All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga
Kartik Parikrama Report, 2013
An overview of this year's Annual Kartik Parikrama to Govardhan and Mathura Mandal, Haridwar, Rishikesh and Varanasi
by Shyamasundari Devi Dasi of Venezuela
For pictures of these events please see Vrindavan Parikrama 2013 posted on the Math's gaudiyadarshan.com website.
The parikrama party left Kolkata Station on 30th October at midday. The journey was wonderful due to the devotees' loud and energetic kirtan to the rhythm and speed of Srila Acharya Maharaj. The train car seemed to be bouncing and vibrating with the maha sankirtan to which many passengers irresistibly joined with smiles on their faces. We arrived at Srila Sridhar Swami Seva Ashram at Govardhan the next day and honoured lunch prasadam accompanied by monkeys of the dham who would try to steal the devotees' prasadam. Srila Acharyadev, seeing this, would chase them with stick in hand. That evening he ran from the door of the nat mandir to the altar anxious to have darshan of Sri Anu Giriraj. We then had a wonderful evening programme there.
Next day, after the morning programme and prasadam, the devotees led by Srila Acharyadev started the first day of parikrama by going around Sri Govardhan Hill. Enthusiastic kirtan took the devotees to Sri Govinda Kunda where the Pastime of its origin was told. There it was also explained that our Sri Govinda Kunda at Nabadwip Dham Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math by Gupta Govardhan is nondifferent from this place at Govardhan. We have a close relation with this place and for that we came straight here. One devotee then started saying 'Jay Nitai! Jay Nitai!' and it was explained that it is very appropriate to glorify Nityananda Prabhu as it is the first day of parikrama and only by His grace can we be allowed entrance to the Dham. Also that only by the grace of Nitai can we gain the grace of Gaura and by His grace we can enter Vrindavan. This very important point was made there, and we continued to do parikrama around the whole Govardhan Hill.
In the evening class His Divine Grace sweetly described the whole Govardhan Pastime and how Krishna told the Vrajabasis, "Who made these offerings? These laddhus? My mother made them, not Indra's mother. I will take it!" Later Indra understood his mistake and went to Krishna with a surabhi cow and made abhishek to the Lord. That water and milk became 'Govinda Kunda'. At this place happened Pastimes with Sri Madhavendra Puri, such as finding the Gopal Deity, which were also explained illustrating how the Lord is always in search of His lost servant and waiting for our service. In this regard he repeated a phrase from Srila Guru Maharaj, 'We are slaves of Beauty'.
During the evening programme Sripad Madhusudan Maharaj was invited to speak and he explained how our Temple there had manifested and its early days, "Gurudev said: We will stay here next to Govardhan, go to Kusum Sarovar to collect flowers, perform our service at Shyam Kunda and Radha Kunda and then return to the safety of our Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math." He explained that the origin of our Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Nabadwip, in relation to Sri Govardhan Hill. Srila Guru Maharaj, after the Gaudiya Math, visited Govardhan and brought three silas back with him, one of which became later the first Deity of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math and is worshiped there up to the present. Also, after Srila Guru Maharaj visited Ekachakra and received the blessing of Nityananda Prabhu to start a Math, he then returned to Nabadwip and established Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math specifically in the area of Gupta Govardhan. Our Math in Jagannath Puri is also in the place related with Govardhan (called Chakra Parvat).
Following the talk by Sripad Madhusudan Maharaj, Srila Acharya Maharaj clearly ordered everyone not to bathe in Shyama Kunda and Radha Kunda the next day but to take that water with utter respect and veneration over our heads with great care as it is the highest place in our line.
During the second and third days of Parikrama we visited places such as: Uddhav Kunda; the Samadhi of Srila Raghunath Das Goswami by Radha Kunda and his bhajan kutir by Shyama Kinda; the sitting place Jahnava
Devi; the "Teen Samadhis" of Srila Krsna Das Kaviraj, Srila Raghunath Das and Srila Raghunath Bhatta Goswamis; Braja Swananda Sukhada Kunja (place of Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur and then of Srila Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad) where Srila Acharya Maharaj touched everyone on the head with the 'Prabhupader lati'; the meeting place of Shyama Kunda and Radha Kunda where His Grace performed a puja ceremony; and then onwards to Kusum Sarovar. Also: Haridevji Maharaj, where Sriman Mahaprabhu spent many hours doing Sankirtan; Brahma Kunda, where Brahma got confused by seeing Krishna's Pastimes and then hid the cows and cowherd boys; Sada Shiva Temple of 'Chakaleshvar Mahadev' one of the Protectors of the Dham; Sanatan Goswami's Bhajan-kutir, from where he would do whole Govardhan Parikram daily; and Manasi Ganga, where Krishna manifested the Ganga from His mind.
