Vraja Mandala Parikrama 2018
More photos here: https://goo.gl/5CvSmn
Vraja Mandala Parikrama 2018
By Jayabhadra Devi Dasi
Every devotee awaits for the auspicious month of Kartika and specially those who join the Vraja Mandala Parikrama keep waiting impatiently for the Kartika the whole year. It is the month when they walk on the holy Vraja with the devotees and Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara, the principal deity of parikrama. This year parikrama started on October 24 and continued till November 23. This year we had the largest attendance ever, 1500 devotees joined the parikrama.
Day 1 – Vrindavana Parikrama
We all assembled at the door of Krishna Balarama temple at 6 am and with Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara and Srila Prabhupada in front started Vrindavana Parikrama. At 4 pm at prasadam hall we had Istagosti which was addressed by Lokanath Maharaja, Radharaman Maharaja, Brajabhumi Dasa, Istadev Dasa and Varahrupa Mataji. The dos and don’ts on the parikrama were discussed and the ten offenses to the holy dhama were meditated upon. Top five limbs of devotional service – sadhu-sanga, nama kirtana, bhagvata-sravana, Mathura-vasa, sri-murtira shraddhaya sevana will be accomplished during this parikrama.
Day 2 – Vrindavana to Mathura
We visited the following pastime places of the Lord: 1. Yajna-patni-sthana (Bhataronda). The temple Deities are called Sri Sri Radha Bhataronda Bihari. To bring some food stuff for hungry Krishna and Balarama the cowherd boys approached the brahmana patnis who very gladly cooked for the two Lords and rushed to the Lords with Bhat (rice); therefore this place is known as Bhataronda. 2. Akrura-ghata- There is a beautiful temple with the deities of Krishna, Balarama and Akrura on the altar. Here Radharaman Maharaja described the mood of Akrura when he entered Vrindavana. 3. Krishna Janmasthana- This is an impressive, heavily guarded structure that tower above all the other buildings in Mathura. Here we go to the temple of Kesavadeva where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu danced in ecstasy. Those who saw Him dance thought He was Sri Keshava Himself. Srila Rupa Gosvami writes: “Those who have entered into the birthplace of Sri Krishna even once in the month of Kartika certainly obtain the inexhaustible Supreme Lord Krishna.”
Day 3- Mathura Parikrama
At Visrama-ghata all devotees took sankalpa to complete the parikrama. Then Yamuna-Yamaraja temple, Pippalesvara Mahadeva, Dhruva-ghata, Sapta Risi Mandira, Kubja Mandira, Rangesvara Mahadeva Mandira, Rangabhumi and Keshava Gaudiya Matha.
Day 4- Mathura to Madhuvana
During the 30 days parikrama we take darsana of all twelve forests of Vraja, out of these Madhuvana is the first. In Madhuvana we took darsana of Dhruva Tila. In every yuga the Lord has visited this forest. In the age of Satyauga, Lord Narayana gave darsana to Dhruva. In Tretayuga, Lord Shatrughna killed Lavanasura here. In Dvaparyuga Lord Krishna used to herd the cows in this forest and in Kaliyuga Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to this forest during Vraja mandala Parikrama. Maholi- We halted at this first village in our parikrama.
Day 5-Madhuvana to Santanu-kunda
We entered Talavana, second forest of Vraja’s twelve main forests. This is where Lord Balarama killed Dhenukasura. Kumudavana – Kumuda means water lily and this forest was named because of the red lilies that grew here in abundance. Krishna and Balarama herded their cows and also enjoyed eating lunch in this forest. Santanu-kunda – The deities of Sri Sri Radha Santanu Bihari are famous in Vraja for awarding children to childless couples who approach Them for that purpose.
Day 6- Santanu-kunda to Radha-kunda
We walked towards the topmost place in all the three worlds, Radha-kunda and celebrated the divine appearance day of Sri Radha-Kunda on Bahulastami. On the way we visited the village Khecari – the birth place of Putana. Khecari- refers to a witch who can fly. Mayuravana – where Krishna danced with peacocks. Bahulavana, Sankarsana-Kunda, Basati, Mukhara- village of Srimati Radharani’s maternal grandmother. We also visited Ral, and Surya-kunda finally we reached village Radha-Kunda, the dear most place of Lord Sri Krishna.
Day 7 – Govardhana Parikrama
Many other devotees specially joined us on this day for Girirajji’s parikrama. We all had darsana of Giriraji from near and meditated on His glories.
Day 8- Radha-kunda Parikrama and Bahulastami festival.
Radha-kunda and Shyama-kunda eternally exist in the spiritual world, and they are the expressions of the supreme love of Radha and Krishna for one another. And in the spiritual world even they are the most favorite bathing places of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna.” It is stated that a devotee will at once develop pure love of Krishna if he once takes a bath in Radha-kunda.
