09 November 2006

Kartik Diary 21

The Kolkata Experience

Hare Krishna Kirtan - Life in Leicester
Eternal Bliss in New Vraja Dham
Vraja Mandala Parikrama 11

Dear Devotees
Jay Jagannatha!

Yesterday evening we left Puri with the over night train to Kolkata. We shared our compartment with two elderly Bengali ladies who unfortunately didn't speak any English. We were much surprised when they pulled out their bead bags with the maha mantra written on it and started to chant silently. Just see, no one escapes Srila Prabhupada's mercy. It is almost everywhere, and if not it is our sacred duty to distribute it to those who have been left out so far!

Early in the morning we arrived in Kolkata and soon after at the ISKCON temple on Albert Road. We had reserved two rooms at the Guest House because we wanted to spend one day in Kolkata to search for a harmonium.

After taking a shower we were just in time for ‘Greeting of the Deities' (Darshan Arati) and Guru Puja. There were only a few devotees at the temple. The deities of Sri Sri Radha Govinda, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Jagannatha, Baladeva, Subhadra looked very beautiful. I have been to the temple at least once before but that must have been over a decade ago. At that time there was no guest house.

Sri Sri Radha Govinda at ISKCON Kolkata

The class was unfortunately in Bengali. We therefore sat in the reception area and chanted our rounds. After class there was prasadam. We inquired about places where to get a good harmonium. One devotee suggested to see 'Nanda Musical Instruments' at Lalbazaar as they were sponsors for the temple's Janmastami book. After an adventurous taxi ride through the congested streets of Kolkata we eventually found the Nandha Shop. It was a small store front and the owner was eager to show me different types of harmoniums. I was not very much impressed of any of them I have to say.

I have seen a very beautiful harmonium in Sona Rupa in Leicester and was told they come from Kolkata. That was all I knew, 'Paul & Co'. I thought that will be not too difficult to find them but when I asked the devotees at the Kolkata temple no one knew.

Leaving Nandha's Musical Store I spotted 'Sardar Musical Instruments', a name I only knew too well because I had ordered my very first harmonium from them in the eighties while residing in New Mayapur, France. It was shipped by air mail at the time, which cost almost the same as the harmonium itself. It was a good harmonium which lasted over a decade.

We went into the store, were taken to the warehouse and were shown different models. One had a good and brilliant sound but the manufacturing quality and workmanship was nothing great and seemed the same since the eighties. It appeared rather as a cheapish mass production. Leaving the warehouse I said I would phone if I decided to purchase the seen model as it had to be still fine tuned what would take approximately two hours. We said good bye to the elderly chatty gentleman who could remember seeing Neru, Chrustchew and the American President of the time visiting Kolkata and left the store.

On the street we asked various people including friendly policemen but no one knew 'Paul & Co'. Eventually someone mentioned Howra, which is on the other side of the city and the other side of the Ganga. Now I remembered that one devotee also mentioned Howra and we decided to give it a try even we had no address, just a name. If that is a big music shop, I thought, we will surely find it. How wrong I was. We stopped a taxi but the young and somewhat shy driver did only speak Bengali and had obviously no musical knowledge or interest what to speak of knowing where to find 'Paul & Co'. We were happy he knew where Howra was.

Jagannatha, Subhadra and Baladeva at Albert Road

Driving in Kolkata is a nightmare, I have to say, especially if you are sitting in the front seat of an old Ambassador who's heating system seemed to be on all the time in outside temperatures of 30 Celsius and who's exhaust pipe seemed to enter the inside of the car right by my feet.

After a few near hits with a bus and after almost knocking a man off his bike we eventually crossed the Ganga bridge into Howra, Kolkata's industrial quarters it seemed.

To describe the traffic nightmare of Kolkata is almost impossible, one has to see it for oneself. Traffic rules do exist but no one follows them. Anything goes and if the car or bike fits in the small gap between the bus and the lorry then go for it before someone else does. The main rule is the larger vehicle always wins and if you get away with whatever you do then you are ok, and if not then someone will surely shout and even swear at you. One does not need to speak Bengali to understand that. And then you give a good shout to someone else who just did the very same thing for what you have been shouted at. A type of pecking order, but it seems to work some how or other and no one really knows how. On many lorries one can see written on the back ‘Good Luck'. One really needs that.

After repeatedly asking people for directions we spotted a sign 'Paul & Co' but it was outdated and the shop had already moved. Finally we got some helpful answers from a young Brahmin boy who spoke some English. We were on the right track.

Our journey took us through obscure back streets and I have to admit that the thought of a set-up and a robbery was closer to my mind than finding a music shop. This thought was even amplified when suddenly a fattish Bengali man jumped into the car. However, it turned out later that this man was perhaps our best alley and guide in finding the music shop. He spoke something about factory and workshop and it became clear that we were actually not looking for a showroom. By now our taxi driver also looked bewildered and fed up. Surely he did not expect a journey over hours but rather a short trip around the block perhaps. He must have been worried as we were supposed to pay by taxi meter, which had by now gone once around the clock already.

Finally after more narrow pathways hardly wide enough for a car we arrived at our destination and our guide introduced us to an elderly Bangladeshi gentleman, Mr Paul. We had arrived!

It turned out that this was his home and his workshop or factory as well. And yes, he had the most exquisite harmonium I have ever seen. He had just 20 workers who put the whole thing together by hand in a very careful and skilled way. They were just producing one model and when I mentioned 'Sardar' or 'Nandha' he just laughed and said 'big showroom'. Obviously he was not impressed by their instruments. Nor was I after seeing this masterpiece. He produced only 60 instruments a month, most if not all for export. He mentioned New York, Swami Narayan and ISKCON.

Unfortunately we had only English money left but he wanted only Rupees for obvious tax reasons. Now the next nightmare started of having the laksmi changed into Rupees. The only bank open after 2 pm was ICICI not too far away. However, they seem to have never seen Pound Sterling as the inspected one 20 Pound note from all sides. Eventually the branch manager got involved and after many phone calls they agreed to change it.

Next came identification. Fortunately I had wisely taken my passport with me. The next obstacle was that there was no address in my passport. After again many phone calls I had to write a declaration and sign it. However, my signature didn't exactly match the one in my passport from some 10 years ago or more. Next all the numbers on the bank notes had to be written down and checked against a computer record. I wonder what would have happened if one of the notes was not genuine or came from the recent robbery of a security depot in England. I don't dare to think of it.

Eventually after a few hours in the bank and the excuse that the system was slow today we headed back to Mr Paul who kindly offered us some Rasagullas, Gulabjamoons and a drink. After a tour through the factory and a hand written receipt which took ages to complete we went back to our taxi. The driver was by now in a desperate condition. We reassured him and gave our guide a donation to his satisfaction and left for the ISKCON temple. There we rewarded our taxi driver to his satisfaction and went to our room. What an experience! I thought we could get an harmonium in a couple of hours but it took us all day. In the end it was all worth the while. We got an exeptionally beautiful harmonium for half the price than at Sona Rupa.

After this Kolkata experience we needed a good meal in the near by Govinda's restaurant. Taking a taxi back to the temple we had a driver who got lost all the time driving us around the block it seemed and asking a ridiculous price upon our arrival. We didn't give him what he asked for and left.

While completing this last report of our pilgrimage we are sitting in the plane and are flying over Germany. We should be in London in approximately one hour. The plane is more than half empty. We had a great pilgrimage, better than ever before. Time has been standing still all the while and looking on my mobile which day and date we have it seems meaningless. Have we left yesterday for Vrindavan or was it the day before? Five weeks gone? Impossible!