Sripad Tirtha Maharaj was invited to speak and he discussed the importance and essence of this Damodar Month by explaining the Damodarastakam song. The essential point being how in this form the Lord is being subdued by His devotees' love and devotion to such extent that He lets Himself be conquered and tied with the 'bhakti baddham' the rope of devotion. At that time Mother Yashoda was trying and trying but always the rope was two fingers too short. To this, Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur gave a commentary explaining that these two fingers mean: 1. The service desire of the devotee and, 2. The mercy of the Lord. With these two things we can bind the Lord. The highest conception of Reality is revealed through these Pastimes where the Lord is controlled and subjugated by His devotees' love, and it is this Krishna whom we worship. On this third day of parikrama the devotees headed by Srila Acharya Maharaj lit many candles all around the Temple. In this way the Pushpa Samadhi of Srila Gurudev and Sri Anu Giriraj's Mandir appeared outstandingly sweet and resplendent.
The following day was Sri Anukut Mahamahotsava! Early morning after the magical mangal aratiks Srila Acharya Maharaj recounted the Govardhan Pastime reading an extract, and he smashed the conception of worshipping the demigods with: "Anya abhilasa chadi jñana karma parihari kaya mane koribo bhajan, sadhu sanga krsna seva na pujibo devi-deva". Also by telling the story of when Indra became a pig, he showed that the main point was to establish the worship of Krishna as the only and real worship we must perform.
Sripad Madhusudan Maharaj glorified Sri Govardhan Hill discussing about a whole canto of Sri Garga Samhita called 'Giriraj Khanda' where extensive and detailed descriptions of the Pastimes related to Govardhan are made. There it is said that all mountains have feeling hearts, and that by doing parikrama of Govardhan we can feel some of that affection. Also he explained that each part of the Infinite is infinite, and Sri Govardhan is infinite in every part, He is directly the Lord. Krishna said "I am Giriraj" therefore there is no necessity of requesting the Lord to descend in the form of Giriraj. He recounted that even Mahaprabhu Himself worshipped a Govardhan Sila, even with His tears. Mahaprabhu later gave that Sila to Raghunath Das Goswami and through that all the Goswamis could understand that Mahaprabhu was giving Raghunath Das a special place in the worship and service of Sri Govardhan Hill.
After this Sripad Tirtha Maharaj explained how Krishna appeared in both forms as the boy and as the hill, and accepted all the offerings. Also he said that Krishna Himself was the first to inaugurate the Parikrama of Govardhan with the Vrajabasis. Sripad Tirtha Maharaj recited the verse in which Srimati Radharani glorified Govardhan saying that He is the best servitor of the Lord always providing everything for His Pastimes, and at the same time Govardhan is directly the Lord.
Later on everyone rejoiced at the opportunity of bathing Lord Giriraj. The devotees made lines and entered the altar room one by one pouring milk and ghee on Giriraj. The aroma of the whole nat mandir had a special tinge of milk, ghee, flowers scent, and perfume oils. Then Giriraj was dressed and exceptionally decorated in preparation for His bhoga aratik. Numerous giant pots of delicious preparations were placed in front of the Lord for His pleasure. When the doors were opened after the offering, the devotees saw the oppulent offerings. Afterwards, sumptuous prasadam including luchis, many subjis, and uncountable sweets was served to all.
On the fifth day of parikrama we left Govardhan by buses and we first went to Gurudev's favourite place, Uchagao, the place of Srimati Lalita Devi. There the Lalitastakam was read by Srila Acharya Maharaj, and Sripad Tirtha Maharaj explained, "Radhamukunda pada sambhava garmabindhu nirmmancanopakarane krta deha lakhyam, She is prepared to take thousands of bodies to remove one drop of sweat at the feet of Radha Govinda." It was discussed that her mercy is utterly necessary in order to go to Radharani's place. She is like the visa-officer to enter that area of the Spiritual Abode, she decides whether we may enter or not. This is our line, under Srila B.R. Sridhar Maharaj who is in the group of Rupa Manjari who is the leader of the group of young servitors to Srimati Lalita Devi. We took some liquid yogurt prasadam from this place and nearby visited 'Dehi Kunda' and took some water over our heads, this was where Srimati Radharani offered her body in charity to Krishna who asked Her for some donation in disguise as a brahman.
