hit Harivansh’s father, Sri Vyasa Mishra, was a Gaur Brahman of Deoband Uttar Pradesh who was in service of the Moghul Emperor Humayun. His wife Tara Rani, gave birth to Harivansh at the Royal Army Camp at Baad village, near Mathura on Mohini Ekadasi in Baisakh (April–May).

Hit Harivansh grew up in Deoband in Uttar Pradesh. He had three children to his first wife and is said to have initiated them all as his disciples before he left to come to Vrindavan. The deity he worshipped as a child is still being worshipped by his descendants  in Deoband

Shri Harivansh’s preaching in the local language and focus on prema bhakti instead of strictly following rules made him popular with locals in Braj. Even today, Shri Radha Vallabh temple is one of Vrindavan’s most popular temples.

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Vishram GhatMathura, 2018.06.26

At Mathura's famous Vishram Ghat, devotees setting out on the 40 day Braj Mandal Parikrama take vows to follow the rules and special penances of the Parikrama. After the arduous journey, devotees return to this place to celebrate the completion of their parikrama while remembering how Shri Krishna took rest here after killing King Kamsa.

Along with many of Mathura's ghats, Vishram Ghat was restored in 2007. Of Mathura's 25 ghats, Vishram Ghat is considered to be the foremost. It is situated in the middle of the line of ghats and is close to many of Mathura's most elegant temples including Dwarkadhish.

There are several small temples at Vishram Ghat including Mathura's Yamuna Devi temple. Mangal Aarti is held here at 4.45am in summer and 5.15 in winter.

The other temples of Vishram Ghat are Krishna Balaram “Mukut” temple, Neelkanteshwar Mahadev temple, Veni Mahadev temple, Radha Damodar temple, Yamuna Krishna temple, Langali Hanuman temple, Narasimha Dev temple, Yamraj temple and Murli Mohan temple.

The ghat is always crowded with devotees, but there are few amenities for visitors. There is no toilet block nearby and the water from the taps is not potable. Devotees are also disappointed by seeing drains emptying into the Yamuna here.

The head pujari at Vishram Ghat, Jhabbu Chaturvedi, said that the government should help to develop the ghat so that visitors are encouraged to spend more time in the area.

 

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Baladev Vidyabhushan Samadhi← Samadhi of Baladev Vidyabhushan

Vrindavan, 2018.06.24

June 22nd was celebrated as the disappearance day of the exalted scholar-Vaishnava, Baladeva Vidhyabhushan who is best known for defending the authenticity of the Gaudiya Sampradaya in the Royal Court. As evidence is scarce, scholars are still debating the biographical details of Vidyabhushan’s life. He is thought to have lived from 1700-1793 AD.

On the occasion of Vidyabhushan’s disappearance day in 1998, Shrila Bhaktivanta Narayan Maharaj spoke about Baladev Vidyabhushan’s early life:

Baladeva Vidyabhusan was born in Orissa, near Puri, in a place called Chilka Lake. He was very brilliant, and in his boyhood he learned all vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar) as well as the Vedas, Upanisads and all other scriptures. He wanted especially to read and study Vedanta. He read Sri Sankaracarya’s explanation of Vedanta, but he was not satisfied and wanted to study more. Therefore, he went to Udupi in South India, where he studied all the commentaries on Vedanta, like the Sri-Bhasya of Sri Ramanuja, the Parijata-Saurabha-Bhasya of Sri Nimbaditya, more of the Sariraka-bhasya of Sri Sankaracarya, the Sarvajna-Sukti-bhasya of Sri Visnusvami, the Brhad-bhasya and Anubhasya of Sri Madhvacarya, and the Bhaskara-bhasya of Sri Bhaskara Acarya. He became very learned, and after that he returned to his homeland with a desire to conquer the entire world – to free it of misunderstandings in philosophical tattva.

He went to Jagannatha Puri, and he thought, “Previously, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya and many others like him have been here, so there must be so many learned persons in their line. I will conquer and defeat them.” At that time there was a Gaudiya-Vaisnava present, named Radha-Damodara Prabhu, who was in the line of, and just after, Syamananda Prabhu, Rasikananda Prabhu, and Nayananda Prabhu. Radha-Damodara Prabhu was a very good scholar. He was very learned, but he kept all his knowledge hidden. He was a very simple person, always chanting and remembering in the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Rupa Gosvami.

One day Baladeva Vidyabhusana came to defeat him, but when he heard all his siddhanta (conclusive truths) he thought, “I am very insignificant and I do not know anything in front of him. I am like a baby, a small baby.” He at once surrendered to the lotus feet of Radha-Damodara and took initiation from him.

After that he went to Vrndavana and took shelter of his siksa-guru, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, and he totally surrendered to him. There he read all of Srila Jiva Gosvami’s Six Sandarbhas: Tattva-sandarbha, Paramatma-sandharbha, Bhagavat-sandarbha, Krsna-sandarbha, Bhakti-sandarbha, and Prtti-sandarbha.

After coming to Vrindavan, Vidyabhushan accomplished his most important work – the first Gaudiya Vaishnava commentary on Vedanta Sutra. Vidyabhushan presented Govinda Bhashya as the Gaudiya Vaishnava commentary on Vedanta Sutra in the Royal court, after members of the Ramanuja Sampradaya challenged the authenticity of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

Lord Caitanya accepted Srimad-Bhagwatam as the genuine commentary to Vedanta Sutra, because Ved Vyasa wrote Vedanta-Sutra and elaborated it further in Srimad-Bhagwatam, so, according to Vaishnav philosophy, commentaries of the Vedanta Sutra would be unnecessary. Despite this, if having a commentary would prove the legitimacy of the Gaudiya sanpradaya, then Vidyabhusan was determined to produce one.

Legend has it that Vidyabhushan felt overwhelmed by this task due to his humility and due to the short time he had to complete it, so, he prayed at Govind Dev Temple and Govind Dev Himself narrated the commentary.

Shrila Bhaktivedanta Narayan Maharaj explains how Vidyabhushan traced the lineage of the Gauriya Sampradaya back to Madhava Acharya, saying:

The followers of the Ramanuja-sampradaya said, “You have no bona fide Vaishnava sampradaya.” Baladeva Vidyabhusan then proved the Gaudiya Vaisnavas are in the line of Sri Madhvacarya. Sri Laksmipati Tirtha, who gave diksa to Sri Nityananda Prabhu, was a disciple of Sri Madhvacarya. Sri Madhavendra Puripada, the grand spiritual master of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, was also a disciple of this Laksmipati Tirtha.

The followers of the Ramanuja sampradaya challenged, “Laksmipati Tirtha was ‘Tirtha’ and Madhavendra Puri was ‘Puri.’ How did this difference come?

Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusan clearly explained that one cannot decide a person’s disciplic succession on the basis of sannyasa. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was initiated by Sri Isvari Puripada at Gaya, and in Vaisnava siddhanta He followed Isvara Puripada. He did not follow Kesava Bharati, who gave Him sanyasa. The Guru is he who initiates by mantra – harinama and diksa-mantra. Sri Isvara Puripada gave Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu the Gopal-mantra, and Mahaprabhu followed Vaishnava religion according to the mood of Isvara Puripada, in the line of Madhavendra Puripada.

In the same way, although Srila Madhavendra Puri received sanyasa from someone else, he was initiated into the Gopal-mantra by Sri Laksmipati Tirtha. There was a householder devotee at that time, who took sanyasa from someone in the Sankara-sampradaya, just as Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did. Like Mahaprabhu, he was Vaisnava. That Vaisnava was named Vishnu Puri, and he had been initiated in the Madhva-sampradaya. Madhavendra Puri took sanyasa from that Puri – from Visnu Puri. In this way, Gaudiya Vaisnavas are part of the Madhva sampradaya.

