One the last days of Kārtika, the Parikramā stayed in a dharmaśālā opposite the Caitanya Gauḍīya Matha branch in Vṛndāvana and from there visited all the local pastime places. On Uhāna Ekādaśī, the Parikramā party circumambulated Vṛndāvana, halting at prominent līlā-sthalīs on the way. The first stop was Ramaṇa Retī, where Kṛṣṇa passed on His way to graze the cows; further along the path was Sonaraka, where Saubhari Ṛṣi did austerities in the Yamunā for ten thousand years and then became engrossed in sense enjoyment, marrying 50 princesses as a result of his offense to Lord Viṣṇu’s carrier, Śrī Garuḍa.
A short distance ahead of Sonaraka along the path comes Kālīya-hṛda, the lake where the virulent serpent Kāliya stayed. Here, Kṛṣṇa battled and chastened the proud Kāliya. Seeing Kāliya embrace Kṛṣṇa in front and back and head to toe, with his coils, the gopīs became jealous. It being evening when Kṛṣṇa defeated Kāliya, Baladeva advised the Vrajavāsīs, who had all run to the spot fearing for Kṛṣṇa, to stay the night at Davanala-kuṇḍa. That night a forest fire sprang up, erupting from the gopīs’ jealousy. Kṛṣṇa extinguished the blaze by embracing all the gopīs.
Further on, the Parikramā visited Imlītalā. To dispel the gopīs’ pride in their good fortune, Kṛṣṇa disappeared during the Rāsa dance and followed Śrīmatī Rādhikā to Śṛṅgāra-vaṭa. There, He began to adorn Radhika with flowers. When the gopīs approached, Kṛṣṇa entreated Śrīmatī to withdraw with Him. She said, “Carry Me; I am weary.” Kṛṣṇa sat to accept Her but He then disappeared again just as Śrīmatī was about to climb on His shoulders. “Alas! Beloved!” She cried, and fainted. Finding Rādhikā collapsed on the ground, the other gopīs empathized with Her and they wept together. Meanwhile, Kṛṣṇa yearned for Śrīmatī’s company and lamented leaving Her. He sat at Imlītalā, under the tamarind tree by the Yamunā, and He began to think of Rādhikā so intensely that His complexion assumed Her golden hue.
Next, the Parikramā went to Jhāḍū Maṇḍala, where Śyāmānanda Prabhu found Rādhikā’s golden anklet and, upon returning it to Her, received the mark of Her anklet on his forehead as a symbol of Her grace. Jhāḍū Maṇḍala is also the site of another arming incident, which Śrīla Gurudeva retold during his visit there with the Parikramā party.
An elderly woman spent the predawn hours grinding grains while singing Kṛṣṇa’s names. One day, Kṛṣṇa appeared as a darkish boy on the scene and said, “Mother! I can’t sleep because of the loud rumbling of your grinding stone. Please don’t do it anymore.” Anxious, the lady said, “Dear boy, this is how I provide for myself.”
“I will put My footprint on your grindstone and people will come from afar to see the impression. Seeing My footprint, they will generously offer donations to you. Use this for your maintenance.” After marking the stone with His footprint, Kṛṣṇa disappeared. That very day a crowd of people came to see the marking and contributed. This tradition continues to the present day.
Proceeding on the Parikramā path, the party came to Keśī-Ghāṭa, where Kṛṣṇa killed the Keśī demon. Madhumaṅgala once teased Kṛṣṇa, “You are nothing special; it is only Your flute and peacock feather that wins You so much adoration. Lend them to me for a while and then I’ll get all the gopīs’ laḍḍus.” Kṛṣṇa smilingly complied. Madhumaṅgala was strutting about like a peacock when Kesi, a demonic horse, galloped into the area looking for Kṛṣṇa, who had been described as a boy wearing a peacock feather and holding a flute. Kesi gave Madhumaṅgala a fierce kick and the poor boy tumbled backwards in the dust. He quickly rose up and dashed to Kṛṣṇa, depositing the Lord’s crest and flute. Kṛṣṇa then made short work of Keśī.
The Parikramā next came to the Jagannātha Temple, where a devotee brought the Deities of Jagannātha, Baladeva, and Subhadrā to Vṛndāvana from Purī during Mahāprabhu’s time. Their Lords have been worshiped ever since. The devotees continued on the path. They offered praṇāma to Kṛṣṇa’s rāsa-sthalī, to Vyāsadeva’s sitting place, and to the other temples and pastime places on the remainder of the parikramā-mārga.