We continued to Varshana, the place of Srimati Radharani. There we paid our obeisance and sung many kirtans in glorification of Sri Radhika. Some of Her glories were carefully discussed as well as the story how she appeared to King Vrishabanu on a lotus. Then we went to Nandagram where we took darshan and paid dandavat pranams to the Deities there of Krishna-Balaram with Mother Yasoda and Nanda Maharaj at the sides. After some kirtan Tirtha Maharaj explained that Krishna and His family used to live in Gokula happily but due to the demons' attacks they decided to go to some elevated place, so they went to Nandagram where also a rshi gave the boon that no demons would be able to enter. After this in the late afternoon we arrived at Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math and Mission at Seva Kunja, Vrindavan.
On the sixth day of the programme we had morning class with Madhusudan Maharaj who read an article by Srila Gurudev explaining how to visit Vrindavan Dham, and that we must be very careful and cautious and, "always be under the umbrella of the shelter of the devotees". The main thing is to avoid offenses. He recounted Mahaprabhu's instructions to Jagadananda Pandit who desired to visit Vrindavan. He gave four instructions: 1. Do not stay for too long, 2. Do not go upon the hill even to take darshan of Gopal, 3. Always be in the association of Srila Rupa and Srila Sanatan Goswamis, 4. Do not imitate or mix with the Vrajabasis. "Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj at the Radha Damodar Temple said we can still get instruction from Sri Rupa and Sri Jiva Goswami, similarly we must understand that we can still get instruction from Srila Gurudev and Srila Guru Maharaj. This is a living matter." After prasadam we started our parikrama around the whole of Vrindavan visiting some places such as: Imli Tala, where Krishna sat in Dvapara yuga and Mahaprabhu in Kali yuga, the place of the origin of Gaura-tattva; a Banyan tree where Mahaprabhu took rest; the place of the Kaliya Daman lila where Krishna jumped from a tree into the Yamuna.
The following day, our seventh day of this year's annual Kartik Parikrama we again had class with Madhusudan Maharaj and Tirtha Maharaj who glorified beautifully Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj as it was his disappearance day, telling many stories, describing his sweet relation with our Param Guru Maharaj and his fatherlike relation with Srila Govinda Maharaj, and also admiring his inconceivable preaching movement. After prasadam we crossed the Yamuna by boat in company of Srila Acharya Maharaj and Tirtha Maharaj doing kirtan on the way to Belvan. They explained that in this forest Krishna and Balaram would eat bel fruit. There we visited the place where Laksmi Devi is sitting in penance aspiring to enter the Rasa-lila. We paid our obeisance to Her Deity. Sriman Mahaprabhu also visited this place. There we heard the Pastime of the gopis crossing the Yamuna to feed Durvasa Muni. Also that because of Krishna's superexcellent qualities even Laksmi, the consort of Narayan, feels attraction and desire to enter the Rasa-lila but could not because She did not follow in the footsteps of the Vraja-gopis. Sriman Mahaprabhu when visiting Venkata Bhatta, the father of Gopal Bhatta Goswami, converted him to the worship of Radha-Krishna instead of Laksmi-Narayan through these arguments.
A very important point was made: je saba sthana heribo ami pranayi bhakata sange, we go to those places where Mahaprabhu went in company of the devotees. Also we heard the Pastime of Gopeshvara Shiva recounted by Tirtha Maharaj. Krishna gave Shiva the position of protector of the Dham and told him that he would be the main character in the 'Maha-rasa', the Sankirtan-rasa in the form of Advaita Acharya. Hearing this everyone's heart rejoiced. We sang the kirtan, 'Hari he doyala...'.
This same day in the afternoon we visited Seva Kunja; Radha Damodar Temple where are the Samadhis of Srila Rupa Goswami and Srila Jiva Goswami; Madan Mohan Temple, where is the bhajan place of Srila Sanatan Goswami who gave the wealth of prema to a person searching for a touchstone to turn bell-metal into gold; and the Dwadas Aditya Teela, the place where Mother Yasoda took Krishna after the Kaliya Daman lila because He was very cold. The related Pastimes were discussed by Srila Acharya Maharaj. Then we went to Sanatan Goswami's Samadhi, then then Advaita Vata and then the Temple of Sri Bankey Bihari where we took darshan from afar.
