Vrindavan is abound with tales of Lord Krishna descending into physical form to give darshan to his most beloved devotees. One such incident is as follows:
Before this incident happened, the tradition was to offer 6 meals per day to Shri Banke Bihariji Maharaj. Everyone thought this would be enough. No one ever asked, what would happen if Bihariji got hungry in the night?
Bihariji’s bhog offerings include:
-Drinks, fruits and snacks at the time of awakening
-At the end of morning rituals, and just before the opening of darshan, a sumptuous meal called balbhog is offered, consisting of makhan-mishri, a variety of sweets and namkeens.
-Rajbhog: Roti, a variety of dals and vegetables, curd, raita, karhi, and three types of rice: plain, sweet and namkeen. Also, kheer, doodhbhat, adhota milk, papad, chutney, pickles, sweets, etc.
-After rajbhog aarti, before putting Him to rest for the afternoon, some snacks are offered.
-Similarly, in the evening, snacks, fruits and seasonal drinks are offered at the time of awakening and balbhog is offered before opening for darshan.
-The menu of the main evening meal, shayanbhog, consists of puris, stuffed puris, kachoris, seasonal vegetables, curd, raita, assorted sweets and namkeens, doodhbhat, papad, chutney, etc.
-After the shayan aarti, and before retiring for the day, warm milk is also offered.
This was considered to be enough and nobody had even imagined that something may be required during the long night also, that a child may feel hungry over an interval of 9-10 hours. After all, incidents of infants and children getting up during dead of night and asking for food are not uncommon.
Now listen to the miraculous incident that happened on the night when Bihariji felt hungry. We are presenting the first person account of the incident from the shopkeeper from whom Bihariji requested sweets.
I own a sweet shop in the street leading to the famous Shri Banke Bihari Mandir in Vrindavan. I am talking of a time when the city was not so well developed and crowded [1920s]. There were no concrete structures. There were a few two storied houses, but most of the houses were single storied. Most places in the market were lit up using kerosene lamps, few had electricity.
There were not so many tirth yatris (religious tourists), and those who came generally stayed in Vrindavan for 4 to 5 days, unlike today’s touch-and-go tourists. The markets of Vrindavan were timed with the darshan timings of Bihariji, i.e. markets opened in the morning at the time of the opening of darshan and closed in the late evening, at the time of shayan aarti.
Within a few minutes of shayan aarti, all the shops would be closed and the only living beings seen on the streets were stray dogs and the night watchman. Locals preferred to go to bed early and would not come out of their houses unless it was very urgent. People, locals as well as tourists would get up early in the morning, go for snan in Yamuna and go for Vrindavan Parikrama (circumambulation) or simply go around the temples that open early in the morning for mangla arti. Bihariji has always been a late riser, as Mangla Arti is not performed here, so the shopkeepers had enough time to complete their morning rounds and open up their shops on time.
One afternoon, I received a tall order to prepare 40 Kgs of laddoos to be supplied the next morning. The order was urgent as the laddoos were meant to be prasad in a ceremony to be performed the next morning. I accepted the order and immediately put my boys on the job. By evening we were still only half way done. The work could not be completed even by the end of shayan arti, but it seemed to be under control. Considering the fact that boys lived far away, while my house was nearby, I let them go and sat down to finish the remaining work.
I was working in the shop with my back to the front. My hands were rolling out laddoos like a machine. My mind was completely immersed in the job. I had only one goal – to finish the job as quickly as possible so that I could go home quickly. At last I was able to complete the work and was about to get up when……
suddenly I heard a sweet voice calling, “Kaka”.
I turned around and was surprised to see a beautiful, young boy, around 9-10 years of age, standing in front of my shop. The boy was not local. His face was quite charming. Seeing a young boy, and that too an outsider, in the almost deserted street at that late hour was something unexpected. I was lost in the confusion of wondering who he was and forgot to ask him what he wanted.
With a sweet smile the boy said,” Kaka, I am hungry. Can you give me something to eat?” The hypnotic voice was as if coming from a far off place and so convincing and assuring that there was no question of saying no. As if in a trance, I got up, put four Laddoos in a dona (leaf bowl) and handed it to him. The child took a bangle off and stretched out his hand to me saying,”Please take this bangle as the payment for the laddoos.”
I was looking at the face of the child and wanted to say, “You please take the sweets, I do not want any payment from you.” But, it was as if I was paralyzed, I could not speak. I do not know when I stretched my hand to the boy and accepted the bangle. The boy smiled at me, took the sweets, turned back and moved away into the dark street. I kept watching until he disappeared.
As soon as I could no longer see Him, I came back to my senses, as if awakening from a dream. I looked at my hand – yes the gold bangle was there! So it was not a dream. Now I really started to worry – Who was that child? Where did he get the gold bangle? If it is his own, when his parents notice that it is missing, they will scold him badly. I may also be implicated in a police case for cheating a child. I was repenting that I had the bangle and wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible, but I did not have even slightest clue where to search for him at that hour.
Under great tension and worry, I finally decided to keep the bangle in the cash box for the night. I decided that I would look for the rightful owner of it in the morning and hand it over with my apologies. With these thoughts, I closed the shop and went home. I did not talk about the incident to anybody in the house. I was afraid they call me uncaring because I left the boy uncared for at that late hour.Or worse, they might think I was crazy to have taken such an expensive bangle for the price of four laddoos, or for thinking about return the bangle. So I just kept quiet about the incident.
The next morning, I got up a little earlier than usual. After completing the morning routine, I headed for the shop to deliver the laddoos, as per the order. On my way to the shop, I went to Bihariji Mandir to pay my pranam, as was my daily routine. When I arrived, it seemed that some confusion was prevailing in the temple. The priests, manager and some other officials on duty were talking in a confused and helpless manner. On inquiring about the matter, I learnt that a bangle was missing from the jewellery box, though it was agreed that the bangle was in the box at the time of the shayan arti the night before. The lock and latch of the room were untouched and a piece of jewellery was lost. Nobody knew what to do. I also had no clue so I moved away, chanting quietly.
Whosoever heard about the incident could only say, “It is all His leela.” As I moved a few steps away, I suddenly remembered, “What about the bangle that the unknown boy gave me last night?” I returned back to the group of priests and asked them to come to my shop. They wanted to know what the matter was, I said, “I do not know, but I have a bangle that I want to show you.” Perplexed, as everybody was, they had no choice but to come with me to see and inspect the bangle. Within a few minutes, we reached the shop. I opened the cash box, took out the bangle…. and, everybody was astonished………it was Bihariji’s missing bangle.
A New Tradition
The Goswamis of the temple realized the need to have an offering before the Lord during the resting hours. It was decided that a box containing four laddoos along with water and beeris (betel leaves) should be kept on a side table during the night as well as in afternoon when the temple is closed.