After he returned from the royal court in Jaipur, Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushan presented the certificate of victory to his Guru, Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakur. Srila Vishwanatha bestowed his full blessings on Shri Baladeva. At this time, Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushan began to write a commentary on Srila Jiva Gosvami‘s Sat-Sandarbha.

Shri Radha Vijay-Govinda, in Vrindavan’s Radha Gokulananda temple are Baladeva Vidyabhushan’s worshipable deities and it is said that Vidyabhushan installed the large Deities of at Radha Shyamasundar temple.

According to temple history, Vidyabhushan found the Deity worshipped by Shyamananda Pandit too small. Everyone present in the temple could not see the deity at the same time. The devotees had to go near the deity to have proper Darshan and the deity was also too small for detailed decoration. So, Vidyabhushan installed a larger deity of Shyamasundar Krishna on the central altar, while the original deity of Shyamasundar was moved to the left.

Baladeva Vidyabhushan’s samadhi is at Shyamasundar temple. Radha Vijay Govind, the deities that Vidhyabhushan worshipped when he first came to Vrindavan are at Radha Gokulananda temple, next to Radharaman temple.

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vrindavan137-m-320x427.jpg← Entrance to Pisi Ma’s Gaur Nitai temple

There is a small Gaura-Nitai temple right across the street from Bankandhi Mahadev temple in Vrindavan. The temple looks more like double story house, but its humble facade hides the glorious pastimes and history of the Gaura-Nitai deities inside.

First worshipped by Murari Gupta and his descendants, the deities were brought to Vrindavan by Smt. Candrasasi Mukherjee, who, after arriving in Vrindavan, became known as, Pisi Ma Gosvamini.

Murari Gupta’s Gaura-Nitai deities were buried under the ground after the village of Rayapura (Siudi District, Bengal) was abandoned. The village had been reclaimed by the jungle after the inhabitants had abandoned the area due to an outbreak of Malaria.

Gaura-Nitai arranged that they be ‘discovered’ by a gopa who used to graze his cows in the area. The gopa noticed that one of his cows would drip milk in that spot. Villagers dug in the spot and Gaura-Nitai deities with ‘Murari Gupta’ engraved on the bottom were unearthed.

Then, the deities arranged for their worship by appearing in a dream to Balaramadasa Babaji from Odisha, who, following the call in the dream came to the and began to worship them.

Soon after, Smt. Candrasasi Mukherjee came to the area on some business concerning her family’s land. She saw the deities and the desire to feed them arose in her heart. Her desire to serve Gaura-Nitai forced Chandrasasi to take initiation. Balaramdas Baba told her that a person must be initiated before cooking for temple deities, so Chandrasasi took initiation from him.

Chandrasasi was from a wealthy family. She acquired 40 litres of milk to make kheer for Bal Gaura and Bal Nitai. Gaura-Nitai seemed to enjoy the kheer and the very next day, they appeared to her in a dream.

She had a dream that they were pulling on her sari, insisting that she stay with them. In the dream, a piece of her sari got torn off. In the morning, she told Balaramdas Baba about the dream. When they opened the temple, they saw the torn off piece of her sari in Gaura’s hand. From this day, Candrasasi pledged herself to serving Bal Gaura-Nitai, and she soon came to see them as her sons.

One day, Pisi Ma became upset when because her monthly started while she was cooking. Crying, she thought, “Today I won’t be able to offer my own cooking for Gaura-Nitai’s bhoga!” Thus suffering over the matter, she had a vision in which both brothers, Gaura and Nitai, came to her and said, “Ma, there’s nothing to be sad about. You just do what mothers in your condition usually do. There’s no fault in that. Get up. Take your bath and give us something to eat. We’re very hungry. From now on, you’ll be free of this problem” Pisi Ma did as she was told. She was only in her 20 years old, but, from then on, her monthly cycle stopped.

So, Gaura-Nitai had arranged that two devotees – Chandrasasi Ma and Balaramdas Baba had become completely engaged in Their service. A natural consequence of this arrangement was that the townsfolk began to suspect some illicit relationship between Babaji and Chandrasasi Ma. Chandrasasi Ma became disturbed by the gossip and prayed to Gaur Nitai for a solution. After praying repeatedly and weeping before the deities, she fell asleep. The answer came to her in a dream in which Gaura-Nitai lovingly threw their arms around her and told her, “Take us to Vrindavan”.

So, after the pain of being slandered, Chandrasasi got the benediction of coming to Vrindavan. She and Babaji travelled by boat and, as soon as they arrived, by yet another divine arrangement, they met a female devotee called Bhakta, who was bathing in the Yamuna at the time.

Overjoyed to see Gaur Nitai, Bhakta offered Babaji and Chandrasasi a place in her house. Locals Bhakta by the name Pisi Ma (Paternal aunt) and Chandrasasi became Pisi Ma Goswamini.

Once in Vrindavan, Bal Gaura-Nitai’s mischief increased manifold. They started involving other residents of the Dham and even visitors in their lila (pastimes).

Hungry for offerings made with love, Gaura-Nitai’s mischief inspired people to make offerings to the temple. Once Gaura-Nitai asked Pisi Ma for sandals, but, since she didn’t want Them to leave her even for a moment she simply told Them, “What do You want with sandals? You do not have to go anywhere”. So, Gaura-Nitai remained on the watch for some other devotee who might be willing to arrange sandals.

In the month of Shravan, a woman from Serpura Beguda in West Bengal came to Vrindavana. She was lodged near Gaura-Nitai’s temple. It was raining and Pisi Ma was sitting on the temple veranda. With her left hand, she was pulling the rope attached to Gaura-Nitai’s fan. With her right hand, she was chanting on her beads.

It began to rain very hard. Pisi Ma dozed off a little. At that time, she saw that Nitai had left the temple and was running about the courtyard in the water. Gaura followed Him. Pisi Ma shrieked, “Oh! Where are you going? You’ll catch a cold!” This dream was clear, as if it wasn’t a dream at all, but, she kept pulling on the fan and dozed off again.

Meanwhile, Nitai-Gaura had entered the room of the woman from Serpura Begud who was also sleeping at that time. Gaura-Nitai sat at the end of the bed. Shaking Their heads, they said, “Have you come here to sleep? Get up!”

In her sleeping state, the woman mumbled, “Wha… who are you?”

“Our names are Nitai and Gaura; we are the sons of Pisi Ma of Bankhandi. People in the neighbourhood just call us Pisi Ma’s boys. Everybody in Vrindavan knows we’re her children.”

“Why have you comehere?”

“We have come to say that we do not have sandals. You please arrange for us. See how our feet are soiled without sandals.”

Upon seeing Gaura-Nitai’s extraordinary beauty, the woman became fascinated. She had never before imagined such beauty. Awakening, she began to cry.

Weeping thus, she left the house, even though it was still pouring rain. On the road, she asked anybody she saw where Pisi Ma’s children lived. A Brajawasi showed her Nitai Gaura’s temple at Bankhandi. The woman went inside. Pisi Ma was still pulling the fan and chanting. The woman asked,

“Is this the house of Pisi Ma?”

“Yes, mother, this is the home of Gaura-Nitai, the sons of Pisi Ma. Why are you crying?”

“Where are your two sons? I want to see them,” the highly agitated woman said.