In the evening class Srila Acharyadev explained that we are very fortunate to do this parikrama and that at Seva Kunja Krishna Himself serves His devotee, "If you serve Krishna, He will serve you." Referring to the Pastime of Sanatan Goswami he said "Who is the rich person? Krishna. And who has Krishna's prema is the richest person."
On the eighth day of Parikram we went to Mathura to the Birthplace of Krishna, there we paid obeisances and did parikrama around the Adikeshav Deity which was installed by Krishna's grandson. We entered the jail where Devaki gave birth to the Lord. We sat in the big hall in front of the Deity, where Srila Acharya Maharaj and Tirtha Maharaj explained that Sriman Mahaprabhu had visited this place, Madhuvan, with the Sanodiya Brahman and paid their obeisances to the Adikeshav Deity. The whole Pastime of Krishna's birth was depicted and it was explained that Krishna came in two forms; Nanda Nandana, the son of Nanda Maharaj and Mother Yasoda in Vrindavan who never leaves Vrindavan; and Vasudev Krishna, the son of Vasudeva and Devaki, who became the King of Dwaraka. An essential point was made: "Mahaprabhu taught us that we are worshippers of Nanda Nandana not Vasudev Krishna."
After this we went to the place of Dauji Balaram, in the village named Balaram. Here Tirtha Maharaj explained that in the Rama-lila, Laksman, who is none other than Balaram, always served Ramachandra but had to obey Him, and sometimes Rama had to take care of Laksman. Therefore Laksman desired to become the elder brother of the Lord, in order to serve Him properly. Here it was explained that Balaram, or Nityananda Prabhu, must always be the mediator, we must not aspire to serve the Lord directly. Mirabai's worship was rejected as she 'worshiped' the Lord directly, without going through His devotees. However, we are followers of the conception of being servants of the servant, through Sri Guru who is Nityananda Himself.
The next day, the ninth day of parikrama, we went to Nidhuvan, where is the samadhi of Swami Haridas, then to the Radha Raman Temple of Gopal Bhatta Goswami where Srila Acharyadev told the Pastime of the Salagram Sila taking Deity form Of Krishna playing His flute. Tirtha Maharaj said that in 1990 Srila Gurudev said at this place, "The best name of Krishna is Radha Raman - He who is giving pleasure to His topmost devotee, Radha." This Deity appeared in order to show that He is not a stone, and He is accepting the service of His devotee. It was said that we are visiting all these temples but we do not have the vision to see the Lord, actually we are coming so that the Lord may see us and thus we shall undoubtedly be benefited.
After this we went to the Radha Gokulananda Temple, where is also the Puspa Samadhi of Narottam Das Thakur who has given us great wealth through his songs; then to Radha Gopinathjiu and onwards to Vamsi Vata, one of the places where the Rasa-lila takes place. Here we heard Brahma's famous verse in which he says "If somebody says he understands You, that is fine. But as for me I do not understand anything about Your Pastimes." Srila Acharyadev said: "We have a 'puppy brain' and we must simply be humble and offer our respects as it is difficult to conceive such elevated Pastimes of the Lord."
We continued to Gopeshvara Mahadev, a very important place, without his mercy we cannot enter the Dham. Then we went to the grand temple established by Lala Babu, and finally to Srila Rupa Goswami's Temple of Govindaji. There we sang the kirtan 'Janama saphala ta'ra...' describing the Lord's beautiful form.
On the tenth day we left Vrindavan to arrive at Haridwar in the night. The next day morning we went to many Shiva Temples and paid our obeisances remembering him to be a Vaishnava. In the afternoon we visited the Ganga and observed the puja. Later at the place we were staying Srila Acharyadev gave class to many new people and explained basic Vaishnava principles.
On the twelfth day we went early in the morning to
Rishikesh by bus and did Harinam Sankirtan which attracted many
tourists and locals. We visited a Ganga Temple and some Shiva Temples,
then we took bath in the Ganga. The thirteenth day we took a train to
Varanasi and arrived late at night the next day. The fifteenth day of
parikrama we went early in the morning to the Temple of Visvanath Shiva
Deity which is very famous and paid our obeisance there. Then we went
to Scindia Ghat, to pay our obeisances to the Ganga and take some water
upon our heads. Later that day we took our train to Howrah and happily
arrived at Sri Nabadwip Dham the next day.
With humble obeisances to all the readers, hoping you may overlook any mistakes that may have accidentally entered this article,
~Shyamasundari Devi Dasi
Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Nabadwip