Day 9- Radha-kunda to Deeg.
Day 10- Deeg to Badrinatha
About five kilometers from Deeg is Didavali, said to be the place of Krishna’s Maternal Grandmother. At this place there is a beautiful temple of Sri Narsimhadeva. Kadamba Kanan- It is said that at this place Krishna performed Rasa Lila with ladies from Pulinda caste. Badrinatha- As Krishna is the source of all avatars, so is “Vraja” the source of all the Holy Places. There is beautiful deity of Nar-Narayan in this temple of Badrinatha, along with Tapasya Kunda. This place is untouched by the so called advancement of the modern-age and gave us the experience as if we were in forest. We could hear the sounds of foxes in the night. Also there was no network of mobile phones thus giving us more time to meditate on the Lord’s pastimes. Every day we had drama in the night. Here also drama was enacted by the Bengali and Odisha devotees and Hindi with Udiya and Bengali added humor to the drama. Just to mention a part of the humor in drama, when Lord Shiva asked Lord Visnu to leave Badrinatha and go somewhere else, Lord Vishnu said, “Hame disturb mat karo” and all started laughing.
Day 11-Badrinatha parikrama
Nara and Narayana Pravata, Laksmana Jhula, Triveni Sangam, Deva-Sarovara and Yogmaya Mandira.
Day 12- Badrinath to Kamyavan via Kedarnath
We all climbed 270 steps to have darsana of Lord Shiva.
Day 13-Kamyavana Interior Parikrama.
The name Kamyavana derives from kama, “desire”. One can have all one’s wishes fulfilled here and according to Adi-varaha Purana, become worthy of being glorified in the Lord’s abode. We had darsana of Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha, the pratibhu Deities of Madhu Pandita. When the king of Jaipur moved the three principal Deities of Gaudiya Vaisnavas from Vraja to Jaipur during Moghul attacks, the Deities stopped at two places on the way – Radha-kunda and Kamyavana. Caurasi Khambha- Visvakarma, the architect of the demigods, built this place in one night for the Pandavas when they were in exile. No two pillars are alike in these 84 pillars. It resembles Nanda Bhavan. Rock-paved streets lead to a Vrajavasi house, where Sri Sri Radha-Madana-Mohana live. They are the pratibhu forms of Srila Sanatana Gosvami’s Deities. Vrinda-devi is the original Deity installed by Vajranabha. She refused to leave Kamyavana when Radha-Govindadeva were taken to Jaipur. Hence she is worshiped here along with pratibhu Deities of Radha-Govindadeva. Kamesvara Mahadeva is one of the four Siva deities installed by Vajranabha to protect Vrajabhumi. Lord Siva is known for easily fulfilling the desires of his worshipers. Panca-pandava temple and Dharma-kunda (Panca-tirtha-kunda). Only few deities are now left among the Pandavas and Draupadi in this Panca-pandava temple. Bimala-kunda– It is the most significant of Kamyavana’s 84 kundas. It’s named after King Bimala who had 10 million beautiful daughters, all of whom married to Lord Krishna. The waters of this kunda are said to have been formed by their ecstatic perspiration when they danced with the Lord here. Each devotee took holy dip in it and rested at its bank. Yasoda-kunda and Setubandha Ramesvaram, Lanka and Asoka Vatika – we all went in the evening for the darsana after the class at Yasodakunda.
Day 14 – Kamyavana Exterior Parikrama
Surabhi-kunda and Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati Thakura’s bhajana-kutir- There was class by Lokanath Maharaja here describing the glories of Prabodananda Saraswati. Phisalini-sila-Krishna and the cowherd boys enjoyed sliding down the smooth surface of a large rock. Lokanath Maharaja slided down, we all happily slide down following him. At Bhojana Sthali we all honored prasadam.
Day 15 – Kamyavana to Varsana.
Day 16, 17, 18– Three days stay at Varsana.
Govardhana-puja and Varsana Parikrama. We devotees decorate a large pandal with flowers and balloons for Govardhana-puja festival. With melodious kirtana, we offered lamps to large Giriraja-sila and perform grand abhisheka with panca-gavya, pancamrta, 8 types of seeds and various fruit juices. Then in the evening we all went for Varsana parikrama and darsana of Ladali Lal ji. There was also initiation of devotees by Lokanath Maharaja, about 200 devotees got Harinama initiation and about 100 Brahman initiation.
Day 19-Nandagrama- Srila Prabhupada Disappearance Day. Srila Prabhupada revealed Vrindavana Dhama to the whole world, before meeting Srila Prabhupada most of us didn’t even hear the name of Vrindavana, what to speak of knowing the glories of Vrindavana. Following in the footsteps of six Goswamis, Srila Prabhupada presented an ideal example of being a true Vrajavasi. Before leaving this world Srila Prabhupada had his last desire to do Govardhan Parikrama on a Bullock-cart.