We have a lot of nectar for all of you. We have been thinking of you all the while. I hope you enjoyed the reports and we were able to share some drops of nectar with you.

Please visit us this Saturday for our evening program at 7 pm. It would be so great to see you all. We have much more nectar to share with hundreds of photos, new CDs and DVDs, some pastime recordings with Deena Bandhu Prabhu and of course Maha Prasadam from Vrindavan, Mayapur and Jagannatha Puri. There is something for everyone.

I hope this meets you all in good health and in a happy Krishna conscious mood.

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

06 November 2006

Kartik Diary 20

Ughra Nrsimha's Mercy

Eternal Bliss - New Vraja Dham - Nrsimha Caturdasi 2004
Vraja Mandala Parikrama 10

Dear Devotees
Jay Jagannatha!

Today we took an early morning bath in the sea. The sky was somewhat overclouded and even send a few drops of rain down to earth.. This gave much relief to everyone being afflicted by the great heat. In the late afternoon it actually started to rain lightly accompanied by the distant rumbling and the flashes of lightning of a thunderstorm. It appeared just like a concert of mrdungam drums.

In the morning we went to the Jagannatha temple for parikrama. The temple tower is 60 meters high but appears even higher as it stands on a hill. The temple dome is crowned by the huge bluish neela chakra made out of eight metals having a diameter of over 11 feet and measuring 36 feet in circumference. On top of the chakra a colourful triangular flag flies in the calm sky to greet visitors to Purusottama Ksetra from a distance. The flag is changed daily and shows different colours. Yesterday it was yellow with a red lying crescent moon and a red dot in it, today it had a light pinkish colour. It is stated in Caitanya Caritamrta that seeing Lord Jagannath's chakra on top of the temple is as good as seeing the deities.

Chakra and Flag on top of Lord Jagannatha's Temple

Lord Jagannath's kitchen is said to be largest kitchen in the world. With its 752 stoves it is capable to cook for 100,000 people in one day and 25,000 meals is normal on a festival day. Lord Jagannatha receives one main offering in the afternoon and six offerings throughout the day. Every day a variety of 56 items is offered to the Lord. The temple has 6,000 priests.

The temple has two rectangular walls surrounding it; the outer wall is six meters high and there are four gates on each side. The southern gate is the Ashwadvara or horse gate, the western gate is the Vyaghradvara or tiger gate, the northern gate the Hastidvara or elephant gate and the famous eastern gate or Simhadvara is the lion gate. It is this gate at which Raghunatha Das Goswami used to beg alms.

Ashwadvara or Horse Gate

After circumambulating Lord Jagannatha's temple we went to the Gundica Mandir, which is at the other side of the Grand Road, Lord Jagannath's route of the three chariots at Ratha Yatra. Unfortunately Westerners are not allowed to enter. We therefore went to the near by Nrsimhadeva temple, which is normally also not accessible to Westerners. However there was no one guarding the entrance so I just walked in depending on Lord Nrsimhadeva's mercy. No one stopped me.

To my great surprise a pujari signalled to me to follow him and he brought me right in front of the Lord. When I asked him if I could take a photo he said 'donation' and I pulled out 10 Rupees, however, he seemed not yet satisfied. After repeating this process three more times he allowed me to take the photo. The Lord looked peaceful with Prahlada and Laksmi at His side and for an additional 100 Rupees the pujari lit a candle and revealed the original Ughra (angry) Nrsimhadeva deity right behind Laksmi Nrsimha. It looked like an ancient deity of a bygone age. It is said that whoever visits the Lord at this temple all ones anxieties are removed.

Nrsimhadeva Temple near Gundica Mandir

After visiting Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's birth place at the Caitanya Gaudiya Math we returned to our guest house where the very friendly owner had arranged some Jagannath prasadam for us. To our great surprise the prasadam was still hot. We sat down on the balcony, spread out the banana leafs and respected the Lord's remnants. They came in earthen pots and consisted of a large quantity of rice with some dhal, almost a light kitri, dhal, two subjis, a sweet puri-like japati and some type of jalebee. We are supposed to receive some dry maha prasadam tomorrow to take with us and share with all of you on our return to the UK. Lord Jagannath's maha prasadam ki jaya!

While writing this the thunderstorm has come closer, the electricity is off and a heavy downpoor has taken over from the light drizzle. People are running for shelter and even the otherwise slowly and peaceful walking cows are picking up some pace while a lonely cyclist holding an umbrella and a man with a plastic bag over his head are trying to find some shelter. Meanwhile we are sitting peacefully and much satisfied by so much mercy from the 'Lord of the Universe' on the balcony of our 'Shanti Guest House' discussing our plans for our imminent departure from Jagannatha Puri Dham tomorrow evening.

Jay Jagannatha! Jay Jagannatha Puri Dham!

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

05 November 2006

Kartik Diary 19

Kartik Purnima

Oh Vaishnava Thakura
Jay Kanhaya Lala Ki

Dear Devotees
Jay Jagannatha!

Today is Purnima and therefore the last day of Kartik. We went early in the morning to the sea where thousands of people had made little boats from banana trunks or out of paper, equipped them with camphor, ghee lamps and flowers and sent them into the sea along with their prayers. It was a beautiful sight to see all these beautiful ships and rafts along with their lights, flowers and other offerings sailing into the ocean to be swallowed up by the gigantic waves. The dim light of the rising sun emerging right over the sea gave the entire scene a mystical impression as young and old put their ships into the waters and then entered the waters themselves in a joyous festival of bathing and splashing. Others wrote Sanskrit verses into the soft sand only to be erased shortly afterwards by the mighty waves of the powerful sea.

The Beach on Kartik Purnima

As usual whenever numbers of people gather little stalls or sellers displaying their goods on the ground appeared from nowhere. Others, skilled in the art of persuation, carried their goods on their shoulders and approached receptive individuals. All in all it was a huge open air festival with joyous faces, bright smiles and laughter accompanied by the shrill sound of fire crackers.

Later in the morning, after having taken our bath in the sea, we visited the temple of Tota Gopinatua. One can take there darshan of Sri Gadhadhara Pandit's beautiful deity of Tota Gopinatha in which Lord Caitanya merged when He wound up His pastimes. The deity is the only deity in sitting posture. The Lord took this position because Gadhadhara Pandit could not serve His Lord properly due to old age. So great is the Lord's love for His devotee.

Thereafter we visited Siddha Bakula, the place where Haridas Thakur stayed and chanted his daily laks of Hare Krishna mantras. The original tree under which Haridas sat to chant his rounds can still be seen.

We also visited the samadhi of Haridas Thakur. There are many wonderful paintings all around the temple depicting various pastimes with Haridas and Lord Caitanya. We were fortunately able to take photos of most of them so we can share the nectar with all of you. Therefore please come to our program on Saturday 11 Nov. at 7 pm where we will share the first portion of this nectar with you.

The Prostitute surrenders to Haridas Thakura

Next we visited the Gambhira, the place where Lord Caitanya stayed in the mood of deep separation from His beloved Lord. The original quarters can still be seen along with the Lord's slippers. It is very wonderful to visit these sacred sites as it brings the Caitanya Caritamrita and Caitanya Bhagavad really to live. We not only hear or read about these pastime places of the Lord but we can actually see and touch them and offer our prostrated obeisances.

In the evening we went to the many stalls on the sea front where we were able to purchase some nice coral and conch necklaces for our beloved Lords Sri Sri Nitai Saci-Sundar.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Ki Jaya! Jagannatha Swami Ki Jaya!

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

04 November 2006

Kartik Diary 18

The Ocean of Lord Caitanya's Mercy

Sri Guru Carana Padma
Vraja Mandala Parikrama 09

Dear Devotees
Jay Jagannatha!

