21 kms of dandavats: final day

On the auspicious day of Srila Prabhupada’s Tirobhava Mahotsava, we have completed our Giriraja Dandavat Parikrama. Today we offered dandavats for 4.5 hrs. Srimati Radharani and Srila Prabhupada gave us Their sweet protection with a very hazy sky and nice cool breezes. The most intense part of today’s journey was our dandavat parikrama of Radha Kund and Shyama Kund. Many people were driving cars on…the narrow lane and seemed completely oblivious to the fact that there was a group of people prostrating themselves on the side of the road. Once, as I was rising from a dandavat, I noticed the front left wheel of a car rolling across the pillow I use for my knees. At that time the venomous snake of my anger wanted to rise and strike severely .. but maintaining proper consciousness I got up, looked into the car window, and softly addressed a young Indian lady saying, “please .. you should be more careful” to which she replied, “yeah, sorry, but you are blocking the road”. This brought a big smile on my face and I realised that Srimati Radharani was just giving me a test. At Lalita Kund, our last rest spot, Sacinandana Swami gently smiled and said, “Ah.. when we round the bend.. and pass Gopi Kua.. we will be quickly pulled back to our starting place by Kundesvara Mahadeva. And we were. Passing Madhavendra Puri’s place, Lord Caitanya’s place, the entrance to the sangam between the two lakes, and the steep ramp where we had first offered our prayers, we reached Kundesavara. After a long period of prayer we all rose and began hugging and congratulating one another. As we were all terribly dusty and dirty we decided to bathe in Kusum Sarovara and tomorrow after we complete our 22 Km walk around Govardhan we will have bath in Radha Kund. We all feel that we embarked upon a very spiritual journey and are very hopeful for positive spiritual changes in our hearts.Today at 16:00, we attended Madhava Prabhu’s kirtan at MVT, from 17:30 till 18:20 I was asked to sing in Srila Prabhupada’s room. Madhava sang from 18:20 till 19:20 and then HH Niranjana Swami sang the Gurvastakam as arati was performed to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and to Sri Giriraja Govardhan. Hare Krishna. Jai Sri Radhe Shyam!!

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21 kms of dandavats: day 7

Madhava sang good pre-Mangala Kirtan. Govinda of Spanish origin played the drum in time, chaddars necessary morning wear. 05:25 and driving through Ral, men huddled around small fires on the roadside, people walking away from the village, with serious expressions and with lotas in hand, tall kusa grass lining the empty road to Govardhan, heaving breathing from all others in the car, catching last moments of rest before starting. Gopinatha Bhadra feeling better, Govinda has a pain in his stomach, Radha Priya has a cold, Mohan’s headache is better, Madhava hardly sleeps, and my only problem is unwanted hopes for material happiness. Please bless us all that Giriraja Govardhan will hear our plea and answer even the smallest portion. Now the faint lights of Radha Kund are appearing in the distance to the right, will Sri Radhe hear our prayers? Turned left, passing a dark Kusum Sarovar. Silence out here, driving through Govardhan village to reach our starting point. Sadly, from yesterday’s free distribution of prasadam, there is a sea of plastic cups littering the road. We near our starting point…Please give us your vaisnava blessings, Bolo Giriraja Maharaja Ki Jai.. Jai Jai Sri Radhe..
[Later] Good parikrama today, greeted Gaura Shakti in Vrindavan, wanted to go to Barsana tonight but when we were on the national highway the brakes of the car totally gave out so we took it as a sign to return to Vrindavan. Had evening darshan of Radha Raman. Goodnight to all from Vraja.

