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  1. (Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami): When Krishna played his flute to call the cows, the river stopped flowing, her waters stunned with ecstasy. Instead of swimming or flying, the cranes, swans, ducks and other birds closed their eyes and entered a trance. The cows and deer stopped chewing, their ears raised. They became motionless like painted animals. From Shrimad Bhagavatam 10.35 Unlike Vishnu, who is God in the city of opulence, adored and served with reverence and awe by thousands of servants, Krishna dances with the peacocks, splashes in the river, plays the bamboo flute and spends his time with his friends in the forest herding cows. At the very beginning of his life on earth, Krishna left the city of Mathura in order to live in the forest with the cowherds. Krishna is God living in simplicity in the forest. There are no stories of Krishna creating. In order to create, Krishna becomes Vishnu. They are both the same God, but Krishna does not personally involve himself in controlling the affairs of the universe – he prefers to stay in the forest as a cowherd boy. For this reason Shrivatsa maintains that one who is devoted to Krishna could never be callous towards the environment, because Krishna himself loves nature. What Krishna loves his devotee also loves. There were only two recorded occasions when Krishna performed formal religious worship. The first occasion was when he worshipped Govardhan Hill in Vrindavan. “In the Shrimad Bhagvatam the description given of this event is the essence of Hindu philosophy. Krishna and Balarama were coming home with the cows at dusk. They saw all the elders gathered on the doorstep of their house arranging for a festival to worship Indra. They asked their father what was going on, but he replied, “This is not your business – you go inside and eat”. “So Krishna went inside and told his mother that he would not eat anything. Eventually his father relented and called him back to explain what they were all doing. He said, “We are people whose livelihood is based on agriculture. We trade in the produce of the land and the cows, both of which depend on rainwater. Indra is the lord of water. The rain clouds are his agents, so we have to pay him tax. Every year we arrange this festival”. “Krishna replied in a much unexpected way. He denounced the cowherd men’s act of religious worship. He said, “All creatures are born by force of karma. By force of karma alone they die. By force of karma they experience pleasure and pain. If there is any God who dispenses the fruit of other actions, he only rewards or punishes us according to our actions. Therefore don’t make a show of worshipping Indra, because by the law of karma you are in control of your own destiny”. Krishna spoke like this to shock his father and the cowherd men. He wanted to teach them that they were all responsible for their own actions. The law of karma is that by our practical actions we create our future, good or bad. It was therefore more important to care for the hills and cows, and Krishna, than to worship Indra. “This is the key to the environmental problem today. We depend of others – government agencies, the US Environmental Fund, or some local civil government – to do something; we shift the responsibility to somebody else when all the time it is us who are responsible for our own predicament, Krishna spoke like this to destroy the ignorance of his own people, saying, “Your environment is your concern, it is your duty”. In the words of the Shrimad Bhagavatam: “My dear father, our home is not in the cities or towns or villages. Being forest dwellers, we always live in the forest and among the hills. Therefore begin a festival in honor of the cows, the brahmins, and Govardhana Hill.” “Then Krishna went with them and worshipped the hill. In order to convince them, he assumed a gigantic mystical form and merged himself with the hill, demanding, ‘Feed me more!’ He asked for the worship to be given equally to the mountain, the cows and the brahmanas as well as him”. By this incident Krishna taught that it was better to worship the hills, forest and cows than to perform a ritual for the demigods. But He also showed that He was present in the hill, and that by worshipping Govardhana Hill they were worshipping him. Since that time Govardhana Hill has been worshipped by the local people as a form of Krishna. The second time Krishna performed organized worship was when he worshipped the Sun god: “Krishna’s son Sambha once got leprosy. Krishna advised that, rather than try to treat his disease themselves, they should get it treated by the sun-god. This is the history of the famous sun temple at konarak in Orissa – where his son was treated. These are the two occasions when Krishna worshipped: one was mountain, the other was sun”. “Elsewhere Krishna cleaned the river. He defeated the serpent Kaliya and purified the Yamuna river. He swallowed the forest fire to protect the forest. He looked after the cows. He spoke to the birds in their own language. Krishna was always protecting nature”. Krishna lived as a child among twelve forests of Vrindavan. The trees were His friends. Whenever the sun was too hot he would lie beneath a tree with a root for a pillow, shaded by its outstretched branches. The branches of the trees would bend down low, offering their fruits to Krishna, and trying to touch the ground at His feet. In their previous lives, the trees had been great philosophers. They had now taken birth as trees in the forests of Vrindavan to become purified and have their chance to serve Krishna. Today in the heart of Vrindavan, the forest area where Krishna played stands a small grove of trees called Seva Kunj. Some of the trees here are said to have witnessed the dancing of Krishna five thousand years ago. They are revered as great soul, devotees of Krishna. It is sad that the great forests, such holy places for the Hindu, have now all but disappeared. No longer do the hillsides of Vrindavan resound with the cries of the peacocks perched in the branches, no longer can one sit beneath the cool shade of the groves of bael, mango and tamal trees and watch the parrots and forests animals dart from tree to tree as Krishna once did. The lush undergrowth of Tulasi and forest flowers which provided Krishna’s garlands, once sheltered by the trees, is now unable to suvive the hot rays of the sun. Without the trees the land of Vrindavan has become parched and dusty, unable to hold the moisture from the rare rainfall or the morning dew. When Krishna grew up and left Vrindavan, His childhood girlfriends, the gopis, were beside themselves with grief. In their madness of love they used to mistake the Tamal trees, which had the same dark color as Krishna, for their own beloved and embrace the trunks of the trees exactly as if they were Krsihna. Now the trees themselves are disappearing. Where ever the trees have gone the damage to the natural environment is almost irreversible. An arid, stony landscape remains which cannot hold water or nourish plants. This scene is becoming widespread throughout India. Yet the Vedic scriptures teach that trees must be protected, as must all species that live on the land. Human society has the responsibility to see to the welfare of all. Krishna, by his own example, rejected the ritualistic worship of a ‘God in the clouds’ in favor of an earth based religion which recognized the sacred in the everyday relationships between human beings and their environment. To live in harmony with nature, to show love to all creatures, never harm any living being, to rejoice in the beauty of a natural life of simplicity, this was Krishna’s practice of religion. The best way to teach environmental concern in through Krishna’s life. We must have films, dramas, folk plays, all based on this lila. Krishna is the only savior of the environment – that is the sum total.
  2. Five days long Vasantotsava is being performed at Rangji Mandir. Several rituals are being conducted in the temple to keeping the deities off the heat, during the summer. The festival starts with ankurapanam (sowing the nine kinds of seeds). The body of the Lord is anointed with the sandalwood paste mixed with saffron and camphor. Smearing the body of the Lord with ointments is considered to be an act of devotion, and the best ointment is the sandalwood paste. The cooling effect of the sandalwood paste is very pleasing to the body of the Lord in the scorching heat of summer. Bhagvan Ranganath and His consort Goda Devi are given aromatic bath on these five days which is believed to give a soothing relief to the deities from scorching sun. On this occasion the utsava murtis (functional deities) are brought to the beautifully decorated Vasanta Mandapam, situated in the garden in side the temple premises. The Abhishekam, i.e. Snapana Thirumanjanam (Holy Bath with aromatic ingredients), is performed in the ‘mandapam’, made of bamboo works and aromatic grass (Khas). The Lordships are adorned with yellow cotton cloth and offered with the 'Sheetal bhog' and drinks, suited during the summer. The tradition of celebrating the Vasantotsava is being followed since the temple was founded in Vrindavan. A priest showing mirror to the Lordships Holy mandapam decorated at the garden of Bhagvan Rangnath