The Indian Ocean is really great, mighty and awe inspiring. This is true particularly now as we are heading towards purnima or full moon. We went to the sea this afternoon but the waves are so mighty and huge that one cannot stand ones ground very long or enter too far into it.

The beach is sandy and flat but the waves are just too huge to swim. Once past purnima the sea will calm somewhat we have been told. Unfortunately by then we will have left Puri already. It should also be mentioned that the water is so warm and pleasant that one could easily spend hours on end in it. Jimmy went a bit too far into the breaking waves so the mighty sea took his glasses from his nose to claim it her property. Fortunately he has a second pair with him.

The ISKCON Temple in Puri

After our bath in the sea and some deserved rest from the odorous train journey we ventured into town centre to visit the ISKCON temple with its beautiful Radha Krishna deities and a deity of Lord Caitanya. However, there were only a few devotees present. Next we headed towards Lord Jagannatha's grand and famous temple which has been standing there for countless centuries.

On our way through the busy and narrow alleyways of Puri we passed many shops, ashrams and temples, some of Durga and others of Kali etc. till we finally spotted Lord Jagannath's chakra and flag reaching majestically into the calm evening sky. It looked like they were touching the clouds. It is the very same chakra which Lord Caitanya worshipped when spotting it from a distance on His first journey to Puri.

A Glimpse of the Jagannatha Temple in Puri

It is also the same chakra crowning the dome of Lord Jagannath's temple to which Haridas Thakur daily offered his respectful obeisances from a distance as he was not allowed to enter the temple because he took his birth in a Muslim family. Rupa and Sanatan were both equally excluded due to accepting service in the Muslim government of the day. As Westerners we are also not permitted to enter Lord Jagannatha's temple. We therefore feel in good company.

Jagannatha Swami Ki Jaya!

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

03 November 2006

Kartik Diary 17

Purusottama Ksetra

Nilacala Mahaprabhu 1
Nilacala Mahaprabhu 2
Nilacala Mahaprabhu 3
Nilacala Mahaprabhu 4
Nilacala Mahaprabhu 5
Nilacala Mahaprabhu (all tracks)
Varsana Song

Dear Devotees
Jay Jagannath!

Today we arrived in Jagannath Puri. The overnight train journey was like traveling in a fridge due to the air conditioning. This was especially amplified because my bed was on top right next to the air vents. I managed some how or other to cover two of the vents with a sheet and pulled the blanket over my head after putting on a warm pullover. We survived somehow with and arrived with a few hours delay in Puri.

Sunset over the Bay of Bengal

The guest house which mother Racitambara in Mayapur recommended to us looks nice and clean and is only a few minutes away from the beach front. We saw the Indian ocean on our way to the Shanti guest house. It looks magnificent and awe inspiring with a seemingly endless coastal line and its huge waves. We will certainly inspect the waters which bathed Lord Caitanya's body after which He was caught in the net of the fisherman. It is also the very same ocean in which the wooden logs were found to be carved into Lord Jagannath. As such this ocean is a place of pilgrimage. After a bath we are planning to visit the Jagannatha temple.

Jay Jagannatha, Subadra, Baladeva!

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

Kartik Diary 16

Good Bye Sri Dham Mayapur

Chaitanya Bhagavata by Vrindavana Dasa Thakura
Chaitanya Charitamrta by Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami
Vraja Mandala Parikrama 08

Dear Devotees
Nitai Gaura Haribol!

Today we booked our train to Jagannatha Puri, Purusottama Ksetra, where Lord Caitanya spent 30 years of His life. We will be on the over night train which arrives in Puri in the early morning hours. It will be my very first visit to Puri even though I have been visiting India for the past 28 years. When entering Vrindavan I usually never feel the need of going anywhere else. In fact I never want to leave Vrindavan when it comes to it.

Yesterday morning we visited Lord Caitanya's birth place, which is only 20 minutes from Sri Dham Mayapur. One can still see the original neem tree under which Nimai was born. The temple houses the deities of Jagannath Mishra, Saci Mata and Nimai.

Next we visited Srivas Angan, the birth place of Lord Caitanya's sankirtan movement. It was here in Srivas Thakur's home that a handfull of devotees in the association of Lord Caitanya started the chanting of Hare Krishna. These blissful kirtans took place behind locked doors throughout the entire night but soon spilled out into the streets to engulf everyone.

Jagannatha Mandir

We also visited the Jagannath Mandir and were just in time for pushpanjali as it was Srila Gaura Khishore Das Babaji Maharaja's disappearance day. The glories of Srila Gaura Kishore Das Babaji are without limit as he was renunciation personified. He ate only what came to him by its own accord and if nothing was available he just ate mud from the bank of the Ganga to fill his stomach.

Furthermore we were able to see Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Maharaja's samadhi and Murari Gupta's residence. Murari was an intimate associate of Lord Caitanya, who revealed during His Maha Prakash Lila Murari's eternal spiritual form as Hanuman. Murari was an ardent follower of Lord Ramachandra and we were not surprised when the pujari induced us to chant Ram, Ram, Ram.

Murari was also a physician or ayurvedic doctor who always debated grammar and logic with the Lord. The Lord thoroughly defeated all of Murari's arguments and sent him home to study his books again. Thereafter Lord Gaurasundar asked Murari why he was wasting his time with grammar and logic, it would be better to cure people's illness instead. In this way Nimai Pandit had wonderful exchanges with His devotee Murari Gupta. All these wonderful descriptions can be found in Vrindavan Das Thakur's Caitanya Bhagavat.

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

30 October 2006

Kartik Diary 15

Sridham Mayapur

Mayapur Shenai - Morning Raga
Mayapur Shenai - Evening Raga
Jaya Jaya Radhe Jaya Jaya Syam
Nadia Godrume

Dear Devotees

Today is our first full day in Sri Dham Mayapur. Slowly I am settling in but my mind still wanders back to the beautiful and all attractive scenery of Vrindavan and to Radhe Shyama's soft lotus feet. Sastra says that there is no difference between the holy dhams of Vrindavan and Mayapur, however, Braj and the Brajavasis seem to be endowed with a special kind of sweetness and a flavor which cannot be found anywhere else.

Sri Sri Radha Madhava looked so enchanting this morning surrounded by Their eight gopis who are loving service personified. After the morning program we made arrangements for Frank's ashes to be dispersed into the Ganga. Frank was our main contact at the Anchor Club where we serve prasadam to the homeless and needy for the past so many years. He offered various services to the Hare Krishna Centre and got gradually more and more involved. As he had no relatives we took it on ourselves to put his ashes into the Ganga. It appears that his entire family perished in the tsunami which affected vast parts of south east Asia. Just see the unimaginable mercy of the Lord. Frank offered a little service to Krishna and got rewarded liberation by the holy waters of mother Ganga. We were just an instrument in this.

Ashes Ceremony at the Ganga

Jananivas Prabhu kindly agreed to conduct the ceremony. He asked me to secure some cow dung, cow urine and honey. At the goshalla Gaurahari Prabhu amazed me by going straight to a particular cow to collect cow urine. He lifted her tail and she immediately started to pass urine. He must have pressed some secret button or chanted a confidential mantra I thought to myself.

After collecting cow dung and cow urine I delivered both along with some honey to Jananivasa Prabhu. Jananivasa, though originally from the UK, has taken the order of Srila Prabhupada as his life and soul and stayed and served along with his twin brother Pankajangri in Sri Dham Mayapur for the past 36 years without interruption. Both brothers are an example of devotion and dedication to the order of their spiritual master hardly to be found anywhere else.

