Ganesh, by Stephen Knapp

The principal scriptures dedicated to Ganesha are the Ganesha Purana, the Mudgala Purana, and the Ganapati Atharvashirsa. Brahma Purana and Brahmanda Purana are other two Puranic texts that deal with Ganesha.

Lord Ganesh is known as the son of the Shiva and Parvati, and is the god of luck and of “opening the way.” That is why many people pray to Ganesh before starting a new project, in order to proceed with as few obstacles as possible.

Ganesha became the Lord (Isha) of all existing beings (Ganas) after winning a contest from his brother Kartikaya. When given the task to race around the universe, Ganesha did not start the race like Kartikeya did, but Ganesh simply walked around Shiva and Parvati, both his father and mother, as the source of all existence, and, thus, showed his intelligence.

The most prominent characteristic of Lord Ganesh is that he has the head of an elephant. How Lord Ganesh got an elephant’s head is related in several places in the Vedic texts. There may be a few different versions, but the general way in which it is accepted relates as follows: One day Goddess Parvati was at home on Mt. Kailash preparing for a bath. As she didn’t want to be disturbed, she told Nandi, her husband Shiva’s Bull carrier, to guard the door and let no one pass. Nandi faithfully took his post, intending to carry out Parvati’s wishes. But, when Shiva came home and naturally wanted to come inside, Nandi had to let him pass, being loyal first to Shiva. Parvati was angry at this slight, but even more than this, at the fact that she had no one as loyal to Herself as Nandi was to Shiva. So, taking the turmeric paste (for bathing) from her body(some say it was sandalwood paste) and mixing it and fashioning it into her son, she breathed life into it and she created Ganesha who manifested from this form, declaring him to be her own loyal son.

Then when Lord Shiva’s wife, Parvati, was going to bathe in the forest, she wanted someone to guard the area. Some references say she was going to bathe in her house. So she ordered Ganesh to let no one into the area while she was bathing. However, Lord Shiva came after a long absence and wanted in, but was blocked by Ganesh. Lord Shiva did not recognize the boy as his son, nor did Ganesh realize Shiva was his father, and enraged, Shiva and Ganesh began to fight. Ganesh lost the battle with his head being cut off. When Parvati entered the scene and saw what had happened, she was so upset that she was thrown into despair and threatened to destroy the entire universe. Shiva, after understanding the situation, devised the means to revive his son. Desperate to pacify her, Shiva promised to take the head of the first creature he came upon in order to give their son a new head and bring him back to life, and that first being was an elephant. So Ganesh got the head of an elephant and with Lord Shiva’s power, came back to life.

Part of the meaning behind this symbolism of the man with an elephant’s head is to represent the unity between the small entity, or man, and the large universe, the elephant. In the word “gaja”, which means elephant, “ga” means the goal, and “ja” means the origin. In the form of Ganesh, the elephant-headed man represents the culmination of the man, the origin, on the path toward universal consciousness, the goal. Ganesh, therefore, is the representation of man who understands the foundation of the reality upon which the universe rests, as is summarized in the Vedic term, “Thou art That,” tat tvam asi. (Taittiriya Aranyaka 8.1.1)

THE SYMBOLOGY OF GANESH

Ganesh is also called Ganapati. This means lord of the Ganas who are the attendants who control the function of the sense organs. According to Karapatri’s Sri Bhagavat-tattva (p. 638), the word gana means a collection of something that can be counted or comprehended. In this way, Ganapati is also the lord or ruler of categories.

He is also known as the Lord of thresholds or entrances into new dimensions. He is the remover of obstacles or obstructions. That is why students pray to Ganesh before taking a major test, to remove the obstacles. That is also why it is not unusual, especially in India, that as we enter a new space or house we may see an image of Ganesh above the door or nearby to give blessings to those who enter. Thus, he is also the guardian of the doorways. This is the case in many Vedic temples. As we enter the temple, we first see a deity of Ganesh to whom we pray for blessings and the removal of obstacles in our devotion or the rituals that we do inside the temple. That way the obstacles to our worship and further spiritual progress can be removed, in which case our spiritual development can be made more rapidly and easily.

Ganesh is also considered the Lord of astrology. He is said to know the language of the stars and the destinies of every living being. Thus, astrologers also petition Ganesh to pen such knowledge to them.

Ganesh is also said to be the writer of the scriptures. (Mahabharata 1.1.77) He accepted the position of being Vyasadeva’s scribe and wrote the Mahabharata and Srimad-Bhagavatam as it was dictated by Srila Vyasadeva, the compiler of the major portions of the Vedic texts. You can see the cave where this is said to have happened at Mana, near the holy place of Badrinatha (Badarikashrama). For this reason the ancient Brahmana texts also describe him as the god of learning.

His other names include Ganesh (related to the word gana), Vinayaka (a name familiar in South India, meaning great leader), Vighneshvara (the remover of obstacles), Gajanana (elephant-faced), Gajadhipa (lord of elephants), and Jyeshtha-raja (King of the elders).

Ganesh is said to have two wives, Siddhi (success) and Riddhi (prosperity). Thus, if anyone pleases Lord Ganesh with nice prayers or worship, the person also attains the company or blessings of the wives of Lord Ganesh. However, if used improperly, success and prosperity can be distractions on the path toward the goal of spiritual wisdom.

Ganesh is also shown in particular ways with certain symbols, which is described in the Ganapati Upanishad (11-14). He is seen with one tusk and four hands, two of which hold a noose and a hook. The noose that he holds is to catch delusion, to free one from its affects. The noose also represents attachment that can lead to anger, which hurts us like the goad. The noose or rope is also used to pull his devotees nearer to the Truth and to tie them to the Highest God. The hook or goad indicates his power and helps motivate one towards the goal. Sometimes he is also shown holding an axe, which he uses to cut off the worldly attachments of His devotees, which can thus end the cause of their sorrow.

Of the other two hands, one is positioned in the gestures for giving blessings and assuring fearlessness, and the other is often holding a rice ball. Ganesh’s hand that gives blessings shows that he can grant one’s desires and assures freedom from fear, and that he is beyond the influence of time and space wherein fear exists. In this way, he blesses all and offers protection from all obstacles on their spiritual path in seeking the Supreme. The rice ball he is often seen holding indicates the reward of the sadhana or spiritual practice for his devotees. Ganesh also has a big stomach and large ears. The fat belly of Ganesh indicates that the influence of the material manifestation is within him. His big ears represent that he accepts the truthful and positive vibrations, while throwing out the false and non-virtuous words that men may present to him. On his flag is a mouse, which is also his carrier.

Deities of Ganesh are often covered with red vermillion. The significance of the vermillion is that it represents the reddened complexion of one who is absorbed in work, which causes the intensified circulation of blood to all parts of the body. This also produces the skin’s red glow. Ganesh is also the lord of action, so he is often seen smeared with red vermillion. He is also worshiped with red flowers. Since Ganesh works wholeheartedly, he has a strong appetite and is thus offered and enjoys a steady supply of sweets and delicacies.

As Vighneshvara, Lord Ganesh also gives us the gifts that destroy obstacles, restrictions, or hindrances. All obstacles exist in the arena of time and space. Through the access of immortality, or the realization of such, we can overcome the fear that is intrinsic in the arena of temporary time and matter. Thus, Lord Ganesh gives and takes away. He gives us what can take away the hindrances and obstacles that keep us from realizing our true potential. Because of this, Lord Ganesh is often worshiped before starting any new project, or before entering a house or building. This is why he is often placed above doorways through which people enter, or is recognized and afforded respect and worship before accepting a new position, starting a new undertaking, or before beginning a new challenge, like taking a difficult test, so we can reach its completion without hindrance.

In worshiping Ganesh, there are several different mantras from which one can choose that help invoke the energy or mercy of Ganesh. There is also a specific graphic design called a yantra that is also a symbol for Ganesh. The swastika is another graphic design that can be used in representing Ganesh and the good fortune that he can provide. This is also why the swastika is a sign for good fortune.

Locally, you often see Ganesh deities as either individual images or as a bas relief carved from stone or boulders. His trunk is also curved to the right and sometimes to the left. This indicates the ways to get around obstacles to reach the goal. This is an indicator of Ganesh’s ability to master adversities, and is also a symbol for the Om mantra. His trunk also often holds a modaka, a type of sweet. The single tusk he has represents the one Truth, while the broken tusk indicates the imperfections of the ever-changing material world. He lost the broken tusk when Parashurama once arrived at Mount Kailash to see Lord Shiva. However, Shiva was sleeping, so Ganesh did not allow Parashurama to get in. When they started fighting, Ganesh lost one tusk. (Padma Purana)

The broken piece of the tusk was later used as a pen to write the Mahabharata when it had been dictated by Srila Vyasadeva to Ganesh. How Ganesh wrote the Mahabharata from the dictates of Srila Vyasadeva is described as follows: Vyasadeva entered into a state of meditation after the death of the Kaurava and Pandava clans, and after the disappearance of Lord Krishna. While the great story of events between the tribes, along with the episodes of the Kuruksetra war, was still in his mind, he wanted to write the epic in the form of a great poem. He went to Brahma for advice regarding a qualified person who could accept his dictation to write the story, and Brahma mentioned Ganesh. When Vyasa thought about Ganesh, he appeared before the sage. However, Ganesh was not so receptive to the idea, so he stipulated that Vyasa dictate it in such a way that Ganesh would never have to put down his pen before it was completed. Vyasadeva countered with the requirement that Ganesh not write down anything before he completely understood the meaning of it. Ganesh was not meant to write anything he did not understand in order that he realize the depths of the meaning, and how to write it in a way that would make the meaning accessible to all humanity. This was agreed, and the Mahabharata was completed within three years. (Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 1, verses 74-80)

Sometimes Ganesh is shown as Balaganapati in his child form, or Tarunaganapati as a young man. During the popular Ganesh Chaturthi festival, Ganesh is worshiped as Varasiddhi Vinayaka. At other times Ganesh is portrayed as Herambaganapati, with a third eye in between his eyebrows, along with five heads and ten arms. These show an extended view of his various powers, which are represented by what he holds in his hands, which include a lotus, pomegranate, water-pot, an axe, a lute, a sugarcane, ears of paddy, a bow and arrow, a thunderbolt, prayer beads, and a book.

The mouse that accompanies Ganesh is his carrier. The mouse is often seen in pictures eating or stealing the sweets that are piled near Ganesh. The mouse is the desire to enjoy material pleasures and the dangers of the ego. Though the mouse is small, this desire for material happiness, and the driver that motivates one into actions to acquire such pleasure, is like a thief that takes away all that people possess. It steals away one’s life that could be used to acquire the goal of spiritual perfection toward true happiness and liberation. The mouse also represents the mind, which is always active. It takes much weight to keep the mind from going astray. The weight of an elephant, Ganesh, on the mouse represents controlling the mind. Thus, Ganesh rides on this mouse as the controller of material desire and the effects of illusion.

GANESH MANTRAS

To Ganesh, for removing obstacles:

Aum Eikdantaya vidmahe

Vakratunaye Dhimahi

Tanno Buddhih Pracodayat

Translation: “Om. Let us meditate on Sri Ganesh, the lord with one tusk. May that great lord with curved elephant trunk inspire and illumine our mind and understanding.”

Invocation to Ganesh:

Gajananam Bhutganadisevitam

Kapittha Jamboo Phalcharu Bhakshanam

Umasutam Shokvinashkarakam

Namami Vighneshwar Padpankajam

Translation: “Oh Elephant-faced, worshiped by the existing beings, of all living beings, tasting the elephant apple (kaith) and jambolana (jamun), the Son of Uma, destroyer of grief, I bow to the lotus feet of Ganesh who is lord of all.”

Ganesh Gayatri Mantras for increasing intellect:

Om Lambhodaraya vidmahe

Mahodaraya deemahi

Tanno danthi prachodayath

Om. Let me meditate on that god with broad paunch. Oh, God with a big belly, give me higher intellect, And let the elephant faced one illuminate my mind.

Om Thatpurashaya vidhmahe

Vakrathundaya dheemahi

Tanno danthi prachodayath

“Om. Let me meditate on that great male, Oh, God with broken tusk, give me higher intellect, And let the elephant faced one illuminate my mind.”

To Ganesh for removing obstacles, a good way to start any projects, studies or rituals:

Ganapati Bappa Morya

Pudhachya Varshi Lovkar Yaa

Use this to Ganesh prayer before beginning any new project so impediments may be removed and your endeavor may be crowned with success: Om gam ganapataye namaha.

The Ganesh Mula Mantra:

Om srim hrim klim glaum gam ganapataye svaha

Om shanti shanti shantihi

Also:

Om gam-gau-ganapataye

Bighna-binashi ne-svaha

For one who wants wealth and prosperity, meditate on the golden color of Ganesh and say this prayer:

Om Lakshmi Ganapataye namaha

Another to Ganesh, Japa is 5,000 times a day for 25 days:

Om Gum Ganapataye Namaha, Om

Also to Ganesh:

Om gam ganeshaya namaha

Om klim gam gam gam mahaganapataye namaha

To Ganesh for blessings for spiritual success:

Om gananam tva ganapatigm havamahe kavim kavinamupamashravastamam

Jyeshtharajam brahmanam brahmanaspata snah shrinvanutibhissida sadanam

Mahaganapataye namaha

Translation: Om. Oh lord of speech, we worship you, the lord of the gods, the wisest among the wise, the one having incomparable fame, the best among the praiseworthy, and the lord of the Vedic hymns. While listening to our praises, come with your protecting powers and be rested in our yajnashala (temple). Obeisances to Mahaganapati.

Agajananapadmarkam gajananamaharnisham

Anekadantam bhaktanamekadantamupasmahe

Translation: We meditate, day and night, on the one-tusked one (Ganesh) who is the sun for the lotus in the form of the face of Parvati, the one with the elephant face and the one who is the giver of plenty to his devotees.

 

Ramayana Sites in Sri Lanka

The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic attributed to the poet Valmiki and an important part of the Hindu canon. One of the most important literary works of ancient India, the Ramayana consists of 7 chapters (Kanda), and narrates the story of Rama’s wife Sita being abducted by Ravana, the demon (Rakshasa) king of Lanka.

According to the Ramayana, King Ravana brought Sita Devi from India in a Pushpaka Vimana” which is widely known in Sri Lanka as the “Dandu Monara Yanthranaya,” or Large Peacock Machine in Sinhala.

The Ramayana has fascinated many generations, and had a profound impact on art and culture in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

For over thousands of years, the Ramayana, epic of Asia, has had an unshakeable hold on the beliefs of vast multitudes of Asia’s teeming millions. As diverse span of humanity as Kashmiri pandits and Cambodian fishermen, it is the universal heritage of all humanity.

A rich legacy of sites and temples in the country where the most significant events of this epic took place – Lankapura – Sri Lanka. Though some people do not believe that the present Sri Lanka is the one mentioned in the Ramayana, when we investigate the area, there is still much convincing tradition therein and many sites identified with the Ramayana.

Sri Lanka is the proud custodian of more than 50 Ramayana sites from the place of Sita Devi’s captivity to the battlefields where vast armies clashed, to the groves of exotic herbs dropped by Hanuman, to the ultimate theater of war where Lord Rama slew Ravana, the ten-headed demon-king.

People living in the areas where great events took place remember to this day the connection of their soil to the great epic. An oath taken at the spot where Sita Devi undertook “Agni Pariksha” is still considered valid in village courts or grama sabhas. The color of the soil of the ancient battlefield is still red today, and is still surrounded by lighter colored earth. One of the airports of Ravana, torched by Hanuman when he came looking for Sita Devi, still has a scorched-earth look. A patch of darker soil surrounded by brown earth. Exotic alpine Himalayan species are found suddenly amidst tropical Sri Lankan vegetation, the legacy of Hanuman’s heroic voyage carrying a mountain with life-restoring herbs.

Incredibly, the names of places have come down to modern times unchanged. Though great social, cultural and religious changes have taken place in Sri Lanka since.

Sri Lanka shares a special bond with India geographically, historically, culturally and spiritually. The Ramayana begins with Ayodhya in India and climaxes at Lankapura.

People in Sri Lanka through generations believed that king Ravana ruled this country. There are many sites in Sri Lanka which are connected to the Ramayana. Below is a list of places which have been identified as connected to the Ramayana and listed in sequential order.

The Kidnapping of Sita by Ravana

Ravana was the king of Lanka and another 9 kingdoms. He was known as Dasis (or Dasa Shirsha) meaning 10 heads, because he had ten crowns, one each for his ten kingdoms.

His sister Surpanakha went to Jambudweepa for some business. Surpanakha chanced upon Rama at his hermitage and became enamored with the handsome prince. Rama being faithful to his wife, Sita, did not respond and asked Surpanakha to approach Lakshmana who was unmarried. Surpanakha, who felt humiliated by this, tried to attack Sita in anger saying Sita was the cause of the men’s contempt for her. Lakshmana then intervened and cut off Surpanakha’s nose.

Surpanakha, terrified and in pain, flew at once to Lanka to seek the protection of Ravana. When Ravana asked his sister for the cause, Surpanakha said that she had seen Sita, a lady of incomparable beauty, and wanted to bring her for Ravana. Ravana resolved to take revenge for the insult his sister had suffered, as well as to get lovely Sita for him self, and set out to abduct Sita and bring her to Lanka.

Ravana, using a golden deer as a decoy, visited Sita when she was alone. In the guise of an old sage, he abducted and brought her to Weragantota in Lanka in his plane, the Pushpaka vimana.

Weragantota means the “place of aircraft landing” in Sinhala. This is the first place Sita Devi was brought to Lankapura (capita city of king Ravana). These jungles are the place where the city of Lankapura once stood. The city had a beautiful palace for Queen Mandothari surrounded by waterfalls, streams and varieties of flora and fauna. Sita Devi was kept at Queen Mandothari’s palace at Lankapura. The place Sita was held captive is called Sita Kotuwa, which means “Sita’s Fort” in Sinhala. It is believed Ravana had an aircraft repair center at Gurulupotha close to Sita Kotuwa. Sita devi was kept in queen Mandothari’s palace until she was moved to Sita Kotuwa and then on to Ashoka Vatika. The remains that are found here are the remnants of later civilizations. In Valmiki’s depiction, King Ravana’s vimana resembled a huge peacock. The vimana in Sinhala language means “Dhandu Monara” which is known as “flying peacock,” and hence the name Gurulupotha, which means “parts of birds” in Sinhala. This is also called Gavagala.

Sita Taken from Sita Kotuwa to Ashok Vatika (also known as Ashoka / Asoka Vanam)

Ravana moved Sita from Sita Kotuwa to Ashok Vatika the salubrious garden in the mountains. The route too was said to be spectacularly beautiful, as Ravana wanted to show Sita the beauty of his kingdom. The barren land atop the mountain range is believed to be the route in which King Ravana took Sita devi from his capital city Lankapura to Ashoka Vatika, which was a paradise on earth. The Chariot Path atop the mountain range is still visible. Till date no vegetation grows on this passage except grass. King Ravana is believed to have taken this passage on top of these hills to show Sita devi the beauty of his kingdom.

