Chandan Yatra. The festival of the hot season.

Chandan Yatra at Krishna-Balaram temple in Vrindavan. This video brings you both the festival atmosphere and the sneak view of the preparation behind the altar curtain.

Chandan Yatra at Krishna-Balaram temple in Vrindavan. Chandan Yatra is a festival which is celebrated during the hot season. Temple Deities all over the India are covered with sandalwood paste known for its cooling effect. This video brings you both the festival atmosphere and a sneak view of the preparation behind the altar curtain.

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photo by Govinda SwamiI arrived to the Krishna Balaram temple but was too late for the morning arati, having been in the car from Delhi airport most of the night. I sat down doing some meditation, enjoying being back in Vrindavan and waiting for the altar to open. The minutes were crawling on quite slowly and I had been waiting for months. Now it was only a few minutes and finally the doors opened. The priests were blowing their conch, and seconds later the curtain was drawn.
photo by Shyam GopalI was standing right in front of Him, and he was smiling, happy to see me (?) again. I realize how great his love is, he is not a piece of marble, marble cannot radiate love like he does, and marble cannot communicate.

The kirtan was more and more powerful and reaching its climax. The mridanga player was making a big show, like a transcendental rock artist, and suddenly the kirtan was over and everybody bowed down to the floor in a dandavat pranam.

I had forgot the Bhagavad Gita book at home, so I went to the Goura Nitai bookstall to buy some new books to read on the journey I was about to undertake. Standing by the counter, I noticed some pendants looking like Sri Radha’s feet, and I heard somebody telling me to buy one of them and put it into my shirt pocket. What could I do but accept the request?

A few minutes later, we were sitting in the car heading for Gangotri but before, to Meerut and Rishikesh. We stopped in New Delhi for lunch and some shopping, and a couple of hours later we reached Meerut Abu lane, Babajis house.
Abhir and Prithi came to meet us. It was good to be back with my brothers and sisters in Meerut.

We were sitting and talking with Abhir and Prithi, when the small voice from inside said “Now you can give Sri Radha’s feet pendant to her”.
I picked up the little box from my pocket, gave it to Prithi and told her, “I am bringing you Sri Radha’s feet from Vrindavan”. She was speechless. Abhir then told us that it was her birthday that day and that in the morning, she had prayed for long to Sri Radha that she wanted to always be in Sri Radha’s devotional service. Then a few hours later, I was bringing the pendant with Sri Radha’s footprints.

I then told her I’m only the mail man here, the givers of this gift are Radha and Shyamasundar and they were using me as postman since I was coming here. Time in Meerut is always too short. We had to reach Rishikesh by the evening and were trying to get there in time for Ganga arati. Soon, we were on the road again.

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Radha Raman temple

The celebration of the appearance of the Sri Sri Radha-Raman deity. According to tradition, young priests, the sons of the chief Goswamis, fetch water from the holy Yamuna river. The ceremony continues with the bathing of Sri Radha Raman with different liquids: saffron water, ghee, milk and yogurt. Crowds of visitors seize the opportunity to see Radha Raman on this special day.
This video is available on Glimpses of Vraja DVD.

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photo by Govinda SwamiBefore going to Vrindavan I heard so many times that this place is special. Before my trip I read so many books about this Holy Vrindavan. I thought I was ready for this special trip but … the adventures were coming….. 🙂
At Delhi airport my friend and I decided to go to Vrindavan not by taxi but by public transport (thinking we could manage it). That was our mistake, we underestimated this country. India is very extraordinary! It took us eight hours to get to Vrindavan (If you take a taxi, usually it takes  you about 3 hours…) photo by Govinda SwamiThere were so many adventures on our way: the bus got broken several times, I had to stop the bus because I didn’t feel well, we had to take different motor-rickshaws packed with a huge bunch of people. When we arrived at Krishna-Balaram Mandir (the ISKCON temple) we were sooooo happy to reach this special place finally!
photo by Shyam GopalOur friend found a very nice ashram for us.  Our room was simple and a little bit austere but we loved it. Our ashram was situated in a temple. Whenever we were going out of our room, immediately we could find ourselves in the temple room. Every morning we were woken up by sounds of indian musical instruments and sweet melodies of mantra Radhe Syam. This experience is unforgettable!
I liked to spend my mornings in different Vrindavan temples (by the way, there are more than 5000 temples in Vrindavan, that’s impressive, isn’t it..?) I was sitting in a temple, meditating, chanting the Maha-Mantra and watching the people in the temple. photo by Govinda SwamiI was very fascinated by how every early morning people would rush to one of their favorite temples and they would stand in a queue to buy a garland or sweets for the Lord, they would crowd the temple room, trying to pass their offerings to the temple pujari so that he could offer them to the Lord. And only after making these offerings would they go to work. This happens every morning!!! While I was watching the Vrindavan style of life I remembered Moscow mornings…people are rushing to their work, they are standing in a queue to buy cigarettes or newspapers,  then they are stuck in huge traffic jams. Everybody is aggressive and angry, all their thoughts are only about  work, money and (I hope) family…
photo by Govinda SwamiI love Vrindavan! God is in the centre of everybody’s life and the result is: Vrindavan inhabitants are peacefully happy!
I wish I could go to Vrindavan every year and experience this spiritual happiness. When you are surrounded by sadhus, spiritually happy people, you become happy as well, it’s contagious!!!