One hour later Jananivasa Prabhu, Jimmy, myself and Nandini Radha Mataji went to the Ganga, bathed there and performed the last rites for Frank. May Frank find eternal shelter under Lord Krishna's lotus feet and be rewarded pure devotional service or at least a birth in a family of transcendentalists rich in knowledge and thus revive his original Krishna Consciousness in the association of pure devotees.

The Gopis on Gopastami

Today is Gopastami. To everyone's great surprise Srimati Radhika and her eight gopi friends were dressed as gopas, transcendental cowherd boys, holding sticks and flutes in their lotus-like hands. It was a great sight and was a first in the history of Sridham Mayapur. I have taken many photos to share the nectar with all of you once we are back in Leicester.

Late this morning devotees went on a procession with the cows throughout Mayapur and back to the goshalla. Senior devotees such as Harisauri Prabhu, Jananivas (Pankajangri) Prabhu, Padmalocana Prabhu and others spoke on the significance of the cows and cow protection and varnashram dharma. Devotees were also given the opportunity to feed the cows bananas, mung beans and gour. The cows very much liked such a feast and accepted eagerly and thankfully our offerings. Some devotees even volunteered to wash and brush the cows.

The next item was a Vedic fire yajna performed by gurukula students and teachers. It was a colourful event during which Vedic mantras such as the purusha sukta prayers and other mantras were chanted accompanied by soft bhajan and the gentle mooing of the cows. The program was crowned by a delicious multi-course feast at the goshalla.

Fire Yajna at the Goshalla

The day ended with the evening arati and the damodarastakam prayers sung by Bhakti Caru Swami. It was great to hear Maharaja and have a last glimpse of this transcendental cowherd boys on gopastami, who stood smiling besides Sri Sri Radha Madhava being so pleased to have His association. Gopastami marks the day when Krishna was deemed old enough to herd the older cows. The gopis could not bear being without their beloved Syamasundar during the whole day while He was in the forest tending the cows. Therefore they dressed as cowherd boys to secretly mingle with the gopas and thus having their beloved Prananath's association.

Gopastami Ki Jaya. Sri Sri Radha Madhava Ki Jaya! Sri Dham Mayapur Ki Jaya!

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

28 October 2006

Kartik Diary 14

Good Bye Vrindavan Dham

Mangala Arati - Srila Prabhupada's Disappearance Day
Vraja Mandala Parikrama 07

Dear Devotees
Jay Sri Radhe!

Yesterdays celebration of Srila Prabhupada's glorious and divine disappearance marked the last day of our stay in Vrindavan. It was very inspiring to hear so many wonderful stories about and with Srila Prabhupada from a host of sannyasis and senior devotees. Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Maharaja from the Gaudiya Math also came to glorify Srila Prabhupada and offer his respects. Maharaja is a is one of the few remaining god brothers of Srila Prabhupada and is well over 90 years old.

At midday devotees were given the opportunity to take part in the abhisheka bathing ceremony of Srila Prabhupada, which took place in his Samadhi Mandir. In the evening devotees assembled in Srila Prabhupada's quarters for his final disappearance pastime. Devotees had made some incredible flower arrangements. The atmosphere became more and more intense when the actual time of his disappearance approached.

Devotees gathered around Srila Prabhupada's bed and chanted softly with choked voices. There was hardly an eye which remained dry. Thereafter Gopal Krishna Maharaja placed the very same gray chaddar which covered Srila Prabhupada in ìs final hour on everyone's head. Then devotees circumambulated Srila Prabhupada's bed and touched their head to the place where Srila Prabhupada's lotus feet had rested. It was a very intimate and emotional experience. Srila Prabhupada Ki Jaya!

Yesterday morning we slipped out of Vrindavan the same way we slipped in, namely quietly and unnoticed at mangal arati time, - a last close darshan of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, Krishna and Balarama and the most merciful and beloved Srimati Radhika and Syamasundara. It reminded me of how Narada Muni had his close darshan of Radhe Shyam and the Rasa Dance. Vrindadevi took mercy on him and dipped him into Kusum Sarovar. He emerged from the sacred waters as the gopi Naradi and was thus qualified to witness the intimate pastimes of the divine couple. By Srila Prabhupada's unique and unparalleled mercy we had also the great fortune to be dipped in the nectar ocean of the chanting of the holy name and thus we became qualified to get a glimpse of Krishna's pastimes in His very own abode Sri Vrindavan Dham. Jay Sri Sri Radheee Shyam!

Radha Partha-Sarathi Mandir in Delhi

Arriving in Delhi we went straight to the Radha Partha-Sarathi Mandir, the ISKCON temple in Delhi. One can see the temple domes with their unique design and architecture from far away. After taking darshan we visited the Vedic Expo and Govinda's restaurant. In the afternoon we took part in the Delhi Ratha Yatra after which we paid a visit to the famous Swami Narayan Aksha Dham.

It was truly an amazing visit to this spiritual Disneyland with its many displays on Vedic culture and art. It took 7000 craftsmen five years to create this marvel of Indian Vedic heritage which i can only recommend to everyone for a visit. It is a vast complex and took us five hours without even seeing everything. Our favourite was the musical fountain, a display of water, light, colour and music. It was a spectacle on a grand scale and was certainly unique. We have never seen anything alike. Unfortunately cameras were not allowed into the complex. In fact security was so stringent that Heathrow airport's security even in its best times appeared to be dwarfed by these arrangements.

We also had the opportunity to see the famous film 'Mystic India' which we long wanted to watch in Birmingham but never came around to do so. I can only recommend it warmely. Last not least there was a boat ride through underground caves and tunnels. It depicted the whole of Vedic history, art, craft, science and culture, - all of it in the form of dioramas, in life size and with English or Hindi commentary. It is certainly an impressive preaching tool for the millions who visit Aksha Dham annually.

Aksha Dham in Delhi

Five hours later we emerged from this most impressive spiritual Disney World and returned to the temple and our Krishna Residency Guest House. Early next morning we took a taxi to Delhi's domestic airport and arrived late afternoon in Sri Dham Mayapur, Lord Gauranga's special place of mercy. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Ki Jaya! Sri Sri Radha Madhava Ki Jaya! Sri Sri Panca Tattva Ki Jaya! Sri Nrisimhadeva Bhagavan Ki Jaya!

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

25 October 2006

Kartik Diary 13

Jay Srila Prabhupada

Vibhavari Sesa
Jaya Madhava Madana Murari 2

Dear Devotees
Jay Sri Radhe!

Today is our second last day in the Holy Dham of Vrindavan. The three day Srila Prabhupada festival is in full swing. After greeting the deities devotees placed Srila Prabhupada in his murti form on the very same palanquin that took him around Vrindavan after his physical departure from this mortal world. The procession took Srila Prabhupada to the seven major Goswami temples of Vrindavan. I was unfortunately not able to participate as Bhakta Jimmy was not well after our Govardhana parikrama and I had to arrange some flat rice, bananas and yogurt for him. Today Jimmy feels much better. However, Nandini went with the procession for the three hour parikrama where she even got a chance to fan Srila Prabhupada.

Festive Decorations at Krishna Balarama Mandir

There is a program tonight where Yadhubar Prabhu will show his latest film on Srila Prabhupada and the early days of the Hare Krishna movement. It promises to be a real treat I am told. There is no more parikrama as devotees celebrate Srila Prabhupada's glorious departure in his physical vapu form. It fills our hearts with profound sadness due to separation and at the same time with great joy of having such a divine master.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote in this connection:

"He reasons ill who says that Vaishnavas die,
When thou art living still in sound!
The Vaishnavas die to live, and living try
To spread the holy name around."