Ashok Vatika is the garden where Ravana held Sita captive. This is in the area of Sita Eliya, close to the city of Nuwara Eliya. The stream that runs from the hill catered to the needs of Sita devi during her stay at Ashok Vatika. She is said to have bathed in this stream. The Hakgala Gardens located at the base of the Hakgala Rock forms part of the famed Ashok Vatika. The Sita Pokuna is a barren area atop the Hakgala Rock Jungle where Sita was kept captive. The Sita Amman Temple is located at this spot. It is interesting to note that foot prints akin to Hanuman’s are found by this river and some are of small size and some are of large size, which tells us of the immense powers of Hanuman transforming himself into any size.

About a century ago three images were discovered in the stream, one of which was that of Sita. It is believed that the deities have been worshipped at this spot for centuries. Now there is temple for Lord Rama, Sitadevi, Lakshmana, and Hanuman by the side of this stream.

The summit of the mountain next to the mountain range overlooking Frotoft Estate in Pussallawa is the place where Hanuman first set his foot on mainland Lanka. This mountain known as Pawala Malai is visible from this mountain range. These hills stand tall in-between King Ravana’s capital city and Ashoka Vatika.

The Sita tear pond is found en route by the chariot route, and is believed to have been formed by the tears of Sita devi. It has not dried up since, even during severe droughts when the adjoining rivers dry up. Visitors could also see the famed Sita Flowers which are endemic to this area. In this area there are many large trees whose bright red blooms add color to the scenery. These flowers are called Sita flowers. The peculiarity of these flowers is the configuration of the petal’s, stamen and pistils, which resemble a human figure carrying a bow, and is said to represent Lord Rama. These flowers are unique only to this area in the whole of Sri Lanka.

Search for Sita

Sugriva, ruler of the Vanara or special monkey kingdom, ordered his monkey armies to search for Sita in all four corners of the earth. Hanuman, Angada, Jambavan and other heroes traveled southwards. Hanuman was the only one strong enough to cross the ocean to reach Lanka. Whilst crossing the ocean, Hanuman was tested by Surasa Devi, the Naga maiden en-route to Lanka. This place is now called Nagadipa.

Hanuman meets Sita at Ashok Vatika and is Captured by Ravana

Hanuman after meeting Sita at Ashok Vatika, decided to test the strength of King Ravana and his army of Rakshasas. He invited battle by uprooting trees and destroying the garden. Upon being captured by the Rakshasa guards, Hanuman was brought in the presence of Ravana. As a punishment, Hanuman’s tail was set on fire. Hanuman in turn set fire to the houses in the city. Ussangoda is one such torched area.

On the way back to India Hanuman rested at Mani Kattuthar. The hilltop where Hanuman is believed to have rested after meeting Sita devi is known as Mani Kattuthar. This is a rock in the Labookelle estate. Hanuman met Sita devi and on his way to announce this happy information to Lord Rama, rested on this hilltop. Today an open temple with statues of Lord Rama, Sita devi, Lakshmana, and Hanuman stands on top of it. Locals visit the temple often.

Near by is the village of Kondagala, known as Kondakalai in Tamil, where Sita is said to have deranged her hair whilst passing the place. Kondakalai (Kondagala), like many other cities and villages in Sri Lanka, also derives its name from the Ramayana. When King Ravana took Sita devi in a chariot to Ashoka Vatika, her hairs got deranged because of the speed of the chariot. “Konda kalai” in Tamil means “deranging of hair.” Till date the villagers live with the legacy of this event.

The village also contains Sita Gooli which are rice balls offered by Ravana to Sita; which she refused and threw away. When King Ravana carried Sita devi on his chariot to Ashoka Vatika, he provided her with vitaminized rice balls for refreshment. But Sita devi who did not want to consume anything provided by King Ravana, scattered the rice balls all over the place during her journey, and they are found till date along the chariot track. The local people call these rice balls Sita Gooli and they prescribe them for their children as a cure for stomach disorders and headaches. The farmers too keep them in their cash boxes or grain pots for prosperity. It is claimed that carbon dated testing has been done in Tokyo and Delhi on these rice balls and ascertained them to be more than five thousand years old.

Sita is Hidden after the visit of Hanuman

Upon hearing Hanuman’s threat and seeing his capabilities, King Ravana decided to hide Sita at various secret locations as a precautionary measure. Ravanagoda, which means Ravana’s place in the Kotmale area, is one such complex of tunnels and caves.

Istripura is another ingenious network of paths which are interconnected with all major areas of king Ravana’s city. Istripura means “Area of Women” in Sinhala. This refers to the retinue of ladies Ravana made available to look after Sita.

Konda Kattu Gala refers to the many intruding tunnels and caves in this area. This seems to be a part of a great ingenious network of paths, which is interconnected to all the major areas of King Ravana’s city. Sita devi took bath in this very stream and had dried her hair sitting on a rock and put clips to her hair, hence this rock is known as Konda Kattu Gala. This is situated in the Welimada Area.

Tunnel Network

This tunnel network proves beyond doubt the architectural brilliance of King Ravana. These tunnels served as a quick means of transport through the hills and also as a secret passage and networked all the important cities, airports and dairy farms. A close look at these tunnels indicates that they are man-made and not natural formations. The Buddhist shrine at Kalutara was once where King Ravana’s palace and a tunnel existed. Additional existing tunnel mouths are situated at Welimada, Ravana cave at Bandarawela, Senapitiya at Halagala, Ramboda, Labookelle, Wariyapola/Matale, and Sitakotuwa/Hasalaka, along with many more tunnels. Some have also said that Ravana had a tunnel that went all the way to South America, in which he had stored much of his gold and treasury.

Preparing for Battle

Gayathri Peedum is believed to be the place from where King Ravana’s son Meghanath propitiated Lord Shiva with penance and pujas, and in turn was granted super natural powers by Lord Shiva prior to the battle. Neelawari is located in the North of the country in the Jaffna peninsula and is where Lord Rama shot an arrow to the ground to obtain water for his army upon arriving at Lanka.

Dondra, Seenigama & Hikkaduwa are places in the South of Lanka where Sugriva (king of Vanaras, the special species of monkeys) prepared for his onslaught on King Ravana’s forces from the Southern flank.

War Breaks Out

During the height of the battle Indrajit, elder son of Ravana beheaded a lookalike of Sita Devi in front of Hanuman to break his spirit. This place is known as Sitawaka in the Avissawella area.

Yudhaganawa, meaning battlefield in Sinhala, is a place in Wasgamuwa where the major battles took place.

Upon being hit by Indrajit’s Brahmastra, both Rama, Lakshmana and the monkey army lay unconscious on the battle field. To cure them, Jambavan the veteran monkey instructed Hanuman to go to Sanjeevani Parvatha, the hill of herbs between Rishhaba and Kilasa peaks in the Himalayas and bring the necessary medicinal herbs. As he could not identify which herbs to select, Hanuman uprooted the entire peak with all the herbs growing there from the mountain and returned to Lanka.

Parts of the hill fell on five places in Sri Lanka; namely Rumassala in Galle, Dolukanda in Hiripitiya, Ritigala close to Habarana on the Habarana Anuradhapura road, Talladi in Mannar, and Katchchathivu in the north.

Lord Karthikaya Subramaniyam was requested to go to battle by Lord Indra to protect Lord Rama from king Ravana’s Brahmastra. This was at Kataragama, which is now a very popular place for worship among Sri Lankans.

The Fall of Ravana

Dunuvila lake is a place from which Lord Rama fired the Brahmastra arrow at king Ravana who was directing the war from Laggala. It is here that King Ravana was killed by Lord Rama’s brahmastharam. The top of Laggala is flat and is believed to have been affected by the power of the brahmastharam. “Dhunu” means “arrow” and “Vila” means “Lake,” so it gets its name from this pastime.

The name Laggala is derived from the Sinhala term “Elakke Gala“, which means Target Rock. Laggala served as a sentry point to observe Lord Rama’s army. The cartels behind the Dunuvila lake are called Laggala. It was from this rock the first glimpse of Lord Rama’s army was sighted and informed to King Ravana. This hill is geographically the highest part of the northern region of King Ravana’s city and on a clear day the north east side that is Thiru Koneshwaran and north west side that is Talai Mannar can be seen even today. King Ravana is believed to have done meditation on this rock and prayed to Lord Shiva at Thiru Koneshwaran from this point.

After Ravana’s death, his body was kept at Yahangala, meaning “Bed Rock” in Sinhala. This is situated along the Mahiyanganaya – Wasgamuwa road. King Ravana’s body was kept upon this rock so his countrymen could pay their last respects to their dear departed king. Geographically this rock is visible from miles away on its 3 sides.

After the War

Sita met Rama after the war, and Divurumpola is the place she under went the “Agni” test of fire where she proved her innocence and purity to Rama. Divurumpola means the “Place of Oath” in Sinhala. She came out unscathed and proved her innocence and purity.

The message of Rama’s victory over Ravana was sent to Sita. After a bath and adorned with jewels she was taken on a palanquin before Rama. Meeting her husband after such a long time she was overcome with emotion, but Rama seemed lost in thought. At length he spoke, “I have killed my enemy. I have done my duty as a true king. But you have lived for a year in the enemy’s abode. It is not proper I take you back now.”

Sita was shocked. “You have broken my heart” she said, “only the uncultured speak like this. Have you forgotten the noble family I come from? Is it my fault Ravana carried me off by force? All the time, my mind, my heart, and soul were fixed on you alone, my lord!”

She turned to Lakshmana and said with tears streaming from her eyes, “prepare for me a fire. That is the only remedy for this sorrow of mine.” Lakshmana, in suppressed anger, looked at Rama’s face, but there was no softening, he lighted a big fire. Sita reverently went round her husband and approached the blazing fire. Joining her palms in salutation, she said, “if I am pure, O fire, protect me.” With these words she jumped into the flames. Then arose from out of the flames, Agni the fire-god, whom she had invoked. He lifted Sita from the flames unharmed, and presented her to Rama. “Don’t I know that she is spotless and pure at heart?” cried Rama, standing up to receive her. “It’s for the sake of the world that I made her go through this ordeal of fire, so that the truth may be known to all.”

The spot was initially fenced and walled to protect it from the surrounding wilderness. Then a sapling of the Anuradhapura bodhi tree (one of the 30 original saplings) was planted as a mark of respect for the place. A small pagoda was built subsequently under the Bodhi tree. The temple depicts paintings of the Ramayana epic.

Today the temple is revered for the oath taken by Sita devi and even the legal system permits and accepts the swearing done at this temple while settling disputes between parties.

Vantharamulai is a place that Lord Rama, Sita Devi, Lakshmana, and Hanuman rested after the turmoil of the war. Amaranthakali is believed to be the place where they had the first meal after the war.

When returning to India in one of King Ravana’s vimanas, Rama felt he was followed by a Brahmahasti Dhosham, a malevolent black shadow or dark cloud capable of taking His life, as He had killed Ravana, a Brahmin. When the vimana was passing over Munneswaram, He felt the vimana vibrating, and at Muneswaram realized the “Brahmaasthi Dosham” was not following him at this particular point. So Rama felt safe from the “Brahmahasti Dhosham” at Munneswaram. So Lord Rama stopped the vimana at this juncture and asked Lord Shiva for a remedy. This is the place where Lord Rama prayed to Lord Shiva and where Shiva blessed Lord Rama and advised installing and praying to four lingams to get rid of the Dhosham. The first Lingam was installed at Manavari about 5 Km from here, near the banks of Deduru Oya. This was followed by the lingams at Thiru Koheneshwaram, Thiru Ketheshwaram, and Rameshwaram in India.

It is believed that Munneswaram predates the Ramayana and a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was located here. Munneswaram means the first temple for Shiva (Munnu + Easwaran). A Shiva Lingam was already here when lord Rama visited the place.

After King Ravana’s death, Ravana’s brother Vibhishana was coroneted as a king of Lanka by Lakshmana at Kelaniya. Kelaniya is the closest site to Colombo connected to the Ramayana.

There exists a Buddhist temple, the Kelaniya Buddhist Temple and shrine for King Vibishana. There are murals enshrined outside the Buddhist temple depicting the crowning of Vibishana. Vibishana is considered one of the four guardian deities of Sri Lanka, and temples for Vibishana are found throughout Sri Lanka. A painting of King Vibishana also adorns the new Parliament of Sri Lanka. In fact, there are no temples dedicated for Ravana, but many exist for Vibishana; this goes to prove that his stand towards Vedic Dharma & justice made people to revere him as a god in Sri Lanka.

The Kelani River is mentioned in the Valmiki Ramayana and Vibishana’s palace was said to be on the banks of this river. The reason Lakshmana crowned Vibishana was because Lord Rama had to return to India to continue his self-exile of 14 years to honor the commitment to His father, King Dasarath of Ayodhya. King Vibishana was considered a fair king, as he supported Rama against his own brother’s injustice. Many devotees that visit King Vibishana’s shrine pray to him asking his intervention to a fair recourse to their problems.

Other Places of Interests Connected to the Ramayana in Sri Lanka

1. Kanniya – The place where King Ravana carried out the last rites for his mother.

2. Gavagala or Ghoushala – King Ravana’s dairy farm.

3. Airports of King Ravana:

Thotupolakanda (means “Mountain Port” in Sinhala) at Horton plains

Weragantota (means “Place of Aircraft” landing in Sinhala) in Mahiyangana

Ussangoda (means “Area of Lift” in Sinhala) in the Southern coast

Wariapola (means “Aircraft Port” in Sinhala) in Matale and Kurunagala.

4. Neelawari — A place where Lord Rama aimed an arrow to obtain water.

5. Panchamukha Anjanaya Temple, Kalubowila – This is the first Anjaneyar Temple in Sri Lanka and also the only Panchamukha (five faced) Anjaneyar Temple in Sri Lanka. It is the only temple in the world to have a chariot for Ajanyar. The chariot festival is held annually at end of December to the beginning of January. Hanuman’s mother is Anjan. Hanuman is known as Anjan + Aiyar = Anjaneyar in South India (Hamuman in North India).

6. Rama Temple at Rattota — One of the few Rama’s temple in Sri Lanka.

7. Maha Ravanagoda / Kuda Ravanagoda — Ravana’s places in the south.

8. Veedurupola – Buddhist temple dedicated to research on Ramayana.

9. Sri Baktha Hanuman Temple — on the hills of Ramboda is a place where Hanuman was searching for Sita Devi. The name is also associated with Rama’s army. Rampadai means Rama’s force in Tamil. The Chinmaya mission of Sri Lanka built a temple with Hanuman as the presiding deity. On every full moon day special pujas are conducted and witnessed by thousands of devotees.

10. Manavari Temple is the first lingam installed and prayed to Lord Rama and till date this lingam is called as Ramalinga Shivan. Rameshwaram is the only other lingam in the world named after Lord Rama.

11. Rama Temple – Rattota. There are a few Rama temples in Sri Lanka, this is one of them. This is the only Rama temple in this area. This is a privately managed temple. This is one of the most scenic routes to travel from Matale to visit Laggala (on the northern side of Knuckles).

12. Kataragama Temple – This is the temple of Lord Karthikeya Subramaniam at Kataragama. Lord Karthikeya was requested to go to the battlefield by Lord Indra on the last day of war. This was done to protect Lord Rama from the wrath of the Brahmastra aimed by King Ravana which otherwise would have weakened Lord Rama. The benefit was that the most powerful brahmasthra weapon aimed at Lord Rama for the second time was rendered useless by the presence of Lord Karthikeya.

13. Ussangoda – According to the Ramayana, after meeting Sita devi, Hanuman dedicated to test the strength of the mighty King Ravana and his army of Rakshasas. In the events that unfolded, Hanuman’s tail was set on fire by the Rakshasas, who in turn went on to torch some parts of King Ravana’s empire. Ussangoda is one of the torched areas, which is said to have been an airport used by King Ravana.

14. Vishnu Devala, Dondra – These are the places from where King Sugriva of the Vanara’s started his onslaught on King Ravana’s force.

15. Ravana Goda – This is a place where Sita devi stayed during her transit. This area is also linked with tunnels and caves, which runs through to other parts of King Ravana’s kingdom. This is situated in the Kotmala area opposite to Ramboda rock. The main cave entrance was closed by an earth-slip in 1947. Locals believe this part of the complex was used as a prison by Ravana. The cave complex has not been fully explored.

16. Ravana’s mummy – An additional site connected to local belief, but yet to be discovered is the place where locals believe Ravana’s mummified body is hidden within the mountain range of Harasbatha, Ragala and Walapane.

References

http://www.sltda.gov.lk/ramayana   and

http://www.tourslanka.com/ramayana-sri-lanka/tours/ramayana-site-tours-excursions.php

Time Line of Lord Krishna Supported by Science

(An Excerpt from “Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture”)

By Stephen Knapp

 

As devotees and followers of the Vedic path, we already accept the premise that Lord Krishna appeared 5,000 years ago and spoke the Bhagavad-gita in the Mahabharata war. But it is always nice when scholars, other researchers and science can add support to what we already propose. So let’s take a look at this.

One aspect that can show us the early nature of Vedic society, and with a little more reliability, is highlighting the time when Lord Krishna was present. This is another point that has generated many opinions, but is now much clearer than ever with more recent research and findings.

Astrophysicist Dr. Narahari Achar, a physicist from the University of Memphis, clearly showed with astronomical analysis that the Mahabharata war took place in 3067 BCE. Examining the Mahabharata, books 3, 5, and 18, his sky map software showed that all these descriptions converge in the year 3067. Achar also acknowledged that some 30 years earlier, in 1969, S. Raghavan had arrived at the same date.