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21 kms of dandavats: day 6

Today we celebrated Govardhan Puja by offering dandavats to Giriraja Govardhan. I remembered that one of the reasons Sri Krishna arranged the Govardhan Puja was to remove the pride of His devotee Indradeva. So among other prayers, I was humbly requesting Girigovardhan to please remove the Sumeru mountain of pride within my heart. Just like a sharp thorn thrust within the eye causes blindness, the sharp thorn of pride pierces the eye of our self-realisation and causes spiritual blindness. Please Giriraja, lift this mountain of pride from my heart and allow me to become your genuine devotee. Today we began in the lane leading to Jatipura village. Passing the Vallabha Sampradya Mukharavinda we proceeded to the end of the village, then turned left to return to the main road. The area along the boundary wall had been used as an open toilet. There were multicoloured mounds of freshly deposited remains of the previous day’s curries, and, the waters used for cleansing had trickled across our path. As I was prostrating my body in the dust, glancing left, catching various aromas, I realised that the bad, smelly desires of my heart were no better than the waste products on the side of the path. The only difference was that path-side stools had passed easily from someone’s body, whereas the stool-like desires of my heart cling and cling, never wanting to come out. As much as I may read, or chant, or pray, or serve, I am understanding that I am totally dependent upon the causeless grace of Sri Radhe and Sri Krishna to free my heart from these filthy material desires. O Giriraja-dharan, O Giriraja Govardhan, please bestow your grace upon me, allow me to one day become your devotee. Turning to the main road we proceeded a short distance till we again entered the inside path. As it was Govardhan Puja the parikrama path was full of pilgrims and the dust from their feet covered our bodies. Half way between Jatipura and Govardhan Village we stopped our parikarama, our car was waiting, we stopped at Giriraja Sweet Shop for kacoris with a pumpkin subji that was like a sweet hot chutney. Madhava bought fresh jalebis, delicious Bengali chum chums, and we proceeded to Kusum Sarovara for our bath and picnic. Returning home, the devotees had worshipped my Giriraja beautifully. The altar was decorated with many flower garlands, pleasant incense and aromatic oils were burning, Giriraja had eaten a feast cooked by Vrindavan Bihari, mountains of delicious fruits, and tons of sweets. My neighbour Balarama Baba sent samples of the 56 preparations he had offered to Giriraja, Vijaya Radhika prepared sweet rice that tasted like amrita from the spiritual world. After a long shower we honoured the Lord’s tasty foodstuffs. Then I fell into a deep comatose situation. After an hour I rallied my spirits, again bathed, dressed, and went to Madhava Prabhu’s kirtan on the MVT lawn. It was celestial. Following that the vaisnavas allowed me to sing in the temple. After offering my lamp to the deities I walked in the cool Vraja night to Varaha Ghat relishing japa. Though Diwali was yesterday, I can hear big explosions of firecrackers throughout Vrindavan. Good night dear friends from blessed Vrindavan on the evening of Govardhan Puja. I pray that you all had blissful celebrations filled with sweet remembrance of the Lord’s Govardhan Lila. May the ever merciful, best devotee of Lord Hari, Giriraja Govardhan fulfil your heart’s deepest spiritual yearnings. O Vrindavan, my home, the land I love, please let me serve you.

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21 kms of dandavats: day 5

Madhava led a soulful pre-Mangala Kirtan. More devotees come daily. On the road now for Giriraja .. Just turning off the highway on the Mathura Road to Govardhan. Please send blessings that our bodies will hold up .. And that our minds and prayers will be fixed. Jai Ho !! Giriraja Maharaja Ki Jai !!
[Later] Had a very wonderful parikrama today. Being blessed by a hazy autumn sky, we were not pinched by the sun. Nice thoughts that I would like to share but there is no time to write things down..

[Later] Tonight Madhava sang a great kirtan in the temple, we offered lamps, and returned home to celebrate Diwali. Vijaya lit candles around the house and in the garden and it was very beautiful. Radha Mohan purchased lots of firecrackers and I thought we had a real scene going till Balarama Baba began. Well, many atom bombs and various types of rockets are being exploded for Lord Rama tonite, a bit noisy, but I doubt there is a monkey for 10 Kilometres 🙂 Happy Diwalli to all !! May the lamp of love shine brightly in your hearts.

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21 kms of dandavats: day 4

03:54.. Bandages applied in essential spots, heading to the temple for half an hour’s kirtan with Madhava and then in the car for Vasundhara at Govardhan. Please send blessings that this nearly 61-year old carcass will move and the evil mind which accompanies it will be fixed in divine aspiration. Hare Krishna !! Jai Radhe Shyam !! Jai Giriraja Maharaja Ki Jai !!
Blessed parikrama today. Started at Vasundhara and we have progressed beyond Govinda Kund on the inside dirt path. At the end of Aniyor Village, before Sankarshana Kund, I was lovingly kissed on the face by a Vraja Pooch! My great fortune, I was fully accepted as a true Vraja Houndawg. The Vrajavasis who saw cheered in approval. First three hours were very energised, but the sun was tapping our speed in the last stretch. Passing Govinda Kund, beneath the trees, was like passing through Goloka Vrindavan. We had the holy darshan of Bir Krishna Goswami, Niranjana Swami, Photo by Ananda CaitanyaDhanurdhara Swami, Harideva and Mahaprabhu from South Africa, who were all walking on parikrama. The association was blissful, Govardhan was blissful, the trees were blissful, Giriraja’s cool breezes were saving us and were very blissful. At the end we all lay beneath a tree full of very talkative green parrots and we listened to their Krishna Katha. Then, being inspired, we all spoke a few words of Krishna Katha. That was most blissful. Then into our car, stopping at Giriraja Sweet Shop for a cold lassi and a rasogulla, we headed to Kusum Sarovar for our bath. After bathing, many cups of cold sugarcane juice and back home to Vrindavan. For lunch I cooked oatmeal with a very strong cumin, green chili, fresh ginger, hing masala.. fresh lime juice sweetened with mishri. Vijay Radhika made a very tasty fresh green salad and pan-fried tofu. Soon we will go to the temple and chant as Madhava Prabhu leads kirtan. Bolo Giriraja Maharaja Ki Jai, Giriraja Dharan Ki Jai, Bolo Vamsi Walle Ki Jai.. Jai Jai Sri Radhe !!