There is no doubt that Srila Prabhupada is still with us through his vani or instructions, which is superior due to its timeless nature. It is is this timeless mercy presence which is available to all at any time. Or as Srila Prabhupada spoke about his relationship with his spiritual master: 'I feel the presence of my spiritual master right by my side'.

Srila Prabhupada at his Samadhi Mandir

It turned out that the film was absolutely fantastic. We have secured a copy of it and will make it available to you all in due course. We have by now collected so much nectar that it will keep us and hopefully also you inspired for a long time to come.

I pray that this humble posting meets you all in good health and in a happy Krishna conscious mood.

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

24 October 2006

Kartik Diary 12

Govardhana Parikrama

The Killing of the Demon Aghasura
Vraja Mandala Parikrama 06
How Giriraja came to Bless us with His Presence

Dear Devotees
Jay Sri Radhe!

Yesterday was Govardhana parikrama. It was the third time for me during our visit to the Holy Dham. We had three options, a quick walking party without stops at the different temples and pastime places. This party was headed by Gopal Krishna Maharaja. This choice was out of question because Maharaja is well known for his brisk pace. We would certainly had problems keeping up with him.

The second choice was Dhina Bandhu with a driving bus party. This party was driving from pastime place to pastime place around Giriraja and Dhina Bandhu would speak. This would have been the party to join, however, Nandini Radha Mataji did not do the earlier parikrama around Govardhana Hill. Therefore we decided to join Bhakti Visrambhara Madhava Maharaja with his slow track walking parikrama around the 22 kilometer periphery of Giri Govardhana.

It soon turned out that this slow track parikrama was not as slow as we thought as Maharaja lost himself in talking and we had to catch up afterwards as there were prasadam arrangements near Govinda Kunda. I soon felt sorry that I did not join Dhina Bandhu's group. Even with keeping my shoes on most of the time it became soon obvious that it would certainly be a difficult task. And it was.

I had for the first time the chance to visit the ISKCON Govardhana temple I heard much about but I was never able to see it before. The temple houses two beautiful Govardhana Silas, Krishna and Balarama and some very charming chubby Gaura Nitai deities. It is situated right next to Sri Giriraja in a most enchanting environment. One can overlook Giriraja from the balcony of the ashram. A very beautiful and historically significant place. It also houses the pushpa samadhi of Tamal Krishna Maharaja.

Krishna and Balarama at ISKCON Govardhana

On the way out I bumped my toe which was bleeding. What a great start for a 22 km walk! Bandaging it up and taking some photos of this most beautiful side of Giriraja I soon lost the by then scattered group of devotees. I was not worried as I by now know how to get around Govardhana. Soon I met Nandini Radha and a group of three devotees from California and Canada who were in India for their first time. I really admired them for going barefoot and they said they had not much choice as their spiritual master Bir Krishna Goswami requested them to do so.

Soon we realised that we were all lost. Maharaja was nowhere to be seen and devotees turned to me to guide them. The young Californian couple had a map with them but I think it did not help too much. At one point we came too far to the outer road but soon reached the inner path again. I remember Maharaja saying and quoting from scripture that whoever reaches the town of Aniyor will not take birth again in this material world.

Sri Giriraja Govardhana

We certainly came to Aniyor the place where Krishna manifested the gigantic form of Giriraja to accept the offerings of the Brajabasis after He put down the hill and the cowherd folk offered Him all kind of foodstuff. This is also known and described in Krishna Book as the Annakuta ceremony. When all the food run out this gigantic Giriraja said 'aniyor, aniyor - more, more!' Only when Balarama offered some tulsi leafs was Giriraja satisfied. Being happy to reach Aniyor we thought 'no more birth in this material world!' Haribol! I have learned that this kind of sastric statements are no exaggeration, they are a fact.

After some time we had a feeling that we were actually ahead of our party. Maharaja must have taken a side path to some hidden temple and we must have overtaken him which turned out later to be a fact. Walking became more and more difficult and I again admired the young couple for going barefoot. It reminded me on my Govardhana parikrama two years ago when I went barefoot without even taking shoes with me in full enthusiasm. At that time I met Adhikarta Prabhu from the UK who said to me then 'you are a very brave man'. Little did I know at this point how right he was.

Pilgrimage Friends

The hot sand and asphalt road is actually burning ones feet to blisters. On that parikrama I stepped in my desperation into cow dung which gave my feet some protective layer from the hot ground. This time it was shoes in wise anticipation. I always wondered why some devotees did the parikrama with socks. Now I understand that it is a protection against the heat. Some time I may try that also but I felt it was better to go with sandals and meditate on Giriraja than to go barefoot and think on ones feet constantly.

I have to say that the entire 22 km parikrama is certainly a feat even with shoes on. However, we made it ... just. Had that rickshaw wala accepted 100 Rupees instead of the 125 he asked for it would have been a rickshaw parikrama in its last and most difficult stage just before Uddhava Kunda. I am happy he did ask 125. When we finally arrived at Kusum Sarovar, kusum means flower and sarovar is a lake somewhat larger than a kunda. At this place the gopis used to collect flowers for their meeting with Krishna at Radha Kunda. It is also the place where Narada Muni dipped into the water and became a gopi so he could see the Rasa Dance. Finishing our parikrama successfully we dipped into Kusum Sarovar just as Narada did and came out refreshed and satisfied.

It took me a day to somewhat recover from the akes and pains of the parikrama but I still managed to get up for mangal arati knowing well that we have only two days left in this cintamani dham, the holiest of all holy places, Krishna's very own abode.

The next three days are dedicated to the celebration of Srila Prabhtpada's disappearance. Since Diwali the number of devotees and pilgrims from around the world has been steadily increasing. There must be thousands by now. This morning one could hardly enter the temple. Everyone seems to have come to Vrindavan to celebrate Srila Prabhupada's glorious departure from our external vision. The Damodarastakam prayers and evening arati were led by Vayasakhi Prabhu who paid a surprise visit to Vrindavan. The crowd of thousands of devotees got wild by his ecstatic kirtan which continued late into the night. It is an unforgettable experience.

Jay Sri Sri Radheee Syam!

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

22 October 2006

Kartik Diary 11

Govardhana Puja

Vrajadust - 24 hour kirtan in Vrindaban
Radhikastakam - Rashik Priya - www.rashikmusic.com
I like Vrindavan - Rashik Priya - www.rashikmusic.com
Jaya Radhe Jaya Krishna

Dear Devotees
Jay Sri Radhe!

Today Vrindavan celebrated Govardhana Puja. The Dham was flooded with so many pilgrims. Our Krishna Balarama temple was flooded too with devotees and visitors. There was hardly any space. It was all so wonderful. I am becoming very conscious that our days in Vrindavan are now counted, four days left only. A great sadness will overcome me, I know this by experience. In fact I feel now that I have just settled in properly. I am happy I have not missed a single mangal arati. Every second counts now. Who knows when I can come again and see my beloved Krishna and Balarama and the most enchanting Radha Syamasundara.

The deities were so beautiful this morning at mangal arati and even more wonderful at darshan arti at 7:15. Krishna and Balarama were holding a rope each. This is the cowherd's rope to bind the hind legs of the cows so they cannot kick the milkman and the bucket during milking and in case the milkman pinches the utter a bit too hard.

However, this rope is also used to capture and bind the heart of the devotees. If you don't want to loose your heart and have it bound and tied up then don't go to Vrindavan! There is a nice T-shirt with writing on the back 'I have lost my heart in Vrgndavan'. It is a fact.

Later on in the morning devotees accompanied Krishna and Balarama to the goshalla for go puja, drama, talks and prasadam. It is difficult to say what is more enchanting, Krishna and Balarama, Their devotees or the cows. Krishna says He loves the cows most of all.