In determining the date of the Mahabharata war at Kurukshetra, astronomical references in the epic can be used, of which there are more than one hundred and fifty. Most of these that pertain to the war, though there are many scattered throughout the texts, is in the Udyoga and Bhisma Parvas. Those in the Bhisma Parva are especially systematic and are also in accordance with the astrological omens described in the Atharva Veda and its Parishishtas, referring mostly to comets. When these are put together with the retrograde motion of Mars before reaching Jyestha, this leads to the unique date of 3067 BCE for the date of the war, which was previously proposed by Professor Raghavan. 1

This corroborates with the view that the age of Kali-yuga started in 3102 BCE, according to Dr. Achar. As stated in the Puranas, Kali-yuga had already begun, but its full influence was held back because of the presence of Lord Krishna. Then when Lord Krishna departed from this world, which is said to have occurred 35 years after the war of Kurukshetra in 3067, making it the year of 3032 BCE, then Kali-yuga began to show more of its effects. 2

In the time line for the passing away of Grandfather Bhisma, for example, it is said that Bhisma passed away on the Magha (January-February) shukla ashtami, after the winter solstice, which leads to the date of January 13, 3066 BCE for the winter solstice. 3

So, in considering the chronology according Professor Raghavan, we have:

Lord Krishna’s departure from Upaplavya nagara on the mission for peace–September 26, 3067 BCE

Krishna reaches Hastinapura–September 28, 3067 BCE

Lunar eclipse–September 29, 3067 BCE

Krishna rides with Karna–October 8, 3067 BCE

Solar eclipse–October 14, 3067 BCE

The war begins–November 22, 3067 BCE

Fourteenth day of the war, continued into the wee hours of the morning–December 8, 3067 BCE

Balarama returns–December 12, 3067 BCE

Winter solstice–January 13, 3066 BCE

Bhisma’s passing away–January 17, 3066 BCE 4

Departure of Lord Krishna– 3031 BCE.

About when Vedavyasa composed the main Vedic texts– 3000 BCE

About when the Sarasvati had dried up or disappeared–1900 BCE

The above accounts for 48 days from the time of Bhisma’s fall to the time of his passing. However, it is generally accepted that Grandfather Bhisma had 58 sleepless nights between the time of his fall and the time of his passing. Yet, if you count the 10 days that he lead the armies into war in which he may also have not been able to sleep, that would give the full 58 sleepless nights that are described.5

The famous astronomical text known as the Surya Siddhanta also states that the sun was 54 degrees away from the vernal equinox when Kali-yuga began on a new moon day, which corresponds to February 17/18, 3102 at Ujjain.

From the internal evidence in the Mahabharata text, the coronation of Maharaja Yudhisthir can be determined to be 36 years before the beginning of Kali-yuga, or about 3138 BCE. One scholar, Dr. Patnaik, had calculated the date of the starting of the Mahabharata war to be October 16, 3138 BCE from references available in the epic itself.

Of course, different scholars may arrive at variations in their calculations, and there have been a few different versions of the Mahabharata, and over the many centuries since it was written, additions and accretions are found. For example, verses 2.28.48-9 mention roma and antakhi in Sanskrit, which some scholars interpret to mean Rome and Antioch. This places these mentions not earlier than 300 BCE since Antioch was founded in 301. 6 However, this does not limit the age of the earlier form of the Mahabharata, which is known to have been written shortly after the war of Kurukshetra.

Nonetheless, as B. N. Narahari Achar explains, other scholars have proposed varying years for the Mahabharata war, from 3102 BCE to 3139 BCE. However, none of these dates can produce the astronomical configurations described in the Mahabharata.

Another point of consideration is that it is generally accepted by most Vedic scholars that the age of Kali-yuga began in February 17-18 of 3102 BCE, which also coincides with the astronomical configurations. This also is given credence from the Aryabhatta Tradition in which Aryabhatta, who lived 476-550 CE, explains that when he was 23 years old, 3600 years of Kali-yuga had elapsed. Aryabhatta, one of the great mathematicians and astronomers of India in the 5th century CE, examined the astronomical positions recorded in the Mahabharata. In his work, the Aryabhattiya, he calculated that the approximate date to be 3100 BCE, justifying the date of the Kurukshetra war to have been fought about 5000 years ago, as the tradition itself and most Hindus have always said.

This again identifies the year of 3102 BCE. However, the Mahabharata itself does not describe when Kali-yuga began. All it says is that the war took place some time during the interval of Dvapara and Kali-yugas, and it certainly took place before Lord Krishna left this world. But there is evidence that Kali-yuga had already begun before Lord Krishna disappeared.

In the Bhagavata Purana (1.15.36) it is explained, “When the Personality of Godhead Lord Krishna left this earthly planet in His selfsame form, from that very day Kali, who had appeared partially before, became fully manifest to create inauspicious conditions for those who are endowed with a poor fund of knowledge.”

Therefore, Kali-yuga had already appeared, but it was only due to the presence of Lord Krishna who was holding back its influence. But after He left this world, Kali’s full potency took effect, which is also stated in the Kali-raja Vrittanta. Thus, the war is most likely to have been in 3067 BCE and the beginning of Kali-yuga accepted as 3102 BCE.

Some people, such as Max Muller and others, have had trouble accepting this date as the time of the Mahabharata, because they felt that the descriptions of the planetary positions of the Saptarishis (Ursa Major) were not real. However, a similar description is also given in the second chapter of the twelfth canto of the Bhagavata Purana, which helps verify the time of the Mahabharata.

One particular point to consider is that it has been shown that the positions of the Saptarishis, as explained in the work of Anthony Aveni, noted author of The Empire of Time: Calendars, Clocks and Cultures, that in many cultures, even in Africa and American Indian cultures, it is believed that the entire solar system revolves through the galaxy of the Milky Way, around the brightest star of the Pleiades, in the Taurus constellation. These are known as the Seven Sisters or Krittikas in the Vedic tradition. The brightest star in the Pleiades is Alcyone, and the sun completes one revolution around this star in approximately 3000 years. This has made the Pleiades a sacred object in the sky in many cultures. But the point is that it is this periodic revolution that is why the Saptarishis repeat their positions described in the Bhagavata Purana every 2700 years. Thus, when calculations are based on the position of these stars, we have to realize that the Vedic texts, including the Ramayana and the descriptions therein, could be relating to time periods much earlier than we think.

Additional evidence that can help establish the time of Lord Krishna was in Mohenjodaro, where a tablet dated to 2600 BCE was found which depicts Lord Krishna in His childhood days. This shows that Lord Krishna was popular at least prior to this date. 7

We also have records from Greek travelers who came to India following Alexander’s invasion which have left references to Krishna. Authors like Pliny referred to Krishna as Heracles, based on Hari Krishna. They record that Heracles (Krishna) was held in special honor by the Sourseni tribe (Shuraseni, based on Shura the father of Vasudeva and grandfather of Lord Krishna) in such places as the major city of Methora (Mathura).

The Greek records go on to record that Heracles (Krishna) lived 138 generations before the time of Alexander and Sandrocottas, which was about 330 BCE. This then calculates, based on about 20 years per generation, to roughly 3090 BCE, which is about the right time considering 3102 BCE is the date when Kali-yuga began. Thus, Lord Krishna was a genuinely historical figure who lived about the time of 3200-3100 BCE, having lived to 125 years of age.

 

WHEN LORD KRISHNA LEFT THIS WORLD

The above information leads us to the approximate date when Lord Krishna left this world. As B. N. Narahari Achar again describes: “According to the epic Mahabharata, Krishna first appears [in the epic] at the time of Draupadi’s wedding, and His departure is exactly 36 years after the war. No information about His birth is available in the epic itself, although there is information about His departure. Krishna observes omens (Mahabharata 14.3.17), similar to the ones seen at the time of the war, now indicating the total destruction of the Yadavas. [Astrological] Simulations show that in the year 3031 BCE, thirty-six years later than 3067 BCE, there was an eclipse season with three eclipses. A lunar eclipse on 20 October was followed by an annular solar eclipse on 5 November, followed by a penumbral lunar eclipse on 19 November, within an interval of 14 days and at an aparvani time. Thus the date of departure of Lord Krishna is consistent with the popular tradition that He passed away 36 years after the war. The information about His birth can be gathered from the Harivamsha and the Bhagavata Purana…. It should be understood, however, that the date of His departure from this world is established on the information in the epic and on the basis of [astronomical] simulations, and it turns out to be 3031 BCE.” 8

 

MORE PROOF OF THE EXISTENCE OF LORD KRISHNA

Sometimes there are comments and even controversies amongst those who are less informed regarding whether Christianity or Vedic culture came first. Some people point out that the devotional elements within the Vedic tradition, especially in regard to the Bhakti movements, must have come from Christianity first and then appeared in the Vedic Vaishnava tradition, the followers of which exhibit much love and devotion to Lord Krishna and Vishnu and His other avataras. But this idea, that Vedic culture came from Christianity, which some Christian preachers in India still try to use in their attempts to convert people, could not be further from the truth. The fact is that there is archeological proof that the Vaishnava tradition of devotion to Lord Vishnu existed many years prior to the appearance of Christianity.

Not far from the Buddhist site of Sanchi in Central India, we take a 45-minute ride on the very bumpy road to Vidisha or Besnagar where we find the Heliodorus column, locally known as the Khamb Baba pillar. This was erected by Heliodorus, the Greek ambassador to India in 113 BCE. Heliodorus was sent to the court of King Bhagabhadra by Antialkidas, the Greek king of Taxila. The kingdom of Taxila was part of the Bactrian region in northwest India, which had been conquered by Alexander the Great in 325 BCE. By the time of Antialkidas, the area under Greek rule included what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Punjab.

Heliodorus writes on the stone pillar the time it was erected and the fact that he had converted to Vaishnavism, or the worship of Lord Vishnu. The inscription on the column, as published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, says:

“This Garuda column of Vasudeva (Vishnu), the god of gods, was erected here by Heliodorus, a worshiper of Vishnu, the son of Dion, and an inhabitant of Taxila, who came as Greek ambassador from the Great King Antialkidas to King Kasiputra Bhagabhadra, the Savior, then reigning prosperously in the fourteenth year of his kingship. Three important precepts when practiced lead to heaven: self-restraint, charity, conscientiousness.”

This shows that Heliodorus had become a worshiper of Vishnu and was well versed in the texts and ways pertaining to this religion. It can only be guessed how many other Greeks became converted to Vaishnavism if such a notable ambassador did. This conclusively shows the Greek appreciation for India and its philosophy.

It was General Alexander Cunningham who was doing an archeological survey in 1877 who first took notice of the significance of the column. However, he did not attend to the inscription that was on it because it was covered with vermilion. This was because the pilgrims who worshiped had a custom to smear the column with vermilion.

It was only in January of 1901 when a Mr. Lake uncovered the paint from what he thought was some lettering. Once the ancient Brahmi text was translated, the historical significance of the column became ever more apparent.

The British Sanskritists, due to their superior views of themselves, had developed the idea that much of the Vedic traditions and legends of Lord Krishna had to have been incorporated from the Bible and the stories of Jesus. However, this Heliodorus column was the archeological discovery that proved to the disappointed British that knowledge of Krishna and the Vaishnava tradition predated Christianity by at least 200 years. The column indicated that the Indians did not adopt legends of Christ to put in their Puranas to be used for the stories of Krishna as the British had hypothesized since this gave proof that knowledge of Krishna predated Jesus by almost 200 years.

Another point to consider is that if a Greek official was so impressed with the philosophy of Vaishnavism that he converted to it in 200 BCE, then it means that Vaishnavism and the element of spiritual devotion to God, as found in the Bhakti tradition, had to have originated several hundred years if not several thousand years earlier in order for it to have developed to a stage wherein the Greeks were so much impressed by it. So this is a serious historical site to see.

The Heliodorus column also indicates that the Vedic tradition accepted converts at that time. Only after the difficulties between Hindus and Muslims was there a hesitancy on the part of Hindus to accept converts to the Vedic tradition. The Vedic religion saw itself as universal and welcomed all people into its embrace. As Raychaudhari writes: “The Beshnagar record testifies to the proselytizing zeal of the Bhagavatas [Vaishnavas] in the pre-Christian centuries, and shows that their religion was excellent enough to capture the hearts of cultured Greeks, and catholic enough to admit them into its fold.”

This evidence further shows that Greece was but a part of Vedic culture and repeated what it and its philosophers had learned from the Vedic sages rather than being a source of the higher levels of philosophy as some people think. Furthermore, this evidence bears witness to the fact that the Christian tradition and its main element of devotion or bhakti to God was found in Vedic culture long before it appeared within the confines of Christianity. In fact, much of the deeper spiritual philosophy in Christianity is but a repeat of what had been previously established and much more deeply developed in the older Vedic tradition. So to fathom the deeper aspects of the different levels of devotion to God, one can investigate the Vedic and Vaishnava tradition to learn the finer details.

Additional archeological finds include the Mora Well and Ghosundi Inscriptions, which tell us that the rich and complex Vaishnava conception of God and full expansions of the Godhead into the material universes were already well established in the first two centuries before Christ. Seven miles west of Mathura in the small and unimposing village of Mora, General Cunningham made another vital find regarding the historicity of Vaishnavism. In 1882, on the terrace of an ancient well, he discovered a large stone slab filled with inscriptions. Although more than half of the writing had already peeled away on the right side, the remainder was legible. It was transcribed, and a facsimile of the inscription was published in the Archaeological Survey of India’s Annual Report. The message was clear. Not only was Krishna worshiped in the centuries before Christ, but also His expansions or associates, especially “the five heroes of the Vrishni Clan.” Scholarly research makes evident that these five are Krishna (Vasudeva), Balarama (Sankarshana), Pradyumna, Samba, and Aniruddha.

This was the proof that the complex theology, metaphysics, and cosmology of Sanatana-dharma and Vaishnavism definitely existed in an advanced state centuries before Christ. The Mora Well inscription is an important archeological proof of this historical fact.

Furthermore, in the village of Ghosundi in the Chitor district of Rajasthan is found the Ghosundi Inscription, which largely duplicates the message of the Mora Well Inscription. Kaviraja Shyamala Dasa first brought this evidence to light in The Journal of the Bengal Asiatic Society. Today, the inscription can be inspected in the Victoria Hall Museum in Udaipur.

The surviving part of this inscription relevant to this chapter reads as follows: “[this] railing of stone for the purposes of worship is [caused to be made] in the Narayana-compound, [dedicated] to the Blessed Ones [bhagavabhyam] Samkarshana and Vasudeva, the gods…”

The inscription is in a form of Sanskrit script called Northern Brahmi script, which dates the inscription as being from the second century BCE in either the late Maurya or early Sunga periods. An almost identical inscription also was uncovered nearby and is called the Hathi-vada Inscription. According to K. P. Jayaswal of the Archaeological Survey of India, these inscriptions demonstrate that not only the Kshatriyas but also the Brahmanas or priestly and intellectual class worshiped Krishna as the “Lord of all,” and, thus, Vaishnavism was entrenched in the entire Indian society.

The same point is made in the famous Nanaghat Cave Inscription in the state of Maharashtra, where Vasudeva and Sankarshana (or Krishna and Balarama) are included in an invocation of a Brahmana. On epigraphical grounds, this inscription is dated conclusively as coming from the second half of the first century BCE. Additionally, Raychaudhuri reports:

The Nanaghat Inscription shows further that the Bhagavata [Vaishnava] religion was no longer confined to Northern India, but had spread to the south and had captured the hearts of the sturdy people of Maharashtra. From Maharashtra it was destined to spread to the Tamil country and then flow back with renewed vigor to the remotest corners of the Hindu Vedic world.

There is also much numismatic evidence that corroborates the antiquity of Krishna. For instance, excavations at Al-Khanum, along the border of Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, conducted by P. Bernard and a French archeological expedition, unearthed six rectangular bronze coins issued by the Indo-Greek ruler Agathocles (180?-?165 BCE). The coins had script written in both Greek and Brahmi and, most interestingly, show an image of Vishnu, or Vasudeva, carrying a Chakra and a pear-shaped vase, or conchshell, which are two of the four main sacred symbols of God in Vaishnavism.

 

DATE OF LORD RAMA

Another point we could discuss is the approximate date of Lord Rama. Lord Rama appeared in the Solar Dynasty, but even the time frame of His appearance may shed more light on the antiquity of Vedic culture. Naturally, scholars have different views on when He may have existed. Some say He was here a few thousand years before Lord Krishna. In fact, in an April 2011 edition of the Times of India, Saurabh Kwatra writes that using the zodiac and the recorded tithis, days marked according to the phases of the moon, he calculated that the birth of Lord Rama, as related in the Valmiki Ramayana, was December 4th, 7323 BCE. While using other forms of planetary computer software, others have come up with other dates.

Though these may be some of the more recent calculations, still the tradition places the era of Lord Rama much earlier than that. For example, the Vayu Purana (70.48) says:

tretayuge chaturvinshe ravanastapasah kshayat

I

ramam dasharathim prapya saganah kshayamlyavan

II

This relates that the misbehaving Ravana was killed with his kiths and kins in a war with Rama in the 24th Treta-yuga. We are presently in the 28th chaturyuga (cycle of 1000 yugas) of the Vaivasvat manvantara. Furthermore, this is corroborated by Rupa Goswami in his Laghu Bhagavatamrita that Rama appeared in the Treta-yuga of the 24th yuga cycle. There are 71 cycles of the four yugas in a manvantara period, which would mean the appearance of Lord Rama would be about 18 million years ago.

Another interesting point is that in the Suderkand section of the Valmiki Ramayana (5.4.27)elephants with four tusks are mentioned as standing at the gates of Ravana’s palace. Also in 5.27.12 an ogress named Trijata sees in her dream Lord Rama mounted on a great elephant with four tusks. The fact that they knew of elephants with four tusks is very intriguing since, scientifically speaking, a quick reference to the elephant with four tusks is called a Mastondontoidea, which is calculated to have evolved around 38 million years ago, and is suspected of becoming extinct around 15 million years ago. This would help verify the ancient date of Lord Rama to be around 18 million years ago. Interesting… isn’t it?

The more we look in the right places for the right evidence, the more we see that the Vedic tradition indeed holds the universal spiritual truths.

CHAPTER NOTES

1. B. N. Narahari Achar, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmought, USA, 2010, p. 203.

2. Nicholas Kazanas, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmought, USA, 2010, p. 53.

3. B. N. Narahari Achar, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmought, USA, 2010, p. 225.

4. Ibid., p. 231.

5. Ibid., p. 244.

6. Nicholas Kazanas, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmouth, USA, 2010, p. 53.

7. V. S. Agrawal, India in the Days of Panini, 1953.

8. B. N. Narahari Achar, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmought, USA, 2010, p. 246-7.

 

Vrindavana: The holy Land of Lord Krishna

Vrindavana: The Holy Land of Lord Krishna

By Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana dasa)

(An Excerpt from Stephen’s book “Seeing Spiritual India”)

 

        This provides a description of a tour through Vrindavana, the holy land of Lord Krishna where He displayed many of His most intimate pastimes. Thus, we can see that the stories found in many of the ancient Puranas, or the Mahabharata are not merely myths or legends, but we can see the places where they actually happened. We start in Mathura, then go to Gokula, Vrindavana, and then to other places in the greater area of Vraja, or Vraja-Mandala. Our description begins below the detailed map. 