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21 kms of dandavats: day 3

Headlights show the lone form of a Vraja lady walking on the road, bright green skirt, head and face covered with a thin brilliant red dupatta, hands at her hips balancing 3 large multi-sized brass water pots above her head, the picture of feminine gracefulness and strength. In the dark we reach Manasi Ganga entrance at Govaradhan village, dandavats begin. Turning right, we pass Giriraja Sweet Shop and hear the voice of Deena Bandhu prabhu calling Radhe Shyam Baba. Placing my head on his feet, seeking blessings, then abusing my friendship and wiping my sweaty dusty face on his dhoti. Turning left at Dangati, a place where I have questioned the sanity of dandoti wallas for many years, the imperial pooch on the path won’t move, his eyes gazing into the distance like a sadhu immersed in nama japa, a cart carrying busa pulled by a horse wearing ankle bells and whose ears have been sculpted to be very small sharp points, banana carts on the left side luring buyers to purchase fruits as seva for my furry simian friends, stretching out in the midst of hundreds of the passionate rascals we keep the mind fixed on our sankalpa knowing that a single moment distraction will invoke Giriraja’s mercy in the form of ape bite. Dandavat down .. a beautiful brown heifer standing like a goddess, dandavat up, the heifer begins her run at high speed, leaping, twisting her body like a ballerina, kicking the air, being pursued by a stately white bull afflicted with amorous intent. Scooter rickshaws speeding surprisingly close to my head, funky Vraja tractor buses taking kids to school, turning on the inside path, shade, and soft cotton like Vraja dust has been ground and reground by the hooves of Shyam’s meandering Surabhi cows, Kadamba trees, the trees with the yellow blossoms, bougainvilla, the ever so soft dust, a 15 minute group break, all flat on our backs in the cool dust, a most blissful stretch of dandavats, Giriraja Govardhan always on our right, a very healthy young boy falsely cries that his very round and full belly is starving, silence, golden silence, sun rays slow us down, I stop cursing Suryadeva and request him to burn more and more, burn away all my desires, all false conceptions, and let a new spiritual person rise from the ashes, with only the desire to serve Radhe Shyam, we were all covered in soft dust, devotees walked by and did not recognize us, how wonderful, how nice, unknown, disguised in Vraja dust, the soul is disguised with the dust of countless births and material conceptions, O Giriraja, burn away the dirt of so many conceptions, so many hopes for material enjoyment, let us live the lives of souls surrendered to God, let us always dwell in the house of humility and let us have faith that in that house the Lord will create our special room of love. Vrajavasi boys play games with dandavatis, sometimes striking them with sticks or tossing dirt upon their bodies, testing if the dandavati keeps his mind fixed in the mood of humble yearning for spiritual attainment, Krishna is the most clever Vrajavasi boy, let Him arrange that our mind’s desire for fame, prestige, pride be beaten nicely, please Giriraja, let us keep our mind fixed upon the one thing we desire the most, Radha and Krishna’s pure devotional service. The hand pump near the gate of Vasundhara is our marker, 700 meters till Aniyor. Tomorrow at 05:30 we resume. O Vrindavan, my home, the land I love, please let me serve you.

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21 kms of dandavats: day 2

Yesterday at noon our team happily finished day two of our dandavat Parikrama. We dipped in Kusum Sarovara and returned to Vraja. In the evening Madhava prabhu sang the Gratitude melody and the temple room exploded with harinama. Now it’s Friday 21 Oct 05:21 and I am out the door, into the dark, for a solitary Vrindavan Parikrama japa walk. If I chant my japa sincerely I may meet Radhe Shyam as They quickly run from Their kunjas to Their homes at Nandagaon and Varsana. With slightly nervous, dark darting eyes gazing into the Vraja night, They may ask me to help with some small service to get home. O Kabe habe bolo .. sei din amar ?? Oh when oh when will that day be mine ??