Day 20- Nandagrama to Dahegaon (Rasavana)
On the way we visited Asheshvara Mahadev. It is at this place Shivas’s heartfelt desire to see Krishna got fulfilled. Ter Kadamba – It is said that Krishna brought His cows to graze here and that He often sat under a Kadamba tree to play His flute and call the cows back when it was time to go home. Javat– Home of Shrimati Radharani’s parents-in-law. Kokilavana- Kokila means cuckoo. The forest where Krishna made sound like a Kokila thus came to be known as Kokilavana.
Day 21- Dahegoan to Sheshashayi.
At about 2.30 am it rained heavily, all were sleeping and soon the bedding were wet. Lights were also off, each one had lot of luggage, everyone was running for help. All the voluntaries pulled the devotees out of water, collected the lauggage. About 75 % devotes took shelter at the homes of Vrajavasis. They welcomed us and happily helped us. Others stayed back in the tents covering themselves with the plastic sheets, praying the Lord for help.
As it was raining some devotees came out of their tents and started singing hare Krishna mahamantra. Soon others joined them with kartal and mridanga, thus welcoming the rains. They all were wet and danced to their hearts content. After sunrise we all tried to settle and Radharaman Maharaja said, “If it rains again, we will all go back to Vrindavana.” We all together prayed as we all wanted to complete the parikrama.
Day 22- Sheshashayi to Shergarh
Before reaching Shergarh we passed through: Payagrama where Krishna is said to drink milk with His friends. One day while Krishna, Balarama and the cowherd boys were herding their cows, the boys became very hungry. Since their lunch had not arrived, they milked their own cows and drank the milk.
Shergarh was given this name because it’s said to have been the village if Shekhar Gopa, one of Krishna’s friends.
Day 23- Shergarh to Cira-ghata
Lokanath Maharaja revisited parikrama at Ciraghat. He said “Indra had a small sample of rain few days ago and you all passed because you took shelter and did not go back. All glories to you all.”
Since leaving Mathura we had been feeling separation from the Yamuna River. About three kilometers east of Shergarh, just before Rama-ghata, we finally saw her sacred waters. We all loudly called out, “Yamuna-mayi ki Jaya!” and fell flat on the ground in obeisances.
Akshaya-vata-In this land the trees bend low, bowing down to the dust raised by Krishna and His cowherd friends. Here we see Aksaya-vata under whose branches it’s said Krishna and His friends ate lunch and enjoyed wrestling games five thousand years ago. Maharaja ji called the devotees to perform wrestling here. Slowly many joined the wrestling matches. It was a great delight to watch the game. How wonderful it would be when Krishna and Balarama played here.
Cira-ghata– it’s here that Krishna stole the unmarried Gopis garments, fulfilling their desire to have Him as their husband. Krishna stole their clothes and their hearts, and returned their clothes. He did not return their hearts but hid them (Gopala-campu).
Day 24 -Cira-ghata to Mat
It was now just one week left for the parikrama to come to an end. In these days we visited the remaining five of the twelve forests of Vraja.
Bhadravana– The Adi- varaha Purana says that whoever goes to Bhadravana, becomes single minded in his devotion to Krishna. It is said that Krishna killed Vatsasura in Bhadravana.
Bhandiravana-The ninth forest is Bhandiravana. This beautiful place is dear to the yogis. Simply glancing at the forest saves one from taking another birth.
Day- 25 Mat to Manasarovar
Bilvavana, the tenth of the twelve forests of Vraja is situated on the bank of the Yamuna. Belvana is also known as Srivana, because this is where Laksmi-devi lives, performing austerities to gain entrance into the Lord’s rasa-lila. Mana-sarovara is a beautiful, placid lake surrounded by dense undergrowth. There’s a beautiful temple dedicated to Srimati Radharani. It is here that Radharani expresses Her transcendental anger, “Mana” and Krishna begs Her to give up Her anger towards Him, the Lord then spoke the following famous verse.
smara-garala-khandanam mama sirasi mandanam dehi pada pallavam udaram
O Radhe! Your lotus feet will fulfill all my desires. So kindly place them on My head! I am burning in the flames of Kamadeva’s bonfire. O please relieve My suffering by the touch of Your cooling lotus feet. (Gita Govinda)
Day 26 Mana- sarovara to Lohavana
Now that we were nearing the end of Vraja-mandala parikrama, we had started feeling separation from Vrindavana. Lohavana – We arrived at the eleventh of Vraja’s principal forests.
Day 27 Lohavana to Dauji
It was Utthana ekadasi which refers to the waking of Lord Visnu in the ksira-sagara. He sleeps for four months from Sayanai Ekadasi to Utthana Ekadasi, so by one calculation the caturmasya ends up today but by other calculation it ends on Kartika purnima. It is also starting of the bhishma- pancaka, the last five days of Kartika. This was the longest walks of our parikrama.