  

MATHURA

                As we begin our tour of the holy places of East and Central India, the first major holy place to see is only a short three hour ride by train or bus ride south from Delhi. Now that they have built a nice highway through the area, the road is much faster than it used to be. Vraja, which has a perimeter of 168 miles and is composed of many villages and towns, is considered nondiferent from the holy places of Mayapur (Navadvipa), Jagannatha Puri, and Dwaraka. The same spiritual nature is manifest in all of these places. But Vraja is considered the holiest of all holy dhams. In many places in the shastra are descriptions of the glories of  Mathura and Vrindavan. The glories of Mathura are elaborately explained in the Varaha Purana, chapters 152 through 180. One verse states: “A moment in Mathura is worth a thousand years spent in Kashi (Varanasi).” And simply by bathing in the Yamuna River in Mathura one can be freed from all sins. Residing here for only a few weeks qualifies one for liberation from material existence. And each step taken in Mathura is equal to visiting a holy place elsewhere. It is explained that those who die here attain Vishnu-loka, the abode of Lord Vishnu in the spiritual sky of Vaikuntha, and do not take birth again.

                The descriptions of the glories of Vrajamandala go on and on, but they are known only to a few rare souls in this world. Only the most fortunate get to hear about it, what to speak of getting the opportunity to visit this holy place. And since it is only a few hours away from Delhi, anyone who is spiritual inclined must visit this sacred place.

                Many holy men can be seen visiting the temples, walking in the streets, singing or chanting as they go. Though they may seem destitute, they are often very jolly because of their spiritual wisdom and freedom from materialistic problems. Here the holy men and saintly women enter into a higher reality that makes their bodily condition less significant. Many bhaktas, sages, and mystics have experienced unimaginable levels of spiritual ecstasy here, though superficially the area may look like any other part of India where people are engaged in the struggle to survive. But as you look deeper, if you are capable of it, you will find quite another aspect of Vrajamandala that draws pilgrims by the thousands from all over India.

                Basically, Vraja is the land of Krishna. If you really want to understand the pastimes of Krishna, you have to know Vraja. And if you want to know the significance of Vraja, you have to understand Krishna’s pastimes. Krishna was born in Mathura 5,000 years ago but lived in Gokula for three years, then moved to Chatikara and Vrindavan for three years, then lived in Nandagram for three years, and from age 10 to 28 He lived in Mathura. After this He moved to the western coast of India where He lived in Dwaraka for over 96 years. Thus, He stayed in this world for 125 years, but some of His sweetest and most attractive pastimes were performed in Vraja. To fully explain these pastimes and where they took place in this present volume is impossible, unless we wanted to greatly extend the length of this book. There are other books that you can acquire that will explain these pastimes much more fully. But there are some significant sites and temples that I’ll try to briefly describe so you can visit and understand their significance. We will start our tour at Mathura since that is usually where we get off the train or bus.

                Mathura is the largest city in Vraja with around 325,000 residents. It is a very busy, noisy, and dusty town with a large railroad junction. Nonetheless, it is an important town for pilgrims. Besides being the birthplace of Lord Krishna, Srila Vyasadeva also took birth here at Krishna Ganga Tirtha on the banks of the Yamuna, where there is a small temple to Ganga Devi and many Shiva lingas. It was also at Ambarish-tila where the great devotee King Ambarish fasted while waiting for the sage Durvasa Muni to return from being chased by Lord Vishnu’s chakra, as described in the Bhagavata Purana. Not far from Krishna Ganga Tirtha is Vishrama Ghat, the best known of all the bathing ghats on the Yamuna in Mathura. Anyone can direct you to it. It was here that Lord Varaha rested after saving the earth from Hiranyaksha and spoke the Varaha Purana. Lord Krishna also bathed and rested here after killing Kamsa, the demoniac king. And Sri Chaitanya also bathed here while visiting Mathura. So many pilgrims come here to perform various rituals and take a purifying bath. You can also watch the aratika to the Yamuna River that takes place every evening around seven PM.

                The most important temple in Mathura is the beautiful Keshava temple that represents the place where Krishna was born. It stands next to a mosque that the fanatic Muslim Aurangzeb built where the original Keshava temple stood before he tore it down in 1669. Nowadays it is all fenced in and you have to go through security gates to enter the temple. The present temple has lovely Radha-Keshava deities and paintings of Krishna’s pastimes cover the walls and ceiling of the large interior. It is said that simply by seeing this deity of Keshava, within a second a person is relieved of the sins of one’s past seven births and will not take birth again. You can also enter the mosque building to see where the original Krishna Janmastan temple stood. There is a nice little altar there now with Krishna deities. The real spot where Krishna is said to have been born is a few blocks away, represented by a very small temple building, past the Potra Kund. The Potra Kund is said to be the location where Mother Yasoda would wash Krishna’s baby clothes. Then down a side street is the place where King Kamsa’s prison was located in which Lord Krishna first appeared. The building is not very well kept because it is located on property owned by Muslims. But this may change in the future.

                Other important temples in Mathura include the Dwarakadish Mandira which is not too far from Vishram Ghat. It has a small, beautiful black deity of a four-handed Dwarakadish, similar to the deity in the huge temple at Dwaraka. This temple is quite popular and many people crowd to see the arati ceremonies. Nearby is a temple of white Sweta-Varaha, and another of Adi-Varaha which was supposed to have once been Lord Indra’s deity in Swarga, his heavenly abode. The deity was later taken by Ravana to Sri Lanka and then to Ayodhya by Lord Ramachandra when Rama defeated Ravana. Lord Ramachandra gave it to His brother Satrughna who brought it to Mathura. This story is more fully explained in Chapter 163 of the Varaha Purana.

                Downstream from Vishrama Ghat is Prayaga Ghat where the ancient temple of Veni Madhava is located. It is said that by bathing here one gets the benefit of bathing at the sangam (where the three rivers of the Ganga, Yamuna, and underground Sarasvati meet) in Prayaga (Allahabad). A little farther is Bengali Ghat where Vasudeva is said to have crossed the river when taking baby Krishna in his arms from Kamsa’s prison to Mahavana after His birth. Next there is Dhruva Ghat where there is a temple on a mound called Dhruva Tila which marks the spot where Dhruva performed austerities to get the darshana of Lord Narayana, as described in Srimad-Bhagavatam.

                Across the river from Vishrama Ghat, about 200 metres from the river, is the small village of Isapur. Here you will find a temple with an image of Durvasa Muni which marks where the great mystic performed many austerities and meditated during Satya-yuga.

                Mathura’s most popular Shiva temple is the Rangeshwara Mandira, one kilometer south of Vishrama Ghat. This is one of four main Shiva temples of the city, which includes Bhuteshwara to the west near Krishna Janmastan, Pipaleshwara in the east near Vishrama Ghat, and Gokarneshwara in the north. Near the Rangeshwara Mandir is the Keshava temple of the Gaudiya Math where Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami took sannyasa, the renounced order of life. The temple has beautiful deities of Radha-Keshava and Sri Chaitanya.

                During the afternoon when the temples are closed you can visit the Government Archeological Museum. It has a good collection of Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist sculptures and art work. Mathura was a major Buddhist center with as many as 20 monasteries when the city was visited by Fa Hian around 401 C.E. and Hiuen Tsang in 634. But things drastically changed for Hindus and Buddhists alike when the Muslim invaders, like Mahmud of Ghazni, arrived in 1017. After that Buddhism practically disappeared from Mathura.

                Another place open all day is Ranga Bhumi, the area which was the wrestling arena of King Kamsa located across from the Main Post Office. On a hill, Kamsa-tila, is where Krishna killed the demoniac Kamsa, and just beyond it is where Krishna crowned Ugrasena as King of Mathura.

  

GOKULA  

                Six kilometers south of Mathura is the small town of Gokula next to the Yamuna River where Krishna lived during part of His childhood. There are several temples here, such as the Gokulnathji Mandir and the temple in the reconstructed fort, Nanda Qila, of Krishna’s father, Nanda Maharaja. Across from the temple are diorama displays of Krishna’s Gokula pastimes. These temples are interesting to visit, but the priests often act like they simply want to make a business of doing special pujas for you and then charge you high prices for them, like 125, 250, 501, or 1001 rupees. So if you do not want this, be sure to tell them you simply came for darshan and then leave a small donation you can afford. Nearby is also a shrine that is the entrance to an underground chamber, located down a few flights of stairs, that has the deity of Mayadevi, who appeared as Krishna’s sister. She appeared from Mother Yasoda but was put into the arms of Mother Devaki by Vasudeva, Krishna’s father, to fool Kamsa into thinking that their seventh child was actually a girl. King Kamsa was waiting for their seventh child to kill Him since he had heard that he would be killed by their seventh child, who would be Lord Krishna. However, when Kamsa learned that their seventh child was born, he went to the prison where he had kept them to see this child. But, instead of Lord Krishna being there, it was Mayadevi who rose up into the air and escaped his clutches. She warned him that the child he was looking for was born elsewhere, and then she disappeared. 

                Two kilometers south of Gokula is Mahavana where there is the Nanda Bhavan temple on a small hill. Inside are large images of Nanda, Mother Yashoda, Balarama, and baby Krishna. The pillars are said to have come from the original palace of Maharaja Nanda. This is also near the janma-bhumi or appearance place of Lord Balarama. A short ride away is the Yamalarjuna Bhanga, also called Ukal Bandan, where you can see an ancient grinding mortar said to be the one Mother Yashoda tied to baby Krishna in order to try and get Him to stay in one place. But He dragged it between two yamalarjuna trees and caused them to crash to the ground. When the trees fell, two demigods were freed who had been cursed to live as these trees for offending Narada Muni. However, Narada Muni had also blessed them to eventually be freed by Lord Krishna. Then the two demigods were allowed to return to heaven. The Srimad-Bhagavatam explains all of these pastimes.

                A kilometer further south is Brahmanda Ghat, which is not only a beautiful and serene bathing spot on the Yamuna, but also where Krishna’s mother suspected Him of eating dirt. When she looked in His mouth she saw the whole universe. This place is a quiet place much of the time, but when you go during the month of Kartika (Oct-Nov) when many people come to Vrindavana for pilgrimage, the place can be very crowded with busloads of people doing their sacred bath and getting darshan of the local Krishna deity.

                A short ride further south is Chinta-garam Ghat. This is indeed a very quiet and lovely spot along the Yamuna. Only a few sages live here with their cows and a small temple with a few deities of Krishna and a Shiva linga. It is soothing under the tree and sitting in the sand. This is the place where Mother Yasoda visited in order to sooth her mind after being confused by seeing the universe in her son’s mouth. She could not fathom that such a sight could be seen in Krishna, so she had to come here to calm herself. So even today it is a nice and quiet place with the only sound coming from the wind and the birds in the trees. 

                Seven kilometers further south is the Dauji temple. Dauji is the deity of Lord Balarama that was originally installed 5,000 years ago by King Vajranabha, Krishna’s great-grandson. In fact, he established a number of Krishna deities in the area. The present temple was built 200 years ago by Shyama Das of Delhi. Many people also attend this temple to get darshan of the single deity of 6 feet tall Lord Balarama. From the other side of the temple you can see the deity of Revati, Lord Balarama’s wife. Nearby is the Balabhadra Kund or Kshira (milk) Sagara (sea) where the deity of Lord Balarama had been hidden during the Moghul invasion. Near this kund is a temple to Harideva and in the bazaar is another temple to Banke Bihari.

 

 

VRINDAVANA

                Back in Mathura we start toward Vrindavan and soon find the Gita Mandir, a very nice temple built by the Birla family. The temple has a very good standard of worship for the deities of Lakshmi-Narayana, as well as Sita-Rama. The central deity is of Lord Krishna explaining the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna. In the courtyard is a column called Gita Stambha that has all the Bhagavad-gita verses engraved on it.

                Twenty minutes away we find the Pagal Baba temple complex. It has residential facilities surrounding the courtyard, and a large temple with many dioramas of the different incarnations of Krishna on the bottom level. As you go to each higher floor there are altars with deities of Lakshmi-Narayana, Sita-Rama, Vamanadeva, etc. On the top floor you can look out and get a good view of the town of Vrindavan in the distance. Across the road nearby is a path leading to Akrura Ghat, which used to be along the Yamuna River until the river changed its course, as it often does in this area. Akrura Ghat is where Akrura, Krishna’s uncle, got to see Krishna and Balarama as Vishnu and Ananta lying on the surface of the Yamuna. Akrura had stopped there to chant the gayatri mantra while taking Krishna and Balarama to Mathura. What the vision signified was that Krishna never leaves Vrindavan, He eternally resides there, but Krishna’s expansion as Vishnu was going to Mathura.

                Now we continue to the most holy town of Vrindavan which has many temples to see. In fact, it is said that there are over 5,000 temples in this town, both large and small. Out of all of these, I will describe the most important. Vrindavan is not a place you go to and expect all its secrets to become easily revealed. It is said that you do not get to Vrindavan simply by purchasing a ticket. Vrindavan is not only a geographical place, but it is a state of spiritual consciousness, without which you will not comprehend the special nature of the place. Thus, as you become qualified through bhakti-yoga, and by receiving the blessings of the resident devotees, Vrindavan will gradually reveal itself to you. I have personally experienced this. Only after staying in Vrindavan for several weeks was I able to find and understand the meaning of certain places and temples that I had been looking for from the time I arrived. Slowly I began to have my own realizations about the spiritual characteristics of this holy town.

                For me, Vrindavan is my favorite place in all of India. I love to walk around the village visiting the temples and holy places, seeing the beautiful deities, dealing with the friendly residents, and watching the pilgrims who also tour the temples. Of course, this does not mean that you should not be careful as in other places in India. There may still be plenty of ricksha drivers and store keepers who are too willing to raise the price on their services and merchandise when they see a foreigner. And some tourists are easy prey for such people. But after having done as much traveling as we have throughout the rest of India (unless you have come straight to Vrindavan from Delhi upon your arrival in India), we will find that Vrindavan is a small and very sweet village that is easy to get to know.

                The spiritual nature of this place can be very apparent if one is able to perceive it, and some people feel it right away. But there can be plenty of things that can hinder your absorption in such spiritual bliss. Things like mosquitoes, noisy monkeys that fight in the night that keep you from sleeping, incredibly hot summers, cold winter nights without central heat, and so on. For the average person it is not an easy place in which to live. That’s why it is recommended to keep your visits in Vrindavan short so you do not lose respect for the place and consider it an ordinary, mundane town, and, thus, become critical and offensive. Such an attitude makes one lose all ability to enter into even the most basic level of Vrindavan’s spiritual atmosphere. In the proper consciousness, one can perceive that everything about Vrindavan is spiritual.

                Rupa Goswami explains in his book Sri Upadesamrita that Vridavan is spiritually superior to Mathura because this is where Krishna’s highly esoteric rasa-lila pastimes take place. Rupa Goswami was the top literary disciple of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and chief of the Goswamis who lived in Vrindavan about 500 years ago. He wrote many books about the art of devotional service to Krishna and restored many of the holy places in Vraja, re-establishing its spiritual importance. The rasa-lila is the pinnacle of transcendental loving exchange between Krishna and His purest devotees, the gopis or cowheard girls, as explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam. The rasa dance is purely spiritual and not easily understood by mundane scholarly interpretations. If one is not a bhakta (devotee engaged in bhakti-yoga), one cannot comprehend such elevated love of God.

                The rasa dance took place in the forest of Seva Kunj, which used to be a much bigger area than the small enclosed forest it is today. Nonetheless, it is considered the center of Vrindavan, and is where, according to shastra or the Vedic literature, the rasa dance takes place every night. In fact, it’s said that Krishna never leaves Vrindavan; the spiritual pastimes are eternal. We will understand this more clearly as we visit a few of the temples and relate the pastimes connected with them. Just one thing about visiting Seva Kunj is watch out for the monkeys. There is quite a pack that lives there and they can be aggressive in ways such as stealing your glasses, which has happened often, or your camera, shoes, etc.

                There are a number of important temples in this area. Just north of Seva Kunj is Imli Tala. Here we find a very old tamarind tree that has existed since the days of Krishna in the courtyard of a Radha-Krishna temple that was built by Bhakti Saranga Maharaja. Krishna used to sit under this tree and His body would turn golden from ecstatic separation from His dearmost devotee, Srimati Radharani. Five hundred years ago, Sri Chaitanya would sit under the tree and due to His love for Krishna His golden body would turn blackish.

                Heading east we visit the Radha-Damodar Mandir. The original deities of Radha-Damodar were installed by Rupa Gosvami in 1542, but were later taken to Jaipur where they are now worshiped. The present deities are considered equal to the original. There is also a stone or shila from Govardhana Hill in the temple that has an actual footprint of Krishna on it. Krishna personally appeared to Sanatana Gosvami to give him the shila. He told Sanatana that because he was having difficulty from old age he should stop his daily circumambulation of Govardhana Hill and simply circumambulate the shila. The footprint became part of the stone when Krishna stood on it and caused the stone to melt from the sweet sound of His flute playing. Now pilgrims circumambulate the temple four times, which is equal to walking once around the 15 mile path of Govardhana Hill. You can ask the pujari (priest) at the temple for Giriraja darshan and for two rupees he will bring the Govardhana shila for you to see.

                On the left side of the Radha-Damodar temple, through a doorway, are the samadhi tombs or representative tombs of Jiva Gosvami, Krsnadas Kaviraja Gosvami, Bhugarbha Gosvami, and a puspa samadhi (flower or representative samadhi) of Bhaktisiddhanta Gosvami. Through a door on the right side of the temple is the samadhi and bhajan kutir (small and private place for worship) of Rupa Gosvami. On the right side of the courtyard are the rooms where Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada lived for several years from 1959 to 1965 and wrote his commentary on the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, which he later brought to America.

                Not far away is the Radha-Shyamasundara temple, which is one of the seven main temples of Vrindavan and has some very beautiful deities. It was established by Shyamananda Prabhu XE “Shyamananda Prabhu”  who was a disciple of Sri Chaitanya and a very elevated bhakta. In fact, one time he saw Srimati Radharani. He would regularly clean the little forest area of Nidhibana and happened to find an anklebell. He thought it must be Radharani’s since he knew Krishna and Radha often spent Their evenings there. When Radharani discovered one of Her anklebells was missing, she sent Lalita to find it. At Nidhibana Lalita saw Shyamananda Prabhu and asked him if he had found an anklebell. He said he had and asked if it was hers. Lalita said it belonged to her sister and asked to have it. Shyamananda said he would not give it to her but only to her sister. Lalita insisted that he give it to her, and Shyamananda continued to refuse. So Lalita returned to Radharani and Radha decided to personally go for the anklebell Herself. Approaching Shyamananda, Radha asked for the anklebell and he was happy to give it to Her. Radha, being pleased with his service, revealed Her identity to him and by impressing Her anklebell into his forehead personally gave him a tiloka mark. Later, the other bhaktas criticized him for wearing a new style of tiloka. But that night Srimati Radharani appeared to Jiva Gosvami in a dream and told him that She was the one who gave Shyamananda the tiloka mark. Then all the devotees went to Shyamananda to ask for forgiveness and accepted that he actually saw Srimati Radharani. This is another story signifying that the eternal pastimes of the spiritual realm are continually taking place in Vrindavan.

