Written by Uddhava Das
Read about Vrindavan Part 1
Friday, 04 November – Disappearance Day of Srila Prabhupada
On the special occasion of the disappearance day anniversary of Srila Prabhupada, Kadamba Kanana Swami chanted his rounds in the morning and later on, attended the memorial service for Srila Prabhupada. For this purpose, the huge hall on the temple ground was decorated beautifully and no seat was left empty. There were many speakers – Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, sannyasis and other VIPs, who relished their memories with the visitors from a lavish stage. Maharaj also spoke and one quote that stood out was, “There is no doubt that this Movement will take over so now it’s our turn! But who are we? Together, small as we are, we have to take the responsibility. Now it’s our turn to do something.”
The program continued until late in the afternoon and concluded with a super opulent prasadam feast. Maharaj was fully booked for the rest of the day with giving darshan to his disciples. The evening was reserved for a good rest in preparation for the coming Braj parikrama tour.
Saturday, 05 November – Manasi Ganga, Kusum Sarovar and Uddhava Kund
The first day of parikrama had arrived and devotees gathered at Prabhupada’s house at 7am. Everybody looked well prepared and ready to go. The parikrama party of more than 80 devotees was scheduled to go to Manasi Ganga, Kusum Sarovar and Uddhava Kund on the first day. We left promptly at 7am to the buses that were parked just outside the Bhaktivedanta Gate near Citrakoot. After the big bus and a smaller van were packed with our fellow travellers, we set out on our first adventure and 45 minutes later, we arrived at Kusum Sarovar.
While devotees disembarked from the bus, Maharaj set a brisk pace towards Kusum Sarovar and sat down on the opposite side of the Kund where he set up his new portable sound system and right away started the introductory bhajans. Afterwards he commented that he always likes to start with a bhajan and usually ends with one also. He continued with an introduction to Kusum Sarovar. In terms of spiritual importance, it is said that Kusum Sarovar is very dear to Srimati Radharani. Along with her girlfriends, she used to pick flowers from here and many pastimes were performed. Maharaj further elaborated on the connection that Uddhava has with Vrindavan, being sent to Vrindavan by Krsna himself.
Maharaj said that actually Uddhava was an outsider. He was not from Vrindavan and therefore it was similar to our situation. We just arrived in Vrindavan as outsiders and we have to enter into Vrindavan, just like Uddhava. Our meditation was interrupted by a local Babaji who suggested that we start with the last minute planned initiation ceremony immediately otherwise the ongoing construction on the buildings would be too noisy for the ceremony. Maharaj really appreciated this Babaji’s advice and got up quickly and went upstairs where the yajna area was prepared. Adi Kesava and Veni Madhava did an amazing job creating a perfect place for initiation, directly on the roof of Kusum Sarovar sheltered by a large tree that provided shade.
All seven initiates sat down in a close circle but all of a sudden, Romesha was suggested on the spot and was added to “the soon to be initiated”! Sevanandini dd, Anukampa dd and Advaita Simha das sat for second initiation. For first initiation we had Anna, Bhakta Vatsala, Natalia last but not least Romesha. Bhakta Vatsala and a disciple of Indradyumna Swami already received their names but joined in for the fire yajna.
After the oblations, Maharaj continued his talk on Uddhava and combined it with the initiation ceremony in an expert way. Then he started on the name giving part: Anna’s new name is Ambhoda dd, Natalia became Nava-nita Lila dd and Romesa was named Namaruci dd. The fire was started, prayers were offered and the karma was burned when the bananas were devoured by Agni!
When the ceremony concluded, we went down on the stairs of Kusum Sarovar and sat at our previous spot. It was time for breakfast and while we munched on our bananas and chapattis, Maharaj was reading from ‘Uddhava Sandesa’ as we were about to leave for Uddhava Kund. He made the comment that we cannot cross Govardhan and in a strange coincidence, when we were on the bus again ready to go to Uddhava Kund, the bus took a right turn and was going to drive over Govardhan. Maharaj yelled to the driver to stop and for 10 minutes, they were arguing about crossing Govardhan. The bus driver objected and said that buses could not go around Govardhan and crossing over was the only way. So we decided to go to Radha Kund and walk from there to Uddhava Kund. Maharaj did not want to offend Govardhan and crossover out of convenience.
We reached Radha Kund, offered our respects and went onwards for a brisk walk to Uddhava Kund. After 20 minutes, we reached and the group spread out on the stairs to this private Kund. Maharaj continued reading from the ‘Uddhava Sandesa’ and also ‘Gopal Campu’. Uddhava had entered Vrindavan and was no longer an outsider after meeting the brijbasis.
Maharaj referred back to the initiation ceremony and how initiation means entrance into Vrindavan, just like how Uddhava entered Vrindavan and got to know about the unlimited devotion of the gopis for Krsna.
After a long day, we returned to Vrindavan, full with realisation and the dust of Braj. As you may have noticed, the parikrama did not go to Manasi Ganga. Maharaj commented on this when someone asked a question after breakfast. He decided to leave Manasi Ganga for another time due to the last minute planned initiation ceremony.
Sunday, 06 November – Yavat and Prema Sarovar
The second day of parikrama was upon us and the devotees who did parikrama the day before already looked well experienced! Today Yavat and Prema Sarovar were on the program. We embarked on a 1 hour trip to Yavat, the living place of Radharani, Abhimanyu and Radharani’s in-laws, in a big palace. Because Radharani was guarded very well, it was difficult for her and Krsna to meet but Krsna always devised a clever plan to meet her.
Maharaj started this parikrama with a very sweet bhajan session in the temple courtyard which was followed by reading from ‘Vidagdha Madhava’. Breakfast was served thereafter on the roof of the temple.
After breakfast we packed up to quickly go to Prema Sarovar. Again, like the previous day, the bus driver missed an exit to Varsana and we had a slight detour but eventually we arrived at Prema Sarovar – the lake that was formed from the tears of Radha and Krsna. This was our backdrop for a long bhajan that made us get up on our feet to dance. Even the local residents came to check out the spectacle and started clapping with us. When the dancing dust finally cleared, Maharaj continued his reading from ‘Vidagdha Madhava’.
Maharaj presented a summary of his plans for these parikramas and how he wants to enter the mind of the Goswamis, like Rupa Goswami, and their writings about Braj. He started with ‘Uddhava Sandesa’ (our entrance) and now was reading from ‘Vidagdha Madhava’ which he will continue for a few days and then ‘Lalita Madhava’ will complete the parikramas readings.
When reading from ‘Vidagdha Madhava’ he connected it to Prema Sarovar – how a bumblebee was circumambulating Radharani intensely and when Madhumangal chased the bumblebee away, he said to Radha, “Madhu is gone now!” and Radharani immediately began to cry because she thought Krsna left her, and because of her tears she could not see him anymore. This made Krsna to cry also because he witnessed her love for him and the rivers of tears formed Prema Sarovar. Before leaving, some devotees jumped in the Kund for a swim and others put the tears of Prema Sarovar on their head before boarding on the bus back to Vrindavan!