  3. Imlitala Temple view with Yamuna in background A Siddhapīṭha is a holy place of perfection or siddhi. Usually people know Yogapīṭha – the holy place where Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa meet – such as the Yogapīṭha at the Rādhā-Govinda temple in Vṛndāvana. But despite its unique significance, most people know little about Imlitalā Siddhapīṭha. Normally, Siddhapīṭha refers to a place where sādhakas attain perfection, but in Imlitalā, it refers to a place where Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself attained a most sublime perfection! “Imli” means “tamarind tree” and “tala” means “at the base of”. Because Śrī-Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu performed many amazing līlās under this imli tree, this holy place has come to be known as “Imlitalā.” Imlitalā is counted among Vṛndāvana’s Prācīna-devālayas or most prominent ancient places of worship. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu arrived in Vṛndāvana on the day of Rāsa pūrṇimā in Kārtika in 1515. Every morning He sat in solitude under this tamarind tree, gazing at the Yamunā and relishing the divine beauty of Vṛndāvana. He also performed harināma and spread the message of devotion to Śrī Hari to qualified people at this holy place. Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī wrote: prāte vṛndāvane kailā ‘cīra-ghāṭe’ snāna teṅtulī-talāte āsi’ karilā viśrāma kṛṣṇa-līlā-kālera sei vṛkṣa purātana “In the morning, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu used to take His bath at Cīra-ghāṭa in Vṛndāvana. He then went to Imlitalā, where He sat down. The tamarind tree was very old, having been there since the time of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes.” – Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.18.75. In his Śrī-Śrī Premadhāma-Deva-Stotram, Verse 42, Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Mahārāja wrote: tintiḍī-talastha-yāmunormmi-bhāvanāplutaṁ nirjanaika-rādhikātma-bhāva-vaibhavāvṛtam śyāma-rādhikāpta-gaura-tattva-bhittikākaraṁ prema-dhāma-devam eva naumi gaura-sundaram “When Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was sitting in solitude under the imli tree and seeing the dancing waves of the Yamunā, He remembered His water-sporting pastimes with the gopīs during His previous Avatāra as Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Embracing the sweetness of Rādhikā’s love in the core of His heart, He entered into rādhikātma-bhāva or empathic union with Her. He thus fulfilled His three internal desires and His heart was completely captured by Rādhārāṇī. Imlitalā is the place of origin of gaura-tattva, for it was here where in Dvāpara-yuga, Śyāmasundara became fully absorbed in the devotional mood of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and thus became Gaurasundara. I offer my obeisance to that Lord Gaurasundara, who eternally resides in Imlitalā, and who is the abode of prema.” ← Deity of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu under Tarmarind tree Over 5000 years ago in Dvāpara-yuga, in Imlitalā, Śrīmati Rādhārani’s supreme victory was celebrated with Her coronation as Vṛndāvaneśvari, the Queen of Vṛndāvana. In Vṛndāvana, the mood of worship is very sweet, because Rādhārani becomes the Supreme Goddess and Kṛṣṇa accepts a role subordinate to Her. Once, during the performance of Rāsalīlā, Rādhārani was not given Her deserved special attention by Kṛṣṇa. She thus became sulky, left the Rāsa dance and crossed the Yamunā with Her sakhis. In a secluded spot, She sat down and wept. Absorbed in thoughts of Kṛṣṇa, Her empathy with Him reached such an intensity that Her entire body turned blue like Kṛṣṇa. Thus before Kṛṣṇa entered Rādhā’s mood and turned golden, Rādhikā entered into empathy with Him and assumed His dark blue effulgence. Tears cascaded from Her eyes and soon formed a beautiful lake, wich was named Māna sarovar – the lake formed of Rādhā’s tears of māna or sulkiness. Meanwhile, Kṛṣṇa didn’t feel the usual bliss and realized that His most beloved Rādhārani is missing from the Rāsalīlā. He quickly left the Rāsa dance and began desperately looking for Her everywhere. Unable to find Her, He remembered how She was once crowned the Queen of Vṛndāvana under the tamarind tree in Imlitalā. He thus took shelter of that tree and started crying out, “Rādheee! Rādheee! Please save my life by giving me your darśana! Rādhārani’s holy name is non-different from Her mood and golden colour. Thus, while chanting Rādhā’s name, Kṛṣṇa soon became immersed into Her mood of service and also attained Her golden effulgence, assuming the golden form of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu! Imlitalā is the holy place where Mahāprabhu’s beautiful form manifested for the very first time. Being immersed in empathy with Rādhārani, Kṛṣṇa got a taste of the glory of Her unparallelled love for Him, of His own sweetness that only She can relish fully and of Her unsurpassed ecstacy when She serves Him. He had thus gotten a taste of fulfilling His three internal desires mentioned by Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī (Caitanya-caritāmṛta 1.1.6.). These would later be fulfilled in Purī (dvādaśa vatsara śeṣa rahilā nīlācale (…) āsvādiyā pūrṇa kaila āpana vāñchita – Caitanya-caritāmṛta 1.13.39-43). But even just getting a taste of their fulfillment, Kṛṣṇa entered into a deep state of samādhi and attained a unique siddhi or perfection. This is why Imlitalā is called Siddhapīṭha – holy place of perfection. It is from this seed form of empathic samādhi that Kṛṣṇa’s gaura-līlā exploded infinitely and showered its fruits of gaura-prema on one and all. Much later, in Kali-yuga, Nityānanda Prabhu came to Imlitalā. He foresaw Mahāprabhu’s arrival and prepared His āsana here. When Mahāprabhu came to Vraja, He spent most of His time on this āsana under this imli tree, chanting Kṛṣṇa-nāma in seclusion. While chanting Kṛṣṇa’s names, due to the seeing the uddīpakas or stimulants of vraja-līlā in Vṛndāvana, for a short time He again turned blackish like Kṛṣṇa and lost the treasure of rādhā-bhāva. To make sure He won’t lose rādhā-bhāva again, He decided to return to Purī, although He had only spent a few months in Vṛndāvana. This is the confidential reason why Mahāprabhu performed His concluding pastime in Purī. ← Deities at Imlitala Mahaprabhu Mandir Sevakuñja is accepted as the heart of Vṛndāvana because here Kṛṣṇa attains the treasure of His heart – the service of Rādhārani’s lotus feet. However, nobody can serve without the proper mood of service – especially not Kṛṣṇa, who is used to being ādi-puruṣaṁ, the supreme enjoyer. He has to first attain seva-bhāva, the mood of service. And for that He first comes to Imlitalā before He enters Sevakuñja. In the same mood, according to local tradition, pilgrims first have darśana of Imlitalā before entering Sevakuñja. There is a little known book in Bengali called Imlitalā Mahātmya by the Founder Ācārya of the Śrī Gauḍīya Saṅgha and Sevait of Imlitalā, Śrīla Bhakti Saraṅga Goswami Mahārāja. We are happy to announce that it has now been translated into English and that it will soon be published. Also, a book called Yoga of Empathy that will dwelve deeper into the topic of empathic union is in the making. Both publications will be announced on www.nectarpot.com. Radhamadhav Das is a researcher, author, environmentalist and vraja-upāsaka living in Vrindavan. By Radhamadhav Das
  4. (Vikas Verma): Yamuna Chhath or 'Yamuna Jayanti' is a Hindu festival which is devoted to Goddess Yamuna. The festival is observed with great pomp and fervor in the town of Mathura and Vrindavan. The festival of Yamuna Chhath commemorates the descent of Goddess Yamuna on Earth. Hence, it is also celebrated as the birth anniversary of Goddess Yamuna. It is observed on the 'Sixth day of the Shukla Paksha during the month of 'Chaitra.' In the scriptures, Goddess Yamuna is the consort of Lord Krishna. Hence, she is highly revered in Braj. Hence, Yamuna Chhath is celebrated with immense fervor and enthusiasm in Vrindavan and Mathura. River Yamuna is considered to be a sacred river along with Ganga, Godavari, Brahmaputra and Saraswati. As per Scriptures, it is believed that Yamuna Ji descended on the Earth on the Sixth day of the Chaitra month. Since then this day is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Yamuna Ji. Goddess Yamuna is the consort of Lord Krishna and daughter of Surya Dev (Sun). Hence, Goddess Yamuna is highly revered by the people of Braj and Mathura and is celebrated with immense enthusiasm by the people of Vrindavan and Mathura. On the auspicious day of Yamuna Chhath, devotees get up before dawn and take bath in the Yamuna River. It is believed that taking a dip in the Yamuna River can purify the soul and one can also attain eternal joy and love. Special puja is offered to Goddess Yamuna on auspicious 'muhurat' according to the Vedic Panchang. As Goddess Yamuna is known to be the companion of Lord Krishna, the devotees also worship Lord Krishna. Special food offerings are prepared for the Goddess Yamuna. After the puja, food is donated to the Brahmins, and the Prasad is distributed among friends and relatives. Devotees observe a strict fast on Yamuna Chhath. Devotees refrain from drinking or eating anything for the period of 24-hours. The fast is broken on the next day after the morning puja rituals. Yamuna Ji, also known as Kalindi, along with the Ganga is the most holy and famous river of India. She begins her course high up in the Himalayas at Yamunotri and flows down the plains, specifically, to come to Vrindavan. It is often said that rivers are the lifelines of any civilization. This situation is a perverted reflection arising from Yamuna being the lifeline of Lord Shri Krishna's pastimes in the land of Braj. We see that in all the pastimes of Lord Krishna, Yamuna ji is always there enhancing the mood and sweetness of the pastime. Krishna would take His cows for grazing the sweet juicy grasses that grew along the banks of the Yamuna. Yamuna would supply water to Krishna's calves and cows. Yamuna's water was sweeter than the sweetest of all nectar, always at perfect temperature.Within these waters of Yamuna, He would have swimming and splashing and all different kinds of sportive games with the Gopas in Sakhya Rasa (mellow of friendly relationships). Yamuna Ji also served as the playground for Nauka Vihar (playful boating pastimes of Shri Shri Radha and Krishna) and many other Madhurya Rasa (mellow of conjugal love) pastimes for Krishna and the Gopis in the enchanting moonlit nights of Vrindavan, when Krishna requested Shri Radhika to descend with Him to Earth, She replied, “I do not feel happiness anywhere where river Yamuna, the forests of Vrindavan and Goverdhan are not there. So, I won't come down there without them.” So Yamuna is descending from the spiritual world, and she is coming to this world through Yamunotri and flowing to meet mother Ganga at Prayag. Yamuna Ji is actually an expansion of Vishakha Ji: vizaakhorasi yaa vishnor yasyaam vishnur-jalaatamani nityam nimajjati prItyaataam shaureem yamunaam stumaha Lord Vishnu daily immerses Himself and plays with great pleasure and affection in the water of the Yamuna, the liquid form of Vishakhadevi. I offer prayers to Yamunadevi, the daughter of the sun god Surya. Commentary of Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushan: vishakha yamuna-vapur iti vichaarena yamuna-stutyaa tat stutir iti vidybhushanah Shri Vishakha is considered as the vapu (embodiment) of Yamuna. Therefore, by offering prayers to Yamuna one is also offering prayers to Vishakha dev In fact, Vishaka Devi is an expansion of Shri Radhika Herself. To enhance the pleasure of Krishna's pastimes, Shri Radhika thus expands Herself as river Yamuna. Yamunaji appeared in this world as the daughter of Surya, and the sister of Yamaraja. And Yamaraja being very affectionate to his sister does not disturb any person who is blessed by Yamuna Devi as stated by Rupa Goswami in Yamunashtakam. Jiva Goswami quotes from the Shastras that how Ganges is the charanamrit of the Lord. But if we multiply the power of purification of bathing in the Ganges by hundred times, that is the effect of bathing in Yamuna. The Yamuna is eternally participating in the Lord's lila. The Yamuna is the eternal charanamrit of Shri Shri Radha Krishna, the Gopas and the Gopis. And when we bathe in Yamuna, we are bathing in that nectar. And most of all it is Yamuna Ji's love in the form of that water. Therefore, bathing in Yamuna is one of the most important aspects of worshiping the holy land of Vrindavan.