                A little walk (half-block) from the Radha-Syamasundara temple is Loi Bazaar, one of the main shopping areas in the village. Here you can find all the necessities for living in Vridavana. There are shops of all kinds, for clothes, medicines, utensils, food, deities and worship paraphernalia. Walking eastward through the bazaar we next see the Shahji Mandir which was built in 1876 by Shah Kundan Lal of Lucknow. This is an attractive temple that has small Radha-Krishna deities, and shows how Shah Kundan Lal, a rich jeweler, appreciated service to Krishna in Vrindavan. To the left of the temple and down a lane is a small but pleasant Krishna temple of the famous poetess Mirabai.

                On the eastern side of the Shahji Mandir is another enclosed park called Nidhibana. This is where Radha and Krishna performed many pastimes. Even now it is considered that They still take rest here in the evening. Thus, there is a small temple of Radha-Krishna sleeping on a bed located here. This was also the place where Haridasa Gosvami found the deity of Banki Behari, another famous temple in Vrindavan which we will visit shortly.

                Another important temple nearby is the Radharamana Mandir, founded by Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. Gopala Bhatta had been worshiping a shalagrama-shila, which is a stone form of Krishna that he had gotten while on pilgrimage in Nepal. However, he longed to have a deity of Krishna to worship and dress. One day the deity of Radharamana manifested from the shalagrama-shila, thus fulfilling Gopala Bhatta Gosvami’s desire. You can still see the stone form on the back of the deity, from which He manifested Himself. This is one of those miracles of bhakti.

                A short walk farther down the lane is another of the seven major temples, the Radha-Gokulananda Mandir, founded by Lokanatha Gosvami. On the altar of this medium sized temple are the Radha-Vinoda deities of Lokanatha Gosvami (though his original deities were moved to Jaipur), along with Radha-Vijaya Govinda of Baladeva Vidyabhushana, Radha-Gokulananda of Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, and a Sri Chaitanya deity that belonged to Narottamadas Thakura. The temple also has a small Govardhana shila that was rubbed smooth by Sri Chaitanya who used to hold it while chanting Krishna’s holy names. The shila had been given to Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami. Across from the temple in the courtyard are the samadhis of Lokanatha Gosvami, Narottamadas Thakura, and Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura who were all important Vaishnavas in the Gaudiya line. The Radha-Vamsi Gopala temple is also nearby, farther down the street, and is where Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada lived from 1954 to 1962 and wrote his first commentary on Bhagavad-gita.

                Following the street to the Yamuna River we come to Keshi Ghat where Krishna performed the pastime of killing the Keshi demon. Keshi was a henchman of the demoniac King Kamsa and took the form of a huge horse to terrorize the residents of Vrindavana. Krishna, therefore, killed the demon and then washed Himself in the Yamuna.

                The Adi Varaha Purana establishes that by taking a holy bath at Keshi Ghat brings the results of bathing at all the holy places, and is worth 1,000 baths in the Ganges. Therefore, Keshi Ghat is one of the holiest ghats in Vrindavan. Not far from Keshi Ghat is Bhramar Ghat where Bilvamangala Thakura, the author of Krishna Karnamrita, performed austerities years ago. Lord Krishna used to appear in Vrindavana just to serve His great devotee Bilvamangala by supplying him with a cup of milk everyday.

                As we head back into the village, not far from the Radharamana temple is the Radha-Gopinatha Mandir. It is another of the seven original temples and was founded by Madhava Pandita. The original deities were transferred to Jaipur and similar deities were again installed in this temple. Around the corner is the New Radha-Gopinatha temple with deities of Srimati Radharani, Gopinatha, and Srimati Jahnava. Jahnava was Lord Nityananda’s wife and this deity of her was brought from Jahnava’s native Bengal by a man who said the deity appeared by Divine Will. This was years after she had left this world. Then the deity of Gopinatha appeared to the temple priest in a dream and told him that Jahnava was actually the elevated gopi Anangamanjari, and that the deity should be placed on the altar next to His left side. So this is why the deities in this temple are now arranged in this way.

                Farther into the eastern part of town are many other temples; including the large and ornate Lala Babu Mandir with Radha, Krishna, and Lalita deities. Then at the corner where we turn off from Loi Bazaar to go toward the Banke Bihari Mandir, we find the Gopishwara Mahadeva Shiva temple with a Shiva linga, said to have been originally installed by Krishna’s great-grandson, Vajranabha, and is the place where Lord Shiva did austerities in hopes of entering the rasa-lila dance as a gopi (cow-herd girl). In the morning devotees wash the linga with milk and other items, and then later the pujaris dress the linga in bright colored clothes.

                Retracing our steps just three shops back, on the left we can find the Pishima Gaura Nitai temple. This small temple has the deities of Gaura-Nitai which had belonged to Murari Gupta. They are about three feet tall, with eight inch Radha-Krishna deities and some Govardhan shilas in front.

                From the Gopishwara temple heading south, other temples we can find include the Tikarirani Radha-Krishna temple; the especially beautiful Thakura Yugala Kishora temple, which has many small cut mirrors embedded in the walls and a sleeping Krishna deity on a swinging bed; and the large Rangaji temple with its South Indian style gopurams. This temple is a major landmark along the road and modeled after the Sri Rangam temple near Trichy in Tamil Nadu. It has three gates you go through to get to the central temple. Presently, Westerners can go in as well, but it used to be that they were not allowed past the third gate.

                Not far from this temple is Brahma Kunda where the demigod Lord Brahma prayed to Krishna for forgiveness after testing Him to see if He was actually the Supreme. The story is that one time Brahma took away all of Krishna’s friends and cows. After a moment he came back to see what Krishna’s reaction was and to his amazement saw all of the boys and calves still there. Krishna had expanded Himself into the forms of all the boys and calves. Realizing his insignificant position, Brahma returned all the boys and calves he had taken and prayed for Krishna to excuse his ignorance.

                Next is the Radha-Govindaji temple that is another of the seven major temples of Vrindavan. It is across the road and a little farther down the street from the Rangaji temple. It was established by Rupa Gosvami where he discovered the Gopala deity. The beautiful temple is made out of red sandstone and was completed in 1590. The temple is now only two storeys tall but once reached up to seven storeys. The Muslim fanatic Aurangzeb, doing his dirty work once again, dismantled the upper five storeys of the temple due to his envy. While his men were destroying the temple, there was a loud thunderous noise that shook the ground. This put fear into the hearts of the men and they immediately stopped and ran away. Due to fear of the Moghuls, before they arrived the devotees moved the original deities to Jaipur where today many pilgrims go to see them. So the temple now has pratibhuh deities, or representative expansions, of the original Radha-Govindaji that are worshiped. The original Govindaji deity is said to have been installed thousands of years ago by Vajranabha.

                A hundred yards northeast of the Govindaji temple is a mound that has the ruins of the Sakshi Gopala temple. The present Sakshi Gopala temple is just outside of Jagannatha Puri. Sakshi Gopala had been discovered and installed in the temple in Vrindavan, but walked over 1000 miles to Vidyanagar to bear witness for one of His devotees. This story is told in our coverage of the Jagannatha Puri temples. Following the road going south and then west from the Radha-Govindaji temple, you can find many more temples and ashramas of Vrindavan.

                Back at Seva Kunj, we now head west to the Radha-Vallabha Mandir. This is a temple that is the center of the Radha Vallabha sect founded by Sri Hit Hari Vamsa, a disciple of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami who was known for his poetry about Radha and Krishna. After this we see the Banki Behari Mandir, one of the most popular temples of Vrindavan. Haridas Gosvami found Banki Behari at the bottom of Visakha Kunda in Nidhiban after Haridas had a dream in which the deity told him where to look. When you visit the temple you will see that the curtain in front of the deity is closed for a few seconds every minute. This is because the deity once walked off the altar and out of the temple to follow a great devotee who had come for darshan. Apparently the devotee and deity gazed at each other too long and the deity became fond of the devotee and later walked off the altar to find him. When the temple priests found the deity of Banki Behari, they placed Him on the altar again but began closing the curtain at short intervals to keep the deity from getting too attached to any of the visiting devotees. This tradition has continued ever since then.

                Not far away, located down a lane, is the Asta-Sakhi Mandir, a lovely eight-sided, dome-topped temple. This temple offers darshan of not only Radha-Krishna (Radha-Rasabihariji in this case), but also of eight important gopis. They include Rangadevi, Champaklata, Chitra, and Lalita on the left, and Vishakha, Indulekha, Tungavidya, and Sudevi on the right. From this temple you can easily see the old temple of Radha-Madan Mohan to the west.

                The Madan Mohan temple, located on a hill near the old river bed of the Yamuna, was established by Sanatana Gosvami. This was one of the first temples erected after Sri Chaitanya’s visit to Vrindavan. The deity is said to have been found in the hill by Sri Advaita who gave the deity to a Mathura priest. The priest treated the deity like one of his children and when Sanatana Gosvami saw this he criticized the priest for not following the many rules and regulations for deity worship. Then in a dream Madan Mohan told Sanatana that He had been happy with the priest’s spontaneous love, but now He was no longer happy with all these rules that were supposed to be followed. So Sanatana went to see the priest who then gave the deity to Sanatana. At first Sanatana used to keep Madan Mohan in a tree because he had no where else to keep Him. Then one time the deity asked for some salt with the dried bread that Sanatana offered to Him. Sanatana only said, “I am an old man. What can I do? Please accept it the way it is.” Just then a rich merchant was taking a boat loaded with salt down the Yamuna. By Krishna’s will the boat became stuck in the shallow river. Madan Mohan changed into a cowherd boy who led the merchant to Sanatana. Sanatana could do nothing to help the merchant, so the merchant prayed to Madan Mohan that if his boat became free he would sell his salt and return to use the money to build a nice temple. After praying, the merchant returned to his boat and found that it was no longer stuck. When the merchant sold the salt, he returned to build the temple. So this is how the temple was erected. Later, this was the deity from which Krishnadas Kaviraja got the inspiration to write the Caitanya-caritamrta.

                Unfortunately, in 1670, due to the threat of fanatic Muslims, the original Radha-Madan Mohan deities were moved to Jaipur, and then again moved to Karauli where a nice temple was built for them. Pratibhuh deities were later installed in the Vrindavan temple. You can still see the bhajan kutir, or place of worship, of Sanatana Gosvami, along with a well said to have been dug by Krishna Himself for Sanatana’s water. While you are here, you can have a drink from the well. Sanatana Gosvami’s samadhi tomb is on the hillside behind the temple. Walking east along the old river bed we can reach Kaliya Ghat marked by the old Kadamba tree from which Krishna lept into the Yamuna to chastise the multi-headed serpent-demon, Kaliya. This is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam as is most of Krishna’s Vrindavana pastimes. Farther down the trail is Varaha Ghat where Krishna manifested His form as Varaha for the amusement of His friends.

                Varaha Ghat is in the area of Raman Reti on the outskirts of the village of Vrindavan. Raman Reti means cooling sands and is where Krishna and Balarama would come and play amongst the large trees, flowers, chirping birds, and peacocks. Raman Reti is where the ISKCON temple of Sri Sri Krishna-Balarama is located along the road called Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg. This has become a very popular temple amongst pilgrims who visit Vrindavan. You will find the most beautiful deities of Krishna and Balarama on the center altar, with Sri Nityananda and Sri Chaitanya on the left altar, and Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundar on the right. The tamal tree in the courtyard is said to be where the tree was under which Srimati Radharani would wait for Krishna to return from herding the cows. The temple was founded by Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and his lovely samadhi is in front of the temple where his body was interred.

                Located along the main road from the Raman Reti area or Krishna Balamara Mandir heading toward the downtown area of Vrindavana is the Vrindavana Research Institute. This place has many old manuscripts and along with original leaves with the hand writing of Sanatana, Rupa, and Jiva Gosvamis.

                Some of the additional ashramas that you can find in Vrindavana include the Neem Karoli Baba Ashrama, near the main road on the parikrama path. His samadhi shrine, along with temples to Hanuman, Sita-Ram and Durga are here. The Ananda Mayi Ma Ashrama is the ashrama of the renown woman saint, on the main road. And Jagadguru Dham along Raman Reti Road is the ashrama of Swami Prakashananda Sarasvati, when he’s not staying in his Austin, Texas ashrama. He also has places in Barshana, near Vrindavana, called Rangeeli Mahal and Vishwa Kalyan Kendra.

                Today, Vrindavana is gaining in popularity. Construction and development is an ongoing thing. More apartments and temples, and guests houses with temples, are always being built. So there are many more temples in Vrindavana that you can easily visit simply by wandering around the town. This is where you cannot easily forget Lord Krishna, and most anything you do will give spiritual progress. But respect for the holy dham must be maintained, or offenses committed here can also bring harsh results.

 

 

GREATER VRAJAMANDALA

                Some other very holy places are located elsewhere in the greater area of Vrajamandala, such as Radha Kund, the bathing place of Radharani and Her most elevated assistants, the gopis or cowherd girls. Radha Kund is located on the northern end of Govardhan Hill. Sri Rupa Gosvami explains in verses 9 and 10 of his Sri Upadesamrita that out of all the places in Vraja, Radha Kund is superior to them all because it is flooded with the ambrosial nectar of Krishna prema, ecstatic love of God. Therefore, those who live here are the most fortunate in the universe. The Padma Purana also explains that just as Radharani is most dear to Krishna, Her bathing place of Radha Kund is also dear to Him.

                Across from Radha Kund is Shyama Kund, Krishna’s bathing place. Krishna dug Shyama Kund when Radharani insisted that He purify Himself by bathing in all the holy rivers after He had killed the Aristasura demon who was in the form of a bull. So rather than going to all the sacred rivers, He simply dug His heel into the earth and called the presiding deities of the various holy rivers of India to merge their waters into the pool. After bathing, He explained to Radharani and the gopis that the bull was actually a demon, so they should also take a purifying bath to rid themselves of the sin of siding with a demon. Radharani became upset and decided She could also make a kund or lake. Thus, She and the gopis broke their bangles and dug a hole, but it remained dry to Krishna’s amusement. However, by using water from the nearby Manasi Ganga lake and the waters from the presiding deities of the holy rivers who appeared, Her kund also filled up. Thus, these kunds are very special to pilgrims who visit. It is said that anyone who bathes here will get the perfection of Krishna prema, which is far beyond mere liberation from material existence. It is said that Radha Kund is the liquid form of Radharani’s ecstatic love for Krishna. And since Radha Kund is Lord Krishna’s favorite bathing place, anyone who bathes in Radha Kund gets the mercy of Lord Krishna and will attain Krishna prema, ecstatic love for Lord Krishna. Similarly, Radharani also said that anyone who bathes in Shyama Kund will get Her special favor. Therefore, Radha Kund is difficult to attain.

                To recognize the spiritual significance of Radha Kund may not be so easy for neophytes. As I said earlier, in order to perceive the spiritual atmosphere in Vrindavan you have to receive the blessings of the resident devotees and become qualified so that Vrindavan reveals itself to you. An example of this was related to me by a friend. When he visited Radha Kund he met an old sadhu, a saintly man who had retired from material life and was now living at Radha Kund. My friend asked the sadhu some questions and at first the man hesitantly explained that he did not work or attempt to maintain himself. He simply depended on Krishna and chanted the holy names at Radha Kund. How he got his food was that a small boy would come by and give him some food every day. The man explained that as a person becomes more and more spiritual, he will recognize the eternal atmosphere that pervades Vraja, especially at Radha Kund, and he will not feel the need to take so much care of the body. My friend then asked him if he could actually see the spiritual world or if he had ever seen Krishna at this holy place. The old man said he had not seen Krishna, but sometimes he could here the gopis talking with Krishna or discussing amongst themselves how Krishna looked and what He was doing.

                My friend then asked the old sadhu how it was possible for him to perceive such things? The man then began talking quite readily and convincingly told my friend that Radha Kund was indeed the spiritual world; you simply had to remove your materialistic vision. Then the old man took my friend’s hand and pushed it flat to the ground on the banks of the Radha Kund and said, “Just touch this land and you can feel the spiritual nature of it.” My friend told me that at that moment a charge went up his arm from the ground and he could actually feel the difference, that this was indeed a spiritual place. But before my friend got the blessings of this sage, he could not really feel the difference. And that is what is necessary. Until you can actually perceive it, all you can do is to try to understand with your mind and imagine how Krishna performed so many pastimes here, and how this place is spiritual. But the actual realization of such things goes much further than that. It is a matter of re-establishing your spiritual identity and connection with the spiritual realm. It is the reawakening of your spiritual consciousness and actually perceiving the subtle nature of spiritual reality.

                In the area of Radha Kund as you circumambulate the area, you can find numerous temples and important places. To describe a brief tour around Radha and Shyama Kunds, we first enter the area from the bus stop, and on our way along the road we come to the Radha-Gokulananda temple, which has the pratibhu or representational deities that belonged to Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakur. Going farther along, we next come to the Kundesvara Mahadeva temple and the sacred peepul tree. Mahadeva  Shiva is one of the guardians of the holy dham. Then we soon get our first view of Radha Kund, and pay our respects by bowing our heads toward this form of Radharani. Farther down across from the vegetable market is the lane on the left that goes to the Purana Mandir, which has a lovely set of Radha Krishna deities. These were found by Raghunatha dasa Goswami when he was excavating the kunds. Continuing on, we come to the road that leads to the left. This can take us to the Gaudiya Math temple with the beautiful deities of Radha-Kunjabihari. Farther on we can also reach the Shiva Khor or kund, and the Ramesvaram Shiva temple.

                Back to the main parikrama path, we can next see the Radha Kanta temple right at the corner of Radha Kund. Across from that on the left of the road is the Sri Gopal temple. Then just down the street on the right is the Radha-Gopinatha temple, which also has at the far end the samadhi tomb of Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. Exiting through the door on the south side, we are now along the water of Radha Kund where many people take a holy bath. This is near the private bathing place of Jahnavi, the wife of Lord Nityananda when She lived here at Radha Kund nearly 500 years ago, which you can see there.

