In Navadvip, Acarya Kesari had designed the structure for a magnificent temple with nine domes at Devananda Gaudiya Math. Srila Gurudeva, Srila Trivikrama Maharaja, and others served diligently in the construction of the temple grounds. Srila Gurudeva carried bricks from the Ganga to Devananda Gaudiya Matha on his head every day for several weeks in the scorching heat.
After strenuous efforts, the new temple at Devananda Gaudiya Matha was completed. During the Navadvipa Parikrama of 1963, there was an installation festival of Sri Sri Radha-Vinoda Bihari. Acarya Kesari invited all the acaryas of the other Gaudiya Mathas who were preaching and doing parikrama in Navadvip, and they came for the occasion with their parties. The faithful who joined the festival numbered over 30,000.
Back in Mathura after Navadvipa Parikrama, Srila Gurudeva renewed his publication work, translating Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Sri Caitanya siksamrtam and working on the final editing before publishing a compete edition of Jaiva dharma. Kunja bihari Prabhu went for preaching in Agra and other cities to collect funds for publishing costs, to distribute the Patrikas, and to sign up new subscribers.
One day Kunja Bihari decided to take a break from the scorching hear underneath a shady tree nearby a large military base. He was very thirsty and reached for his canteen. After a few sips, army officers approached and seized Kunja Bihari for carrying a military water canteen. An officer asked him, “You are a red cloth sadhu. Where did you get this canteen?”
“I used to be stationed in Lucknow as an officer,” Kunja Bihari replied. “What is your name?” “Khem Simha.”
An official checked his records and discovered that he had received many awards before joining the temple as a renunciant. the officer also noticed he had neglected his recent draft to the skirmishes in the Himalayas. The officer told him, “Why do you want to be a cowardly sadhu? We will not allow it India needs you to fight. That is your dharma.”
That same day Kunja Bihari was forcefully sent for guard duty in Lucknow. When weeks went by without any news of him, Srila Gurudeva became worried and started inquiring as to his whereabouts. Days later, a letter arrived from Kunja bihari. He told of his situation and request Srila Gurudeva to obtain a doctors certificate stating that he had been sick at the time of the draft in 1962. Srila Gurudeva went to a doctor in the Mathura district hospital, who was a disciple of Srila Bhakti Vilasa Tirtha Maharaja in Mayapura, and asked him for a statement to absolve Kunja Bihari from his forced military duty. The doctor declined, saying he would lose his medical certification by doing so. Thus Kunja Bihari remained on military duty in Lucknow.
In 1965, Indian leaders received intelligence that Pakistan was secretly infiltrating forces into Jammu and Kashmir for an insurgency against Indian rule. India responded by launching an attack on Pakistan. Kunja Bihari was sent to lead a squadron into battle. Indian soldiers outnumbered Pakistani forces, but had inferior weaponry from the USSR; Pakistan received arms from the USA. The largest tank conflict in military history since World War II ensued and both sides suffered thousands of casualties.
In one battle, armed with outdated rifles and bayonets, Kunja Bihari led his squadron in a surprise attack on a bunker behind enemy lines. Kunja Bihari alone survived the ambush. From the captured bunker, he used the heavy artillery to disable many advancing tanks and largely due to his efforts, India won one of the most critical battles in the campaign. He was locked in the bunker for two weeks, unable to escape, and lived on survival food pills. He spent the time chanting harinama incessantly. A ceasefire was called by the United Nations in September 1965. India had decidedly won the battle, but in terms of territory gained or lost, it was a stalemate. Kunja Bihari was found alive in the bunker, and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his efforts. He was told, “You can stay wherever you like. What is your wish?”
“I want honorary discharge status. I will live in Mathura as a sadhu.” The military agreed unwillingly and released him of all further duties. When He came back to Mathura, the residents there gave him a hero’s welcome. srila Gurudeva embraced him and asked about his welfare. Gurudeva was pleased to hear that he had been awarded honorary discharge. Kunja Bihari Prabhu began anew his services in Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha. Many times over the years, people of Mathura, including students and soldiers, came to meet with the war-hero sadhu.
Premananda Prabhu ki Jaya! (Excerpted from “Sri Guru Darsana“, please order your copy from bhaktabandhva.org)