Pisi Ma respectfully seated the woman and opened the curtain. After taking Gaura-Nitai’s darshan, which exactly resembled the vision in her dream, the woman burst into tears and she began to tremble. She was simply unable to do anything at all. For a long time she remained on the floor in a faint. Upon coming to consciousness and controlling herself, she related the whole story of her dream to Pisi Ma. Pisi Ma too told of what she had seen.

For quite some time, both simply remained in an embrace, shedding tears of ecstasy. That fortunate woman later brought silver shoes for Gaura-Nitai, which remain in Their possession even today. Nitai and Gaura continue to use them with love.

Another lady from Serpura Beguda, Prasanna Dasi, lived in Vrndavana. One day she dreamt that Gaura and Nitai, decorated with all kinds of dazzling ornaments came before her. Showing Their lotus feet, which were marked with flag, ankusa (elephant goad), thunderbolt, etc. They said: “Look at all the ornaments We have, but We don’t have nupura (ankle bells). Give us nupura.”

Upon awakening, Prasanna Dasi went to Pisi Ma and narrated the whole story with tears of love streaming from her eyes. She had special ankle bells made and, after these golden nupura on Gaura-Nitai’s lotus feet, her life became successful.

For some days, a babaji who was a very pure, dear servant of Lord, was assisting Pisi Ma in serving Nitai Gaura. An idea arose in his mind and, opening the temple door at night, he stole Gaura-Nitai’s ornaments. Arising early the next morning, Pisi Ma was horrified to see that the door was open and the Deities were without Their jewels. In her mind, she said to Gaura Nitai, “Boy’s, why don’t you tell me who robbed you of your ornaments?”

Full of anxiety, she fell down on the veranda of the temple and remained there, devastated. In her daze, Gaura Nitai said to her, “Ma, that Babaji who serves us is very poor, but he fed us brothers so much rabdi (sweets), so we gave our jewellery to him. Please, don’t say anything to him about this.”

Pisi Ma wondered how she could get more jewellery. She had already left her own wealth long ago, coming to Vrindavana in beggar’s dress. She laughed and said, “Very well. You do what you like. Give your ornaments to whomsoever you like. I know that if you want them again, you will get them from someone. You do not feel shy about begging since you are the sons of Brahmins”.

Just like children who go insist on having something only to get quickly detached from that thing, Gaura Nitai gave away the ornaments that people had given them, and, all who were involved in these pastimes had benefited.

In another dream, Gaura-Nitai told Pisi Ma, “Take us out for Braja-mandala-parikrama.” Being a loving mother, Pisi Ma wanted to make her children happy, so she readied a palanquin and assembled some devotees and they set out the very next day. The Deities were extremely happy on this trip. After a month or so, when They were concluding the parikrama and were at the outskirts of Mathura, Pisi Ma went with a devotee named Vishnudasa, to make some purchases. Mathuradasa followed behind with the palanquin.

At that time, there were British soldiers camped in Mathura. Some of the soldiers were curious about the spectacle of the parikrama procession. Pointing at the palanquin, they asked, “What’s in that?”

Mathuradasa replied, “There are deities inside.”

The soldiers garrulously said, “Show the deities to us!”

He replied in a very humble voice, “Sir, this is not the time for their darshan”

The soldiers overwhelmed him and tried to see the Deities. At that very moment, a blinding flash of light bolted from the palanquin blasting the soldiers away, and scorching their eyes. Screaming out, “Oh God!” they fled in terror.

When Mathuradasa later narrated the whole episode to Pisi Ma, she said, “I am happy to know that my children are now capable of self defence. So I need not worry about their safety”.

Pisi Ma thus passed many years, serving Gaura-Nitai faithfully. Even when she was 100 years old, she continued to take three baths daily in the sacred Yamuna and personally performed Gaura-Nitai’s seva. But, gradually, this became impossible for her to continue, so, she entrusted their worship to Gopesvara Goswami, a devotee in the family line of Lord Nityananda.

Goswami was a staunch bhakta but wasn’t very experienced in Deity seva. Thus he happened to bathe Gaura-Nitai in cool water once, at the beginning of the cold season. They caught a cold and Their noses began to drip. But Gopesvara Goswami didn’t even notice this. Pisi Ma mostly stayed on the second floor as she could not easily negotiate the stairs anymore but, whenever she was needed, she came downstairs.

When she came down from her room, Pisi Ma saw that Gaura-Nitai’s eyes were red and Their noses were dripping. She touched them and realized that They were feverish. She could not bear this. She wiped Their noses with the edge of her sari and called for Gopesvara Goswami. Crying, she said in disbelief, “What have you done? You have bathed my children in cold water and made them ill. See what a severe cold they have caught and how their noses are running”.

Gopesvara didn’t believe it and he told her so. Pisi Ma bristled with anger. She held the end of her sari so that Goswami could see it and said, “Gaura-Nitai’s mucus!” But Goswami still did not believe her, so Pisi Ma put her Sari next to Gaura’s nose and said, “Babu, sneeze a bit”. Gaura sneezed. This filled the temple with an unprecedented, divine fragrance from beyond this world. Astonished and full of remorse, Goswamiji fell at Pisi Ma’s feet and begged forgiveness.

Pisi Ma was very particular about all aspects of service. It was her habit to put ten lamps above the temple doorway every evening. On the evening of Kojagara-purnima, she used to bring Gaura-Nitai out to enjoy Themselves on the veranda. One Kojagara-purnima, after the evening aarati, Goswami went out somewhere. He extinguished the ten lamps, since their oil was expensive. That evening, Gaura Nitai were not even taken out onto the veranda. In the temple, only one flame was burning, in a large brass ghee lamp.

Suddenly, there was a loud sound. The temple was then engulfed in darkness. Gaura had lifted up the lamp and thrown it into a corner of the temple. It took no time for Pisi Ma to understand the anger of Gaura. Upon Goswami’s return, she said, “Gopesvara! You didn’t take Gaura-Nitai out on the veranda. You also put out the ten lamps. See how angry Gaura is. He has thrown away the lamp and is sitting in darkness. Why do you act like this?”

When she was 106, Pisima mentioned to Gopesvara Gosvami that she would soon leave her body. On that very day, she gave up her earthly body and entered the eternal pastimes of the Lord.

Sri Gopesvara Gosvami and Srimati Pisi Ma’s Gaura-Nitai

Once, after the disappearance of Gosvamini Pisi Ma, Gopesvara Goswami became dreadfully ill with smallpox and was bedridden for a month. He eventually lost the power to speak and fell into a coma. Late one night, he saw that a fearsome demoness was trying to take him away, but then Pisi Ma Gosvamini and Gaura-Nitai appeared and the demoness went away.

Nitai stroked Gopesvara’s limbs with His transcendental hand and said, “Oh, get up, if you keep on lying like this, who will bring out food. Get up, we are very hungry!” Shortly thereafter, Goswami regained consciousness and coughed up a great deal of phlegm. Sitting up in bed, it then seemed that there was no more disease in his body.

Gopesvara Goswami was a brahmacari from childhood. Before coming to the service of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, he used to travel around pilgrimage places. It was against his nature to be bound to one place. Therefore he initially hadn’t wanted to accept the service of Gaura-Nitai. But, being helpless in the face of Pisi Ma’s insistence, and Gaura-Nitai calling him, he had to accept the seva.

Goswami would personally do all of the cooking, offer all of the bhogas, do every aarti, all of the dressing, singing kirtans and even scrubbed Thakuraji’s pots himself.