On the morrow, the Parikramā went through four narrow alleys, known as galīs, on the way to Seva-Kuñja. These are Dāna-galī, Māna-galī, Gumāna-galī, and Kuñja-galī. Feeling māna, Śrīmatī Rādhikā went to Māna-sarovara via Māna-galī. In Dāna-galī, Kṛṣṇa asked for the gopīs’ love as tax, and they also taxed Kṛṣṇa for His love in return. Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa met in Gumāna-galī, where Rādhikā expressed pride (gumāna), refusing to give Kṛṣṇa His desired tax. Kuñja-galī is the alley the gopīs traverse on their way to Sevā-kuñja; in a kuñja adjoining this alley, Kṛṣṇa would massage Śrīmatī’s feet.
The party then arrived at Sevā-kuñja, known also as Nikuñjavana. The Divine Couple nightly perform rāsa and enjoy līlā-vilāsa in Sevā-kuñja. Therefore, no one remains at Sevā-kuñja after dusk; even the rascally monkeys leave the grove at night. Those who ever hid in Sevā-kuñja throughout the night were found insane the next morning, or deceased. In a corner of Sevā-kuñja is Lalitā-kuṇḍa. Here, Kṛṣṇa made a pond with His flute when Lalitā-sakhī became thirsty during rāsa.
At Sevā-kuñja, Śrīla Gurudeva spoke as follows:
“This land of Vṛndāvana is the abode of spiritual service. Bhagavān endued every soul with a great wealth as part of their constitutional nature. By this wealth one can control the Supreme Lord, the controller of all the universes. That wealth is the tendency to serve. People intera and serve each other through loving exchanges, such as giving and receiving gifts, offerings of food, and heartfelt conversations. We must be judicious with whom we engage this God-given inheritance. Loving exchanges should be done with those people who help us progress on the spiritual path. Interaction with materialists gives rise only to materialism.
“Service tendency is present in all beings. Ants collect and harvest for their queen. Honeybees collect near from flowers and make honey for their queen. This honey is used for the service of communities. Only foolish humans seek first to selfishly gratify themselves and disregard the service of others. Services they perform are only for their personal satisfaction and aggrandizement. Because of their selfish exploitative nature, human beings suffer in mortal bodies and are always afflicted by distresses born of the mind, body, other living beings, and nature.
“Bhagavan bestows the wonderful human body upon the jīvas so they have an opportunity to realize their spiritual service. To take advantage of this opportunity, we must serve the devotees and Bhagavān. Such service awakens taste in chanting harināma, hearing hari-kathā, and the other limbs of bhakti. In time, this will reveal the form of the Lord and the soul. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī states in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (Pūrva Vibhāga 2.234):
ataḥ śrī kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam-indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuratyadaḥ
“When we learn to lovingly serve the all-attractive Kṛṣṇa and His devotees, we will be in harmony with all of nature. Kṛṣṇa will awaken our relation with His personal associates and establish us in our spiritual service. Being engaged in our natural constitutional function will bestow boundless bliss. There is a service corresponding to the inherent mood in the spiritual form of every soul. Fortunate souls are brought into the guidance of the associates of Śrīmatī Rādhikā and given the chance to serve the Divine Couple at Sevā-kuñja, in Vṛndāvana.
“We are supremely fortunate to have entered the Gauḍīya-paramparā, wherein the prevailing conception is the aspiration to become the maidservant of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Gauḍīya-Vaiṣṇavas in the line of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī prefer to be the servant of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, rather than Her direct friend. Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī expresses this sentiment in his Vilāpa-kusumāñjali:
pādābjayos tava vinā vara dāsyam eva
nānyat kadāpi samaye kila devī yāce
sākhyāya te mama namo ‘stu namo ‘stu nityaṁ
dāsyāya te mama raso ‘stu raso ‘stu satyam
‘Attachment to the material world will dissipate when the desire awakens to serve Śrīmatī Rādhikā under the guidance of Rūpa Mañjarī. However, even if one is a brahmacārī or sannyāsī, if he doesn’t surrender to Śrī Guru and cultivate this desire, he will remain attached to the material world and will eventually fall from his vows.’