  5. The land scattered on both sides of the river Yamuna in Vrindavan, is being encroached rapidly by the land mafia to build illegal colonies on them. The government agencies responsible to protect these lands have completely failed to prevent the encroachments. Vrindavan is expanding its area; the new colonies have come up in the outskirts of the old Vrindavan town. Once the land used for agriculture, forestry, pasture and ashram, are being used to develop the colonies. It is an alarming situation particularly on the banks of River Yamuna, where concrete structures are coming up very fast. Literally, Yamuna is choking due to the apathy on the part of those who are entrusted to prevent any sort of construction on the bank of the rivers. The encroachments have affected the uninterrupted flow of River Yamuna. Misadventures, on government’s part has also affected the Yamuna very badly. The ill conceived developmental plan of the government has also contributed to the destruction of Yamuna’s pristine form. The floodplains have been encroached with concrete and permanent structures that are bound to cause ecological havoc in the form of floods. Besides it upsets the natural hydrological havoc in the form of floods situated close to the river. It is apparent that the mafias have encroached the floodplains, in connivance with the government agencies responsible to protect them. Several illegal colonies and commercial centers have come up on the flood plains of Yamuna. The authorities have completely failed in restraining them. The colonies and commercial set ups are set to discharge a huge amount of garbage, sewage and toxic waste into the already highly polluted rivers. Even after the interventions of the High court and NGT, the land sharks are still actively engage in selling off the floodplain areas of River Yamuna. The registration and mutation of plots in flood plain is being actively carried out by the registry department. The land mafia and realtors sell plots to build the houses in absolute violation of the land use norms, without any environmental clearances from the governments at the Center or State. In a recent incident, Ramesh Pujari, an activist from Vrindavan, has made a complaint to the District Magistrate about the illegal selling of 31 bigha government land near the Panigaon Chouraha. The District Magistrate has ordered a joint inspection of the Municipal Corporation and the survey department to check the land record by measuring the said government land, being illegally sold by the land sharks. Interestingly, in another case at Nagla Sankraya village near Vrindavan, the survey of the land record couldn’t be completed in 30 years. The survey was initiated in 1991. About a dozen illegal colonies are being built in Vrindavan without following any norms. None of the colonies have taken the approval of the Mathura Vrindavan Development Authority to carry on the construction work by getting the map of the respective colonies approved. The post Yamuna in Vrindavan is choking from illegal encroachments appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  6. The village of Gantholi lies 3 km. west of the town of Govardhan. Here Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu saw the deity of Gopala sei grāme giyā kaila gopāla-daraśana premāveśe prabhu kare kīrtana-nartana (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 18.36) Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu then went to the village of Gāṅṭhuli-grāma and saw the Lord Gopāla Deity.Overwhelmed by ecstatic love, He began to chant and dance. aiche parikramd kori govardhana diya; gelena ganthuli grdme ullasita hoiya raghava pandita Shrinivasa prati koy; kohiye gathuli grama nama yaiche hoy etha holi kheli dohhe boise simhdsane; sakhi duhun vastre ganthi dila sahgopane simhdsana hoite dohhe uthila yokhon; dekhaye bosoye ganthi hdse sakhi-gana hoilo kautuka ati dohhe lajja paila; phaguya loiya keho ganthi khuli dila e hetu gathuli – e gulal kundajale; ebe phagu dekhe loka vasantera kale [Bhakti Ratanakara] “They blissfully proceeded on the parikrama of Govardhan Hill until they reached the village of Ganthuli. Here Raghava Pandita explained to Shrinivasa why the village was named Gantholi. He said: “During the Holi pastimes, Radha and Krishna sat down on Their throne here and the sakhis secretly went up to Them from behind to tie up Their clothes. Then they sat down and laughed when the Divine Couple wanted to get up and dance,but were unable to separate because of the knot. Radha and Krishna became very shy then and one of the sakhis loosened the knot and threw some colored powder at Them. That is why this village is named Ganthuli (the word is derived from the Sanskrit word grantha, which means knot). Even now every spring season people can see that the lake near this village, named Gulal kund ( gulal is a colored substance used for celebrating Holi) is filled with color.” This village, Gantholi, is one mile from Gulal-kund. In the month of Falgun, February-March, at the time of Holi, all the gopis were present here, playing Holi with Shri Krishna and the gopas. This is where Holi took place. Shri Krishna and His friends were in one party and Shrimati Radha Rani and Her sakhis were in the opposite party, and there were more gopis than there were gopas. Both the gopas and gopis held syringes (Pichkari) which shot out many colors, and these colors were not easily removable. All places and creatures became reddish because of the throwing of the great quantities of red powder – the sky, trees, cows, and all beings, and especially this kunda, named Gulala Kund after this pastime, became reddish. Everything in Braj became reddish at that time. In the meantime Shrimati Radha Rani and Krishna sat down together. Seeing this, Lalitaji took Krishna’s pitambara (yellow cloth) and Shrimati Radharani’s veil and tied them together in the back, so that no one would be able to see the knot. Krishna and Radha Rani were also not aware of this fact. Visakha then began to sing a marriage song and all the gopis sang with her. Shrimati Radharani and Krsna became ashamed and wanted to run away from there, but They couldn’t do so because Their clothes were tied together. All the gopis then began to clap. The word ganthuli means “knot” or “to tie together,” and this place is thus known as Gantholi. After playing Holi Krishna and the gopis took bath in Gulala-kund, and a stream of the kund became reddish . Even now, at the time of Purnima, the birth of Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, a stream within the kund becomes reddish and it can be seen by all.Even the Braj Raj (Holy Dust) at the banks of the kund is rediish. Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Shrila Rupa Gosvami and Shrila Sanatana Gosvami visited this place. According to Shri Krishna Murari Cheif Priest of Mahaprabhu Baithak in Gulal Kunda , Shrimati Radha Rani never played Holi of Colours in Barsana because Barsana is Parental Home of Shrimati Radha Rani and daughters never plays Holi in their Parental Home.So both Krishna and Shrimati Radha Rani came to this place and played Holi of colors Gulal. This is lesser known place but still many piligrims from Gujrat ,maharashtra etc visit this place, local people act in Krishna-Lila drama and re-enact the scenes of Holi for the pilgrims.
  7. Bhuteshvar Mahadeva in Mathura Four ancient deities of Lord Shiva residing at Mathura are known as dik-palas, “protectors of the directions.” They stay in Mathura to protect the dhama. Bhuteshvar Mahadeva protects from the western side. The tradition amongst the vaishnavas is that when coming to Braj one must first go to Mathura to take permission from him to enter the dhama. The reasons for this are described by Shrila Rupa Gosvami in his Mathura-Mahatmya (texts 234-238), wherein he has quoted the following verses from the Adi-varaha Purana recounting Krishna’s words about Bhuteshvar Mahadeva “O deva! You will be the protector of Mathura. O greatest of the gods! Whoever sees you will attain My abode. By seeing Bhuteshvara Mahadeva, all sins are destroyed. O Vasudha, one who sees him, achieves the land of Mathura. In Mathura is the deity of Lord Bhuteshvara, who grants liberation even to the sinful. This Bhuteshvara deity is very dear to Me.How is it possible for a sinful person who tries to worship Me but will not worship Bhutesvara shiva, to attain devotion to Me? Those who are bewildered by My maya, who are the lowest of men, will not meditate on, bow down before, or offer prayers to Lord Bhuteshvara.” Also, Shri Caitanya Caritamrta (Madhya 17.191) by Shrila Krishnadas Kaviraja Gosvami describes how Lord Caitanya visited Bhuteshvara Mahadeva in the following way svayambhu, viśrāma, dīrgha-viṣṇu, bhūteśvara mahāvidyā, gokarṇādi dekhilā vistara “Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu visited all the holy places on the banks of the Yamunā, including Svayambhu, Viśrāma-ghāṭa, Dīrgha Viṣṇu, Bhūteśvara, Mahāvidyā and Gokarṇa.” Gopeshwar Mahadeva at Vrindavan Shrila Narahari Chakravarti has described Lord Gopeshwar Mahadeva in his Bhakti-ratnakara (5.3736-3740): ki apūrva śobhā ei vanera-bhitara guṇātīta liṅga-rūpa nāma gopīśvara How wonderfully beautiful is this place in the forest! Here Lord Gopishwar Shiva is manifest as a liṅga beyond the touch of material nature’s modes. ei sadāśiva vṛndā-vipina pālaya iṅhāke pūjile sarva-kārya siddha haya This deity of Lord Sadashiva protects the Vrindavan forest. By worshiping this deity, one attains perfection in all one does. gopī-gaṇa sadā kṛṣṇa-saṅgera lāgiyā nirantara pūje yatne nānā dravya diyā To attain Lord Krishna’s company, the gopīs always worship this deity. Carefully they place many offerings before Him. kahite ki pāri ye mahimā gurutara gopikā-pūjita teñi nāma gopīśvara How can I have the power to describe all the great glories of this deity? Because the gopīs worship Him, this deity is called Gopishwar, master of the gopīs. Gopeshwar Mahadeva is one of the most prominent deities in the Gaudiya-sampradaya and is mentioned in many Gaudiya literatures, being a very ancient protector of Shri Vrindavan Dhama. It is said that one cannot enter Vrindavan without his permission. His glories are sung throughout the Gosvami literatures Shrimad gopishwaram vande sankaram karunaa-mayam sarva-klesha haram devam vrindaaranya-rati-pradam I offer my respectful obeisances to Shri Gopishvara, who is merciful Lord shiva himself. He removes troubles and grants spiritual love in Vrindavana. (Shri Bhakti Ratnakar 5.3741) In the song Vraja-dhama-mahimamrta, the following line is sung: “jaya jaya gopīśwara vṛndāvana-mājh “ “All glories, all glories to Gopishvara shiva, who resides in the holy dhama of Vrindavana.” Kameshvar Mahadeva at Kamyavan Kama means “desire”. It is said that Kameshvara Mahadeva is the fulfiller of one’s desires. Shrila Narahari Cakravarti has described Kameshvar Mahadeva in his Bhakti-ratnakara (5.841): See here the most powerful Shiva as Kameshvar. Kameshvar Mahadeva resides in Kamyavan in the western part of Braj-mandala. According to the tradition in Braj, Vrishabhanu Maharaja worshipped Kameshvar to get a daughter. He already had a son, Shridama but now, he wanted a daughter. Kameshvar granted his desire and he obtained Shrimati Radharani as is daughter. Chakaleshvar Mahadeva at Govardhan Hill On the northern bank of Manasi Ganga, by Govardhan hill is a group of five Shiva-lingas that are famous by the name Chakaleshvar Mahadeva. These five Shiva-lingas are considered to be Lord Shiva’s five faces. They protect the area of Govardhan. This part of Manasi Ganga is known as Chakra-tirtha and because he stays at this place, this shiva-linga was originally known as Chakareshvara, but now he is known as Chakaleshvara. It is said that this place is called Chakra-tirtha because when Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill, He requested the Sudarshana Chakra to appear above the mountain to dry up all the rain coming down on Govardhana, so that the Vrajavasis standing underneath would not drown. After Indra withdrew the Samvartaka clouds that he had sent to destroy Vraja, and the danger was over, Sudarshana requested Krishna to give him a place to rest. Krishna gave him this place on the northern bank of Manasi Ganga. The present temple of Chakaleshvara Mahadeva is recent; the original one was destroyed by the Muslims. However, the deities here are very old and are said to have been installed by Krishna’s great-grandson Vajranabha. Nandeshvar Mahadeva at Nandagaon The palace of Nanda Maharaja is situated atop Nandeshvar hill in Nandagaon. This hill is a form of Lord Shiva, who performed tapasya for several thousands of years to enter into the Lord Krishna’s pastimes in Vraja. When the Lord was pleased with him Shiva asked for a boon of getting a chance to witness the Vraja pastimes of Lord Krishna by becoming a hill or a stone. Reciprocating with this desire, Lord Krishna granted him this form in Nandagaon. Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura writes in Vraja-riti-cintamani (1.15): The devotees declare that Nandisvara hill, the form of Lord Shiva now shining as Nanda Maharaja’s capital, is an endlessly beautiful crown decorating Vrindavan. Lord Shiva has stayed at Nandagaon in the form of Nandeshvara Mahadeva and even today, the carnamrta and maha-prasada of Lord Krishna is first offered to him. The post Lord Shiva serving Braj Bhumi in different ways appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  8. Vrindavan, 01 December 2019 Bihar Panchami, the appearance day of Shri Banke Bihari was celebrated in Vrindavan today. It was on this day, the 'panchami tithi of Margashirsha Maas' in (VS) 1563 that the incarnation of Lalita Sakhi, Swami Haridas, made the divine couple to manifest in Nidhivan as a result of his intense devotion. Swami Haridas, often known as 'Sangeet Samrat', was the guru of the famous court poet Tansen. He is credited with a large body of devotional compositions, especially in the Dhrupad style. It is said that whenever he began his 'raag seva' on the 'Tanpura', his closest disciple Vitthalvipul would hear the jingling of anklets in the groves. Puzzled by the strange sound, he asked Swamiji about its origins. The sweet incarnation of Lalita Sakhi told him to wait for the auspicious time when the secret will be revealed. Back home, Vitthalvipul's father, Govind was growing anxious about his son's whereabouts. Just as he made up his mind to go in search of him, he was stopped by his father Ashudheer who sent Govind's brother Jagannath to Vrindavan instead. On reaching Vrindavan, Jagannath saw Swami Haridas and Vitthalvipul lost in trance while remembering the sweet Lord. As soon as Swamiji came back to the material realm, he questioned him, "when are you coming to reside permanently in Vrindavan". Jagannath fell at the guru's feet and pleaded, "please do not ask me to go back." Swamiji smiled and said that he wanted eternal 'Vrindavan Vaas' for everyone so that they be freed from the cycle of birth and death. Meanwhile Vitthalvipul was becoming more and more curious to know the source of the mysterious anklet sounds. Sometimes he would peep inside the 'nikunj' sitting at the entrance to which Swamiji used to sing for Shyama-Shyam. On one occasion he ventured inside the grove, only to be dejected by the darkness he encountered there. He would often ask his uncle about the mystery. Jagannath instructed him to wait patiently for Swamiji to reveal his Then one day Swami Haridas called Vitthalvipul and asked him, "do you know whose birthday is it today?" Seeing him confused he added, "it's good to not know. It is your birthday, and I want to gift you something today." Vitthalvipul humbly replied that his only wish was to know the secret of Swamiji's nikunj lila and have a glimpse of his beloved Shyama Kunjbihariji. Haridasji smiled and said, "This is exactly what I want to give you." Vitthalvipul became ecstatic listening to his guru's sweet words. Lifting the 'Taanpura', Swamiji closed his eyes. As soon as he started singing, the grove filled with mystical blue-golden light in which appeared the smiling divine couple of Shyama Kunjbihari. Startled, Swamiji halted his singing. When Shyamaji exclaimed "Lalite", he replied, "Forgive me Kishori ji, I was enraptured by your brilliance." Bihari ji chimed in, "Now we will stay here in this form." Overwhelmed with emotions, Swamiji asked him in a choked voice, "…but how will you be worshipped outside the grove." "You just have to worship me with love," replied Shri Nikunjbihari. Understanding his will, Swamiji requested him thus, "Oh Lord, the radiance of this form of yours is too intense and wondrous for our eyes that are conditioned by material existence to bear. Please have mercy on us and merge into each other like the raincloud and lightning are one." Granting his wish, the divine forms united, appearing as Shri Banke Bihari, and entire Nidhivan began resounding with chants of 'Banke Bihari lal ki Jai'. Swami Haridas continued his seva for the 'unmanifest' forms of Shyama-Shyam in the 'nikunj' and also that of the manifested deity of Shri Banke Bihari. Whatever seva he offered for one, was simultaneously realised for the other as well. After sometime Swamiji entrusted the seva of Shri Banke Bihari Lal to Jagannath and his sons. He laid down the rules which included three 'Aartis'. Sitting besides the deity's seat (Gaddi), he would sing the ragas during the seva. According to the order of service decided by Swami Haridas, 'Shrigaar' for Shyamaji's Gaddi was done before that of Bihariji. One day when Jagannath was fully engrossed in the seva, She appeared and draped Her 'chunri' (stole) on his head. Jagannath became anxious and thought, "Oh what an offence I have committed", but the golden goddess told him to stay like that. Jagnnath never took the 'chunri' off his head after being graced by Shri Radha thus. Of Jagannath's three sons, Gopinath was in charge of Shrigaar Seva, Meghshyam of Rajbhog Seva and Muraridas of Shayan Bhog Seva. Megshyam's second son (out of four) Biharidas was fortunate to be graced with the close association of Swami Haridas. Towards the end of his mortal play, Swamiji shared many secrets related to the lilas of 'Priyalal' with him. Entrusting the seva of his 'unmanifest' nikunj Shyama-Shyam to Biharidas, He finally entered 'nitya lila'.