Cow Dung Giriraja at the Goshalla

Once mother Yashoda made Krishna a pair of nice shoes and an umbrella so His feet may not get hurt by the sharp stones and thorns and that He may be protected from the hot sun by the umbrella. However, Krishna refused to wear the shoes or take the umbrella unless all His cows also got shoes and an umbrella. Now Nanda Maharaja has nine lakhs of cows and one lakh is 100,000. That means 900,000 shoes and umbrellas, - impossible! So mother Yashoda had to give up the idea altogether. When the cows heard what happened they went out at night and crushed all the sharp stones into sand and dust so that Krishna may not hurt His lotus feet. So great was their love for Him.

In the afternoon was abhisheka of Krishna and Balarama followed by kirtan around a huge and beautiful Govardhana Hill. The evening arti and damodarastakam prayers were led by Aindra Prabhu. It was ecstatic and was certainly a befitting end to a day full of intense Krishna Consciousness. It is so difficult to forget Krishna in Vrindavan, as difficult as it may seem to remember Krishna when out of Vrindavan. Krishna is just everywhere in Vrindavan, especially on a day such as Govardhana Puja.

Tomorrow is parikrama around Govardhana Hill, the third time for me.

Giriraja Maharaja ki jaya!

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

Kartik Diary 10


Damodara Pastime
Putana Pastime
Vraja Mandala Parikrama 05
Sri Govinda Damodara Stotra
Sri Govinda Damodara Stotra 2

Jay Sri Radhe!

Today is Diwali day. On this auspicious day Lord Krishna's Damodara Lila took place. This is what is celebrated in Vrindaban. Of course it also marks Lord Ram's return to Ayodhya. However, the Brajabasis are more concerned about their beloved Nanda Nandana, the darling of Nanda and Yashoda.

The parikrama went to Gokula where the Damodara Lila took place. This was our 2nd visit to Gokula. Dhina Bandhu poured out the most relishable nectar of Krishna katha one can only imagine. This stream of ecstatic nectar mixed with his mature realisation is a real treasure for the heart. I had the opportunity to record it and will make it available to all of you in bite size pieces. It is impossible to write it all down here.

Gokula - The most Peaceful Place on Earth

We learned today how the gopis made their butter. It is still practised 5,000 years later. The butter is actually not made from the cream of milk. The milk is rather turned into yogurt first. That yogurt is then churned into butter. What comes out of it is butter milk and butter. We had the opportunity to taste some of this delicious butter milk flavoured with crushed roasted cumin seeds and slightly salted. It is actually proclaimed by health experts that butter made from the cream of the milk contains bad cholesterol whereas butter made from yogurt contains good cholesterol. We also tasted real Brajabasi chapatis, which are made not with a rolling pin but flattened by hand. They are therefore more thick but very tasty.

This morning we had van bhojan, a forest picknik in the white sands on the bank of the Yamuna in the shade of some beautiful kadambha, neem and pepul trees. The air was filled with bird song especially Vrindadevis green parrots. They were chattering everywhere. It was just like in Krishna Book when Krishna and Balarama had picnic with their cowherd friends. Vrindavan is just so nice and beautiful.

Of course there have been many fire crackers throughout the night. Some seem to be so loud, crude and home-made that they could easily be classified as a dangerous weapon. They seem not that much different from a hand grenade. Tomorrow is Govardhan Puja. Sri Giriraja Maharaja ki jaya!

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

20 October 2006

Kartik Diary 9


Keshi-ghata Bhajan, Murarimohana-kunja
Kartik 2004 - Bimal Kunda
Syama Gauri Nitya Kisori

Jay Sri Radhe!

Kamyavan was our destination today. Vrindavan consists of 12 forests, Kamyavan is one of them and it stretches just over the Rajasthani border. It was therefore a long and bumpy 2 hour drive to get there.

Yesterday was no parikrama, a resting day so to speak. Last night and this morning there was a thunderstorm in Vrindavan and it was raining. This is unusual for this time of the year as the rainy season has already passed. There were clouds in the sky throughout the day, which made our parikrama with quite a bit of walking less austere.

Dhina Bandhu Prabhu explained that the sun is actually not so hot at this time of the year because there is so much dust in the atmosphere. In the rainy season, however, all this dust has been washed out by the rain and if the sun comes out behind the clouds she is unbearingly pearcing.

After a bit of walking we arrived at some extremely beautiful hills. Despite its spiritual significance Vrindaban and the wider Braj area is so, so beautiful. It appears at times one is walking right into a painting of the Krishna Book or a painting by one of the great masters some 500 years ago. No wonder that God chose this tract of land to perform His pastimes. It is actually not so difficult to imagine how Braj and Vrindavan looked like some 5000 years ago.

The Beautiful Hills of Kamyavan

It is certainly no exaggeration when we hear from Krishna Book about the unimaginable opulence of Vrindavan and Nanda Maharaja with his herd of 10,000 cows. If anyone has the faintest doubt that the descriptions and pastimes in Krishna Book may be exaggerated or just some poetic descriptions or fairy tales he will be utterly convinced by coming to Braj. There is no doubt and Krishna's pastimes in the forests of Vrindavan take on a new meaning and reality. I just wish I could take all of you to this sacred tract of land. Next year we will try to plan a group visit to Vrindavan and everyone is invited to join us for either one, two, three or all the four or five weeks. Just start booking your holidays for the beginning of kartik 2007.

In these hills of Kamyavan we were able to see the rock slide where Krishna and Balarama and the cowherd boys were sliding down the hill. We were even able to follow in their footsteps and slide down ourselves. It was great fun. We also saw Krishna's footprint on top of the hill and Vyomasura's cave.

The Rock Slide

A refreshing bath in Bimal Kund, which was produced by the perspiration of one million gopis, put a suitable end to the day's pilgrimage. Jimmy and i didn't take a bath this time as we both got a cold from the drastic weather change due to the onset of the winter season. We just offered our obeisances and sprinkled some of this sacred water on our head. Nandini Radha Mataji, however, braved the waters of Bimal Kunda and surely received full benefit and blessings for that. Tomorrows parikrama will lead us again to Gokula because it is Diwali and the day when the Damodara Lila took place.

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

18 October 2006

Kartik Diary 8

Srimati Radharani's Bouquet

Life in Vrindavan - Aindra
I like Vrindavan - Rashik Priya - www.rashikmusic.com
Mahamantra from the Far East
Prayers by Queen Kunti
Vraja Mandala Parikrama 04

Jay Sri Radhe!

Today was no parikrama. It appears Jimmy is down with the flue. The weather in Vrindavan is changing. The mornings are colder and the morning shower at 3:30 am is colder too. We have been able to attend the full morning program so far. The days in the Holy Dham are priceless treasures. We have only 10 days left in Vrindaban. Every minute counts. We booked our flight to Calcutta today. It turned out to be almost the same price as by train. On 28th we will be in Mayapur. We have learned that the flood is already down and the clean-up operation is in full swing. Devotees are used to this kind of thing.

This evening we went to Damodara arati as usual. It is a wonderful sight to see hundreds of devotees offering their dipa lamps. It appears just like an ocean of moving stars floating from one altar to the next.

I stand usually at Radha Syamasundara's altar. Srimati Radhika looks so very enchantingly beautiful and Syamasundar is deeply immersed in loving emotions. My little corner on the left of Their altar seems to be the best place in the entire universe.

This is not to say that Krishna and Balarama are not beautiful, They are but in a different way. Standing in my little corner at Radha Syamasundara's lotus feet i usually get a garland from Their altar. These garlands are much sought after. There is a limited number of them but a seemingly unlimited number of devotees who want them. My strategy is to wait patiently and pray. And it works!