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A Misty Morning

One of these early winter mornings in Vrindavan…
This video is available on Glimpses of Vraja DVD.

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photo by Shyam GopalVrindavana, Vrindavana!.. Here cows are wandering along the streets, dogs don’t bark at passers-by, but at one another when they cannot get on with each other. Sluggish buffaloes resting and chewing grass with their young can be seen everywhere. Monkeys jump from twigs to roof, from roof to wires, from there on travelers, and steal their glasses and fruits. Hogs are happily grunting in town waste water and eating up tailings at disposal tips. photo by Shyam GopalPeacocks are calling here and there, and at times they can be seen sitting on the fences or on the trees, or dancing, with their beautiful tails open. Big green parrots are merging with the trees, but by scrutinizing their leaves you’ll see – here they are, Vrindavana’s dandies! Beautiful black and headlong-streaming Yamuna river with its sweet water is half embracing the town of Vrindavana. Everywhere grow, and at every home people are growing, small trees of holy basil, Tulasi, or Vrinda. Vridavana is named after this graceful plant, Vrinda, and “vana” means “forest”. The forest of Tulasi-trees…

photo by Shyam GopalIt is not so easy to go to Vrindavana. In the holy Vedic scriptures, it is said that even those who are of the highest rank and those who are wealthy or well-educated, cannot enter Vrindavana without God’s grace. It is great fortune to come to Vrindavana. Vrindavana is God’s embassy on earth, his home, holy land, where every grain of sand or a stone is a jewel, every step is a dance, and every word is a song. “Hmm” – you will probably smile. Well, if you don’t take it on trust – then test! I had no faith before. “All right! It is the holy land, and it is wonderful of course. And what next?” This is what comes next: all cherished desires are fulfilled in Vrindavana. The point is that when one comes here, something starts to take place, something strange. The heart aches. The soul longs to find its place in the world, and find out who is behind everything. Answers to all these questions come in Vrindavana.

photo by Shyam GopalWhen I came to Vrindavana for the first time, I got off the taxi, looked around and became afraid. I thought I will understand nothing, because everything around me appeared so ordinary, and even weird for us Westerners – waste water, hogs on the streets… But I remembered how I had read in a book that when one comes to a holy place, one should bow down to it and ask it to bestow its mercy upon one. So I did that. When I arose, I was completely transformed. I did not expect that a place I had never seen before would welcome me as its family member. As if by magic, or with the help of an affectionate relative, I at once found a room in a hotel. It was a good and really inexpensive one, and I didn’t have much money at that time. photo by Govinda SwamiI went to the Hare Krishna temple and met my girlfriend from Moscow there. She invited me to assist her in making flower garlands for the deities in the temple. It is special mercy to do something for God in his home. Then I met another acquaintance, and for the next few days, she was my guide to the different places in Vrindavana, on which she spoke. By then, I liked being in Vrindavana so much that I did not want to leave at all. And you know what happened then? My return ticket could not be confirmed, and I was told that it could be only confirmed for another date, a week later! I got everything I wanted – visiting many temples, personal service to God, staying longer – all these things I got at once!

A remarkable, for me, story happened there. When I made a flower garland for the first time, the priest did not put it on the deity of Krishna. I was upset because I decided that God did not accept my service. My acquaintance requested me to make a garland once again, and when I came to the temple the next day, I found that Krishna was wearing my garland! Usually there are special garlands made for Krishna and Radhika, his beloved; they differ from others. On the morning the priests dress the deities in new attire and put fresh garlands on them. photo by Shyam GopalSo on that day, Krishna was wearing his usual garland as well as the one I made for him – two at once! Can you imagine my joy – God reciprocated with me, accepted my garland, which I made for him. He showed me that he knows the heart and desires of everyone. On that day, faith appeared in my heart that God is a person, and that he is not indifferent to me. He reciprocates, he always answers our prayers, requests, questions, he fulfills our desires and guides us to him, in different ways, but to the same place – the eternal abode of God, where everything is eternal, and filled with knowledge and bliss of love, where every grain of sand or stone is a jewel, every step is a dance, and every word is a song – to Vrindavana.

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