Some time after Pisi Ma’s disappearance, Gopesvara Prabhu began to think, “What have I gained from all of this seva? Nothing has happened. If I would have done bhajan in solitude, I would have attained something”.

Thinking in this way, he entrusted the temple service to someone else and went to Kusuma Sarovara with the intent of doing solitary bhajan.

At midnight on the third day, while seated beneath a Bakula tree on the bank of the Sarovara, he saw a transcendental vision – a light appeared in the center of the pond and slowly came towards him. Soon, Nitai and Gaura were there with him under the tree. They stood before him and said, “Dada! For three days we have not taken any food or water. Why have you gone away? Will you not come to us again?”

As Gopesvara Gosvami had attained what he wanted, what objection could he have in going back to serve Them?

From the time that Goswami began worshipping Pisi Ma’s children, they adapted themselves for him. He wanted to serve Thakurji in sakhya-rasa  (as a friend) so Pisi Ma helped her children ‘grow up’ by putting her hand under their chin and raising them up so that they became taller. This was yet another miracle associated with these very special deities, whose mischievous ways have pulled so many devotees deeper into Their service.

(Adapted from The Saints of Braj by OBL Kapoor, Aravali Books International, Delhi)

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Pisi Ma’s Gaur Nitai on 20.06.2018

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Residents looking at the fish in Krishna KundNandagaon, 2018.06.16

On Friday morning, locals rushed to Krishna Kund as word spread about thousands of dead and stunned fish floating in the Kund. Many expressed their sadness and anger over the incident. Chairman Pati Baccu Singh said that dead fish have been appearing in the kund for several days.

As yet, the reason for the fish deaths is unknown, but, locals suspect that fish smugglers are putting poisonous substances in the water to extract the fish. Some locals are adamant that the colour of the water has changed in the last few days and say that dead fish have also been found in other kunds in Nandagaon.

Another theory about the cause of the fish deaths is that sewage leaking into the kund has poisoned the water. According to the Assistant Director of the Fisheries Department, Dr Mahesh Chauhan, the reason for the fish deaths is likely to be the reduced water level in the kund, compounded by the dirtiness of the water.

The silt from the bottom of the kund was not removed before summer. The silt buildup at the bottom of the kund decreases the available oxygen in the water, which is already decreased due to the heat and low water levels. The fisheries department official said that water samples from the kund have been taken for testing.

Nandagaon is famous for its kunds but, many of these are either extinct or fighting for existence. After extensive renovations two years ago, Krishna Kund became the pride of Nandgaon. The kund is much loved by residents who say that it was made in Dwarpa Yuga by the descendants of Shri Krishna.

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Kirtaniya BabaVrindavan, 2018.06.2018

Vrindavan’s dedicated painter of Radha naam has merged into the lotus feet of Srimati Radha Rani. Painting the name of Shri Radha was his principal devotional service. He painted the words “Shri Radha” in countless places including on tree trunks, on the walls of ghats and temples, indeed, he put Radha’s name wherever he found a place. His work became one of the attractions for those who adore Vrindavan and the spiritual ambiance of the town.

Shri Radha Sarveshawar Das ji Maharaj, better known as Kirtaniya Baba, passed away at Harivyas Nikunj, Raman Reti in Vrindavan. He was 86 years old when he took his last breath at 6 am this morning.

The news of Baba’s entering the nitya lila (eternal pastimes) spread like wildfire across the entire Vraja. Saints, Brajwasis and Vaishnavas gathered outside the ashram in large numbers to participate in the procession carrying Kirtaniya Baba’s mortal remains to the Yamuna banks for cremation.

The mukhagni ritual during the cremation was performed in the presence of many prominent saints of Vrindavan by Shri Murari Das, the mahant of Harivyas Nikunj, amid pad gayan and sankirtan.

With the news of his demise, the saints of Vraja began to mourn the loss. Whoever heard said that it was a great loss for Vraja.

Not many people recognized Baba, but many knew him through his work of drawing attention to the holy name of Radha with his paintings. Vrindavan is almost defined by the name of Radha which appears everywhere, but especially on the trees on the Parikrama Marg.

Baba came to live in Vrindavan in 1977 when in his early forties. He took initiation from Shri Sanat Kumar Das ji Maharaj, Gaddi Acharya of Mukund Devacharya Dwara (Topi Kunj, Vrindavan). He lived on madhukuri (charity given to sadhus) from the Brajwasis.

Shri Tulsi Sharan Upadhyay who became Baba’s disciple at the tender age of 13, said, “Kirtaniya Baba grew up in an opulent and educated Khanal family of Singri village in the undivided Darrang District of Assam. He graduated in science and obtained a diploma in Fine Arts from Guwahati. He became famous in Assam for his ecstatic kirtans. He traveled all over the state with his kirtan band for the promotion of Harinam Sankirtan. He was known as a master of kirtan among all the Vaishnava communities in Assam. Later, he established a Radha Krishna Temple in Dhaula in Tinsukia district. He moved to Vrindavan in 1977.”

Shri Dev Sharan ji, another of Kirtaniya Baba’s disciples, who is continuing the tradition of painting Radha’s name everywhere in Vrindavan, told a Vrindavan Today correspondent, “The purpose of writing the name of Radha on the walls and trees of Vrindavan is to make the ambiance of Vrindavan filled with Radha.”

He said, “Radha Rani is the Queen of Vrindavan, and so there should be an overwhelming presence of her name everywhere.”

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water-supply-tank.jpgVrindavan, 2018.06.15

The municipality is unable to supply enough water for the population of Vrindavan. Each person needs between 100-180 litres of water per day including drinking water, bathing etc, and many people undergo extreme hardship in order to get this amount of water.

The municipality supplies 9 MLD, but Vrindavan’s population of 125,000 requires at least 13.5 MLD, so many people have to struggle to get water. Many houses in Vrindavan do not have running water. In villages such as Dorera village, which is in between Mathura and Vrindavan, the situation is even worse as only a few houses have their own hand pump or a boring to supply running water.

The Municipality’s failure to supply enough water means that people are forced to spend big money on getting their own boring drilled, and it often happens that the money is wasted because the groundwater is not fit for drinking, even after filtration, because it is too saline.

Even in areas where government water is supplied, in some places, such as Chaitanya Vihar phase II, the water is so salty that it is not good for watering plants. An overhead water tank was built in the colony but then was never used. Ten years after the development of the colony, the tank is still empty. The cement has become weakened and the tank is now unfit for use but it has not been demolished, and instead lies empty, a memorial to bad planning.

Yogendra Sharma from the Water Department said that the four overhead tanks at Mukherjee Park, Attala Chungi, Gandhi Park and Kalidah are supplying most parts of the city.

The 4 MLD water shortage is made worse by broken pipelines, which leak up to 80,000 litres of water per day. The system of only supplying water for a few hours per day also leads to water wastage as people rely on storing water in tanks in their homes and these storage tanks can easily overflow.

As the water crisis looms, a few individuals and organizations are making efforts to conserve water and implement rain water harvesting systems. Local leaders media agencies are also working to raise awareness about the importance of green areas and kunds for replenishing the underground aquifers.

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Nari Semari KundChatta, 2018.06.12

The residents of Semari village feel helpless to save Nari Semari Kund. The kund used to be a center for devotional activities and wildlife and was beneficial for agriculture in the area. But, these days, the kund lies deserted, filled with garbage shunned by the animals that used to frequent it and with only a fraction of the water that it used to hold.

