Vrindavan is abound with tales of Lord Krishna descending into physical form to help out his beloved devotees. One of the most famous ones is as follows:
Gwariya Baba, a former resident of Vrindavan, dared to ask a question loudly, and that too in Shri Banke Bihari temple. During the morning darshan time, Babaji, who always referred to the Lord as his friend (being a fellow cowherd), loudly asked everybody present in the temple, “Has any of you seen my friend eating?”
Many people were present in the temple at that time – the senior elderly Goswamis, devotees from far and near, ladies, children, volunteers and guests. While Baba repeated his question loud and clear for to all, nobody came forward to give the answer.
Most people thought, ‘Baba has gone mad’. Somebody sarcastically remarked, “Arey Baba, lord never eats. Just think, if he starts eating who will offer him bhog? Everybody knows, He does not eat, therefore everybody offers him so much of bhog. They are sure they will get everything back to feed themselves and earn punya at the same time by offering bhog.” They just laughed at Baba. True to his saintly nature, Baba ignored all the sarcasm and teasers and kept repeating his question.
Babaji started cornering senior Goswamis and asked them individually, “Have you ever seen Him eating?” Still nobody dared to answer. As Baba repeated his question, a voice came from an elderly Goswami, “Yes Baba, I have seen your friend eating.”
Hearing this Baba’s joy knew no bounds. He rushed to the Goswamiji, held him strongly by the arms, shaking him vigorously he almost shouted, “Tell me, revered sir, kindly tell me when, how and where did you see Him eating? Your words are like nectar to me. Sir kindly tell me quickly: when, how and where did you see him eating?”
The Goswami said, “Baba have patience, I will tell you everything. Come here, sit with me. I will narrate you what I experienced here, in this very temple itself.”
Everybody in the temple courtyard fell silent. In fact, nobody had imagined such an answer could come out for Baba’s most unexpected question. Not only Baba, but everybody present was keen to hear what Goswamiji was about to say.
Goswamiji narrates his experience:
A few months ago, I was doing sewa. I entered the sanctum sanctorum at the appointed hour and performed all my duties – cleaning, washing the floor, awakening the Lord from His sleep, offering the kalewa, achman, giving bath, adorning with beautiful dress, ornaments, flowers, applying sandalwood paste, perfume, snacks and beeri (betel). Having done all this I opened the doors for Darshan.
The temple was crowded as usual, devotees were continuously offering their respects and offerings of flowers, Bhog, money etc. The temple was filled with the din of ‘Bolo Shri Banke Bihari Lal Ki Jai! Bolo Swami ji Maharaj ki Jai ! Jai Jai Shri Radhe!’ I was continuously on my toes accepting offerings from the devotees, distributing prasad, flowers etc. It was all so routine that I did not have the slightest hunch that it was going to be very special day for me, that I was about to have a divine glimpse, that Bihariji had chosen me to reveal himself.
Such a fool I was. I was engaged in performing all the usual duties of a pujari mechanically. By the time it came to make the bhog offering, I was quite tired, I drew the curtain, closed the doors and cleared the floor of flowers, etc., to create the right, clean ambiance for offering bhog. As I was performing my duties, my mind strayed wildly. I started thinking how wasteful it all is? We all are putting in so much effort to feed Bihariji, who is nothing but an idol, an inanimate object. How can an idol eat? Knowing it very well, all of us are still repeating the ritual of bhog several times every day. How foolish we all are!
While my mind was wandering, stray and wild, my body was doing its duty. I do not know as to when I pulled up the tables in front of Bihariji, when I placed the bhog on those tables, when I placed water etc. My mind was occupied by random thoughts, and my conscious was trying to repel those, it was a sort of war going on inside me. In such an unstable mental state I finally put the tulsi patra (holy basil leaves) onto the offering, and prayed, ‘Shri Kunj Bihari Deva Arpanam…’ Then I came out of the sanctum from the private side door, closing the doors behind me.
Now I had a break of about thirty minutes as singers started to sing Bhog Pad (prayers sung at the time of bhog). During this time I chatted with some friends sitting in the Jagmohan. I forgot all about my dilemma during the chat and became mentally stable.