  9. Vrindavan, 26 October 2019 Of the many festivals that are celebrated during the holy month of Kartik, Deepawali is considered most special. Although there are various Puranic legends and folklores associated with it, Diwali in Braj has its own distinct flavour that can be experienced in the many fascinating rituals and traditions that are observed in the devalayas of Shri Dham. One such interesting ritual associated with the occasion is the Game of Dice or ‘Choupar’ that is played between Radharani and Shri Krishna. It is the main attraction for devotees and visitors to Braj on Diwali evening. The divine couple looks every bit royal seated in specially made silver mansions that are embellished with precious gems. A ‘choupad’ is spread out in front of them with two temple goswamis/sevayats playing the game on behalf of Thakur ji and Shri Radha. The dice is rolled and the game commences. While individual parlays are won and lost, the final victory, as a rule, goes to Radharani! The ‘padas’ (verses) related to Diwali and ‘chopar’ are a part of Braj’s oral and written history/literature found in the works of Mahakavi Surdas and other rasik saints such as Hariram Vyas, Nagaridas, Dhruvdas, and Chacha Hit Vrindavan Das. Describing the alluring pastimes of the Lord playing the game of dice, Shri Govindswamiji writes… Hatri baithe Shri Gopal Ratan jadit ki hatri bani hai Motin jhalari param rasaal Verses such as the above have inspired many miniature paintings in Kishangarh, Jaipur, Bundi and Guler style. In some of these paintings Shri Radha-Krishna are depicted lighting lamps and enjoying fireworks along with the sakhis. This article is based on a Facebook Post by Shri Laxmi Narayan Tiwari, Founder Secretary- Braj Culture Research Institute, Goda Vihar, Vrindavan.
  10. 21.10.2019 Devotees take a midnight dip in the sacred waters of Radha Kund on this day to obtain eternal 'Prema-bhakti'. Bahulashtami (also known as Ahoi Ashtami), which falls on the eighth day of the ‘Krishna Paksha' (dark for fortnight) of the holy month of ‘Kartik' is celebrated in Braj-Vrindavan as the appearance day of Shri Radha Kund. The eternal glories of this divine ‘Kund' situated in the Govardhan foothills draw huge number of pilgrims every year for the festival. It is believed that during the ‘Pushya Nakshatra' when both Shri Radha and Krishna Kunds appeared at midnight (around 11.45pm) on Bahulastami, the divine couple performs ‘Maharaas' with the ‘Ashtasakhis' in attendance even today. Devotees take bath in the sacred waters of Radha Kund at this hour to obtain eternal ‘Prema-Bhakti' or loving devotional services of Shri Radha-Krishna. Married women who want to be blessed with a son observe a ‘nirjala vrat' through the day and bathe in the ‘Kund' at midnight as part of the rituals associated with the festival. History and evolving traditions… Before the appearance of the sacred water bodies, Radha Kund was known as Arith Vana after the demon Arishtasura whose roar was terrifying enough to cause miscarriages in pregnant women. To save Brajwasis from him Shri Krishna carried out the Arishtasura Vadh Lila which culminated with the appearance of Shri Radha and Shyam Kund for the fulfilment of both material and spiritual desires of devotees. For years Radha Kunda and Syama Kunda were lost and no one knew exactly where they were located. When Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to Vrindavana in 1515, he saw two fields under a shallow covering of water near Arith village, which were known as Kali Khet and Gauri Khet (black field and white field). Recognizing them as Krishna's dearest place of pastimes, he bathed there and experienced the ecstasy of divine ‘Prema'. After Gaudiya Sampradaya's Shri Raghunatha Das Goswami made Radha Kund his ‘Bhajan Sthali', many saints from other Sampradays also built their temples and ‘baithak' here. The glories of Radha Kund have been described in the works of devotional poets and saints, such as Nagaridas's ‘Teethananda' and Kavi Jagtanandas' Braj Yatra related texts. Many kings including Maharaja Surajmal of Bharatpur and other royal personalities were regular visitors to Radha Kund. Apart from giving charity at this holiest of pilgrimages, they built many temples, ghats and kunjas (sacred groves) around it. The legend behind appearance of Shri Radha Kund… The story goes Kamsa sent the demon Arishta whose name means ill-luck, misfortune or disaster to kill Krishna. Arishta came to Govardhan in the form of a bull while Krishna was grazing his cows. Like the many other demons sent by wicked Kamsa, Arishta also met the same fate. After he had killed Arishta, Krishna came as usual to meet Radha and her sakhis to enjoy his pastimes with them. However, being provoked by Lalita and the others, Radharani said she could have nothing to do with him, as he had become impure from the act of killing a bull. The bull, after all, is the very symbol of dharma. When Krishna asked what he could do to be free of his sin, she said that nothing short of bathing in all the seven sacred rivers would be effective. Showing off for his beloved, Krishna pushed his heel into the ground and made a large depression. Then he called all sacred rivers that appeared in their personified forms and filled it to make a beautiful bathing pond which came to be known as Shyama Kund after Shri Krishna took his purifying dip in it. After bathing, Krishna began to tease the gopis, “Now that I have bathed in the holy waters of Shyama Kund, I am free from any fault, but I am afraid that because you sided with Arishtasura, you have become too impure for me to touch. You are going to have to do something to counteract your fault.” With that, the Radha and the gopis became a little arrogant and said, “You have your kund, so we will have ours. Our Radha is no less powerful than you!” Then, marking the huge cavity created by the bull's hooves on the western side of Shyam Kund, they decided to make her Kund there. They broke their bangles to make tools for digging and began to make their own reservoir. Within 48 minutes, Radha and her friends were done; the pool was ready but there was no water in it. Krishna and his friends watched and laughed at the Gopis' predicament. Nevertheless, Krishna generously offered to fill Radha's kund with water from his tank, but Radha and the Gopis, still proud, refused. Lalita then said, “Why don't we form a bucket chain to the Manasi Ganga and fill it up with water from there?” And so this is what they did. Then, on Krishna's order, all the holy tirthas who had come to fill Shyam Kund appeared and offered choice praises and obeisance unto Shri Radhika. Being satisfied with their worship, Radharani gave them permission to enter into her kund. And so Krishna broke the dam that separated the two ponds and their waters merged. Hearing about the appearance of Radha Kund, Yogamaya Paurnamasi Devi called Vrinda Devi and instructed her to plant various trees and vines on all four banks of the kundas. According to her own wish, Vrinda Devi also constructed jewelled ghats, i.e., steps leading down to the water, in order to facilitate Radha and Krishna's pastimes. She arranged for beautiful kunjas to be laid out with different kinds of trees, vines and flowers. These kunjas were assigned to Shrimati Radharani's eight principal sakhis, the ‘Ashtasakhis'. On both sides of each Ghat she had charming wish-yielding Kalpa Vriksha trees planted. Singing male and female parrots, pigeons, cuckoos and peacocks are always sitting on the branches of these trees, and the kundas are filled with golden, yellow, green, red, blue and white lotus flowers. This Shri Radha Kund is the place where Shri Shri Radha Madhava have their most confidential eternal midday pastimes, as described at great length in the Govinda Lilamrita and other such texts. Besides playing their water sports here, they swing, play at pash khela, drink mead and have their noontime meal, visiting the kunjas of the sakhis which encircle the kund.