                Going farther along the main parikrama road, we next see a circular platform, which is a rasa-sthali where dances are performed at times. There we take a right turn. Going down the path we can find the bhajan kutir of Gopal Bhatta. Around the corner is also Krishna dasa Kaviraja’s bhajan kutir, the small living quarters where he wrote the Caitanya-caritamrta and several other important spiritual books. Then there is Raghunatha dasa’s bhajan kutir and the cremation place of these Swamis used when the Muslims were coming into the area. Rather than taking the chance of having their bodies disturbed in case the Muslims would dig them up, they cremated them instead. On a side road there is the bhajan kutir of Bhaktivinoda Thakur where he and Bhaktisiddhanta would stay when visiting the area. Farther along the parikrama road we next find Lalita Kund on the left, across from which is Jiva Gosvami’s bhajan kutir. Next along the road and down a lane on the right toward Shyama Kund there is the place of Madhavendra Puri’s sitting place, and around the curve we come to Lord Chaitanya’s sitting place. This used to be like a little hut or bhajan kutir, but now they have expanded it and put a roof over it. After that we continue our walk down the lane and other temples can also be found, such as Asta Sakhi Mandir, Nitai Gauranga Sitanatha Mandir, Manipur Maharaja Mandir, Radha Gopinatha Mandir, a Gaura Nitai Mandir, Radha Govindaji Mandir, and other temples that are located around the kunds. Then we go to the sangam or meeting place of the two kunds where many people take a holy bath or do some special worship or pujas to the kunds, since they are non-different from Radha and Krishna. If it is not crowded and somewhat peaceful, it is also nice to sit and meditate or chant japa for a time, contemplating our good fortune to be here. Then returning to the path and going through some shops we pass a deity of Hanuman and pray that he relieves us of whatever offenses we may have committed while visiting, and then we return to where we started.

                These temples and holy places can be located with the help of local residents, or guides may present themselves to show you around or to help you do some rituals or puja to Radha Kund and Shyama Kund. They are called Tirtha gurus, or the local pandits who know all about these special tirthas, holy places. This is alright, but be sure to establish a price before you accept their service. Presently you can also get guidebooks of these specific areas. You can find them at the Krishna-Balarama Mandir, or in a few of the shops in Loi Bazaar at Vrindavana. These will have photographs, maps to show you around, and more detailed stories of the pastimes that have taken place here. You must definitely visit these places if you are in the area.

                One word of caution: this is certainly a holy place but when there are crowds of people here, do not take any valuables with you or keep wallets in your pockets, especially if you will bathe in the water. It is not uncommon that such things end up missing. And the road between Vrindavana and Radha Kund is closed at night because of thieves and dacoits. So if you plan on visiting Radha Kund, do not wait too late at night or you may up having to spend the night or taking a longer route through Govardhana to Mathura to get back to Vrindavana.   

                Next we see Govardhana Hill which is the hill Krishna lifted with the little finger of His left hand for seven days to shelter the residents of Vraja from the torrential rains that Indra had sent. Indra sent heavy rains when he became angry after seeing the residents of Vraja worshiping Govardhan Hill instead of him, according to the directions of Lord Krishna. Only later did Indra realize his great mistake. The hill is also considered a manifestation of Krishna Himself, just as the hill at Barsana is a manifestation of Brahma, the hill at Nandagram is Shiva, and Charanpari is Sesha. Therefore, many pilgrims circumambulate Govardhana as an act of worship, a route that is about 15 miles long and passes near many other holy spots along the way. I will describe a few of the main places along the route.

                Usually devotees start their parikrama or circumambulation of Govardhana near Kusum Sarovara. This is a great swimming spot and where Radharani used to pick flowers before meeting Krishna here. It now has beautiful chatris, or small temple enclosures, at one end, which has beautifully painted ceilings. These have many beautiful illustrations of the pastimes of Radha and Krishna. The story of how these came to be built is quite interesting. When the Moghuls ruled over Delhi, the King of Bharatpur, Suraja Mal, attacked them, but lost his life doing so. However, his son, Jawarchar Singh, decided to attack and vowed that if he won, he would return and develop Kusum Sarovara in glorification of Lord Krishna. So he assembled an army and attacked Delhi and defeated the Muslim tyrants. Therefore, he returned and built the temples around Kusum Sarovara with his newly victorious wealth.

                Nearby Kusum Sarovara in a separate compound across from it is a temple to Uddhava with a deity dating back to the days of Krishna. Across the road and down the lane is also a temple and kund of Narada Muni where he wrote the Narada Bhakti Sutras. There is a little image of Narada Muni in the small temple there.

                From here we walk down the road until we reach Manasi Ganga, which is a lake where Krishna made the Ganges appear, and which has a small township around it. There are several little holy spots to see here. So as we make our way around it we can see the places such as the Makharvinda Mandira which stands out along the waterfront on the southeastern corner of the lake. The Chakra Tirtha area on the eastern side of Manasi Ganga has the Shiva temple called the Chakalesvara Mahadeva Mandir. Across from that is one of the bhajana kutirs of Sanatana Gosvami, and a small Mahaprabhu Mandir. On the western side of the Manasi Ganga you can see the Manasi Devi Mandira and the Harideva Mandira is located up a few lanes. Your local guidebooks or maps, or traveling with someone who knows the area, will make finding these places easier. Or also asking the local people how to reach them as you walk along will also work. I’ve been to these places several times, but the first times I would go with someone else to show me the way.

                Walking farther down the road, or through the small alleys from the Harideva Mandir, we next come to Govardhana town. We make our way to the Dana Gatt Giriraja Mandira, the temple where we pay our respects to Govardhana Hill because this is where He starts to actually become visible. The hill itself has been shrinking for hundreds of years, and the first part of the parikrama we really cannot see Him because of being underground. But now the hill becomes visible and we can see the rocky formation. As we start this part of the parikrama, there is also a place that shows Radharani’s footprint. As we approach the southern end of Govardhana Hill, we arrive at Govinda Kund. This is a good place to rest for a few minutes. This kund was created when Indra, the king of heaven, performed the bathing ceremony for Lord Krishna. After Indra realized his mistake for harassing the people of Vraja with heavy rains that he had sent, he returned and performed a bathing ceremony for Lord Krishna in order to try and pacify the Lord and obtain His forgiveness. The accumulated water from the bathing ceremony gathered to form this kund.

                As we start again, there are other smaller temples and little kunds and forests along the way that we walk through. A person could actually spend several days just going to each holy place and hearing or reading about the pastimes that took place there. Finally, we reach Naval and Apsara Kundas, which are at the far end of Govardhana Hill and near the half-way point when we start heading back to the north along the other side of Govardhana Hill. Therein we continue through the small forests and past more small and occasional temples and kunds. Along this part of the route there is also a place called Aparadha Kund, which is a small pond just off the path where Indra atoned for his offense to Lord Krishna for having sent the torrential rains over Vraja. As we keep going, if we are with a group, someone will likely be guiding us to the most important places and will explain the meaning and history behind each one. Of course, we cannot slow down too much if we expect to get back in time to catch our return ride to Vrindavana.

                Finally we reach Uddhava Kund, and stop for a few minutes at the small temple here. The temple has Radha Krishna deities, believed to have been originally installed by Vrajanabha, Krishna’s grandson. A new set of Radha-Krishna deities has also been installed now which is famous for being formed out of one piece of marble. Behind the temple is the Uddhava Kund, the water of which is said to have originally come from the tears of Krishna’s queens when they were consoled by Uddhava at this place.

                Then we move on past a new Mahaprabhu temple, and on around Radha Kund and Syama Kund again. After going around them we head west back to Kusuma Sarovara. This completes our parikrama walk around the hill of Govardhana. Doing this provides immense spiritual purification and merit for our devotional advancement, not to mention a real adventure into the spiritual land of Vraja.

                Again, many of these places around Govardhana can be found with the help of special guidebooks and maps. But the easiest way is to come to Vrindavana for a visit during the month of Kartika (Oct-Nov). This is the time when devotees celebrate Govardhana Puja, or the worship and respect of the sacred hill. Then you can easily go on one of the Govardhana parikramas when groups of devotees gather in buses to go to Govardhana Hill early in the morning and walk around the hill and stop to visit these particular holy places along the way. 

                North of Govardhana is Barsana, 30 miles from Mathura, the town where Radharani grew up and the capital city of her father, King Vrishabanu. Once we arrive, we walk up the steps to get to the main temple of the town that looks like a fortress on the hilltop which can be seen from miles away. This is the Shriji or Larily Mandir, a local name for Radha. It is very ornate and the walls of the interior are covered with paintings of Krishna’s pastimes. Lovely Sri Sri Radha-Krishna deities are on the altar. A short walk away is the Radha-Kushal Behari Mandir, another majestic temple on a different peak of the hill, with Rajasthani style architecture. A little farther away on another peak is the Mayur Kuti temple that has a painting of Krishna dancing as a peacock for Radha’s pleasure. The painting was done by a blind saint who had the divine vision of the pastime as long as he was working on the painting. On another of the hill’s peaks is Man Kutir, a temple marking where Krishna made Radharani angry for fun, but She left Him to lament and look for Her. Then the other gopis brought Them back together, much to their celebration. The four peaks of this hill represent the four heads of Brahma, and the hill is considered an expansion or incarnation of Lord Brahma.

                A few miles from Barsana is Nandagram, another place where Krishna performed many childhood pastimes described in the Bhagavatam. On top of the hill is the main temple that has deities of Krishna, Balarama, Nanda Maharaja (Krishna’s father), Mother Yashoda, Srimati Radharani, and two of Krishna’s friends. There is also a Shiva lingam in a small shrine across from the temple called Nandisvara, said to have been installed by Vajranabha many hundreds of years ago. It is considered that this hill is an incarnation of Lord Shiva. From the top of the walls that surround the temple we can get good views of the area, and someone who is familiar with it can point out other nearby places connected with Krishna’s pastimes that we may want to visit.

                As I’ve said, this is by no means a complete description of Vrajamandala and the holy places within it, such as Vrindavana, Mathura, Govardhana, etc. And there are too many to mention for this discourse which covers all of India. However, there are already full length tour books dedicated to doing this, which I recommend you to purchase. The significance and the history of Vrindavana is a full topic by itself. Nonetheless, this description of Vraja will certainly give you a start for finding the important places to see if you’re ever fortunate enough to visit. It is explained that all the holy places of India are manifest in some way in Vrajamandala. Thus, Rupa Gosvami writes that anyone who leaves Vraja to go to other holy places achieves nothing but the trouble it takes to get there. Nonetheless, I will be describing many of the holy places throughout India anyway.

Tulasi Devi: The Sacred Tree

Tulasi Devi: The Sacred Tree

Compiled by Stephen Knapp

  

            The Tulasi tree is a most important plant, and is often seen at numerous Hindu temples, especially those dedicated to Vishnu and Krishna. At such temples you are likely to find one or more in the courtyard wherein pilgrims circumambulate it, water it, or even offer prayers to it. Some temples will even have Tulasi groves, wherein you will see numerous Tulasi plants growing in a garden. Some temples will even have a special greenhouse just for taking care of Tulasi plants. At such temples, they may even prepare large garlands of Tulasi leaves and manjaris (the ends of the branches) for the deity of Lord Krishna to wear. It is said that Tulasi will not grow well where there is no devotion to the Lord. In fact, how well Tulasi grows is said to be like a barometer that indicates how high the devotional attitude is of the devotee community around the temple.

Vaishnava devotees also use the wood to make neck beads and wear two or three strands of them around their necks signifying their devotion to the Lord. They also make their japa mala or chanting beads from wood of the Tulasi tree as well. Tulasi is considered to be a pure devotee of the Lord who has taken the form of a tree. Therefore she is given the utmost respect. This is also why many devotees and Hindus in general also grow Tulasi in their homes. In this way, the Tulasi plant plays an important part in the spiritual life of many devotees. So what is the significance, history and legends behind this little tree?  

To begin with, the Basil plant (Ocimum sanctum) is commonly called Tulasi (pronounced tulsi). In some accounts of the Puranic story of the Churning of the Ocean (samudramathana), the Tulasi is added to the list of articles which emerged from it, and is sacred to Krishna (according to Wilson’s Vishnu Purana p, 67. n.8). It is also sacred to his Lord Vishnu’s consort Laksmi, and hence it is itself an object of worship.

The Tulasi plant also possesses curative properties and is said to be an antidote to snake-venom. It destroys mosquitoes and other pests and purifies the air. It even is said to ward off the messengers of Yama, the ruler of the dead, who will not enter a house containing a sprig of Tulasi. This is also one of the reasons why devotees wear the Tulasi as neck beads. When death occurs, the funeral pyre should be constructed of Tulasi, palasha, and sandal-wood.

 

There is further Puranic background for Tulasi attaining this spiritualistic importance. In fact it is Mahalaksmi, wife of Visnu, who had herself taken the form of Tulasi. There is a story about it in the Devi Bhagavata. The Puranic Encyclopedia summarizes these legends.

1) The curse of Sarasvati. Sarasvati, Ganga and Laksmi were all, in the beginning, wives of MahaVishnu. The Lord loved all the three equally. One day all the four were sitting together when Ganga sent lustful glances at Vishnu which was immediately noticed by both Sarasvati and Laksmi. Sarasvaii got angry and rising up caught hold of the hair of Ganga and dragged her to the ground. Laksmi then caught hold of Saras­vati to prevent farther assault but Sarasvati then poured all her rage on Laksmi and cursed her to be born as a plant on earth. Gangadevi could not bear this and she cursed Sarasvati to be born as a river on earth. Sarasvati retorted with a curse that Ganga also would be born as a river. When the whole tumult was over Vishnu called Laksmi to his side and said, “Oh Devi, do not worry. Things have happened as predes­tined. You go and be born as the daughter of Dharma-dhvaja and grow up there. From there by divine grace you will be transformed into a plant sacred enough to make all the three worlds pure. That plant will be named Tulasi. When you will be thus living as Tulasi, a demon named Sankhacuda with part of my virile strength will be born and he will marry you. Then you can come back to me. The holy river Padmavati will also be another form of your spirit.”

2) The story of Dharmadhvaja. Who was this Dharma-dhvaja to whom was born Mahalaksmi as a daughter? In times of old there was a Manu called Daksasavarni who was extremely virtuous and a part of Vishnu. Des­cending from Daksasavarni were Brahmasavarni-Dharmasavarni-Rudrasavarni-Devasavarni-Indrasavarni Vrsadhvaja. This last named was a great devotee of Shiva and because of his great affection for this devotee Shiva lived a whole period of a devayuga in the ashrama of Vrsadhvaja. King Vrsadhvaja by an edict prohibited the worship of any other deity than Shiva in his country. Even the worship of Mahalaksmi ordained by the Vedas during the month of Bhadra (September) became extinct. All Yagyas and worship of Vishnu came to a stop. Surya (Sun-god) got angry al this belittling of other gods than Shiva and cursed the King Vrsadhvaja that he would cease to be prosperous. Shiva did not like it and he went to punish Surya holding his trident in his hand. Surya was frightened and he approached his father Kasyapa. Kasyapa and Surya went to Brahma and acquainted him with all details. Brahma also was helpless in the matter and so all the three of them went to Mahavishnu. They prostrated before Vishnu and told him all. At that time Shiva also came there. Addressing all of them, Vishnu said “Oh. Devas, wilhin this half an hour twenty-one yugas have passed by on the earth. He about whom you have come to speak to me is dead and gone. Even his son Rathadhvaja is dead. The latter has two sons named Dharmadhvaja and Kusadhvaja. They are dull and splendorless now because of the curse of Surya and are now worshipping Laksmi.” Saying thus Vishnu disappeared.

            3) Birth of Tulasi. Dharmadhvaja and Kusadhvaja did penance to propitiate Mahalaksmi. Kusadhvaja had a wife named Malavati. She bore a daughter named Vedavati. Sita, wife of Sri Rama, was a rebirth of this Vedavati.

King Dharmadhvaja had a wife named Madhavi. Maha­laksmi entered her womb as an embryo and after a hund­red years Madhavi gave birth to a daughter. Even at the time of birth the child looked like a matured girl and was extremely pretty. She was therefore, called Tulasi, meaning matchless. (Tula= match). This Tulasi, abandoning all worldly pleasures, went to Badarikashrama and started doing penance there with the prayer that MahaVishnu should become her husband. She did penance for twenty-four thousand years sitting amidst fire in the hot season and sitting in water in the cold season and taking only fruits and water as food. Then she did penance for ano­ther thirty thousand years eating leaves only, another forty thousand years taking air only as food and another ten thousand years without any food. At this stage Brahma appeared and asked her the object of her penance. She replied she wanted MahaVishnu to be her husband. Hearing this Brahma said thus: “Devi, you know the cowboy Sudama born of a part of Sri Krishna. That brilliant cowboy has now been born on earth, due to a curse of Radha, as a demon named Sankhachuda. He is matchlessly eminent and has once fallen in love with you seeing you at Goloka. You will become his wife and later you can become the wife of Narayana. At that time a part of your divine body will remain on earth as a plant named Tulasi. Tulasi will become the most sacred of all plants, dear to Vishnu, and all worship without using Tulasi leaves would be ineffective.”

4) Marriage of Tulasi. Due to a curse of Radha, Sudama, the cowboy, was born on earth as a demon named Sankhachuda. He did penance sitting at Badarikashrama and obtained Vishnukavaca. Another object of his was to marry Tulasi. He obtained a boon from Brahma that his death would occur only when the Vishnu Kavaca was removed from his body and the chastity of his wife was lost. At that time Sankhachuda and Tulasi met each other in the forests and were married. Sankhachuda, brilliant and majestic, went about with Tulasi in amorous sports creating jealousy even among the devas. His arrogance gave innumer­able troubles to the devas and they along with Brahma and Shiva approached MahaVishnu for a remedy. Vishnu then sent Shiva with his spike to kill Sankhachuda and he himself started to molest the chastity of his wife Tulasi. Sankhachuda took leave of Tulasi to go and fight with Shiva. When Tulasi was thus left alone, MahaVisnu in the form of Sankhachuda approached Tulasi and after some preliminary talks entered into sexual acts. Tulasi found some difference in the usual affairs and suspecting foul play jumped up to curse the impostor. At once MahaVishnu appeared in his true form and said “You have been doing penance for a lone time to get me as your husband. Your husband Sankhachuda was the chief of my Parsadas, Sudarna. It is time for him to go back to [the spiritual abode of] Goloka get­ting himself released from the curse. By this time Shiva would have killed him and he would have gone to Goloka as Sudama. You can now abandon your body and come with me to Vaikuntha to enjoy life as my wife.

Your body will decay and become a holy river named Gandaki; your hair will become the Tulasi plant, the leaves of which will be held sacred in all the three worlds.”

Tulasi then changed herself into the form of Laksmi and went to Vaikuntha with MahaVishnu. (9th Skandha, Devi Bhagavata).