Srimati Radhika is mercy personified and she will reciprocate with ones derires. I have tried it many times and it works perfectly every time, may it be a flower garland, a fruit from the altar or the transcendental gift of Sri Giriraja some many years ago. That is where I discovered it on the kind advice of Govinda Maharaja. This is Vrindaban Dham, a replica of the spiritual world, Chintamani Dham, where the cows are surabhi cows and the trees are kalpa vriksa or wish fulfilling trees. It's the Lord's own abode, it is the spiritual world hidden behind a curtain of rickshaws, tuting cars and much other busy bargaining and shouting.

This evening I had to try it again. I saw the pujari taking off so many garlands but he also took off Srimati Radhika's flower bouquet from her very own lotus hand and hid it somewhat behind the pile of garlands hanging over his arm. At that moment i thought please Srimati Radhika let me have your bouquet. I think i wanted more to test her reciprocation than to have the bouquet itself. Just see the lack of faith!

The pujari skillfully hid the bouquet till the very end and till he had thrown out the garlands into the ocean of jostling and pushing devotees, hands raised to catch a drop of that nectar which even the demigods fight over.

Most Merciful Radharani

And then it was time for Srimati Radhika's bouquet to fly into the crowd. I jumped with a shout and before I knew it it was in my hand. I held it high above my head as it may have been torn to pieces by the many desiring hands otherwise. It is needless to say that the bouquet went to many noses, to many eyes and on many foreheads. It is also needless to say that I did not let go of it all the while treasuring it as an invaluable gift from Srimati Radhika.

Now I am thinking if Srimati Radhika reciprocates with such a small desire I may well have a chance that she may grant me pure devotional service at one point in some life time. I pray that she may fulfil all your desires you told me to pray for and all those you didn't tell me about. Most of all I pray that she may bestow pure devotional service upon all of you.

Come to Vrindaban, the spiritual world, and try it out for yourself, it works for everyone!

Jay Jay Sri Radheeeee Syam!

Kartik Diary 7


Vrindavan Tunes by Madhava das
Jaya Radhe Jaya Krishna

Dear Devotees
Jay Sri Radhe!

For those who don't know I am writing this short digest or diary from the Holy Dham of Vrindavan by using my mobile phone. Today is ekadasi. There was no scheduled parikrama. However, every ekadasi the whole town of Vrindavan is on their feet to circumambulate the sacred town.

There is a parikrama marg or road, which goes right around Vrindavan. We started early just after mangal arati and it was still dark. After walking for a while the first light appeared on the eastern horizon and with it more and more Brajabasis join us in this auspicious ekadasi parikrama. Slowly all sorts of stalls start to appear and loudspeakers blear their various messages into the ether.

Then there are rows of sadhus, some may call them beggars, who line up the parikrama path to get their share from the pious pilgrims. It's impossible to satisfy them all. Only Nanda Maharaja could do that on the auspicious occasion of Krishna's birth when he distributed so much wealth that people actually felt embarrassed to accept it.

Gopijana-Vastrahari Steals the Garments of the Gopis

Ekadasi is a big day for Vrindaban in every respect. The entire circumambulation of Vrindaban takes around 3 hours. Then there are the various sounds coming from inside the temples and ashramas when the purusha sukta prayers are chanted or the early morning puja is performed. It is certainly true when it is said that in Vrindavan it is actually difficult to forget Krishna.

Today we have decided not to take part in the Jaipur yatra, firstly it actually takes place when we travel to Mayapur and secondly it works out rather expensive for our tight budget. Instead we will spend one day in Delhi and visit our ISKCON Mandir with Sri Sri Radha Partha Sarati and perhaps see the new and spectacular Swami Narayan Aksha Dham.

With love and affection,

Your servant in the servic of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

16 October 2006

Kartik Diary 6


Radharani Ki Jaya Maharani Ki Jaya
Radhe Jaya Jaya Madhava Dayite
Jaya Jaya Radhe Jaya Jaya Syam
Varsana Bhajans 1
Varsana Bhajans 2
Vraja Mandala Parikrama 03

Jay Sri Radhe!

Today we have been to Varshana and some important pastime places on the hills surrounding Varshana. It is still very hot in Vrindavan and Braj, which is unusual for this time of the year. After breakfast at Krishna Kunda with its many fruit stealing monkeys we visited the Jaipur Mandir, which was built by one of the Rajput kings. It amazes with its beautiful architecture and can be seen from far away. The seva is performed in the line of the Nimbarka sampradaya, which goes back to the Hamsa or swan incarnation of the Lord.

Jaipur Mandir

Dhina Bandhu explained the significance of chanting "Jay Jay Sri Radheee Syam" as follows. Sometimes in these villages people don't have water pumps and they have to draw water from a well by letting a bucket down on a rope. When we Westerners come from our cities we think that should be easy. We lower the bucket by letting the rope run through our hands. However the hands become hot quickly and and we instinctively let go of the rope and the bucket together with the rope end up at the bottom of the well. What to do?

The Brajabasis come with a special rope with many hooks on the end. They let it down, hook up the lost bucket and pull it up. The situation is saved.

It is similar with the chanting of Jay Jay Sri Radheee Syam. The sound 'Raaa' goes down to the heart. One can feel that. The sound 'heee' is coming up. So we send that 'Raaa' down and hook all that pap or sin and than 'heee' up, up, up and out. When we say 'Syammm' then the mouth becomes closed. Don't let it come back!

Thereafter we visited Varshana, the birth place of Srimati Radharani. The final leg of today's parikrama was Prem Sarovar where everyone took a refreshing bath before returning to Vrindavan.

We just got news that Indradyumna Swami will take a group of devotees to Jaipur for a few days. It would be great if we could fit that in our tight pilgrimage schedule.

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

15 October 2006

Kartik Diary 5


Chinta Haran Ghat
Radhe Jaya Jaya Madhava Dayite
Radharani Ki Jaya Maharani Ki Jaya
Jaya Jaya Radhe Jaya Jaya Syam
Damodara Pastime
Jaya Madhava Madana Murari 1

Jay Jay Sri Sri Radheee Syam!

Todays parikrama took us to Gokula, Krishna's actual birth place. Gokula is on the other side of the Yamuna. Dhina Bandhu Prabhu took us to Chinta Haran Ghat, a most beautiful place right next to the Yamuna river. This place reminds one of the Vrindavan 5,000 years ago, no rickshaws, cars or scoters etc. The Yamuna looks so enchanting with large patches of water hyacinth gracefully floating downstream; it looks like a flotilla sailing towards its destination.

Dhina Bandhu prabhu sang the Yamunastakam, an exquisite composition by Rupa Goswami, in which he describes the multi-coloured cows on Yamuna's bank as her ornaments.

Bhajans and Katha at Gokula

We are sitting down in the white, soft sands on the bank of the Yamuna in the shadow of a large tree and listen to the nectarian flow of Krishna's childhood pastimes.

It is explained that after Lala was bound to the wooden grinding mortar by mother Yashoda He tore down the two arjuna trees, which crashed down with such a loud sound that Nanda Baba could hear it from the fields. He quickly rushed home fearing the worse.

When he arrived he saw Lala sitting amidst the crushed down trees unharmed. He quickly picked him up and took him in his arms. Seeing the rope around His belly he asked "who has done this to you?" Lala answered "Maya".

By that time mother Yashoda arrived on the scene. She rushed to Krishna wanting to take Him into her arms but Lala safely within Nanda Baba’s arms turned away from her. Then she turned to the other side and again Lala turned in the other direction. This was going on several times until she run upset into the house.