As the singing came to an end, it was time to enter sanctum again and resume my priestly duties. I went inside, unmindful of the thoughts I had been having while making the offering. But, Bihariji remembered everything and now listen carefully to what I saw there: As I pulled the tables away, I noticed that one of the besan laddoos was dented. I did not consider it abnormal as it could have been done due to my own fault in handling the dish or could be the halwai’s (cook) fault. After removing tables I lifted the water vessels to offer achman (drinking water). As I lifted the water vessel close to the lips of Bihariji, I saw his face for first time after the bhog offering, and I was stunned. I saw a few particles of besan laddoo sticking to his lips! Almost in a trance I went back to the dish and now I saw what I had not seen earlier- the dents on the ladoo were clear imprints of a child’s teeth! I again looked at the divine face, yes besan ladoo particles were there and, there was that charming, mischievous but reassuring smile as if saying – believe me – I AM.
Baba, I did not exactly see your friend eating but I can tell you He eats and only He can show you that He eats.
What happened after?
As Goswamiji narrated his experience, Baba became highly emotional, tears were rolling down his cheeks and he was almost sobbing like a child. With great patience and mustering all his courage he said, “Goswamiji, you have done a great favour to me by narrating your experience. My friend Bihariji never eats with me. I always ask him to come to me and share the food but he does not come. I always thought He does not eat, He does not require food like all of us. But now I know He requires food, He eats also. Today I will do something different and see if He does not come to me and eat with me. The fellow may be going hungry all these days, I will see that he eats properly.” Saying so Baba got an earthen vessel full of sweets and stood in the temple courtyard, holding the vessel in his hand, he started to coax the Lord to come to him and taste those excellent sweets.
Now everybody was sure that Baba had lost his balance, how could Bihariji could come out to him? The story narrated by Goswamiji was altogether a different matter. But Baba was determined. He continued his efforts to invite his friend, who was not able to come out of the sanctum,. Finally it was time for bhog. As usual the doors were shut and the bhog placed in front of Bihariji; the priests then came out of the private side doors.
Disappointed but not defeated, Baba sat in a corner with his vessel of sweets. He was still determined to feed Bihariji with his own hands and waited for Darshan to open again. The temple courtyard was full of devotees and nobody paid any attention to Baba.
A handsome boy, dark complexion, about 8-9 years of age walked down to Baba. In a sweet voice the boy uttered, “Baba, I am hungry. What are you holding in that earthen vessel? Why don’t you give it to me?”
Without looking at the child, Baba said, “No, No, it is not for you or anybody else, it is for my friend. He will come soon. I am holding it for Him, I can’t give it to anybody else. Try your luck somewhere else.”
The child giggled, “Look at me. Who am I? If I am not your friend, then who else is your friend?”
Baba looked at the boy. It was He! That enchanting smile, those big eyes, that sharp nose, those beautiful locks of hairs and .. and ..Baba was lost. the child lovingly shook him out of the trance, saying, “Baba, I am hungry. Feed me please. I am very hungry.” And Baba made the child to sit on his lap and started to feed Him. Baba just kept on feeding the child and looking at His innocent face. Time stood still for him while it passed as usual for the world.
It was now time to open the Darshan after the bhog offering. The priests tried to open the private side door but it did not open. It seemed as if it was locked from inside. They tried again and again but, no chance. Confusion prevailed in the temple as to how this could it happen and what to do. The child sitting on Baba’s lap suddenly became restless, He said, “Baba, I am getting late, I have to rush off.” Saying so, the child jumped off Baba’s lap and disappeared in the crowd. Satisfied, Baba now came back to his surroundings. As he heard of the prevailing confusion, Baba walked up to the priests and said confidently, “Try to open the doors now, they will open.”
The doors were again tried and they opened this time effortlessly! When they asked how he knew the doors could now be opened, Baba said, “My friend was with me, He sat on my lap and I fed Him with my own hands. As a precaution He might have locked the doors from inside while sneaking out. He got late and therefore all of you were put to inconvenience.”
There was great thunderous cry of ‘BOLO SHRI BANKE BIHARI LAL KI JAI’ and the darshan doors were thrown open for the devotees.