  11. We unfortunately missed publishing anything for Govardhan Puja. It has been hard keeping up for Kartik month. At any rate, we here present serialized these “Ten prayers for residence at Govardhan Hill” from Stavāvali by Shrila Raghunath Das Goswami. The commentary is by Radha Kund Mahant Pandit Shri Shri Ananta Das Babaji Maharaj, with the translation of Advaita Dasji. Enjoy. And pray to Shrimati Radharani and all the saints of Braj that we will be able to honor and serve the Dham and its devotees through this website. nija-pati-bhuja-daṇḍāchatra-bhāvaṁ prapadya pratihata-mada-dhṛṣṭoddaṇḍa-devendra-garva | atula-pṛthula-śaila-śreṇi-bhūpa priyaṁ me nija-nikaṭa-nivāsaṁ dehi govardhana tvam ||1|| O Govardhan Hill! You became like an umbrella which was held by the staff-like arm of your own Lord, Shri Krishna, to destroy the pride of Indra, the proud, bold and arrogant king of the gods. Oh incomparable king of mountains! Please grant me the residence near you that is so dear to me! Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā by Radha Kund Mahant Pandit Ananta Das Babaji Maharaj: In this Śrī-Govardhan-vāsa-prārthanā-daśakam Shrimat Raghunath Das Goswami’s heart becomes very attracted to the great glories of Shri Giriraj and thus he reveals his desire to reside at the base of his greatly beloved Govardhan Hill. First of all he says: nija-pati-bhuja-daṇḍāchatra-bhāvaṁ prapadya “O Govardhan! You became like an umbrella that is carried by the staff-like hand of your own Lord Shri Krishna and you were so fortunate as to have remained thus for seven days and nights.” Just as a boy easily picks up an umbrella, Shri Krishna suddenly picked up Govardhan Hill to protect Vraja. Shri Shuka Muni said: dadhāra līlayā kṛṣṇaś chatrakam iva bālakaḥ (Bhāg. 10.25.19) Shri Krishna’s left arm looked as beautiful as a rod, holding Govardhan like an umbrella, and the people of Vraja, attaining a place under this umbrella, exhibited an opulence which is rarely attained within the three worlds. Shrila Jīva Goswami has written in his Gopāla-campū: vilasita-maṇi-daṇḍa-śrīr mukundasya bāhus tad-upari parito’pi cchatra-tulya-girīndraḥ prati diśam iha muktā-dāmavad vāri-dhārā vraja-sadana-janānāṁ pratyutābhūd vibhūtiḥ “Shri Krishna was surrounded by the Brajavasis in the big hole under the Govardhan Hill as He lifted the hill with his left hand. This made his upright left arm resemble a sapphire stick, the hill an umbrella, and the raindrops that dripped from all of its sides strings of pearls. Thus it looked as if the people of Vraja had displayed rare opulence by standing under this extraordinary umbrella. Indra was very puffed up because of his opulences. Although he has a thousand eyes, he showed his actual blindness by becoming angry at the Brajavasis for giving up their sacrifice to him, even after he had seen how little Krishna had smashed so many powerful demons, and sending the apocalyptic Samvartaka-clouds to Vraja to destroy the place. In his Gopāla-campū (Pūrva-campū, 18th Pūraṇa) Shrimat Jīva Goswamipāda has elaborately described how proud Indra was of his regal opulences. This is just a basic description: After having gradually sent hail, rain and thunderbolts to Vraja to destroy the place, Indra doubtfully sent a hundred of his spies, the winds, there to find out what damage his rains had caused, and the spies, upon returning, told him: “O Maharaja! Even now the place has not yet been inundated!” Indra then sent more powerful rainclouds to inundate Vraja Mandal, thinking he would achieve his ends quickly. He send his cloud-spies to find out what was accomplished, but they also returned swiftly and reported that his purpose had yet not been fulfilled. Hearing this, Indra became astonished, jumped on his elephant Airavata and came to the sky over Vraja, very angrily prodding Airavata with his elephant goad and then he personally began to throw fiery thunderbolts on the community below. Finally he sent his lightning spies to assess the results of his actions. The lightning spies returned and told him, “O King of the gods! Hear this most amazing news! Govardhan has grown strong from eating the huge food-offerings the people of Vraja made, and has now lifted itself off the ground!” Indra sent his lightning spies out once more and said, “Go and see how the hill has lifted itself and where the miserable people of Vraja have gone with their children and other relatives!” “As you order!” the lightning spies said and went back to Vraja to find this out. They returned to Indra and said: “O Devaraj! It seems our strikes have scorched everyone to ashes! We can’t find anyone anywhere in the entire Vraja Mandal!” Hearing this, King Indra was very happy and he blessed his spies by saying, “May you live long!” He sent them back to Vraja once more to find out further details. And once again the spies went to Vraja, but this time on returning they reported, “O Lord of the three worlds! None of the people of Vraja have been vanquished! They are all hiding under Govardhan Hill, making a blissful noise and Balaram’s younger brother Shri Krishna is holding it up!” Hearing this, Indra said: “Ah! Now I understand! In the past I cut the wings off the mountains, but Govardhan Hill has now regrown its wings and is giving shelter to the Brajavasis, taking their side against me! Alright then, let me throw some more fiery thunderbolts down to smash them all completely!” Saying this, Indra began to cast his thunderbolts, but he soon found out through his spies that he had accomplished nothing with it. Then Indra angrily told his spies, “Go and find out exactly what is going on and why my thunder fire is only being thrown in vain!” The spies inspected the whole scene thoroughly and told Indra, “O King of gods! Not even two or three leaves have fallen from the trees of Govardhan Hill and not even one ant has been killed there, no matter how many fiery thunderbolts you threw on them. So what to speak of the people of Vraja, who are blissfully enjoying shelter under the hill?” Finally, after another endeavor to smash Govardhan with his thunderbolt, Indra became embarrassed and fearful and once more realized Shri Krishna’s greatness. Through all this, the pride and impudence of Indra, due to being intoxicated with his opulence, was shown, as well as the prowess and glories of Govardhan Hill. Shri Raghunath says: atula-pṛthula-śailaśreṇi-bhūpa priyaṁ me nija-nikaṭa-nivāsaṁ dehi govardhana tvam: “O Giriraj! You are the king of all mountains, even of the Himalaya and Sumeru! Residence near to you is something I hold very dear, therefore I crave for it very much! But if the holy Dham does not give its shelter no one can live there simply through his own endeavors. I therefore pray to you, please bless me so that I can live at your base!” ohe govardhana! tumi ei akiñcane;more atiśaya priya tava sannidhānevāsa dāna kori more kṛtārtha koroho;atula mahimā tava āmāre dekhāhośrī kṛṣṇera hasta rūpa daṇḍa agrabhāge;virājita hoye tumi yeno chatra-bhāvemada matta uddhata ye śacī-pati indra;tāra garva kharva koile mahimā pracaṇḍagirivara rāja tumi e boḍo mahimā;ātmasāt koro more koriyā karuṇā “O Govardhan! This wretch very much loves to reside close to you. Please bless me with a place in your vicinity and show me your matchless glories! You were held like an umbrella on the rod-like hand of Shri Krishna to destroy the pride of Sachi’s lord.
  12. One day in Goloka Vrindavana, Shyam sat alone under the shade of a beautiful flowering kadamba tree that was filling the entire forest with a sweet fragrance reminiscent of Radharani. Becoming absorbed in vivid memories of His sweet beloved, Krishna spontaneously began glorifying Radha with the choicest words full of love. Brilliant green parrots gathered in the branches, curious innocent deer collected nearby, and swans floated in the peaceful waters of the Yamuna. All were stunned in bliss and spellbound in amazement to hear what Shyam was saying. Contemplating within Himself, –vichar –antare 238, Krishna said: cin-maya –purna -tattva, radhika –prem –unmatta "I am full of transcendental consciousness and spiritual truth, but Radhika’s love completely maddens Me." 122 na –jani –radha –prema –bal, kare -sarvada -vihval "What is that power of Radha’s love by which Radha always overwhelms Me?" 123 Everywhere, everyone says I am the adi-guru, jagat-guru, spiritual master of the universe. But now I know the real truth is this: radhikara –prem –guru, ami –shishya –nat ama –nana –nrtye, nachaya -udbhat "Radhika’s prem is MY GURU. I am Her dancing disciple. Radha’s sweet love makes Me dance in many wonderful ways." 124 radha –prem –vibhu, kshane –kshane –baday –sadai "Although Radha’s love is all-pervading, it increases at every second." 128 While Shyam was praising His beloved Priya, He suddenly remembered Her divine form and how Radhika’s rupa, gandha, shabdha, rasa, sparsha and vritti completely attract and captivate all His senses of seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, touching and thinking. Krishna continues speaking: "Ten million Cupids are conquered by My matchless, unsurpassed sweet beauty. But My eyes find the greatest happiness in seeing Radha." 242-3 vamshi –gitakarshay –tri -bhuvan radha –vacane –hare -shravan "My flute song attracts the three worlds. But Radha’s voice fully enchants My ears." 244 amara –gandha –jagat –sugandha. chitta –prana –hara, radha –anga –gandha "The fragrance of My body fills the universe with sweet aromas. But the naturally sweet scent of Sriji’s limbs fully enthralls My mind and heart." 245 amara –rasa -jagat -sarasa radhara –adhara –ras –kar –vasha "Although My rasas fill the world with sweetness, I am totally controlled and subjugated by the sweet taste of Radha’s lips." 246 amara –sparsha –kotindu -shital radhika –sparsha –amasushital "Although My touch is cooler than ten million moons, I am completely refreshed by the cooling caress of Kishori" 247 jagat -sukha –hetu, radha – rupa -jivatu "Although I am the cause of happiness in the world, Radha’s sweet beauty is My life and soul." 248 anya –sanga –yata –sukha –pai, radha -sukha –shata -adhikai "I get a hundred times more happiness from meeting Radha than from anyone else." 258 Somehow by divine arrangement, that very Queen of Shyam’s heart suddenly appeared at that lonely spot beside the Yamuna. Seizing the opportunity to flatter the cherished treasure of His heart, Gopinatha said: "O Devi! Your divinely attractive body is the source of all beauty. O Sulochana, Your radiant cherry-red lips are softer than the sense of immortal sweetness. O Pranapriya! The effulgent orb of Your perfectly shaped face bears the aroma of a lotus. O Radha! Your heart-touching, honey sweet words silence the soothing warbling of the cuckoo. O Sriji! Your shapely golden limbs are cooler than sandalwood. Actually, O Shyamaa! Each and every one of My senses floods with bliss whenever I am with You, who are the abode of the most attractive and sensational qualities." Verses numbered above are from "Sri Chaitanya Charitamrta" adi-lila, chapter four. Jai Jai Sri Radhe!
  13. Barsana, 19-09-2019 Venerated Braj saint and Padma Shri Ramesh Baba’s health has been deteriorating since the past one week. Respecting Baba’s vow of not leaving Braj, all facilities required for his treatment have been set up at Barsana’s Maan Mandir where doctors from Bhakti Vedanta Vridavan and Delhi are taking care of him. 84-year-old Ramesh Baba had been keeping unwell since the last 2-3 months, but last week his health condition became serious due to an infection which led to fluid build up in his lungs. Baba was immediately rushed to Mathura’s Nayati Hospital, but he refused to get admitted. Hence all facilities for his treatment were set up within the Maan Mandir premises. At present, not even his disciples are allowed to meet him. Shri Radhakant Shastri said that he is responding to the treatment, and will hopefully recover soon. Although Ramesh Baba was born in Prayagraj, he has never been out of Braj since he came here 66 years ago in 1953. He considers all Brajwasis as emanations of Shri Radha-Krishna. Dedicating his life to ‘Dham and Gau Seva’, Baba worked tirelessly for environmental and cow protection in Braj. He was honoured with Padma Shri – one of India’s highest civilian honours –earlier this year. While other recipients from across the country travelled to Delhi to receive the award from the President in March, Babaji was felicitated by Shri Shailja Kant Misra at a private ceremony held in his ashram on May 17 as he refused to leave Braj. Often referred to as the ‘saint who uplifts Braj’, he helped rescue many Braj pilgrimage places from dacoits and mining activities. He has also been at the forefront of the movement to save Yamuna. Through Baba’s efforts, the foundation stone for Mataji Goshala was laid in 2007. Today, around forty thousand cows are being served in this Goshala which is also famous for running Asia’s biggest plant generating gas and electricity from cow dung.