5) The greatness of Tulasi. Everything of the Tulasi plant, leaves, flowers, fruits, roots, twigs, skin and even the soil around is holy. The soul of a dead one whose dead body is cremated using Tulasi twigs for firewood would attain a permanent place in Vishnuloha [the spiritual abode]. Even great sinners would be absolved of their sins if their dead bodies are cremated with Tulasi twigs [or are wearing Tulasi beads]. If at the time of death one thinks of God and mutters His name and if his dead body is later cremated with Tulasi twigs, he would have no rebirths. Even he who has done a crore of sins would attain moksha [liberation] if at the time of cremating his dead body a piece of Tulasi twig is placed at the bottom of the funeral pyre. Just as all waters become pure by the union with Ganga water, all firewood is made pure by the addition of a small piece of Tulasi twig. If the dead body of one is cre­mated using Tulasi twigs alone, one’s sins for a crore of Kalpa years [1 kalpa is 4,800,000 years] would be washed away. Yamadutas [the soldiers of Lord Yama, the king of death] would keep away from one whose dead body is cre­mated with Tulasi twigs and servants of Vishnu would come near. If a light is burnt for Vishnu with a Tulasi stick it would be equal to burning several lakhs of lights for Vishnu. If one makes the Tulasi leaves into a paste and smears it on one’s body and then worships Vishnu for one day, one would be getting the benefit of a hundred ordinary worships and also the benefit of doing a hundred godanas (gifts of cows). (Chapter 24, Padma Purana)

            It is also accepted that if ever a person leaves his or her body while wearing Tulasi beads, either around the neck or elsewhere, it creates the same affect as described above as having one’s cremation fire burnt using Tulasi.

 

The Marriage of Tulasi

And Significance of Shalagrama-shilas

As Elaborated from Brahma-Vaivarta Purana, Prakriti-Khanda, Chapters 21 & 22

 

            This explains the marriage between Lord Vishnu and Tulasi, how Tulasi became both the Gandaki River and the sacred Tulasi tree, and how Lord Vishnu accepted the form of the sacred stones found in the Gandaki River known as shalagram-shilas.

 

CHAPTER 21

            Narada said: “O Lord, please narrate how You (Lord Narayana) impregnated Tulasi”.

            Narayana answered: “Hari, in order to accomplish the design of the gods, took the form of Sankhachuda and cohabited with Tulasi. He took the amulet of the demon and approached the house of Tulasi. At the threshold he played upon a drum and through a spy announcing these words, ‘May victory crown the King,’ he convinced Tulasi of the success of her husband. Tulasi, through a window, gladly looked at the royal road. She made gifts to the Brahmins, the bards and the mendicants and caused the performance of many auspicious deeds. Lord Hari subsequently descended from his car and entered into the lovely house of Tulasi constructed with invaluable gems. When Tulasi saw her tranquil husband (whose form Hari had assumed), she wept with joy, washed his feet with water and bowed low to him. She entertained him with betel-leaves rendered fragrant with camphor and considered herself truly blessed, inasmuch as she saw her lord returned victorious from the battle. The licentious Tulasi, filled with joy cast arch glances upon him and sweetly or gently asked him thus: ‘My gracious king, how could you conquer Shiva who destroys numberless worlds? Reveal to me the matter.’ Hari in disguise smiled and concocted a lie thus: ‘O my lady, O my love, this fight lasted for a year and all the demons have been destroyed. Brahma himself came to the scene of fight and reconciled us both. By his command, I returned to the gods their jurisdiction and came home. Shiva likewise returned to his domain.’ So saying, Lord Hari slept. O Narada, Hari cohabited with Tulasi but owing to the transgression of the former method of sexual intercourse she became suspicious and said, ‘O Lord of dissemblers, who are you? You have violated my chastity. I must, therefore, curse you, whoever you are.’ Afraid of a curse, Hari assumed a very lovely form. Tulasi beheld in her presence the Eternal Lord, the god of gods, dark like a new cloud. His eyes were like autumnal lotuses. His face was beaming with smiles. He was decked with gems and yellow garments. His grace was like that of ten millions of Cupids.

            “The woman at His sight was excited with lust and fainted, but immediately recovering said to Hari, ‘Lord, you are unkind to me and possess a heart of stone. You have fraudulently violated me and killed my husband. As you are hard-hearted like a stone, you will be worshiped in the world in the form of a stone (shila). Those who call you merciful are deluded. Tell me why You killed an innocent votary of Yours for the sake of others. You are the soul of all and, though all-knowing, You do not realize the pain of others. Therefore, when You will assume a certain incarnation, You will forget Yourself.’ So saying, the chaste Tulasi fell at his feet and wept bitterly in sorrow. The merciful Hari consoled her, using words fraught with counsel thus: ‘O chaste lady, you prayed for me for a long time in Bharata-varsha (India). The lustful Sankhachuda had prayed for you and thereby obtained you as his spouse, and thus he enjoyed your society for a long time. I should now give you the fruits of your devotion.

            “‘You should now quit your body, take a celestial form and travel with Me like Rama. You will now be converted into a sacred river called Gandaki. Let the clusters of your hair be converted into a plant called Tulasi or the holy basil. Fair one, the flowers and the leaves of this plant will be consecrated to the worship of the gods. In the course of my worship, Tulasi flowers will be held superior to other flowers in the three worlds and even in Vaikuntha. This sanctifying plant will grow in Goloka on the coast of the Viraja River, on the site occupied by the sphere of the Rasa, in Vrindavana, in the forest of the holy fig tree, the wood of the sandal tree, or the Champak flower, or in the groves of the jasmine, and the screw-pine tree, or in the grove of the climbing plants called Madhavi. All the shrines of the world will converge at the root of Tulasi.’

            “‘Fair one, all the gods will preside there to secure the fallen leaves of the holy basil. Anyone who will be anointed or moistened with the waters of the holy basil will reap the benefits of ablutions in all sacred rivers and the performance of all sorts of yagnas or sacrifices. Hari will not be so much pleased with the gift of a thousand jars full of honey as with the offer of a Tulasi leaf. The gift of one such leaf will bring the reward secured by the gift of millions of cows. Anyone who, dying, will get the water of the Tulasi leaf will be redeemed from all his sins and proceed to Vaikuntha. Whoever constantly drinks such water will be redeemed in his lifetime and get the fruits of a dip in the Ganges. Anyone worshiping Me with this leaf every day will reap the benefits of a hundred thousand horse sacrifices. Anyone dying with the Tulasi leaf in his hands [or also in one’s mouth, as is commonly practiced] will be redeemed. Anyone putting on a wreath of the wild Tulasi will get at every step the fruit of a horse sacrifice. However, whoever with the holy basil in his hand will break his vow and perjure himself will go to hell. But anyone who, at the time of his death, will get a drop of the water of the holy basil will proceed to Vaikuntha. Hari will cut off the head of that person who, on the lunar day of the dark night (Amavasya) or the full moon, or on the twelfth or last day of the lunar month, or being anointed with oil just before bath, or in the noon, night, or at day break or sun down, or in a state of impurity, or in his nocturnal dress [sleep clothes] will cull or pluck the Tulasi leaf. 

            “‘O chaste one, if such a leaf is stale for three nights, it can still be used on the occasion of funeral ceremonies, in connection with vows, gifts, consecration of temples and the worship of gods. Tulasi leaves dedicated to Vishnu, even if they drop to the ground or water, if properly washed may still be used for other holy purposes. The presiding deity of the Tulasi plant will always sport in solitude with Krishna in Goloka which is free from diseases. The presiding deity of the Gandaki River will be the wife of the salt ocean, born of my digits. And personally, O chaste goddess, you will ever remain by My side and enjoy My company like Goddess Lakshmi. I, too, by your curse, will turn into a stone on the coast of the Gandaki. At that place the worms called Vajra-kita will construct [carve] my wheel within the stone. That stone, dark like a new cloud, which contains at one gate four wheels and which is decorated with a wreath of wild flowers will be known as Lakshmi-Narayana. But the stone of the like nature without being decked with a wreath will be called Lakshmi-Janardana. A stone without a wreath but impressed with marks of cow feet will be called Raghunatha. A stone of two wheels, auspicious to the householders, will be called Dudhi-bamana. Such a stone, if decked with garlands, will be called Sridhara and give grace to the householders. A stone without a wreath, but thick and circular and containing two wheels will be called Damodara. A stone, fairly round, assailed by arrows, having quivers and two wheels will be called Rana-rama. A stone of moderate size having seven wheels associated with quivers will be called the king of kings and give royal prosperity to the people. A stone, thick, dark like a new cloud and associated with fourteen wheels will be called Ananta and give four kinds of redemption.

            “‘A stone which looks like a cloud and contains two wheels, which is spherical, graceful and moderate in size will be called Madhu-Sudana. A stone which will bear the mark of the Sudarshana on one of its wheels and whose other wheel will remain concealed will be called Gadadhara. The two-wheeled stone with the face of a horse will be called Hayagriva. The two-wheeled stone whose face is expansive and hideous will be called Narasimha. The two-wheeled broad-faced stone, decked with wreaths and pleasing to the people will be called Lakshmi-Narasimha. The stone whose gate is conspicuous by two graceful wheels of equal size will be called Vasudeva fulfilling all desire. The stone having a slender wheel and many holes at the threshold, dark like a new cloud, will be called Pradyumna, and the worship of this stone will give happiness to people. The stone whose wheels are united and whose back is excellent, which brings joy to the householders, will be called Sankarshana. The yellow, beautiful, circular stone delightful to the house-holders, will be styled Aniruddha by the Savants. Fair one, the place where this stone will be discovered will be the resort of Hari and Lakshmi with her attendant shrines and holy places. Nay, Brahmin-slaughter and all other sins of the world are expiated by the worship of this stone. This stone, if it is in the shape of an umbrella, bestows a kingdom; if round, it gives prosperity; if like a cart, it causes pain; if like the front of a spear, it brings about death. If deformed, it causes poverty; if tawny in color, it destroys happiness; if its wheels are joined, it causes disease; if broken or split into fragments, it causes death. All holy deeds, consecration of a temple, performance of a funeral ceremony, worship of gods, etc., can be performed through this Holy stone. Deeds of charity, circumambulation around the world, bath in the sacred rivers, all can be attained by a person by ablution in the waters [the have bathed or washed] of this stone. The touch of such a person will be desired even by the streams. He will be consecrated and redeemed in his lifetime. The worship of the stone will give the same fruit as the study of the Vedas or asceticism. 

            “‘Whoever will drink the immortalizing water of this stone will sanctify by his touch resorts for pilgrims and be redeemed in his life. He will be the slave of Hari and witness countless dissolutions of the world. Sins as heinous as the murder of a Brahmin will fly at his sight like snakes at the sight of Garuda. The earth will be consecrated by the dust of his feet. By his birth, he will redeem millions of his ancestors. Anyone who, while dying, will drink this water will be emancipated and go to the Vaikuntha. He will be free from the influences of karma and, being redeemed, will merge into the feet of Vishnu. Whoever, by laying hands on the stone, perjures himself or breaks his vow will remain in hell for millions of years. My beloved, whoever will separate the holy basil leaves from this holy stone, will suffer the pangs of separation from his wife from birth to birth. Whoever will dissociate the conches from the Tulasi will be deprived of his wife and health for seven births in succession. A wise person who will maintain the Tulasi, the conches and the stone at one and the same place will be dear to Hari. It is painful for a person to part from his beloved whose society he once enjoyed. You were the favorite of Sankhachuda for one Manvantara. Therefore separation from him has been a source of trouble to you.’”

            “As Hari affectionately said so, Tulasi quit her body and went to Vaikuntha in a celestial form. Tulasi frequented the heart of Narayana like Kamala. O Narada, thus Hari happened to have four wives viz., Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganga and Tulasi. When Tulasi died, her body was immediately turned into a river called Gandaki; and on the coast of this stream, a sanctifying hill out of the digits of Hari came into existence. The worms on the hill are constructing stones of various sorts. A stone that drops down into the river from the hill assumes the hue of clouds. A stone that drops from the rock on the dry land becomes tawny-colored through the heat of the sun. Now I told you everything. Please let me know what you want to hear.”

 

           

CHAPTER 22

            Narada said, “Lord, I gather how Tulasi became the favorite of Hari, how she became holy and was adored throughout the world. Now I want to hear the account relating to her form of worship and her hymn. In olden times, who worshiped her and recited her ode? How did she become adorable in the world? Kindly narrate these matters to me.”

            Suta said, Naryana smiled at these words and said, “Hari sported with Tulasi as soon as He got her and made her as blessed and glorious as Rama. Ganga and Lakshmi bore this new acquisition to their society patiently. But it was intolerable to Saraswati. Once the dignified Saraswati in vain quarreled with Tulasi in Hari’s presence and hurt her. Tulasi in shame and disgrace disappeared. That accomplished, wise and adept Tulasi became invisible to Hari also out of anger. Hari thereupon took permission of Saraswati and went to the forest of Tulasi plants. There he bathed and with holy basil leaves reverentially adored Tulasi with the mystic formula of ten letters containing seeds of germinating principles of Lakshmi, Maya, Kama and Vani.

            “O Narada, that mantra prepared by Hari ends thus: ‘Swaha to Vrindavani.’ After having uttered this mantra which is efficacious like the Kalpa tree, whoever will worship Tulasi with the light of the ghee lamp, frankincense, sandal flowers and sacrificial offerings will attain all perfection. Tulasi, pleased with the worship, emanated from the plant and took refuge in the lotus feet of Hari. Hari blessed her saying, ‘You will be adored throughout the world’, and said, ‘Beloved, I shall hold you on my head and in my heart. All the gods, therefore, will wield you on their heads.’ So saying, Hari took her home.”

            Narada said, “Now tell me about the Dhyana or meditation appropriate to Tulasi, her ode, and her plan of worship.” Narayana answered, “When Tulasi disappeared, the afflicted Hari went to Tulasi-vana (the forest of holy Tulasi), worshiped her and adored her with the hymn, “I adore my beloved Vrinda who in one place grows in the form of plants. I adore the blessed nymph who sprang at first from the forest of Vrindavana and is hence styled Vrinda-vani.

            “I worship that goddess, all adorable in the universe, who is so-called as she is adored throughout the world. Being afflicted by Cupid I adore the all-sanctifying goddess so-called as she is always adored in the three worlds. I want to see Pushpa-sara, the goddess, the essence of flowers, without whom the gods are not satisfied with the offer of any number of flowers. I crave the favor of that goddess, also called Nandini, as attainment of Tulasi brings faith and joy. I seek the protection of this goddess called Tulasi, as she is incomparable in the world. May she preserve my life, the goddess who is also called the life of Krishna. Krishna having worshiped her thus manifested Himself to Tulasi who was lying prostrate at His feet. When He saw that the dignified Tulasi was weeping on account of her susceptibilities being wounded by Saraswati, he clasped her to his breast, took her to Saraswati and reconciled them both. He blessed her saying, “You will be adored throughout the world and sustained (carried) by every one on the head. You will be adored and honored by Me as well.

            “When Tulasi was propitiated, Saraswati embraced her and seated her by her side. Lakshmi and Ganga also embraced her smiling and took her home. Whoever will adore Tulasi by the above eight names, pregnant with meaning, viz., Vrinda [one who has thousands of sakhis, associates], Vrinda-vani [one who never leaves Vrindavana], Vishwa-Pavani [sanctifier of the whole world], Vishwa-Pujita [whole world worships her], Pushpa-sara [essence of all the flowers], Nandini [gives happiness to everyone], Krishna-Jivani [the life and soul of Lord Krishna] and Tulasi [one with an incomparable form] will reap the fruits of a horse sacrifice. The benefactress Tulasi was born on the lunar day of the full moon in the month of Kartika, hence Hari has prescribed this day for her worship. Whosoever will worship her on this day will be redeemed from all sins and go to Vaikuntha. Whoever gives Tulasi leaves cut in reverence to Vishnu in the month of Kartika will reap the fruits secured by the gift of ten millions of cows. Nay, the recollection of her hymn gives a son to the sonless, a wife to the wifeless, health to the diseased, liberty to the prisoner, sanctity to the sinner, courage to the frightened and a friend to the friendless.

            “O Narada, I told you about her hymn, now listen to the subject relating to her meditation and form of worship. You know the meditation (Dhyana) as mentioned by Kanwa-sakha. Without invoking the goddess, reverentially meditate on her and adore her with sixteen ingredients. Now listen to her Dhyana or meditation which destroys sins. ‘The chaste Tulasi, the best of flowers, adorable and lovely, destroys the fuel of sins like a flame of fire, O Muni, she is most sacred of all the goddesses. Being incomparable she is called Tulasi. I adore the goddess who is solicited by all; who crowns the head of all; who is known as the consecrator of the world; who gives emancipation and the bondage of Hari; and who has been herself redeemed in her lifetime.’ Wise men, after this meditation and worship, should read her eulogies and bow to her.”

 

Eight Names of Tulasi

Vrindavani: One who first manifested in Vrndavana.
Vrinda: The goddess of all plants and trees.
Visvapujita: One whom the whole universe worships.
Puspasara: The topmost of all flowers, without whom Krishna does not like to look upon other flowers.
Nandini: Seeing whom gives unlimited bliss to the devotees.
Krishna-jivani: The life of Sri Krishna.
Visva-pavani: One who purifies the three worlds.
Tulasi: One who has no comparison.

 

Caring for Tulasi Devi in Your Home

             Many people take care of Tulasi plants in their home, or would like to. Yet, Tulasi is a sensitive plant and requires particular growing conditions and care in order to do well. Furthermore, it is considered that how well Tulasi grows is a sign of one’s devotional attitude to Lord Vishnu or Krishna. It is said that regardless of how much care Tulasi devi may receive, without the proper devotion, she will not grow well. On the other hand, I’ve seen many devotees who had plenty of devotion but did not do well in knowing how to take care of Tulasi. So here a few instructions that may assist one in the care of Tulasi.

 

The following is a portion of a letter sent by Srila Prabhupada, dated October 25, 1976, which answers some important questions regarding the identity of Tulasi.

1)  Is each Tulasi a separate jiva soul or a expansion of one pure devotee?  Answer by Srila Prabhupada: Tulasi is one devotee who ap­pears wherever there is devotion to Krishna,

2) Where does her spirit soul go when she leaves this body?

Answer: Tulasi’s body is spiritual.

3) May we place jewelry in her soil or just moon stones?

Answer: Yes, jewelry is alright.

4) When Tulasi is being cared for by householders in their home, must two aratrikas still be offered?

Answer: If possible.

5) When Tulasi is being cared for by householders in their home may they use her leaves and manjaris on their home offerings or should they take them to the temple?

Answer: Tulasi leaves should be offered to the Deity.

6) When Tulasi is being offered aratrika by the householders, must she have a  ghee lamp?

Answer: If possible.

7) Is it offensive to turn the ba­by Tulasi’s back into the soil when they appear? 

Answer! Yes.

8) There are even questions con­cerning Tulasi’s aratrikas. We have always offered her incense, ghee lamp and flower. Is this correct?

Answer: Yes.

9)  In the manual, it states that Tulasi should not be pruned. Docs this also mean trimming the branch­es which no longer have leaves or life fluids flowing through  them?

Answer:  You may cut dead branches, but what is the necessity?

10) We were told you once spoke the “4 regulative principles of Tulasi care” which will keep her from get­ting sick:  (a) keep her moist; (b) keep her clean;  c) give her morn­ing sunlight (at least); (d) give her  two aratrikas a day. Is this bona fide?