Six acres are reserved for the kund, however, most of this land is now dry. Villagers said that there used to be bathing ghats on the edge of the kund with a separate ghat for women, but, the ghats have long since disappeared.

These days, few people visit the kund which, locals believe was one of the places where that Krishna and Balaram would visit to quench their thirst.

Closeby the kund is the Nari Semari Devi temple, which is home to the most popular Navaratri festival in Braj. Every Navaratri, a huge fair is held in the town and people stand in long queues to enter the temple, hoping to get the blessings of the Divine mother. If the kund is restored, it will attract pilgrims and will become a resting place for people who come for darshan at Nari Semari Devi temple.

Villagers say that rainwater harvesting could help fill the kund, and that, in the dry season a submersible pump could be used to maintain the water level and trees should be planted around the kund.

Village resident Deepchand (Pappu) Jadaun said that villagers consider the kund more pure than the Ganga. Villagers are upset to see the state of the kund and say that the government is not helping to restore it.

The kund was once an important water reservoir and helps to refill the ground water. The area is currently suffering a water crisis. Several hand pumps and wells have dried up.

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Laxman Das MaharajVrindavan, 2018.06.12

Listening to Shri Laxman Das Maharaj’s katha fills people with hope and joy. He reassures people that once Shri Krishna listens to you, he will always be with you, just like He stayed with the Pandavas. Once that connection is made, it is never broken, he says, giving the example of Kunti Devi. Kunti Devi’s wish that things would keep going wrong so that Shri Krishna would keep coming to help shows how a person ceases to be troubled by the difficulties of this world once the connection is made with the Supreme.

Yesterday, on the second day of the katha, Maharaj also spoke about Karn who complained that he frequently suffers insults and is considered to be of low birth. Maharaj said that Shri Krishna reassured Karn by reminding him that his birth also took place in unusual circumstances, in a prison. Maharaj said that there are mountains of sorrows that we have to tolerate and we have to be careful to stop ourselves from getting involved with people who are engaged in sinful activities.

Maharaj told the audience that there is no hope of meeting with the Supreme without first doing some good deeds. His organization, the Krishna Kripa Seva Mission Charitable Trust, engages in a variety of charitable works including supporting children’s education, cow seva and help for the aged.

Maharaj has established his headquarters  on the banks of the Ganga at Devbhoomi in Haridwar. Filled with awe and reverence for Shrimati Ganga Devi, Maharaj tells the audience that tears of Prem are even more pure than Ganga jal.

Shri Laxman Maharaj belongs to the Ramanuja sampradaya which was founded by Ramanuja Acharya(1017–1137 CE). Ramanuja Acharya wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gitain Sanskrit and helped to popularize Vaishnavaism in India.

In the last five years, Laxman Maharaj has been constantly engaged in giving Katha in different parts of the country. He is a devotee of Banke Bihari and frequently visits Vrindavan. He gave katha in Vrindavan only three months ago and now, as Purushottam Maas draws to a close, is making use of this auspicious time for katha and pilgrimage.

The katha program began on 9th June with a kalash yatra from Banke Bihari temple to Fogla Ashram. In order to bring auspiciousness to the katha stal, one hundred kalash pots were carried by women through the streets of Vrindavan.

The program will continue until 15th June, from 3 to 6pm. On 14th June, Shri Krishna and Rukmini’s wedding will be celebrated; needed items will be distributed to the poor and the audience will present their Laddu Gopal deities for a ‘fancy dress competition’.

[It is very common to see pilgrims and devotees carrying a Laddu Gopal deity on a small singhasan with them while they visit the temples and attend Harikatha in Vrindavan.]

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Crowd at Banke Bihari templeVrindavan, 2018.06.10

Under a new plan formulated by city officials, the number of people allowed in Bihariji temple will be strictly limited. The plan, which is still being finalized, will see the deployment of 40 police officers in the temple in addition to the temple’s private security.

DM Sarvagyaram Mishra and SSP Prabhakar Chaudhary met yesterday to discuss plans for crowd control in the temple. District Magistrate Sarvagyaram Mishra said that the aim of the meeting was to find a solution that will enable people to have darshan of Banke Bihari without being pushed by the crowd.  Senior Superintendant of Police, Prabhakar Chaudhary, said that, under the plan, entrance to the temple will be from Gate 3 and the exit will be from Gate number 2. He said that a traffic plan is also being discussed and that e-rickshaws will be provided to transport visitors from the carpark to the entrance of the temple.

Under the plan, crowds will be monitored and when guards see that the temple has reached maximum capacity, visitors will be stopped at the entrance. After taking darshan, people will be instructed to make their way out of the temple and those waiting at the entrance will be allowed in.

On weekends and festivals, the chaos in Bihariji reaches the point that the old, weak and women with children are afraid of entering the temple. There have been several serious incidents caused by ‘stampedes’ including one incident in 2012 in which more a dozen people were hospitalized after being crushed by the crowd.

There has been much discussion about crowd control, however, as yet, no permanent plan has been set in place. One solution that was proposed was increasing darshan timings, however, this idea met with opposition from Goswamis and local leaders who felt that it was in violation of the tradition of worship established by temple founder Swami Shri Haridas.

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09_06_2018-08mth125_18057887_0449.jpg← Holi at the Radha Vallabh temple

Vrindavan, 2018.06.09

Temples all over Braj are celebrating all the festivals of the year during the month of Purushottam Maas. For the pleasure and benefit of devotees, Radha Vallabh temple has been celebrating each festival with great enthusiasm .

At the special Holi festival on Thursday, the pujaris threw colours with even more enthusiasm and excitement (see video) than in March because many of the visitors did not realize that Holi was being celebrated in the temple, so they were caught unawares.

The famous Radha Vallabh music made the atmosphere even more festive. Rakesh Mukhiya took the opportunity to sing Holi songs and devotees could be seen dancing, seemingly without a care in the world.

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Diwali games at Radha Vallabh temple

Like many of the main temples in Loi Bazaar,  every day this month, Radha Vallabh temple has been filled with fragrant flowers and intricate lattices of mogra buds woven into phool bangala decorations.

Devotees who visited the temple this month were also treated to darshan of the marriage ceremony of Radha-Krishna, Diwali celebrations and jhulan yatra (swing festival).

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Moti kund← Moti Kunda

Braj, 2018.06.08

The sixteenth stop on Braja Mandal Parikrama is Nandagaon. Most parikrama groups stop at Nandagaon for 2-3 days in order to visit the many important places of Shri Krishna’s childhood pastimes.

Upon arriving in Nandagaon, many devotees first take snan in Pavan Sarovar. Twenty acres of land was allocated as a reserve and rest area for pilgrims here, however, farmers have encroached on this land. Despite the importance of Pavan Sarovar as a pilgrimage and resting place, there are no public amenities here.

It is said that Pavan Sarovar was made by  Pavan Gopa, the father of Vishakha Sakhi. Shri Krishna and the gopas would lead their cows to drink here in the evenings and would swim and play in the water. Local tradition is to take snan or sprinkle water on oneself here for purification before heading up the hill to the Nandababa temple.

At Pavan Sarovar, devotees also take darshan of Shrila Sanatan Goswami’s Bhajan kutir, as this kund is one of many places in Braj where Sanatan Goswami stayed to meditate on the pastimes of the lord.

Another of Nandagaon’s famous kunds is Yashoda kund. This kund reminds devotees of Krishna  and Balaram’s sweet childhood pastimes. Yashoda Ma used to bring the children to this kund to bathe. On the Western bank is a statue of Hau Bilau. Yashoda Ma used to tell the boys that if they don’t come immediately when she calls them, a demon called Hau Bilau will catch them.