Śrīla Gurudeva concluded the speech with these points. “An adept sādhaka who has surrendered to a genuine guru in the line of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī will be brought into the group of Lalitā-sakhī, where he will serve under the guidance of Rūpa Mañjarī and her associates. The mañjarīs will teach the perfected sādhaka the method of transcendental service.
A person who is internally situated in his transcendental service can be recognized by external symptoms. He will be effulgent, humble, pure in conduct, kind, and peaceful even in difficult circumstances. He will blissfully serve the devotees, teach others to adopt devotional service,
and will naturally inspire a strong desire for spiritual perfection in others. Such a person is a proper guide in spiritual life and should be accepted as such by sincere aspirants.”
From Sevā-Kuñja the Parikramā went to Nidhuvana. Śrīla Gurudeva related the pastimes surrounding this sacred place:
“This is the grove where the Divine Couple dallied in amorous affairs at night and where They awoke before dawn and returned to Their homes. As They woke in each other’s arms one morning, Śrīmatī Rādhikā said to Kṛṣṇa, ‘Beloved, I just had an amazing dream. I saw a beautiful golden youth dancing and singing Our names on the bank of a river resembling the Yamunā, to the accompaniment of mṛdaṅga and karatālas. He cried, “Hā Kṛṣṇa! Hā Kṛṣṇa! Where are You?” and shortly after He cried, “Hā Rādhe, Ha Rādhe!” and rolled on the ground in ecstasy. I was confused, and thought, “Is that Me, crying out for You, or is it You, crying out for Me?”’
“‘Dearest,’ Kṛṣṇa replied, ‘I cannot ascertain who it is in truth.’
“‘It must be You,’ Rādhika said, ‘because no other can enamor Me so.’ Smiling, Kṛṣṇa showed Rādhikā Her dream in His Kaustubha jewel. Seeing this, Rādhikā said, ‘The infallible Gargācārya told Nanda Baba that You would appear in a golden form in Kali-yuga. My dream must therefore come to pass.’
“‘It is true. I will relish Your bhāvas by appearing with Your sentiments and golden hue, and will propagate spontaneous love through congregational chanting of Our names. You will also advent as My dearest associate.’ This pastime is recounted in Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravar Ṭhākura’s Sri svapna-vilāsāmṛta.”
Nidhuvana is renowned for another pastime, called rāī-rāja-līlā, in which Śrīmatī Rādhikā was enthroned in full regalia as Queen of Vṛndāvana, while Kṛṣṇa protected the area, acting as Her chief constable. In Nidhuvana is also Viśākhā-kuṇḍa. Kṛṣṇa manifested this pond of sweet water with His flute to relieve the thirst of His dear Viśākhā and other sakhīs. Svāmī Haridāsa, the unparalleled musician and pure devotee, discovered the Deity of Śrī Bāṅke-Bihārī at Viśākhā-kuṇḍa.
From Nidhuvana the party walked to Dhīra-samīra, on the bank of the Yamunā, where Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa performed līla-vilāsa. The breeze (samīra) here was so calm and gentle (dhīra) upon witnessing Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s love-play, it slowly circled inch by inch, without departing.
Thereafter, the Parikramā came to Vaṁśīvaṭa, where Kṛṣṇa performed the Rāsa dance, as is described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, fulfilling His benedition to the gopīs who underwent Kātyāyanī-vrata. Subsequently, the Parikramā party came to Gopīśvara Mahādeva, the place where SivaṬhākura attained his original spiritual form, in which he could witness Kṛṣṇa’s rāsa-līlā. SivaṬhākura had been extremely eager to enter the rāsa, but no male other than Kṛṣṇa can be present. Siva worshiped Bhagavatī Paurṇamāsī and, being merciful to him, she appeared and immersed him in Brahma-kuṇḍa. When he emerged from the pond, Siva Ṭhākura had assumed the form of an attractive gopī. Paurṇamāsī gave Siva a place to witness the Rāsa dance, but the other gopīs discovered her and began to reproach the newcomer. Kṛṣṇa and Paurṇamāsī came to Siva’s rescue and, aware of Paurṇamāsī’s desire, Kṛṣṇa gave Siva the name Gopīśvara, one whose worshipful Deities are the gopīs, and a permanent place to observe the rāsa-līlā. Kṛṣṇa also granted the benediction that a sādhaka would only be able to enter Vṛndāvana by Gopīśvara’s grace.
