By BB Govinda Swami
This is a picture of Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi, as it was, after he entered samadhi in 1977.
It was a small brick house with cow dung on the walls and floor. The small mound that you see beneath the asana and picture was the original samadhi stambha.
In front of the asana there was a piece of marble to place the offering plate upon, and there was another marble piece that I sat on to perform the puja.
Not only was Srila Prabhupada in the samadhi. It the home to cobras, numerous frogs during the rainy season, white scorpions, and the occasional very fat rat.
When Prabhupada gave up his body, his servant Upendra prabhu wiped his body, placed vaisnava tilak marking and dressed His Divine Grace in fresh clothes.
Prabhupada was then placed on his palanquin and taken on parikrama of the temple, for darshan of the deities, and then his palanquin was place on his Vyasasan.
His Holiness Bhaktivedanta Narayan Maharaja sang ‘Je Anilo Prema Dhana,’ and then the kirtan continued throughout the night.
After many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples sang, in the middle of the night Srila Akinchana Krishna dasa Babaji sang.
Prabhupada’s god-brother Anand Prabhu sang the mangala arati and then Srila Prabhupada was taken, on his palanquin, with maha-sankirtan, to the temples of Vrindavan.
Prior to the kirtan procession leaving I realised that I could not go with Srila Prabhupada. I was the cook. I needed to prepare a feast for his samadhi ceremony.
I called upon my dear friend Narottama prabhu and asked him to assist as he was, and probably still is, one of the most excellent cooks in ISKCON. He immediately agreed.
I also went to our now-departed god-brother Rksaraja prabhu, who was as good a cook as he was kirtaneer. When I requested him to assist he very sorrowfully replied, “No, I’m going with Prabhupada.”
As I was roughly four times bigger than Rksaraja I immediately replied that if he did not stay to do this service for His Divine Grace I would break both of his legs and he would go nowhere.
For some reason … he agreed to stay.
Thus we stayed and cooked. The entire scene in the kitchen was chaos, our hearts were filled with lamentation, yet we stayed and cooked.
I knew that Srila Prabhupada loved Kachori and Lugloos.
Kachori is the friend savoury that Prabhupada was so fond of that in his childhood he was given the nickname, “Kachori-mukha”
Lugloo is the ISKCON … spiritual world style … boondi laddus.
As I was running in and out of the kitchen I saw our now-departed god-brother and great cook Vibhu Caitanya Prabhu. I asked him to prepare kachoris for Srila Prabhupada’s offering. He sweetly smiled and agreed.
But in the chaos of that kitchen .. lugloo was an impossibility.
The kitchen storeroom was managed by our Japanese god-brother Sri Charana Prabhu.
As he was running to join the procession, he called out, “Ayodhyapati, “here are the keys to the storeroom .. take whatever you want.”
That’s quite a dangerous thing to say when I am cooking.
As I was rummaging through all the mess and chaos in the storeroom I found a large black plastic garbage bag that had apparently been brought from the west.
When I looked within there was the most amazing perfectly prepared lugloo mixture, just waiting to be rolled into balls.
It was surely a gift directly from Krishna for His pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada.
Narottama, Rksaraja and I cooked sabzi, rice, puri, pakora. halva, sweet rice, dal, and we rolled lugloos and Vibhu Caitanya prepared kachori.
On the parikrama all the Vrajavasis came out from their homes and shops to honour Vrindavan’s favourite son, saint and international ambassador, Srila Prabhupada.
When the parikrama returned the samadhi pit had been dug and a slab of marble was placed within.
HH Tamal Krishna Goswami, HH Bhakti Charu Maharaja, HH BV Narayana Maharaja entered the pits and then Srila Prabhupada’s body was lowered within. and he was placed in the lotus sitting position.
Arati was performed to Srila Prabhupada and then all of the devotees performed pushpanjali.
After that the devotees from above began lowering buckets of salt into the pit that Srila Prabhupada’s book would be fully covered in salt.
As I watched from above I saw the vision of His Divine Grace moment by moment vanishing from my sight, as each bucket of salt covered his body.
At last we only saw the gold patch of the top of his head… and then, he was no longer to be seen.
Devotees then began passing buckets of soil to fill the samadhi.
At one point HH Narayana Maharaja asked for a bamboo danda as he wanted to place the danda above Prabhupada’s head so that when the pit was filled we would know exactly the mark of his head.
Padma Locan prabhu had thought that HH Narayana Maharaja has wanted Prabhupada’s original sannyas danda thus he brought Prabhupada’s danda.
But when that was cleared up, a long bamboo was brought and placed in position over Prabhupada’s head.
When the filling was completed, the danda was extracted, and the small mound of earth that you see in that picture was made.
HH Narayana Maharaja deftly broke the danda into 3 pieces, ripped his dhoti, place a piece of the danda on either side of the mound, and with his torn strips of dhoti tied the remaining piece of bamboo to the two other pieces … making an easel to support a framed picture of Srila Prabhupada.
Pradyumna Prabhu, Srila Prabhupada’s panditji, had learned the proper Gaudiya system of worship from Kesavaji Gaudiya Math and Radha Raman Temple. He performed the first puja of Srila Prabhupada during the samadhi ceremony and Bhardhvaja Prabhu sang the kirtan.
When it was time for the offering we brought the many preparations which we had prepared. Pradyumna Prabhu offered, and at the time of arati he removed the cloth covering the offering.
I was standing behind HH Tamal Krishna Goswami and Upendra Prabhu. As Tamal Krishna Maharaja saw the offering he looked at Upendra, and said in his very distinct accent,
“Look Upendra, in his first offering in his samadhi, Srila Prabhupada got his two favourite foods, lugloo and kachori.”
My god-brother Urukrama Prabhu accepted the service of pujari at Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi. Yet for some reason, after a few days he had to leave Vraja. Thus, I took on the service and maintained it for two years.
During the winter it was intolerably freezing.
During the summer it was scorching beyond belief.
During the rainy season the evening arati was host to 800 million bugs swarming around the lights … and …. 400 million frogs who camped in the samadhi so they could eat the bugs.
At that time there was a fountain in front of the mandir. During the evening arati the Bengali ricksaw wallas would sit on the fountain and watch the arati.
When the arati was finished I would do my best to catch one of the big frogs. Holding him securely in my hands I would walk out from the samadhi, approach the ricksha wallas and ask, “Prabhu .. Maha Prasada ??”
When they would eagerly extend their hands I’d drop a huge frog and then watch them jump about 5 meters into the air :-)
Those were wonderful days. Each day as I would do the puja I would request Srila Prabhupada: “Please Prabhupada, as bad as I am, please accept my faulty service. And please … let me be like you, and give up my body in Vrindavan.”
He has been kind. He still allows me to serve though I am bad.
I pray that when the knock comes on my door, that by His Divine Grace, I will be in Vrindavan, and will be given a service deemed suitable by His Divine Grace.
Srila Prabhupada Ki Jai !!”