  14. To celebrate Shri Krishna’s Janmotsava every year, King Vrishabhanu, Rani Kirtida, Radharani and their whole family stay four days in Nanda Baba’s palace (Bhadra Krishna 7-10th). Two weeks later, Nanda Maharaj, Yashoda Maa, Krishna and family come to Barsana and stay three days in King Vrishabhanu’s palace to celebrate Srimati Radhika’s birthday. From the first to the 8th day of the bright half of Bhadra month, King Vrishabhanu elaborately decorates all the homes and streets in Barsana in preparation for Radha’s appearance. Musicians and drummers purify the atmosphere with a continuous flow of auspicious songs and ragas. Two days before Radhashtami, Vrishabhanu Maharaj sends Shridham to invite Nanda Baba and family to come honor Shri Radha’s birthday. On the 7th morning, Nanda Baba, Shri Krishna and Their family come to Barsana in bullock carts, palanquins and by walking. Kirtidarani and Vrishabhanu Maharaj warmly greet them, arrange their rooms and feed them nicely. Shri Radha, Lalita-sakhi, Vishakha-sakhi and other gopi yutheshvaris cook rice, puris, sabjis and kheer, which is offered to Bhagavan Narayana and then served out to all the guests. Shri Radhika and the gopis lovingly quarrel over serving first. Yashoda pacifies everyone by making different lines with a different sakhi serving each one. After eating, everyone rests in their guestrooms. As per the usual asta-kaliya lila schedule, Shri Radha cooks something for Krishna. Then carrying these items, Srimati and all go to Radha-kunda, meet Krishna, and enjoy Their midday pastimes. Radhashtami In the morning of Radhashtami, everyone watches Radhika’s grand abhishek performed by Gargi, daughter of the kula-guru Garga Rishi. Musicians play vinas, dolaks, mrdangas, dundubhis and pakhowajas. Paurnamasi blesses Radha with different mantras. After bathing Radha with herbal water, panchamrit and gavya, a hundred pots of water, and a huge conch showering water through the 1,000 jal patra, Shri Radha is anointed with fragrant oils, musk, sandal and camphor and dressed. The manjaris offer a beautiful arati to Radharani. Yashoda Maa offers blessings and wonderful gifts of costly clothes and ornaments to both Shri Radha and Her yutheshvaris. Vrishabhanu Maharaj and Radharani donate ornamented cows and calves. Then Radhika and Her sakhis take some prasada and then start cooking a feast. In jest, Yashoda Maa says to Kirtida, “Sakhi, you are so hard hearted that you make tender Radha cook so much!” Kirtida replies, “Because our Radhika got a unique boon to cook nectar-filled health foods, my Prabhu Vrishabhanu wants you and Nanda Maharaja to savor Radha’s delicious preparations today. After Radha and the sakhis finish cooking, Yashodarani blesses them all and has some manjaris fan Radha to remove Her fatigue. The Yogurt Game Later everyone proceeds to the bank of Bhanukhor, King Vrishabhanu’s bathing tank on the east side of Barsana hill. Then, like on Janmashtami, everyone starts playing Dadhikada, a game of throwing yogurt, butter and milk on each other. Afterwards, according to age and gender, everyone bathes in different corners of Bhanukhor, eats and takes rest. Later, Shri Radha goes to Radha-kunda and enjoys all Her usual pastimes with Krishna. The only exception to Their daily asta-kaliya lila flow is that, for these three days, Shri Krishna is staying with Radha in Her own palace in Barsana! Naumi Lilas The next morning in Barsana, Radha-Krishna and the gopis bathe, eat and go out to perform Their usual morning pastimes. At noontime, Radha-Krishna and the gopis go to Mor Kutir in Barsana and Krishna entertains the gopikas by dancing like a peacock. Then Radha and Krishna throw laddus to all the sakhis. Later, at midday, Radha and Krishna dance the Rasa in a secret place in Gehvara, Radha’s personal garden/forest just near Her father’s palace. In the late afternoon everyone returns to the palace. At that time, Shri Krishna, Nanda Baba and his family take leave from King Vrishabhanu and return home to Nandagram in the topmost bliss. Shri Radha’s three day janmotsava ki jai! Jai Jai Shri Radhe!
  15. Question to Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji: In Bhakti Rāsāmṛta Sindhu 1.2.24, Śri Rupa Gosvāmipāda quotes SB 3.25.26 about Śri Kṛṣṇa’s beauty, and how a bhakta can never desire any sort of mukti after realizing Śri Kṛṣṇa‘s sweetness. This makes perfect sense to me. I do have a doubt about the experiences of jñāna-mārga saints, especially those from Maharashtra who had darśana of Śri Kṛṣṇa but remained jñānis. Here are a few examples: 1. Nāmadeva Mahārāja, born in the 13th century, is said to have had darshan of Lord Viṭṭhala and Rukmiṇi Devi whenever he desired. The popular story is that Lord Viṭṭhala told him that he (Nāmadeva) did not really understand Him, and that he should surrender to jñāna-mārga guru, Śri Visoba Khechar, to realize nirguṇa-nirākāra Brahman. (I personally have zero faith in this story. It is suggested that writings from this period have been lost or corrupted). 2. G.K. Pradhan talks about meeting Shankar Maharaj, a realized avadhuta from the Dattatreya sampradaya, and asking him, “Did Bhagavad Gītā really happen?” In reply, Shankar Maharaj put his hand on his head, and G. K. Pradhan suddenly found himself in the middle of a huge battlefield, seeing Śri Kṛṣṇa speaking Gītā to Arjuna. G.K. Pradhan remained a jñāni aspiring for brahma-jñāna. 3. Mama Deshpande, a saintly person in the Dattatreya sampradaya, is said to have had darśana of rāsa līlā and then fainted. But he did not become Vaiṣṇava. One may argue that great jñāna-yogīs and brahma-jñānis had darśana of Śri Hari and remained in jñāna-mārga, thus realizing that nirguṇa-nirākāra-Brahman is higher than realization of the personal form of Śri Kṛṣṇa. Such arguments have no support in Bhagavad Gītā; the Bhāgavata, right from the very beginning (ātmā-rāmas ca munayo), refutes them. But how am I to understand the examples cited by the jñānis about realized yogīs having darśana of Śri Kṛṣṇa and still aspiring for brahma-sāyujya? Why would Śri Kṛṣṇa manifest Himself before them? Are these lies or some form of ābhāsa? Or is the form seen an illusory form of Śri Kṛṣṇa (like the asura who created an illusion of killing Śri Kṛṣṇa’s father Vāsudeva while fighting Śri Kṛṣṇa)? Having read Tattva Sandarbha, I am not very disturbed by this doubt, The Bhāgavata is the pramāṇa and anecdotal evidence cannot be accepted as a valid source of spiritual knowledge. But it would be helpful to resolve/reconcile these stories. Answer: The answer lies in the verse itself: in BRS 1.2.24, Śri Rupa Goswamipāda quotes SB 3.25.26 about Śri Kṛṣṇa’s beauty and how a bhakta can never desire any sort of mukti after realizing Śri Kṛṣṇa‘s sweetness. “Realizing Śri Kṛṣṇa‘s sweetness” is the important part of this verse. These people whom you have mentioned saw Kṛṣṇa but did not realize His sweetness. They only saw Him according to their concept in jñāna-mārga but not as love personified. Kaṁsa also saw Kṛṣṇa but he saw Him as death personified, mṛtyur bhojapateḥ (SB 10.43.17) Many people had darśana of Kṛṣṇa but saw him as per their bhāva. The bhāva of the Maharastrian saints was that Kṛṣṇa is the personified Brahman. So they saw Him as such. Therefore, they did not give up their concept of jñāna-mārga. Rather, their bhāva was confirmed. Kṛṣṇa says—ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham: “I reciprocate according to the bhāva of persons who approach Me.” ____________________________________________________________________________ After extensively studying Vedic scripture, Shri Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji realized the necessity of establishing a proper facility to protect and spread this ancient knowledge. With the support of his family and guru, Shri Haridas Shastri Maharaj, Babaji founded the Jiva Institute of Vedic Studies, which focuses on translating and teaching rare religious texts. Babaji has been teaching Vedic philosophy to an international audience for several decades. Recently, he was invited to speak at Facebook headquarters.
  16. Delhi/Mathura, 27.08.2019 Anandgopal Das has filed an affidavit in the National Green Tribunal relating to concerns for his safety after a video with death threats started circulating on social media. Anandgopal Das and the Giriraj Sanrakshan Sansthan are active participants in the battle to protect Govardhan, however, now the activist feels that his life is in danger by those who dislike his work of drawing attention to the issue. The affidavit also mentions the lack of progress on the 17 points that the NGT has drawn up for Govardhan protection and development. Govardhan faces severe traffic problems, especially on weekends and festival days, making it almost impossible for residents to reach their own homes, however, work on the long awaited ring road is moving at a snail’s pace. Furthermore, according to Anandgopal Das, police deliberately harass residents by stopping their vehicles on the Parikrama and the anger gets turned against him. According to him, instead of working for the protection of Govardhan, authorities are backpedalling and motivating anti-social elements against him. The affidavit says that the needs of residents and basic services like sewage are overlooked by the administration, however, authorities are willing to spend on building a guest house in Govardhan, at the cost of Crores of Rupees. The threatening videos are in contempt of court. The evidence and affidavit will be heard in the tribunal in the next hearing, on 28th August.
  17. Mathura, 2019-08-08 The Yogi government has planned a grand three-day Janmashtami celebration in Mathura on August 23, 24 and 25 this year. The decision was taken on Sunday during a meeting chaired by Chaudhary Laxmi Narayan Singh, UP minister for dairy, culture and ‘Dharmarth Karya’. For the first time in Braj, conch shells and bells will be sounded at midnight (12.05 am) in all temples including Shri Krishna Janmasthan, mathas and homes simultaneously. The culture minister gave special instructions to assemble students of Sanskrit Vidyalayas in large numbers for this particular event. The meeting was attended by tourism secretary Jitendra Kumar, BTVP vice-chairman Shailja Kant Misra, DM Sarvagya Ram Mishra, senior police inspector Shalabh Mathur, CDO Ram Niwas, MVDA vice-chairman Nagendra Singh, district officer (admin) Satish Kumar, SP (traffic) Brajesh Kumar, SP (security) Gyanendra Kumar, Asst. Director (tourism) Priti Singh, Asst. Director (entertainment tax) Amit Singh, tourism officer DK Sharma and others. Through this initiative, the government intends to make Braj’s Janmashtami celebrations famous in national and international circuits. Various religious and cultural programs will be held on the 12 acre land adjacent to Vaishno Devi Mandir in Chhatikara, Vrindavan. Prominent among these will be one-hour discourses by renowned religious preachers and ‘Bhajan Sandhyas’ (congregational chanting) every evening for three days. Temples and surrounding areas (including houses) will be brightly lit by respective temple managements. Important roads and Ghats will also be decorated with lights and massive temporary gates will be constructed at entry points to Mathura by the Vikas Parishad. The Cultural ministry will organise cultural events at popular locations.