Vṛndāvana is home to thousands of temples, earning it the name the “city of temples.” Over the last days of Kārtika, the Parikramā party visited the prominent temples of Vṛndāvana. Some of these places are described below.
Kṛṣṇa’s grandson, Mahārāja Vajranābha, established the three Deities of Śrī Govinda, Śrī Gopīnātha, and Śrī Madana-Mohana in Vṛndāvana. They were hidden by their priests during a Muslim invasion before the time of Mahāprabhu. Mahāprabhu sent the Six Gosvāmīs to Vṛndāvana with the instruction to discover the lost pastime places of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in Vraja, to establish Deities and temples, compose Vaiṣṇava literature, and preserve Vaiṣṇava etiquette.
Śrīla Sanātana Gosvami discovered Sri Madana-Mohanajī in the home of a Mathurā brahmani and established Him in a lofty temple on the bank of the Yamunā, nearby Kāliya-daha. Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī’s samādhi-mandira is in the Madana-Mohana Temple compound.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmi unearthed Sri Govindadeva and established Him in a massive seven-story temple. Sri Govindadeva Mandira was the first temple to have a Deity of Srīmati Radharani worshiped next to Kṛṣṇa. When Rūpa Gosvāmi reinstalled the Deity of Sri Govindadeva Srīmati Rādhika appeared in a dream to Puruśotama Jana, the son of King Pratāparudra in Puri and told him,“ I am present in the Jagannātha temple, but people consider Me to be a Deity of Mahā Lakṣmī. I have been waiting for Govindadeva to be established in Vṛndāvana. Now that this has occurred, please send Me to Him.” Śrīmatī Rādhikā was then brought to Vṛndāvana and installed next to Śrī Govindadeva. A Deity of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, sent to Vṛndāvana by Mahāprabhu Himself, is also worshiped at the Govindadeva Temple.
Śri Gopinātha was found when a current of the Yamuna revealed Him in a sandbank. Sri Madhu Paṇḍita established Sri Gopīnātha in a magnificent temple.
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmi established the Rādha-Dāmodara Deities at a temple constructed in the location where Srīla Rupa Gosvāmi performed bhajana and entered samādhi. It is here that Rūpa Gosvāmī compiled Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, and other sacred texts. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī served Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in all manners. Pleased with his nephew, Śrīla Rupa Gosvāmī manifested the Deity of Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara with his own hands and entrusted Jīva Gosvāmī with the Lord and His service. The Gosvāmīs regularly assembled here and spoke hari-kathā while many Vaiṣṇavas congregated to hear from them. Rādhā-Vṛndāvanacandrajiu, the Deities of Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī; Rādhā Mādhava, the Deities of Śrīla Jayadeva Gosvāmī; Śrī Rādhā-Chailacikaniyā, of Śrīla Bhūgarbha Gosvāmī; and the Girirāja-śilā worshiped by Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, are all worshiped on the large altar in the Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple. Feeling pain at heart witnessing the difficult austerities performed by His dear devotee in his old age, Kṛṣṇa Himself gave a Girirāja-śilā to Sanātana Gosvāmī and told him that there was no need to perform such a strenuous parikramā of Govardhana and Vṛndāvana daily, for he could receive the fruit of a full parikramā simply by circumambulang this Girirāja-śilā four times. The samādhi and bhajana-kuṭīra of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, and the samādhi-mandiras of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadasa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, and Śrīla Bhūgarbha Gosvāmī, as well as the puṣpa-samādhis of many rūpānugā-ācāryas, are all present in the Rādhā-Dāmodara compound. Large crowds of devotees regularly circumambulate the Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple four times and offer respects to the ācāryas’ samādhis.
Śrīla Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī performed elaborate mānasī–sevā of his Iṣṭadeva internally, while externally worshiping Śālagrāma. On Vaiśākha Pūrṇimā, the attractive threefold bending form of his Iṣṭadeva, Sri Rādha-Ramaṇa, manifested from Śrīla Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī’s Śālagrāma. Śrī Rādhā-Ramaṇa’s charming face appears like that of Śrī Govinda, His chest like Śrī Gopīnāthajī, and His curved legs and feet like Śrī Madana-Mohana. A gomatī-cakra, a symbol of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, is worshiped on the left of Śrī Rādhā-Ramaṇa, in accordance with the injunction of Śrī Hari-bhakti-vilāsa pertaining to the worship of Śālagrāma.