Statue of Hau Bilau at Yashoda kund← Statue of Hau Bilau at Yashoda Kunda

Nandgaon local, Suresh Chand, said that many of Nandagaon’s 50 kunds have disappeared and the ones that are left have shrunk in size. He said that the authorities should act to preserve the remaining kunds as these serve as an important water source and resting place for devotees at the hottest time of day, when the temples are closed.

Gupta-kunda

Gupta Kunda →

From Nandagaon’s kunds we can trace the activities of Shri Krishna and the gopis. Many kunds are the meeting places of Krishna and the gopis – Shri Krishna would see the gopis at Panihari Kund when they came to collect water and Radha and Krishna would meet secretly at Gupta Kund.

Next to Gupta kund is Vrinda kund, a kund dedicated to the worship of Vrinda Devi (Tulsi), who is in charge of arranging meetings and pastimes of Radha and Krishna.

The kund is well maintained by ISKCON. Madhava Baba, an activist who organized for the preservation of many of Braj’s pilgrimage places, entrusted this area to ISKCON in 1990, in honour of Shrila Prabhupada’s efforts to introduce the worship of Tulsi-devi to people around the globe.

Ancient deities at Vrinda Kund

Ancient deities at Vrinda Kund

One of the most popular and mysterious kunds of Nandagaon is Moti Kund. It is said that the pilu trees at this kund bear white fruit resembling pearls and locals collect these ‘pearls’ for good luck.

‘Pearls’ found on the trees near Moti kund

‘Pearls’ found on the trees near Moti kund

According to the katha associated with Moti Kund,

Krishna planted pearls here and irrigated them every day with milk. The pearls began to sprout after a few days, and lush, green plants emerged. A few days later, those plants bore fruit; and as these fruits ripened, radiant and splendid divine pearls began to manifest.

When Radhika and her sakhis heard that Shri Krishna had planted pearls and reaped a huge crop, they asked Him for some. However, Krishna flatly refused, telling them, “When I requested some milk from you to irrigate my pearls, you refused to give me any. Now I will decorate my cows with ornaments made from these pearls, but I will not give any to you.”

Vexed, the gopis stole pearls from their own homes, dug a field and planted them. Although they irrigated the field with cow-milk for many days, the pearls did not sprout pearl plants – only thorny bushes that were completely devoid of fruit emerged from the soil.

The disappointed gopis returned to Krishna and narrated the whole story to Him. Krishna smiled and said, “Come, I want to see your pearl field myself.” Krishna went there and uprooted all the thorny plants. He planted His own ripened pearls and irrigated the field with cow-milk. Within a few days, these pearls sprouted and also bore pearls, filling the gopi’s hearts with joy.

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Bowing down to their abode Vraja and its inhabitants through these verses, I hope to see my most beloved king and queen, Sri Sri  Radha Madhava, the memory of a single drop from the nectar ocean of whose sweetness has greatly agitated my heart.

VERSE 3

yan-mādhurī-divya-sudhā-rasābdheḥ
smṛteḥ kaṇenāpy atilolitātmā |
padyair vrajasthān akhilān vrajaṁ ca
natvā sva-nāthau bata tau didṛkṣe ||3||

Stavāmṛta kaṇā vyākhyā (commentary of  Sri Ananta das Babaji) : How great is Shripad Raghunath Das’s passionate devotion, which caused such a great yearning for bhajan even in his old age.

His extraordinary renunciation and his harsh adherence to the regulative principles of bhajan simultaneously arise in one place with the tenderness of his loving devotion, always serving as a shining example for the rāga-bhaktas like the pole star Deeply absorbed in bhajan, Raghunath Das is weeping on the bank of Radha Kund. He cannot remain alive without seeing the Lord directly. Occasionally a transcendental vision of the sweetness of Sri Sri Radha Madhava awakens in him, the relish of which expands a supernatural bliss in his consciousness, and then a moment later the vision ends and his lamentations double in intensity.

It is comparable to a flash of lightning on a cloudy new moon night, which afterwards makes the traveller doubly blind. What a wonderful condition of bhāva awakens when the premika once relishes the sweetness of the Lord through his eyes, and then this vision vanishes.

Srila Vishwanath Chakravarti describes this in his Mādhurya-kādambinī (8th shower):

…hanta hanta kena vā anirvacanīya bhāgyena svayaṁ hasta prāpto nidhir ajani, kena vā mahāparādhena tataś cyutam iti, niścetuṁ niścetano’haṁ na prabhavāmi tad bādhāvādhitadhīḥ kva yāmi kiṁ vā karomi kam upāyam atra kam uha vā pṛcchāmi mahā-śūnyam iva nirātmakam iva niḥśaraṇam iva dāva pluṣṭam iva māṁ nigilad iva tribhuvanam avaloke

“Alas! Alas! By some indescribable stroke of luck I had this jewel in my very hand! What offence did I commit that caused it to fall from there? I am ignorant, so I cannot ascertain anything myself! I’ve become like a great fool! Where shall I go? What shall I do? Who can I ask for a solution to this? I feel completely empty as if bereft of all relatives, without shelter as if burning in a forest fire! It is as if the three worlds are devouring me!”

If a sādhana-siddha-premika experiences this out of want for the sweetness of the Lord, one can easily imagine how powerful the condition of separation of a nitya-siddha-parikara like Shripad Raghunath must be.

When his transcendental visions vanish, he feels a strong want and even during such sphuraṇa (unfolding) visions he feels a deep hankering for the direct attainment of the deity. In such a condition Raghunath praised the holy Dham of Vraja and the eternal associates of the Lord in this Vraja-vilāsa-stava, as a means to directly attain the Lord.

In this verse he says: I have become extremely greedy after remembering the flavor of even one drop from the divine sweet nectar ocean of Sri Sri Radha Madhava.” (yan-mādhurī divya-sudhā-rasābdheḥ smṛteḥ kaṇenāpy atilolitātmā).

The divine nectar of Sri Sri Radha Madhava’s sweetness is like a billowing ocean. When Shripad relishes a sphuraṇa-vision of even one drop of this nectar he becomes overwhelmed. Because he attracts everyone from the material universes up to Vaikuntha and Goloka, from the mobile and immobile creatures up to Lakshmi Narayan and even himself, the Lord of Goloka, with his wonderful sweetness, he is named Krishna.

vṛndāvane aprākṛta navīna madana;
kāma gāyatrī kāma bīje yāra upāsana
puruṣa yoṣit kibā sthāvara jaṅgama;
sarva cittākarṣaka sākṣān manmatha madana
śṛṅgāra rasarājamaya mūrtidhara;
ataeva ātma paryanta sarva citta hara

The transcendental youthful Cupid of Vrindavan is worshiped with the Kāma-Gāyatrī-mantra with the seed syllable of Cupid, the Kāma-bīja. He attracts men and women, mobile and immobile creatures, for he is the enchanter of Cupid himself. He is the embodiment of the king of flavors, the erotic, and thus he captivates even his own mind! (Caitanya Caritāmṛta Madhya 8.137-139)

Along with his all-attractive, ever fresh and dense śyāma-beauty, the tender Shyamasundar who is an ocean of sweetness and the root cause of all luster, there is

premera svarūpa deha prema vibhāvita;
kṛṣṇera preyasī śreṣṭhā jagate vidita.

Who can describe the power of the clash of the billowing waves of this incomparable ocean of sweetness, the golden embodiment of mahābhāva, that shines like fresh gorocana-pigments, Krishna’s dearmost beloved Srimati Varshabhanavi, with the Krishna ocean?