Now Nanda Baba said "Lala, go see Maya" but Krishna said "no!"

"If you are so upset with Maya who will feed You Lala?"

"You Baba"

"And who will give You Your bath?"

"You Baba"

"And who will put You to rest?"

"You Baba, and you must tell me a bed time story also"

Nanda Baba told the bed time story of the great king Ram whose wife Sita had been stolen by the demon Ravana. When he came to the part where Ram was about to kill Ravana Lala suddenly jumped on top of the bed and shouted:

"You rascal Ravana return my wife Sita or meet your death by my sharp arrow."

Nanda Maharaja said: "Where do You know this from? I never told You this story before!"

In this way Krishna enjoyed wonderful pastimes with His devotees in Gokula. Today was a resting day without any parikrama scheduled. Tomorrows parikrama will lead us to Varshana and the sacred hills near by.

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

14 October 2006

Kartik Diary 4

Pavana Sarovar

Jay Sri Radhe!

Todays parikrama took us to Pavana Sarovar, Nandagram and Vrindakunda. I thought yesterday was the best day of our yatra but it has been surpassed by today, especially as Dhina Bandhu Prabhu narrated so many wonderful lilas that took place here.

Srimati Vrindadevi at Vrinda Kunda

One day Lala, little Krishna, asked his mother, "Maya, what is that funny prasadam that you are cooking?" Mother Yashoda explained that it is dry prasadam for Nanda Baba to take with him on pilgrimaga. Krishna wanted to know where His father was going and was told he was going to the holy tirtha of Prayag, the sangam or confluence of the three holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.

When Nanda Baba went early next morning to Pavana Sarovar to take his bath before starting his long journey to Prayag he saw a beautiful and huge person rolling in the dust and laughing loudly. When he inquired that personality explained that he was Prayag Raja and that he came to Pavana Sarovar to take his bath there once a year. People would bathe in the sangam at Prayag throughout the year and upload all their sins. Therefore he came here to get purified.

Deena Bandhu Prabhu

Nanda Maharaja suddenly saw so many beautiful ladies entering Pavana Sarovar. On enquiring about their identity they introduced themselve As Saraswati, Kavery, Yamuna and all the other holy rivers. They came for the very same reason as Prayag Raj, namely to become purified by the dust of Vraja and the waters of Pavan Sarovar.

Hearing all this Nanda Maharaja decided not to go to Prayag to bathe in the holy waters there and become purified. After all the holy waters personified came to Vraj and Pavan Sarovar to get purified themselves. From that day on Nanda's lake, which was actually called Nanda Sarovar became Pavan Sarovar, the lake that even purifies the holy thirtas.

Jay jay Sri Sri Radheee ... Syam!

With affection and love,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

12 October 2006

Kartik Diary 3

Around Govardhana Hill

Bhajans at Krishna Balarama Mandir
Jaya Radha Madhava

Jay Sri Radhe!

We just returned from a parikrama to different pastime places near Govardhana Hill, visiting places such as Manasi Ganga, Hari Deva and the Samadhi Mandir of Srila Bhaktisvarup Damodara Maharaja at Radha Kunda, who just recently passed away to join Sri Krishna in His nitya lila. His Samadhi Mandir is right at the bank of Radha Kunda, the most sacred place in the entire universe as described in the Nectar of Instruction.

At Manasi Ganga many pastimes took place. Once the gopis wanted to cross the river but there was only one old and tired boatman with an even older boat. The gopis were hesitant but had not much choice than ask him.

"Hey Baba, take us over the river".

The boatman answered "Don't you see I am resting?"

"Please Baba, there is no one else who can take us."

"You are too many for my old boat and with all that yogurt and milk of yours we will surely drown."

But the gopis insisted and the boatman eventually agreed. However, once in the middle of the river a strong wind arose and the boat begun rocking heavily in the wind.

"Boatman, boatman please save us" pleaded the gopis.

"I told you" answered the boatman. "The only thing that can save us now is if you throw your milk and yogurt over board."

The gopis did as being told but the wind grew stronger and stronger and the boat rocked so heavily that one would think it might sink at any moment.

"Boatman, boatman please save us" begged the gopis.

"I told you" answered the boatman. "You girls are wearing so heavily decorated saris. The only thing that can save us now is that you take off these heavy saris and throw them over board."

Krishna the Transcendental Boatman

Of course the boatman was non other than Syamasundar who got all His desires fulfilled. The gopis were hanging on His neck just like a garland of beautiful, fragrant jasmine flowers. It was a wonderful sight. In this way Syamasundara performed many transcendental pastimes at Manasi Ganga and Govardhan Hill.

Tomorrows parikrama will take us to Vrinda Kunda and Nandagram.

Jay Jay Sri Sri Radheee Syam!

Praying for the well-being of all of you,

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

11 October 2006

Kartik Diary 2

Narottama Das Thakura

Vraja Mandala Parikrama 01
Impressions from Vrindavan

Dear Devotees
Jay Sri Radhe!

Today was the disappearance day of Narottama Das Thakura. Dhina Bandhu Prabhu took the parikrama devotees to Narottama Das Thakur's samadhi at Radha Gokulananda temple. This is one of the main and important temples of Vrindavan. It is the place where one can see several deities of our previous acharyas as well as the govardhan sila which Mahaprabhu gave to Raghunatha Das Goswami and which has Lord Caitanya's own finger print on it.

The Govardhana Sila of Raghunatha Dasa Goswami

After some beautiful bhajans of Narottama and many nectarian pastimes devotees offered arati. Thereafter a feast was offered in his honour.

As there was no parikrama scheduled for the afternoon we took advantage and purchased a few items. We got a beautiful new and somewhat larger chamara fan for Their Lordships and a most beautiful peacock fan. We also got a very pretty arati plate, conch stand and conch and a flower plate. Some other items will still have to be purchased.

We just received the sad news of Amarjit Prabhu's untimely departure and would like to ask all of you to please include him in your prayers. Amarjit was instrumental in preparing the ashram facilities at the Thoresby Street temple during my time as temple president there. I am sure many of you will remember him from there. He was a wonderful softhearted devotee and close friend to me. Please pray for him. I have not the slightest doubt that Krishna will show his great mercy on him.

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das

10 October 2006

Kartik Diary 1

Yavat and Ter Kadambha

Ter Kadambha 1
Ter Kadambha 2
Sundara Lala

Dear Devotees
Jay Sri Radhe!

Today's parikrama was perhaps the best so far. It took us to Yavat and Ter Kadambha. Yavat is the place where Srimati Radharani stayed 6 month of the year. The other 6 month she spend in Varshana, her birth place. Many intimate pastimes took place here and Srimati Radharani and her gopi friends used to regularly walk from Yavat to Nandagram, Lord Krishna's place of birth. She walked daily to Nandagram to cook for Krishna because she had received a boon from Durvasa Muni that whoever ate her cooking would never fall ill. Therefore mother Yashoda obliged her to cook for her Lala.

On the way to Nandagram the gopis would pass Ter Kadambha where Krishna would herd the cows. Many nectarian exchanges took place there.

Ter Kadambha is such a peaceful and transcendental place that makes it hard to leave. It is also the place where Rupa Gosvami had his bhajan kutir. On this spot he had the darshan of Srimati Radharani who brought him some sweet rice to offer to Sanatan.

Rupa Goswami has Darshan of Srimati Radharani

Tomorrow is the disappearance day of Narottama das Thakura and we will perform bhajans and hear about his glories at his samadhi at Radha Gokulananda temple.

Praying for the Lord's mercy upon all of you,

With love and affection,

Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Gauranga Sundara Das