Śri Lokanātha Gosvāmi and Sri Būgarbha Gosvāmi resided in Vṛndāvana before the coming of Mahāprabhu Sri Lokanātha Gosvāmi discovered Sri Rādha-Vinodaji in Kiśori-kuṇḍa and later brought them to be worshiped in Vṛndāvana on the request of the other Gosvāmīs. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura found Śrī Gokulānandajī at Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa, and he also brought the Lord to be worshiped in Vṛndāvana.
Śrī Rādhā-Vinoda and Śrī Rādhā-Gokulānanda are worshiped in a temple nearby Śrī Rādhā-Ramaṇa. The samādhis of Śrī Lokanātha Gosvāmī, Śrī Narottama Ṭhākura, and Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura are in the temple courtyard.
Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa established the beautiful Sri Sri Syāmasundara Deities and temple. This temple holds the samādhi of
Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu. Śrī Bāṅke-Bihārī, one of the most visited Deities in Vṛndāvana, was found by Svāmī Haridāsajī. The opulent Śrī Raṅgajī Mandira was built circa 1850 by Śrī Lakṣmīcanda Seṭha, following the style of the famous Śrī Raṅgam Mandira in South India.
At the end of Kārtika, Śrīla Gurudeva arranged for vaiṣṇava-homa, a festival honoring all the Vaiṣṇavas, along with a feast with items that break the cāturmāsya-vrata fast. On the morning of the last day, before all the devotees and pilgrims returned to their respective abodes,
Śrīla Gurudeva addressed everyone and invited them back for parikramā the following year.
Gurudeva said, “By His own sweet will, Kṛṣṇa appeared in this world with Śrīmatī Rādhika and the Vrajavāsīs. For the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa and the benefit of all jīvas, Śrīmatī Rādhika brought Girirāja Govardhana, Yamunā, and all the forests of Vraja along with Her. The Vraja-maṇḍala we see on this planet, even though not all people can perceive its full glory, it is a selfsame expansion of Vraja in the topmost spiritual realm. However, the Vraja in this world offers the advantage that through sādhana in this dhāma one can be freed from his material condition and achieve spiritual perfection. Then, by the grace of the dhāma, one will enter transcendental Vraja. For this reason, out of His causeless mercy to the living beings, Kṛṣṇa descended with His associates and abode to this world.
“The living beings have been circumambulating the universe for countless lifetimes in search of sense gratification, but the end result is always only distress and dissatisfaction. The jīvas do not realize that they suffer because they fail to develop their relationship with Kṛṣṇa, His associates, and their true home, Vraja-dhāma. A refugee, separated from his home and family, living in a desert-like existence, cannot relish happiness. Sri Sri Radha-Krsna sent the Guru-varga to collect souls and bring them to Vraja. They teach that if one develops even slight greed for Vraja-bhakti, and follows in the footsteps of the anurāgī-bhaktas on parikramā, then one’s life will be successful.
“We therefore humbly invite all the assembled devotees to return every year for Vraja-maṇḍala Parikramā, knowing that by repeatedly coming to Vraja-dhāma we will become connected to Yogamāyā and our attainment to Mahāmāyā will be naturally removed. Every step we take on Vraja-maṇḍala Parikramā is a step towards Kṛṣṇa, and for every step taken towards Kṛṣṇa He takes one hundred steps towards us. This pilgrimage is therefore a golden opportunity to come closer to Kṛṣṇa. When we visit the holy places under the guidance of Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, they not only provide our physical necessities, but they treat our disease of material existence with the ninefold limbs of devotion performed in sādhu-saṅga and inspire us to take shelter of the supremely purifying and beneficial dust of Vraja.”
During Parikramā, as a service to his Guru Mahārāja and Bhagavān, Śrīla Gurudeva affectionately provided facilities for everyone. This endeared him in the hearts of all the devotees. The pilgrims that attended Vraja-maṇḍala Parikramā felt like they were leaving a loving parent upon their departure. This is one of the glories and symptoms of a pure guru. Śrī Guru does not simply give a mantra and leave; he cares for his disciples with more love than a million mothers. Proper performance of Vraja-maṇḍala Parikramā is accomplished by constant remembrance of Śrī Guru-pāda-padma and going everywhere under his guidance, knowing that he is eternally present, and serving in the pastimes of Sri Sri Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in Vraja.
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (Excerpted from the Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Sri Guru Darshan”. Available from: [email protected] )