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21 kms of dandavats: day 1

On Tuesday morning I left home at 05:00 accompanied by Madhava, Radha Mohan, Brajavasi Govinda and Bengali Gopinatha Bhadra. It was cool and very dark. Turning right at the Delhi highway we passed Chatikara and after a few kilometers turned left at Jait. The headlights cut the Vraja night and showed us red brick houses, blue doors, a saffron, white, green Indian flag painted on a boundary with a symbol of a hand instead of the dharma chakra, early risers squatting with fearful faces beneath hand pumps for their morning ablutions, shadows of large water buffaloes cast upon the walls, and small cow dung houses with ornamental design covering mounds of cooking patties. We arrived at the railway tracks waiting 15 minutes as two express train roared past one another. Returning to the Govardhan Road before Ral, we crossed the irrigation canal, passed Mukhara’s village, and slowly entered Radha Kund. When our driver parked in front of State Bank of India we left all inessentials and silently walked to Radha Kund. Moving down the steep ramp at the end of the Kund we performed acaman, offered obeisance, prayers, and were greeted by Sacinandan Swami and Sruta Kirti Prabhu. Maharaja reminded us that our parikrama was seva to please Radha and Krishna and that we should keep ourselves internally aligned with a fixed vow and prayer of divine aspiration. Hearing his deep instructions, sweetly spoken with a smile, we went the feet of Kundesavara Mahadeva and began the offering of our dandavats. Taking short breaks we concluded after 4.5 hours at Kusum Sarovar. Covered with a thick plaster of Vraja dust, mixed with perspiration, we took bath in the cool waters of Kusum Sarovara. I prayed that as the waters of the lake washed away the dust from our bodies, that our parikrama would wash away the dust of our hearts. Remembering Shyamsundar’s harassment of the Gopis collecting flowers at Kusum Sarovar we hoped for Giriraja Govardhan’s grace, to one day see these pastimes, and to become a flower-picking servant, protected by Sri Radha, as Krishna attempts to steal her flowers. O Vrindavan, my home, the land I love, please let me serve you.

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Home is Where the Heart is

This afternoon I went for a long japa walk. Returning, I was happy to see that Vijay Radhika had posted another inspirational album of photos from Vraja.

It has been said, “home is where the heart is.” Vraja is our home; the true residence of our heart, the realm that always resides within our heart.

We think of Vraja daily, and daily we desire to be there. I think it is similar to that feeling that a man feels for a woman, and vice versa, when they share love. They always desire to be together.

Srila Rupa Goswami has spoken about love. In a gist he has said that when there is every conceivable reason to stop a relationship, but the relationship is maintained, that is love.

And Srila Visvanatha has also touched on love. He has said that bad acts do not decrease it, and good things do not increase it, because it is causeless. That is love.

So despite scooter and car horns, loudspeakers, banging kitchen pots from Balaram Baba’s kitchen, the heat, the endless construction, the open drains, the malaria, the rickshaw wallas, the endlessly clever merchants in the market, the screaming pandits at the holy places, the thieves, the cattle rustlers, the dogs (who are quite cool), the monkeys (who are quite totally insane), actually, despite all the reasons our seemingly organized brain tells us we should avoid the place, we daily hanker to go there.

Maybe we do love Vraja … even just a little. Still, that is a good step in the direction of loving Krishna.

When you love a person you always think of that person. Then, if another person fills you with special remembrance of the person you love, that person is a dear and special friend.

Sri Krishna explained this to Narada after the Nava Vrindavan Lila in Dwaraka.

As He explained the glorious love of the Vraja Gopis to his queen Satyabhama, the fire-like moods of love in separation began to again rise within His heart. Uddhava, Satyabhama and Rohini saw these exquisite moods rising. In order to avoid another calamity they distracted the Lord’s mind by inviting Him to come take delicious food prepared for Him by Rohini.

As Sri Krishna prepared to leave His room He saw Narada Muni standing in the doorway. Narada was overwhelmed with ecstasy by everything that he had heard and seen. He could not speak and appeared to be in a stunned and fearful state.

The Lord immediately greeted Narada and asked him why he had not freely entered His room? He had entered the Lord’s palaces thousands of times before, why was he not entering now?

Uddhava responded by saying Narada was fearful that he had committed an offence by instigating the Nava Vrindavan Lila. After all, it was Narada’s curiosity to find the greatest recipient of the Lord’s mercy that had provoked the entire lila.

But the Lord told Narada that the situation was very much to the contrary.

Sri Krishna professed that His most profound mercy and love is with the ladies of Vraja. And loving them so intensely, in the mood of separation, His mind at every moment was with them.

And, as Narada had caused Him to remember the devotees that He loves the most, Narada was certainly not an offender. Rather, Narada was truly His best friend.

So my thanks to Vijay Radhika, Shyam Gopal, Radha Mohan, the small team at Vrindavan Experience. They are always reminding me, and many other friends, of the place we love the most, Sri Vrindavan Dham. You are all very dear friends. Thank you all very much.

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