  18. In Vrindavan, especially at this time of year when the earth is cleansed by plentiful rain and greenery, we get the opportunity to experience shanaih-punanti-kalena, the process of gradual purification. devah-kshetrani-tirthani darshan-sparshan-arcanaih shanaih-punanti-kalena tad-apy-arhat-tama-ikshaya Brajvasismad Bhagavatam (10.86.52). “Gradually over time, one can become pure and religious by seeing, touching, and worshipping various kshetras, tirthas, (sacred places and water bodies), and Devatas.” This verse marks the very starting line of Bhakti (devotional life). The starting point is when we realize that we need to be purified. Only then do we get the chance to learn and progress. We can remain oblivious in a world of sense gratification, many chose to, but, the extent we get purified is the extent that we will be able to perceive Divine Will. Hopefully, the desire to be purified is the reason that people come to Vrindavan or go to the temple anywhere. If we keep the desire to be purified in mind it is sure to happen quicker. And, as the purification takes place, it becomes apparent as our mind becomes open to the intense experience of the Extreme Beauty (Rasa) of Shri Krishna’s Lilas in Vrindavan. ← Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami Maharaj As Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami Maharaj said in his introductory speech to the Rasa Lila program at Jai Singh Ghera on Hariyaliteej – the Rasa will begin when Swamiji creates the ‘Swar ka Jhula’ (musical swing). If we are open to it, we can perceive Extreme Beauty in many places – especially in nature, temples, devotional art/music, and the people who have dedicated themselves to preaching, devotional service, music and art. Extreme Beauty, or Rasa, is abundant, especially in Vrindavan. There is not one grain of dirt on earth that is not spiritual, it is all His energy. And, in Vrindavan even the dirt sparkles, especially after the rain… The Yamuna gives inspiration by moving steadily in one direction, despite all the pollution and insult, forbearing the slings and arrows of the world, remaining steadily on Her path. Radharaman Jhula 2019 → In many Braj temples, Jhulan Yatra continues for several weeks after Hariyaliteej. The Deities enjoy Their Pastime of swinging and the Brajvasis swing along with them in heart and mind. We may be on the swing of the ups and downs of material life, happiness and sadness, success and failure…but it will stop swinging so wildly when we perceive Radha and Krishna’s swing. Radha and Krishna’s swing is the swing of the perception of Extreme Beauty (Rasa); as it becomes too intense, the swing reaches its crescendo then glides down as Radha and Krishna go back to their friends and Their next meeting starts getting planned.
  19. Vrindavan, 29.07.2019 Every morning on the Vrindavan Parikrama Marg at around 10 o’clock a group of excited looking, simply clad devotees emerge after a Katha in the garden at Hit Dham, on the corner after Bhaktivedanta Hospital. Some loiter on the Parikrama Marg to speak to passers-by and invite them for Darshan. This has been going on for several years and the group is growing. Those who wonder what the mostly yellow and white people are so excited about, only have to listen to Maharaj’s Katha once. The simplicity, the contentment, the love and faith in Vrindavan Dham, the poetry of Braj Shastra, it is all there ready for those who are ready to take part. For those not acquainted with the Hindi Language, Maharaj’s disciple Shri Hit Rang Biharani Sharan Ji has translated some lectures into English. More and more people from across India are coming to Vrindavan with questions after hearing lectures online. Maharaj’s katha is filled with simple solutions to help get our minds away from attachment to bodily matters and towards the highest Rasa. It only takes five minutes of listening to a lecture to find something that seems to be handpicked advice, especially for you. Whether the next step in your spiritual journey is to spend more time in Vrindavan, or whether you need more detachment from your body, everyone finds something helpful in Maharaj’s lectures. To a man from Delhi who asked what to do about his wife’s cancer, Maharaj replied that he doesn’t know the cure for cancer, and only knows that this is part of the cycle of birth and death. What is more important than curing cancer of the body is curing the cancers of maan (value system), otherwise, what is the point of curing physical cancer, then going on to live a life where the burden of sin just goes on increasing? A short life full of Bhakti and Prem is better than a long life of sin, so focus on cleansing the heart with charanamrita, listening to the nectar of the Lord’s pastimes… We are more focused on curing the ills of the body, but if maan is in a good state then that will keep us on the right track in this life as well as the next. In order to increase our detachment from the body, Maharaj advises that we think of it as if it were someone else’s body – body is feeling itchy, body wants this…This simple technique does wonders to help stop the identification with the body – instead of identifying with the functions of the body as what I want, we just see them as what the body is doing, not of great concern to us; like an itch in someone else’s body. Maharaj advises that we can achieve Ahimsa (non-violence) by seeing everyone as ‘apna’ (one of us, a dear one). Especially in Vrindavan, we should see every living being as our child or sister or mother. Otherwise, we will not get the full anand (joy) of living the Dham. And how can we increase our awareness of the presence of God’s energy around us? Simply see God everywhere – Even inanimate objects are all made with His energy, it is all Him. Every lizard, every dog, look at them and think ‘this is a form of God’. This will bring peacefulness and happiness. Maharaj Ji advises that the simplest solution and assured means for attaining Prem is taking shelter of Vrindavan Dham and Braj-Raj (Holy Dust). “Vrindavan is not to be regarded as an ordinary place on earth, or just a religious place but Eternal (चिन्मय), where Divine Lilas of Priya Pritam are happening even today. Vrindavan Dham is fully capable of cleansing us of all sins and showering Priya Lal’s Anupam Ras (अनुपम रस). If we take the shelter of Vrindavan Dham and live our life as per our Guru’s instruction we will undoubtedly attain our true identity (स्वरुप की प्राप्ति).” According to the biodata on Maharaj’s website vrindavanrasmahima.com Pujya Maharaj Ji was born to a modest and extremely pious (सात्विक) Brahmin (Pandey) family and was named Aniruddh Kumar Pandey. He was born in Akhri Village, Sarsol Block, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. His grandfather was a Sanyaasi (सन्यासी) and the overall household environment was deeply devotional, utmost pure and serene. His father Shri Shambu Pandey was a devotional person and accepted Sanyaas (सन्यास) in later years. His mother Shrimati Rama Devi was very pious and had great respect for all saints. Both were regularly engaged in Sant-Seva and various devotional services. His elder brother enhanced the spiritual aura of the family by reciting verses from Srimad Bhagavatam which the entire family would listen to and cherish. The holy household environment intensified the latent spiritual spark concealed within him. Given this devotional family background, Maharaj Ji began reciting various prayers (चालीसा) at a very young age. When he was in class 5th, he started reading Gita Press Publication, Shri Sukh Sagar. Leaving home for a life of renunciation at only 13, Maharaj spent several years meditating on Lord Shiva on the banks of the Ganga, between Varanasi and Haridwar. After watching Rasa Lila continually for one month, he became captivated by Radha Krishna’s Pastimes and got the train to Mathura.
  20. Rath Yatra, the Festival of Chariots, is celebrated in Puri with grandeur, enthusiasm, fanfare, elaboration and religious fervour. In Vrindavan, simple amazement sets the tone for this auspicious day. If you are in Vrindavan during Rath Yatra, you can be a part of a wonderful experience when the beautiful chariots come out in the streets in a lavish procession, from the many temples here. The experience is delightful when these chariots circumambulate Gyan Gudri. The major attractions are the chariots from the three ancient temples of Gopinath, Govinda and Madan Mohan and also the temples at Jagannath Ghat, Vishram Ghat and Sadhu Mai Ka Ashram. It's not simply about Rath Yatra celebration in Vrindavan. There is more to the story than it meets the eyes. Many people are unaware of the meaning of Rath Yatra and its special significance in Vrindavan. Do you know why all the chariots meet at Gyan Gudri? Let us tell you this beautiful story. Jagannath Deities placed in the empty temples Radha Gopinath temple Rath Yatra We spoke to many scholars and Acharyas who narrated the story behind Rath Yatra in Braj. After the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb raided Vrindavan, the idols of Gopinath, Madan Mohan and Govinda were moved to Jaipur, India's Pink City, and so, as a result, the original temples had no Deity. Gopinath Lal Dev Goswami of Gopinath temple explains that the acharyas of that period decided to place the idols of Jagannath in those empty temples. Once the new temples of Gopinath, Madan Mohan and Govinda were built and the replicas placed, Lord Jagannath's Deity was also set up in the new temples. Since the idol of Jagannath was in the temple, it was necessary to take the Lord out on Rath Yatra. According to Sanatan Kishore Goswami of Madan Mohan temple, the ideal place for Rath Yatra was Gyan Gudri, where Sri Uddhava, one of Shri Krishna's disciples, heard about Divine love directly from the Braj gopis. Shri Krishna and Balaram Move to Mathura Lord Krishna's Rath Yatra is also held in Vrindavan along with Jagannath. This festival is related to the gopis' divine love for Devkinandan Krishna. Shri Krishna rode a chariot for the very first time in the holy land of Vrindavan. This chariot was sent by Krishna's uncle King Kamsa to bring Devkinandan and Balaram to Mathura. Shri Krishna takes the form of Jagannath Govinda Deva Rath Yatra The separation from Vrindavan made Krishna take Jagannath's form. The Utkala Khanda of the Skanda Purana tells the story of Krishna's manifestation as Jagannath. During a solar eclipse, Devkinandan, Balaram, Subhadra and Dwarka's other residents went to take a holy dip in a pond at Kurukshetra. Lord Krishna's parents Nanda and Yashoda, Radha and the other residents of Vrindavan were burning due to the separation from Hari. Knowing about Shri Krishna's whereabouts, they all went to meet Him. Balaram's mother Rohini Ma spoke to Krishna's wives in Dwarka about His favourite pastimes in Vrindavan and the Gopi's divine love for Him. Rohini's narrative was kept exceedingly confidential. That's why she posted Subhadra near the door, so that no one could enter the premises. Realising that Rohini Ma was talking about Him, Devakinandan and Balaram came close to the door, standing on Subhadra's left and right sides. Hearing of these stories, Devakinandan was overcome with strong feelings of separation from the holy land of Vrindavan. Shri Krishna was so fascinated hearing about His pastimes in Vrindavan that His heart started melting. Both Devakinandan and Balaram were so overjoyed that Their inner feelings manifested outwardly. Their eyes were dilated, heads pressed together into their bodies and their limbs drawn back. Witnessing these physical transformations in Krishna and Balaram, Subhadra too felt euphoric and took the same form. After hearing about Krishna's pastime in Vrindavan, Devakinandan and Balaram with Subhadra in the middle unveiled their ecstatic form and it is this form that is worshipped as Lord Jagannath, Balaram, and Subhadra in Puri. Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra in their special forms After Shri Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra returned to their normal forms, and Devakinandan had recovered completely, he realised that it was Narada's trick because he planted the idea in Rohini's mind to narrate the story of Krishna's pastimes in Vrindavan. Madan Mohan temple's Rath Yatra Though Narada Muni thought that his activities would make Krishna angry, but to Narada's relief, Shri Krishna was pleased with him. In fact, the Lord wanted to shower His blessings on Narada Muni. So Narada prayed to Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra to appear in those forms at some place in the world to give Darshan to their devotees. The special form is also called ‘Patita Pavana', the rescuer of the fallen and liberator of the universe. This is why Shri Krishna welcomed Narada's wish to give Darshan to His devotees as ‘Jagannath' in Puri. The separation of Shri Krishna from Vrindavan made Him take Lord Jagannath's form. Though we associate Rath Yatra with Puri, the holy festival has its roots deeply seated in Vrindavan, where Shri Krishna has His favourite pastimes.