Bandi-Anandi-This temple is dedicated to Yogamaya-devi. These two Devis Bandi and Anandi represent two energies of Krishna. On the way to Dauji we entered Mahavana, the last of the twelve forests.
Day 28 Dauji to Brahmanda-ghata
Cintaharan-ghat– On the bank of Yamuna is the place where Mother Yasoda worshipped Lord Siva to become free from her anxiety. Cinta means “anxiety” and harana “to take away” There is a temple of Lord Siva here called Cintaharana Mahadeva.
Brahmanda-ghat– Brahmanda-ghata is a part of Nanda Maharaja’s courtyard. One day, Balarama and other cowherd boys complained to Mother Yasoda that Krishna had eaten dirt. But when she questioned Him, Krishna denied the charge. He said, “Mother, if you think they are speaking the truth, look into My mouth and see for yourself. Mother Yasoda saw in her son’s mouth the entire cosmic manifestations, which includes the universe (bramhanda). That’s why this place is known as Brahmanda-ghata.
The Damodara pastime happened only a few hundred meters from our camp at a place called Ukhala-bandhana. Here Mother Yasoda binds Krishna to the grinding mortar. Krishna showed the whole world that only love can bind the Supreme Lord.
Day 29 Brahmanda-ghata (sharing realizations)
One devotee said, “Vraja Mandala Parikrama is the perfect test of one’s spiritual health. In the pure atmosphere of the dhama, our anarthas stand out like black spots on a white sheet. Any dirt of material desire becomes instantly apparent.”
Another devotee commented, “I’m learning how to be more tolerant, sensitive, kind and polite with others.”
Throughout the Parikrama we have felt like we are part of a big family. ISKCON devotees have a special affinity for this place because Srila Prabhupada bathed at Brahmanda-ghata with his disciples.
A 63 years old devotee shared that by the mercy of Srimati Radharani he completed his parikrama despite his knee pain.
A devotee quoted, “Because of devotee association you don’t experience the full extent of the inconveniences on parikrama. At home it is difficult to get up for mangala-arati, but on parikrama it’s easy. I intend to maintain this habit after I return home.”
Austerities are necessary so that our false egos are vanquished. One should come to the dhama, roll in the dust, leave our false ego there, and go out begging for mercy.
Day 30 Brahmanda-ghata to Raval
Raval – Srimati Radharani’s birthplace. But first we stop in Gokula which is about half a kilometer from Brahmanda-ghata. Nanda Maharaja and his community stayed in Gokula until Krishna was 3 years and 4 months old.
Ramana-reti literally means “pleasure giving sands,” and Krishna & Balarama had great fun playing in this terrain. There is a temple here in which many sadhus live. After taking darsana of the Deities, we roll in the very fine sand, which has been touched by the lotus feet of Krishna and Balarama. All devotees forgetting their designations played in the sand.
The next day we went to Mathura, at vishram-ghata completed our 30 days parikrama sankalpa and boarded the buses for Vrindavana with heavy hearts feeling separation from Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara and the devotees.
A fortunate Dog in Parikrama
A she dog followed us in parikrama wherever we went all the darsana sthalis. She did Govardhana parikrama with us although she was pregnant. She never barked at any one. She used to sit at the end in the pandal and hear all the lectures. We all thought she would discontinue as we walk longer distance but no, she was always with us. Devotees would offer prasadam to her. In cold the devotees would cover her with a blanket. When we reached Varsana she delivered 8 chubby puppies in the matajis tent number 7 at night. The owner of the farm where we camped out latter took her care. Definitely she would gain all spiritual benefits of being in parikrama for 15 days along with her puppies. Only due to her delivery she stayed back, otherwise she would have completed the whole parikrama.
Services allotted to All India Padayatris
This year padayatris had different services. Two of them were serving as advance party. Lokanath Maharaja said “It’s your parikrama, padayatris parikrama, your Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara are leading the parikrama, so you should know the Vraja also in detail.”
“We have been doing this service always as a part of our padayatra. Every day we go to different destination, so the day prior two of us visit the next destination place. We meet the devotees there and if devotees are not there we mostly stay at any temple. Thus we were glad to get the advance party service. It was a totally different experience as we were in Vraja dhama. Here everything is under the control of Vrajeswari Srimati Radha rani. Every day we prayed at Her lotus feet and then began our services.” Parthasarthi Dasa and Prahlad vatsal Dasa stated.
Padayatris were serving prasadam and water. They were carrying Vraja Mandala Parikrama banner ahead of Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara and all devotees. Dhiranayak prabhu was serving as a pujari and taking care of Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara and Srila Prabhupada.
Vraja Mandal Parikrama ki ..jai
Srila Prabhupada ki ..jai