Simply by remembering one drop of this, Raghunath Das Goswami becomes exceedingly greedy. Jiva Gosvamīpada gives a slight hint of this self-manifest sweetness of Sri Sri  Radha Madhava:

gaura-śyāma-rucojjvalābhir amalair akṣnor vilāsotsavair
nṛtyantībhir aśeṣa-mādana-kalā-vaidagdhya-1digdhātmabhiḥ
anyonya-priyatā-sudhā-parimala-stomonmadābhiḥ sadā
rādhā-mādhava-mādhurībhir abhitaś cittaṁ mamākramyatām

“May Radha and Madhava, who are shining with a golden and bluish splendor, whose eyes are dancing in a spotless festival of play, who are anointed with endless cleverness in erotic artistry, and who are greatly delighted by the nectarean fragrance of their mutual dearness, attack my mind in all respects with their sweetness.” (Śrī Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha 581)

The purport of this verse is:

“May the combined self manifest, indescribable forms of Sri Sri  Radha Madhava arise in my consciousness in such a way that not even the slightest other awareness will remain. May that sweetness never leave my consciousness!” – This is Shripad’s wish.

He describes this sweetness as a bright golden and bluish splendor. In other words, the sapphire-like luster of Shyam and the golden luster of Sri Radha illuminate all directions. Because of being with the beloved, Sri Radha’s right eye and Sri Krishna’s left eye are gladdened by wonderful gestures, dancing with indescribable sweetness. The endless manifesting expertise of Vrishabhanu-nandini’s mādanākhya-mahābhāva is as if surrounding Their sublime bodies.

In other words, their bodies are adorned by the sweetness of innumerable wonderful pastimes like kissing and embracing, which are the visible signs of that mādana-bhāva from which innumerable pastimes become revealed, generating all bhāvas, from rati up to mahābhāva.

Then again they are gladdened by the fragrance of sweetness that anoints Them with the unguents of mutual love and enchants all the people. In other words, just as the vermilion and other unguents that adorn a hero and heroine’s body makes their bodies fragrant and delights their bystanding girlfriends, similarly the fragrance of Sri Sri  Radha Madhava’s mutual love supremely delights their sakhīs.

Śrīmat Jīva Gosvāmī said: “May this sweetness attack my consciousness in all respects!”

The remembrance of even a drop of this ocean of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava’s very powerful sweetness greatly overwhelms Śrīpāda Raghunātha’s heart and mind. He becomes unsteady when great sacred greed awakens within him. Without directly being able to relish this sweetness he won’t be able to stay alive. jala vinā yeno mīna, duḥka pāya āyuḥ hīna (Like a fish out of water I suffer like I am lifeless). Such is his condition. He cannot spend any more time without darśana.

Being thus helpless in his desire to see Sri Sri Radha Madhava, his king and queen, he praises and honors Sri Vraja Dham and its inhabitants in these verses, seeing this as the best way to attain their darshan (padyair vrajasthān akhilān vrajaṁ ca natvā sva-nāthau bata tau didṛkṣe). Hence this stava is called Vraja-vilāsa-stava. When Vraja Dham and the inhabitants of Vraja are merciful, he will easily attain the direct audience of his most beloved Sri Sri  Radha Madhava, this is Sri Raghunath’s unswayable faith.

yāṅdera mādhurī sindhu, smari tāra eka bindu
ati lubdha hoiyāchi āmi.
katipaya śloka kore, vraja-dhāma parikare,
bhakti bhare tāṅhā sabe nami.

“Because I have become very greedy even by remembering a mere drop of the ocean of Their beauty, I am now bowing down with devotion to Vraja-dhāma and Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s associates there in these following verses.”

ei vāñchā hoy prāṇe, nitya kori daraśane,
prāṇa mora yugala kiśora.
vrajavāsi saṅge vāsa, ei mātra abhilāṣa,
(seve) ei āśā pūrṇa koro mora

“I cherish the desire in my heart to always see Them, for the Yugala Kishor are my very life. I desire only to live with the Vrajavasis. Please fulfill these desires!”

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Reduced water levels in the Yamuna in Braj← Reduced water levels in the Yamuna in Braj

Vrindavan, 2018.06.06

The Yamuna river has fallen to alarmingly low levels,  and with it, the water levels of the underwater aquifers have also dropped. Activists are campaigning for Yamuna cleaning to be undertaken urgently so that the rainwater from the rainy season can effectively be diverted to the river which is clogged with silt in many places.

River activist and chairman of the Youth Foundation Federation, Gopi Datta Aakash said that two thousand years ago the river was 15 metres deep, but now, it is little more than 1.5 meters deep in most places.

There is so much industrial waste and sewage going into the river in Delhi that the government banned farming on the riverbank, but the practice still continues. According to the research paper, ‘Yamuna, the poisoned river’ by The Energy and Resources Institute,  “These vegetables (grown along the Yamuna) become the carriers of heavy metals in our food chain,”

Frighteningly, Vrindavan is downstream from Delhi. Pollutants are building up in the water and soil and the problem of contaminated water has long been recognized as a major cause of birth defects and weakness in people of all ages. In some villages immediately downstream from industrial centres, dangerous levels of toxins are found and authorities admit that people’s health is being affected.

Despite knowledge of the adverse health effects, the government has not been able to effectively provide filtered water to even the worst affected villages. In villages where there is no private water treatment plant, people are forced to drink the contaminated water, even while knowing that it is destroying their health. (See case study of a village destroyed by poisoned water)

More than 60 million people rely on the Yamuna for their water supply, and most are aware that we are now on the brink of a water crisis.

In the absence of a government water treatment plant, people in Braj are forced to drink groundwater that they filter with home filtration systems or buy by 20L bottles from one of the private water treatment plants that have become a popular business these days. People who buy filtered water have no way of knowing if their drinking water is safe, but they are still better off than those who are forced to drink the water unfiltered.

Further downstream in Agra, the situation is even worse than in Braj. Last week, an acute crisis caused water supply to be cut off for 8 days in many parts of the city,

Officials said the cause was the dry Yamuna river and a series of technical snags. The main pipeline from the two water works burst at several points leading to wastage of water.

Half the city has gone dry as the pipeline from the Sikandra Water Works burst under pressure. The engineers have been on the repair job for the past few days.

In Vrindavan, people living in those parts of the town that are connected to the government water supply say they have recently noticed a reduction in the amount of water coming through the pipes. The water level in the tubewells on the Yamuna coast including Kalidahghat, Gaughat, Bihar Ghat, Jugalghat, Maladhari Akhara and Tatiya Stan is estimated to have dropped from 10 to 20 feet.

Maheshanand Saraswati, Ladlisharan Maharaj, Navelisharan Maharaj and a host of religious and political leaders are lending their voice to the demand for action to Save the Yamuna!

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Women in Mathura drawing drinking water from a well amid summer water shortage. Picture taken June 4, 2018

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Complete ban on liquor sales in key towns of BrajMathura, 2018.06.06

A complete ban on liquor was imposed in several key towns of Vraja by the Uttar Pradesh State government on Tuesday. The complete ban was imposed in Barsana, Nandgaon, Radha Kund, Baldeo and Gokul.

The Uttar Pradesh government, headed by the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, took the decision in a cabinet meeting. The decision was welcomed by Brajwasis and devotees. Shri Deepak Goswami from Bade Dauji Temple said, “It is a welcome step. Meat and wine must be banned in the entire Vraja region. Vraja is a centre of Vaishnavas, who are purely vegetarian and non violent. Killing animals is violence. Bhakti and violence can’t go together.”