  21. Babaji Maharaj (Shri Ramdas Baba) is chanting jap in a silent, meditative mood. Many disciples are gathered around him, also chanting jap. After some time, the conversation turns to Shri Harinaam Sankirtan. Babaji Maharaj is delighted by this, and his voice trembles as he murmurs a few quiet words to himself. Then he says to the assembled devotees, who have taken shelter of him: "Look; Shri Harinaam Sankirtan destroys all sins. It cleanses the heart and mind, and it grants us Krishna prem and Krishna’s seva. All these things come automatically when one chants the Holy Name. Thus Shri Krishnadas Kaviraj has said: sankirtan hoite paap sansaar naashan chitta shuddhi sarva bhakti saadhan udgam krishna premodgam premaamrita aaswaadan krishna-praapti sevaamrita samudre majjan "Through sankirtan, all sins and worldliness are destroyed. The mind and heart are cleansed, and devotion is attained, with its different limbs of sadhan. Even Krishna prem itself is attained through sankirtan, and the chanter savours the immortal nectar of that true love. At last, he or she attains Krishna himself, and drowns in the ocean of his blissful seva." (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya-lila 20.13-14) But it is also said that no matter how much we chant the Holy Name, if we also commit offences (aparadh), then we will not attain Krishna prem. heno krishna-naam jadi loy bahu baar tathaapi naa hoy prem naa bahe ashrudhaar tabe jaani aparaadh aachaye prachur krishna naam beej taahe naa hoy ankur "If you chant Krishna’s Name many times and you still do not attain prem – if tears of love do not flow from your eyes – then know for sure you have committed a lot of offences. Thus the seed of Krishna’s Name has not even sprouted in you."(Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila 8.29-30) "We are Kali jeevs [ie. we live in such a degraded age]. Offences are bound to happen. Is there no hope for us then? There is no need to worry like this. In this age, our Shri Nitai-Gauranga have come. They do not see faults, nor do they count offences. By their grace ... just by taking their Name ... prem is attained. chaitanya-nityanande nahi e sab vichaar naam loite prem hoy bahe ashrudhaar "But with Shri Chaitanya and Nityananda, such things are not considered. By taking their Name, you will surely attain prem and flow with tears of love." (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila 8.31) Speaking thus, Babaji Maharaj let out a deep roar of ecstasy. All the others fell silent. It was as if the discussion had been completely fulfilled by Shri Nitai-Gauranga's grace. (Translated by Vishakha Dasi from the Hindi book "Shri Baba Ramdas Kathamrit" by Dr. OBL Kapoor)
  22. Govardhan, 01.06.2019 With Mudiya Mela approaching this month (14thJuly to 20th July), it is an apt time to meditate on the glories of Shri Manasi Ganga – the Ganga that Shri Krishna manifested from his mind (manas). Manasi Ganga is not only connected with Shri Krishna’s pastimes, the Kund also connects with Chaitanya Lila, as Sanatan Goswami meditated nearby; as did Nanda Das, one of the Ashta Chhap poets who are most dear to the followers of Pushti Marg. There are a wealth of legends surrounding Manasi Ganga, and while some seem to be conflicting, we can easily see how others are parallel threads of the same truth. For example, some say that Manasi Ganga was manifested because, seeing Krishna’s great love for the Yamuna, Ganga Devi also wanted to be present in Braj. Some connect the reason for Shri Krishna manifesting the Ganga with Nanda-Yashoda, while others say that Krishna manifested it to bathe after killing a demon. Manasi Ganga plays several roles in Krishna Lila but none would deny that Ganga Devi’s desire to be in Braj is part of the reason for her presence here as Manasi Ganga. The legend of Shri Krishna manifesting Manasi Ganga for Yashoda and Nanda Baba is held dear to many people’s hearts, as it carries the message that it is not necessary (and may be detrimental) to leave Braj to go on pilgrimage. If there is no Ganga in Braj, there may be a reason to leave Braj to take a bath in this holiest river. Despite their advanced aged Nanda Yashoda were planning to go for Ganga snan but Krishna manifested Manasi Ganga so that his parents would never leave Braj. Manasi Ganga is also connected with Shri Krishna’s demon-killing pastimes as the killing of the calf-demon, known as Vrisbhasura or Aristasura. Killing a cow is a grave sin and it was necessary for Shri Krishna to cleanse himself by bathing after killing this demon who had taken the form of a calf, so He manifested Manasi Ganga and bathed in her cleansing waters. The area around Manasi Ganga is densely populated with temples including Hardev temple, Mansa Devi temple, Chakaleshwar Mahadev temple and many other historical temples. Amer’s King, Bhagwan Das is believed to be responsible for building the permanent ghats on Manasi Ganga in the early 1600s. The ghats were later extended by Raja Man Singh. Many believe that Govardhan Parikrama should be initiated after a cleansing bath in Manasi Ganga, as this was recommended by Srila Rupa Goswami in his Mathura mahatmya. Most pilgrims will include a stop here. The most renowned place to enter Manasi Ganga is Mukut Mukarvind temple, below which there are water spouts to make taking snan in the kund easier. Recent reports of pollution causing Manasi Ganga to change colour may put some devotee off taking a full bath, however, most will sprinkle a few drops of water for ceremonial cleansing. To the North of Manasi Ganga is Chakaleshwar Mahadev temple. Chakaleshwar Mahadev is one of the four protectors of Braj. Nearby is Sanatan Goswami’s Bhajan Kutir. One of the legends associated with Sanatan Goswami is that it is said that he planned to leave the area due to the mosquitoes, however, Lord Shiva appeared and begged him not to leave saying that he will get rid of the mosquitoes. The 1611 record lists the departure of Srila Sanatan Goswami on the day of Guru Purnima. At this time, scores of Brajwasis shaved their heads and did Govardhan Parikrama in his honour. This tradition is alive and well today with people coming from across India to celebrate Guru Purnima in Braj and do Govardhan Parikrama. On the south side of Manasi Ganga is Mansa Devi temple which was rebuilt by Hathi Singh Jat, the ruler of Saunkh, after was destroyed by Aurangzeb in 1670. The Aswatha tree near the temple marks the sitting place of Nanda Das, one of the later Ashta Chhap poets (8 great poets of 16th Century Braj); a disciple of Shri Vittalnathji (Gusainji), the younger son of Shri Vallabhacharya.
  23. Shri Bhaktamal is a poetic work in Braj Bhasha that contains short biographies of more than two-hundred devotees. It was written by Shri Nabha Das ji, a saint belonging to the Ramananda tradition, in 1585. These descriptions of devotees are a much-loved subject of Katha speakers as hearing about the lives of devotees brings hope and inspiration to those who long for a connection to the Divine. ________________________________________________________________________________ Shri Madhav Das was a Brahmin who renounced the world when his wife left her body. Renouncing the world, he headed to Jagannath Puri. Once he reached Puri, he sat on the beach and became absorbed in meditation. He was so absorbed that he didn’t pay attention to the need to eat and drink. Seeing this, the most merciful Lord Jagannath ordered Laxmi Devi to take the finest food on a golden plate to him. When Shri Madhav came out of his entranced state, he saw the plate and began to weep tears of joy. He offered the food, then ate it and kept the plate to one side. He became absorbed in meditation once more. When the temple priests saw that the plate was missing, they flew into action to find it. Eventually, it was found next to Madhav Das. Understanding him to be a thief, they began to whip him. But that night, in a dream, the Lord appeared saying that the pundits will be ruined unless they beg forgiveness at Madhav ji’s feet. Madhav Das became sick an. He could not walk. Someone came to serve and clean him. When he regained consciousness he realized that it was Prabhu Himself. Holding on to His feet, Madhav Das said Why didn’t you just cure me? Why did you do so much hard work? I cannot stand to see my devotees suffering. That is why I came to serve you. You know that it is necessary to suffer the consequences of actions, that is my rule, so how can I break it? I only serve devotees and prove this truth to the world. People came to know about this incident and word about Madhav Das began to spread far and wide. People started to surround him. This didn’t suit him so he began to wonder around as a madman uttering the Lord’s name. Once he knocked on a woman’s door to ask for alms. In anger, she threw a wad of cloth at him. Madhav was happy. He dried the cloth and used it as a wick in the temple. After this, the woman became a great devotee who was always joyfully absorbed in meditation on the Lord. Once a Shastri scholar named Digvijay Pandit challenged Madhav Das to a debate. Madhav Das refused but the Pandit would not listen. Eventually, Madhav Das wrote a note saying, “Madhav has lost, Digvijay is the winner.” Pandit ji was overjoyed and immediately returned to Varanasi to tell people about his victory. He started to show people the proof, but when the other pundits read the note, it said, “Pandit ji lost, Madhav won.” Pandit ji was so angry that he returned to Jagannath Puri. He challenged Madhav Das to another debate and insisted that the loser must have their face painted black and ride around town on a donkey. Madhav Das tried to talk him out of it, but Pandit ji was not ready to listen. A debate was held in front of a crowded hall. Madhav Das did not attend, but the Lord took his form and won easily. When Madhav Das found out that Pandit ji was being taken around town with a black face, he begged the Lord to forgive the Pandit then he helped Pandit ji get off the donkey and begged his forgiveness. The Pandit’s anger faded. Blessed are the kind-hearted devotees who forgive us and care about our salvation.
  24. Shri Bhaktamal is widely believed to be an unbiased account of Bhaktas across all sectarian paths. Written almost 500 years ago in Brajbhasha by Nabhdas of the Ramananda Sampradaya, the work is rich in tales that carry layers of hidden meanings. This story relates to a Lila that happened in Dwarka but will remind Vrindavan devotees of many similar Braj Lilas – as when Bihariji, Radharaman ji and other Deities have also left the temple to visit devotees… In the village of Dakor in Dwarka, lived a devotee named Ramdasji. Every Ekadasi he would go to Ranchodh Temple to perform all-night kirtan at Jagran programs. When his body became old and weak, the Lord instructed him to give up the Jagran seva. Ramdas ji would not hear of not performing all-night kirtan. Seeing His devotee’s firm determination, the Lord was overcome and said, I cannot stand to see you in such difficulty when coming to the temple, so I will come to your house. Next Ekadasi, bring a cart and put it under the back window of the temple. I will arrange that the window is open. Then you pick me up and make haste in leaving. On the next Ekadasi, Ramdasji brought the cart. People thought that he came that way because he had become old and weak. The Jagran program in the temple was conducted, as usual, on Ekadasi. On the evening of the next day, Ramdasji took the Deity away. The next morning, when the Pujaris saw that the Deity was gone, they set out to find who was responsible. People immediately suspected Ramdas ji since he had come to the program riding on a cart. When the Pujaris arrived at Ramdas’ house he told them that he had followed the Lord’s instructions. He told them that Ramchodh ji had happily come and even drove the cart Himself. The temple priests beat Ramdas causing him many injuries but when they looked around they could not find Ranchodh Bhagavan. They started to worry that they had beaten Ramdas without reason. Someone said that they had seen Ramdas coming from the stepwell, so they went there to look. When they arrived, they saw the Deity in the water, which had turned red. Shri Ranchodh told them that, when his devotee was beaten, He had taken the wounds upon Himself. He expressed unwillingness to go back with them and told them where to find another Deity for the temple. To this day, the village is named Dakor (bandit), to commemorate this incident and Ramdas’ descendants proudly identify as the Deity Bandits.


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