“The government must set up an enforcement team to clamp down on the illegal sale of the liquor too. Despite the ban, liquor is being sold illegally in Vrindavan,” said Shri Siddhartha Shukla from the Yamuna Temple. He further added, “Goat farming, pig farming and poultry farming should also be banned in Vraja. People are keeping pigs, chickens and goats in their houses to slaughter to eat the meat.”

A complete ban on liquor was imposed in Vrindavan after the town was declared a pilgrimage site by the Yogi Adityanath government in October 2017. While declaring Vrindavan an official pilgrimage site, the government issued the official statement, “Vrindavan and Barsana of Mathura district, are the childhood places of Lord Krishna and his elder brother Balaram and are world-famous sites. Lakhs of tourists visit these places to pay obeisances. Keeping in mind their importance, and in view of tourism, they are declared as holy pilgrimage places.”

Many illegal meat shops were closed down after the decision. It should be noted that people from Mathura demanded the same declaration for the town of Mathura, which is the actual birthplace of Shri Krishna. However, keeping in mind the mixed population that includes a large number of Muslim people, Mathura has not been declared an official pilgrimage site. The town of Mathura is still getting some benefits from the official recognition as the illegal slaughter houses in Mathura have been closed down.

A108-AI

I always take shelter of Dvādaśāditya Tīrtha, where Sri Krishna was blissfully, devotedly and lovingly warmed by the severe rays of the twelve suns after he became afflicted by cold (from entering the Kaliya-lake) and where he shines, affectionately surrounded by men, women and bellowing cows.

VERSE 82:

sūryair dvādaśabhiḥ paraṁ muraripuḥ śītārta ugrātapair
bhakti-prema-bharair udāra-caritaḥ śrīmān mudā sevitaḥ
yatra strī-puruṣaiḥ kvaṇat-paśu-kulair āveṣṭito rājate
snehair dvādaśa-sūrya-nāma tad idaṁ tīrthaṁ sadā saṁśraye

Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā: In this verse Raghunath Das Goswami praises the Dwadasaditya Tirtha. When Sri Krishna came out of the Kaliya lake after swimming in it for a long time, he felt very cold and began to shiver. He is udāra-carita, which means that he is always engaged in human-like pastimes. While subduing the Kaliya snake Krishna certainly displayed great prowess in front of the Vrajavasis, but this prowess appeared as very sweet and relishable to them. This is the nature of the sweet conception.

Srila Vishwanath Chakravartipada defines this sweetness in his Rāga-vartma-candrikā (2.5):

“When one understand that Krishna is God, but still does not result in feelings of heart-trembling reverence, but rather fixes one in a friendly mood towards Him, thinking: “He is my son, he is my friend, he is my lover!”, then it is called mādhurya jñāna (a sweet conception).” (īśvaro’yam ity anusandhāne’pi hṛt-kampa-janaka-sambhrama-gandhasyānudgamāt svīya-bhāvasyātisthairyam eva yad utpādayati, tan mādhurya-jñānam.)

In the material world it is also seen that when her son becomes a king, it does not weaken the mother’s conception of him as her child, but rather strengthens her maternal love. (yathā prākṛtyā api mātuḥ putrasya pṛthvīśvaratve sati tat-putra-bhāvaḥ sphīta evābhavati, Ibid).

The Lord assumes a mood according to the way in which the devotee loves him, and hence he reveals his sweet pastimes according to the sweet conception the Vraja-devotees have of him.

“Even while killing a powerful witch like Putana, Krishna acted just like a human child by sucking her breast. His act of kicking over a huge and strong cart and destroying it was accomplished with the tender feet of a three-month-old baby that was lying down, and during the dāma-bandhana-līlā, even though Mother Yashoda could find no means to bind him up because even the longest rope was always two fingers too short, still Sri Krishna was afraid of her. And though he bewildered Lord Brahmā and Baladeva (during the Brahma-vimohana-līlā) and showed his omniscience, at the same time he manifested his sweet pastimes of herding the calves.” (yathā pūtanā-prāṇa-hāritve’pi stana-cūṣaṇa-lakṣaṇa-nara-bāla-līlatvam eva. mahā-kaṭhora-śakaṭa-sphoṭane’py atisukumāra-caraṇa-traimāsikyottāna-śāyi-bāla-līlatvam. mahā-dīrgha-dāmāśakya-bandhatve’pi mātṛ-bhīti-vaiklavyam. brahma-baladevādi-mohane’pi sarvajñatve’pi vatsa-cāraṇa-līlatvam (Rāga-vartma-candrikā 3)

Similarly, during the Kaliya-damana-līlā Krishna’s tender form engaged in a sweet dance while smashing the 100 hoods of the greatly poisonous snake Kaliya. When Krishna came out of the lake after defeating the snake, his whole body shivered of cold from having being in the water for so long. At that time the twelve suns [one for each month of the year] rose near the Kaliya-lake with great loving devotion and most blissfully began to protect Sri Krishna from the cold with their hot rays. Hence this place is called Dvādaśāditya Tīrtha.

In the Ādi Varāha Purāṇa it is written:

surya-tīrthe naraḥ snāto dṛṣṭādityān vasundhare
āditya bhuvanaṁ prāpya kṛta-kṛtyaḥ sa modate
āditye’hani saṁkrāntāv-asmin tīrthe vasundhare
manasābhīpsitaṁ kāmaṁ prāpnuvanti na saṁśayaḥ

“O Bhumi Devi! A person who bathes in Surya Tīrtha and sees the Sun God there attains his abode and will be blessed with the topmost bliss. A person who bathes here on Sundays and on Saṅkranti days will be blessed with the fulfillment of all his desires. Of this there is no doubt.”

In the Sūrya-Purāṇa it is seen:

dvādaśāditya tīrthākhyaṁ tīrthaṁ tad-anupāvanam 
tasya darśana mātreṇa nṛnām agho vinaśyati.

“This Dvādaśāditya Tīrtha is most pure. Anyone who sees it is freed from all sins.”

When Sri Krishna accepted the service of the twelve suns his mother, father and all other Vrajavasis surrounded him, making a lot of noise, while at the same time the cows filled the air with their bellowing. Raghunath Das Goswami says: “I always seek the shelter of this Dwadasaditya Tīrtha.”

udāra caritra yāra, muraripu khyāti tāra, parameśvara boli gāya yāre
naralīlā anurūpe, śīte tāra aṅga kāṁpe, līlā bhaṅgi ati camatkāre

“Muraripu, who is glorified as being the Supreme Lord, actually performs very sweet pastimes. According to these most astonishing human-like pastimes his whole body shivered of the cold.”

yathā strī puruṣa-gaṇe, śabdāyamāna paśugaṇe, veṣṭanete āchena govinda
dvādaśa sūrya ātapere, sevā kore śrī aṅgete, prema bhare pulakita aṅga

“Here Govinda shines, surrounded by women, men and lowing cows, while the twelve suns serve his divine body with their heat, their bodies horripilating of ecstatic love.”

yāra dvādaśāditya nāma, mahā-tīrtha sei dhāma, mui tāra daraśana lobhe.
sarvadā āśraya kori, nitya yeno tāre smari, padāṅkita bhūmi anurāge

“I take shelter of the great holy place named Dvādaśāditya Tīrtha, where this pastime takes place and where the soil is marked by Krishna’s footprints. May I always remember this place, that I desire to see so much!”

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