Answer: I never said that,

11) May Tulasi be made into a tea after she has been offered?

Answer: No.

12) May devotees carve Tulasi wood for Deity paraphernalia?

Answer: Yes.

13) When Tulasi leaves her body and the body is too soft for carving beads, how should she be used? Should a small fire sacrifice be performed?

Answer: Use the wood for beads as far as possible; the balance may be placed within the earth. [It is also accepted that one can take dead Tulasi and put it in the local river.]

14) We have a letter from you re­questing that no sprays be used on Tulasi devi. May we use a spray of buttermilk, whole wheat flour dis­solved in water which coats her leaves to keep spider-mites from causing Tulasi to leave her body?

Answer: I said no chemical sprays.

15) Does Tulasi sleep? Should she be left undisturbed after night-fall?

Answer: Undisturbed means what?

16) Is it permissible to use scis­sors to cut her manjaris; and when transplanting, to use knives to loosen her from her pot?

Answer: Use common sense, and if you have none then consult with others.

17) Is it an offense to step on or across her shadow (or the shadow of any pure devotee?

Answer: (As per letter of Jan. 1977, the answer is yes–it is offensive to step on the shadow of a pure devotee.)

18) For two years we have been waiting permission to use the fol­lowing two prayers plus transla­tions, and translation of the al­ready existing prayer. [Prayers not reproduced here.] Are these bona fide?

Answer: Don’t try to intro­duce something new. The most impor­tant thing is love and devotion.

 

 

Techniques of Caring for Tulasi Devi

 

IMPORTANT POINTS       

If you have just received a Tulasi plant by mail:

1.      Repot the plant in a clay pot with soil recommended in the “potting” section.

2.      If dry, water thoroughly

3.      If soggy, pot in moist soil and allow to dry out to normal moistness.

 

POTTING

            Tulasis should be repotted immediately when they arrive as well as from time to time when roots occupy the whole inside of the pot. A Tulasi should never have a big pot if she is small as this tends to cause rotting and slow root system drainage should be provided by adding some pieces of broken pot over the hole at the bottom. A pot too small binds the plant, so repot in a slightly larger size pot.

In potting young seedlings, the pot may be partially filled with soil. The plant should then be held in place with the roots spread out in a natural way. The remaining soil should be added, and pressed firmly into place with the fingers. In small pots a space of ½ inch or so should be left on top between soil and rim of the pot. Don’t bury the stem. You can use a good potting soil or make one from one part sand to three parts soil. Water thoroughly and do not place in full sun for a few days. Never pot in plan peat moss.

 

LIGHT

            Light is essential to her growth. Full sunlight is preferable and a south window is excellent. In the summer you can put her in a protected place outside. Florescent plant lights are very good also; place seedlings six inches below and larger plants 6 to 14 inches below the light.

            When plants are left in any one position for a long period of time, the leaves and stems will turn toward the light and growth will be unsymmetrical. So turn pots once a week.

 

TEMPERATURE

            They will thrive well in temperature which ranges from 62 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and which does not drop below 55 at night. Of course, she is used to a very hot climate and will do well at higher temperatures during the summer. During the winter protect her from frost near windows by a protective covering of newspaper between her and the window.

 

CONTROLING THE ENEMIES OF TULASI DEVI

For control for aphids, -use black leaf 40 (nicotine sulfate)

Spray Formula:

Black leaf 40—one teaspoon

Soap–1cubic inch

Water–1 gallon

Spray every four to five days for one month.

 

For control of white fly—green house bugs. These are white bugs that fly and lay white eggs, and suck the juice of the plant. Do the same as for aphids.

 

For control of mealy bugs. These appear to be tiny dots of cotton, but if you look close they are bugs with many legs. These are found on the under sides of the leaves on new shoots. Control by wiping them off with cotton swab filled with alcohol.

 

Die back is one common, heartbreaking disease that begins on new shoots, gradually drying up and turning them brown until the entire plant dies this way. You should immediately control watering. Sometimes this is caused by bad soil, so check this and repot if necessary. The disease is carried by the soil.

 

Spider mites. These are tiny white spiders which make webs on the plant and suck her shoots. Control by using a syringe and spray frequently with light soapy water.

 

These are just a few of the many demons that plague Srimate Tulasi Devi, but you can help by checking her every day, especially the under sides of the leaves. Cut off dead branches and always make sure she is not too dry or too wet. Big beetles are often a problem as well as caterpillars because everyone loves her tender leaves. So destroy these creatures (while chanting Hare Krishna) when they decide to make their home on Tulasi Devi.

 

 

PLANTING

1. Buy a Jiffy Grower Seed Starter Kit (or similiar brand) at a garden store.  This kit consists of small peat moss seed cups arranged like an egg carton with seedbed soil pre-mixed and sifted. So all you have to do is fill the cups with soil mix and moisten (according to package directions) and press the Tulasi seeds into the soil about 1/16″ deep, about 6 seeds per cup. Keep in warm sunny room, avoiding temp changes, out of strong drafts, and away from gas fumes (the al­ternative is to mix 2 parts clean river sand (unsalted), sift into seed flat or peat moss pots and water from beneath-don’t sprinkle them-)-This is more expensive, time consuming and not so successful)

 

2. The first Tulasi sprouts appear in 6 or 7 days, and will continue appearing for several weeks. Keep the plastic seed germination bag from pressing on the seedlings—prop it up inside with sticks if necessary. This will keep the remaining unsprouted cups moist.

 

3. Buy a dozen 4″-6″ deep peat moss pots and some good planting soil-mix. (If you mix your own planting soil, use 2 parts sifted loam, 1 part clean river sand (unsalted) and 1 part sifted peat moss or leaf mold. Generally it should be slightly fertile, light with good drainage. There is no objection to mixing your own-its cheaper; but these peat moss pots are very nice as they give good ventilation, and simplify the eventual transplanting job.)

 

4. In late afternoon, in a wind protected spot (preferably just in the vicinity of the seed kit so they’ll be no temperature changes) take a few handfuls of rocks, a water bottle as described herein) lots of tepid water; peat moss, and lots said soil mix. The idea is to simply put the sprouted cups into deeper cups for more root-growing room. Plant the whole cup, just remove its bottom. Begin by lining the bottom of the 4″ peat moss cups with rocks for drainage. Wet the soil mix and fill the peat pots leaving a depression for the seed cups to enter. With knife carefully remove the bottom of peatmoss seed cup. Set the whole seed cup down into the moist depression, pressing down firmly on all sides. This eliminates air gaps. Water thoroughly making a moat or depression around the peat moss cup (planted) but avoid direct watering into the seed cup. (Direct watering may disturb seeds that are still germinating in the seed cups. Use a squirt bottle and tepid (not hot or cold) water. Never hit the tiny seedlings directly with the water stream. (If by accident you do, pick Her up and try to prop Her with soil very gently). When finished leave the pots in the same vicinity as the seed kit. Place the pots 2-3inches apart on ‘oven racks’ or the like so that they get good air circulation and drainage from beneath and sides. Allow light but no direct sun exposure.

 

5.  In a few days, gradually introduce them to filtered sunlight, under a tree out doors or under a lath screen(if weather is nice and nights not very cold) Arrange the pots as above on an oven rack or better yet on old bare bed-springs is the ideal thing-one pot in each wire spiral this also gives good insect protection.  Shield them from sun and wind, Protection from wind may be afforded by attaching parrarin cloth, burlap muslin, or plywood, to stakes, building a 4-sided box.  Then fiberglass or aluminum window screen can be tacked to the box edge giving protection from sparrows, mynah birds and flying insects. (flies are especially bad, they lay eggs in the leaves, so protect with screen).

 

6. Water the Tulasi seedlings thoroughly each morning, using tepid water bottle. Keep a large pot of tepid water nearby for refilling the water bottles, as they should be kept nicely moist. If the seed­lings start turning purplish or grayish, then they’re getting too much sun and not enough water.  If this happens, keep them in shade for a few days till they recover, or else they may wither and disappear.

 

7. Care for the seedlings regularly in the above manner, offering obei­sances and circumambulating twice daily, and in 2-3 weeks they will develop 2 or 3 more sets of leaves.  Then if you have pots bearing more than one seedling (and you probably will) you will have to plan on separating them by transplanting each in a separate peatmoss pot (4-6 inches deep). This separation transplanting is difficult but it is necessary. So prepare the required number of peat moss pots as described in #3 and #4 and in late afternoon equip yourself with peat pots, a knife, spade, soil mix, water bottle, and lots of tepid water. Important: the seedlings must be put one to a pot as soon as possible when they have two sets of leaves. Beforehand be sure to water the plants to be transplanted thoroughly. This makes the soil stick to the roots protecting them. In transplanting, avoid breaking and loosing seedling roots. Transplant as quickly as possible because even momentary exposure to the air is damaging and to keep as much moist soil as possible around the roots. After watering, be­gin by cutting an inch or so deep into the peatpot dividing it into two or more sections, depending on the number of seedlings. Start sections by cutting them carefully, pull the sections apart, trying to avoid root break­age and root exposure as far as possible. Immediately plant the sections in the newly prepared peat pots, pressing down firmly and filling more with moist soil as needed and water thoroughly several times, (two devotees working together can do this part more quickly). Press soil around the plants firmly to eliminate drying air pockets, and water thoroughly sev­eral times. Full shade and increased watering should continue for 3 days, and longer if they wilt.  If you do it quickly and carefully, there will be little or no wilting or drying up.

 

8.  After three days of shade (simply cover the screened bed with cloth to provide shade) and double watering, gradually introduce them to filtered sunlight and continue caring for them as in #5 & 6. Continue this program for 2-3 weeks, until they have 3 or 4 sets of leaves. When more leaves have appeared, you may check periodically to see if any tiny white roots are coming through the bottom of the pot. One of the advantages pf peat moss pots, aside from easy transplant, is that the roots never become cramped, thus dwarfing Her. When the pot becomes too small the roots just start coming through it. When you begin to see the roots coming through the bottom, its time to transplant Her.

 

9. Transplanting into Pots: It is advisable to put a few plants in pots for the winter, especially if your center or home is in a cold climate. Large 10-12″ deep cement are sturdy (or redwood.) and porous; clay pots are porous but break easily; plastic pots are non-porous and are not very good. Indoors in cold season with use of a plant lamp you should be able to continue growing Tulasi plants year round, so use durable and large pots. Cement and redwood pots usually have little logs beneath for drainage and air circulation, which is very important.

 

Soil mix: give Srimate Tulasi Devi a very nice planter and soil mix and she’ll grow and flourish nicely. You can either buy a ready-mixed packaged soil, or mix your own-which is just as good, done properly, and cheaper. A good planter mix is 2 parts garden loam (more or less; depending on whether soil is light or heavy in texture); 1 part compost; 1 part sand (coarse, clean &unsalted); 1 part peat moss/leaf mold; 1 part well-rotted dehydrated cow manure (cow manure must be dehydrated, fresh manure will burn the roots, buy it in a garden store).

 

Drainage: Be sure the pot drains freely. Place curved piece of crockery (broken clay pat) over the drainage hole, then line pot bottom with 1-2″ of coarse gravel so that dirt will neither sift through holes nor clog them.

 

Procedure:  In late afternoon prepare pot as directed and fill it with moist soil mix leaving a depression in the center of the pot. Water the Tulasi to be potted. Then with knife carefully remove the bottom of Tulasi’s peatmoss pot and set peat pot and Tulasi (together) down into the depression, pressing firmly so there won’t be any air pockets. Leave about 1 inch of room above the soil so there will be ease in watering. Water thoroughly by soaking pot in basin from below.

 

Care of Tulsi Devi in the Pots: The first thing is to water thoroughly when necessary and allow plant to absorb moisture or water a little each morning (about once every three days seems best). Be careful not to over or under water Her. She likes sun so give Her a sunny window or use a two bulb grow light.

 

 

Additional notes:     

Sec. 1. When planting new seeds from Tulasi Devi, the seed pods must be dissected and the seeds removed from them. Each pod contains 4 seeds. Some might have already fallen from the pod. With fingernails carefully pick apart pods, allowing seeds to fall onto a soft cloth. Don’t smash the pods. Avoid bruising the seeds or exposing them to damp atmosphere. Do not plant more seeds than you can properly maintain

If Jiffy grower seed starter kits are not available in your area, then you can get pre-sifted planter soil mix, and put it into small peat moss pots, then cover with a piece of perforated plastic bag by means of a rubber band • And water from below.

 

Sec. 10.  When plants are a little taller, for wind protection and to give them stability, drive a thin stake into the ground 1″ or so beside the stalk base, and loosely tie stalk to it with a torn strip of soft cotton cloth (a strip at least 1″ wide). Tie it loosely and in a place where won’t obstruct growth of new leaves. This gives the slender delicate stalk good support, even in wind, and makes for more rapid growth. In a few months, the stalk is no more soft and purple, but becomes hard and woody, like a little tree. Still if the area is windy, best to leave the support stake in permanently.

 

When collecting the leaves, collect the ones that droop before they fall naturally. Don’t cut terminal leaves and wait till plants are big before cutting many leaves from them. 

 

Srila Prabhupad said there are two kinds of Tulasi: Rama Tulasi which is greener, and Krishna Tulasi which is purple. Srila Prabhupada said also there will be little fruits shaped like temples in a year or so. Now, there are flower stalks, which He called Manjaris. His Divine Grace also mentioned that in India, in temple court­yards, there are always Tulasi growing. In temple courtyards they also grow in a 3 foot tall pillar that is like a big pot, and Srimate Tulasi devi is worshipped regularly by the devotees. Especially in villages, the women take very nice care of the Tulasi plant. They water and offer obeisances and circumambulate in the morn­ing and in the evening they offer lamp and incense, like aarati. He said if aarati can be done that is very nice. She is a great devotee and they offer respect. And She is very very important and necessary paraphernalia in our worship. His Divine Grace said the plants will continue to grow for about 5 years.

 

            “The Tulasi leaf is very very dear to Lord Visnu and Krishna. All Vishnu tattva Deities profusely require Tulasi leaves. Lord Vishnu likes garlands of Tulasi leaves. Tulasi leaves mixed with sandalwood pulp and pleced on the Lotus Feet of the Lord is the topmost worship. But we must be very careful that Tulasi leaves cannot be placed on the feet of anyone else except Lord Vishnu and His different forms. Tulasi leaves cannot be placed even on the lotus feet of Radharani or on the lotus feet of the Spiritual Master. It is entirely reserved for being placed on the Lotus Feet of Krishna. We can place, however, Tulasi leaves in the hands of Radharani for being placed on the Lotus Feet of Krishna as you have seen on the Govinda album.”     From  Srila Prabhupada

 

 

 

PRAYERS

 

Bowing down (pancanga pranam)

Vrindaai Tulasi devyai priyasai kesavasya cha

Vishnu bhaktiprade devi satyavatyai namo namaha

 

“I offer my repeated obeiances to Vrinda, Srimati Tulasi Devi, who is very dear to Lord Keshava (Krishna). O goddess, you bestow devotional service to Lord Krishna and possess the highest truth.”

 

 

When collecting leaves

tulasya mrita janmasi sada tvam keshavapriya

keshavarthi chinomi tvam barada bhava sobine

 

“O Tulasi, you were born from nectar. You are always very dear to Lord Keshava. Now in order to worship Lord Keshava, I am collecting your leaves and manjaris. Please bestow your benediction on me.”

 

 

While offering arotika

narao namo Tulasi krishna preyasinamo namah

radha krsna seva pava ei abhilasi

ye tomara sarana lasa tara vancha purna haya

kripa kari kara tare vrindavanavasi

mora ei abhilasa vilasa kunje dio vasa

nasane heriva sada yugalaruparasi

ei nivedena dhara sakhira anugata kara

seva adhikara kiye kara nija dasi

dina krishna dase kaya ei yenamora haya

sri radha govinda-preme sada yena bhasi

 

“O Tulasi, beloved of Krishna, I bow before you again and again. My desire is to obtain the service of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna.

“Whoever takes shelter of you has his wishes fulfilled. Bestowing your mercy on him, you make him a resident of Vrindavana.

“My desire is that you also grant me a residence in the pleasure groves of Sri Vrindavana-dhama. Thus, within my vision I will always behold the beautiful pastimes of Radha and Krishna.

“I beg you to make me a follower of the cowherd damsels of Vraja. Please give me the privilege of devotional service and make me your own maidservant.

“This very fallen and lowly servant of Krishna prays ‘May I always swim in the love of Sri Sri Rahda and Govinda.”

 

 

While Circumambulating Tulasi

yani kani cha papani brahmahatya dikani ca

tani tani prana syanti pradakshinah pada pade

 

“By the circumambulation of Srimati Tulasi Devi all the sins one may have committed are destroyed at every step, even the sin of killing a brahmana.” 

 

 

How To Offer Tulasi Devi Worship (Puja)

 

 

Tulasi-puja is relatively simple, consisting of only three articles: incense, a ghee lamp, and flowers. Sooner or later, you will probably get an opportunity to offer puja to Tulasi, so here are the steps that you need to know:

  1. Acamana (purification)

o                Take the spoon from the water (acamana) cup and purify both hands by sprinkling water onto them.

o                A spoon full into your right palm, chant om keshavaya namah, and sip.

o                A spoon full into your right palm, chant om narayanaya namah, and sip.

o                A spoon full into your right palm, chant om madhavaya namah, and sip.

  1. Offering the incense

o                Purify (sprinkle with a spoon full of water) the bell and the incense holder.

o                Light the incense.

o                Pick up the bell in the left hand; ring the bell throughout the puja.

o                Pick up the incense holder in the right hand and offer the incense to Tulasi with seven circles around her whole form.

o                Offer to Srila Prabhupada and then all the devotees.

  1. Offering the ghee lamp

o                Purify the ghee lamp.

o                Light it.

o                Offer it to Tulasi: four circles to the base, two to the middle, three to the top, and seven to the whole.

o                Offer to Srila Prabhupada and then all the devotees.

  1. Offering the Flowers

o                Purify the flowers.

o                Offer them to Tulasi with seven circles to the whole form.

o                Place one at her base (optional).

o                Offer them Srila Prabhupada and then all the devotees.

o                Now the puja is complete and you can serve the devotees by assisting them to purify their hands before watering Tulasi.

Planting, watering, protecting, maintaining, circumambulating, seeing, bowing down to, praying to, and glorifying are all ways of serving and worshiping Tulasi and are highly beneficial.

The Ratha-Yatra Festival at Jagannatha Puri

The Ratha-Yatra Festival at

 Jagannatha Puri

By Stephen Knapp

Jagannatha Puri, a town of 75,000, is one of the most important pilgrimage centers and one of the four holiest cities in India. These four cities are Badrinatha in the north, Dvaraka in the west, Ramesvaram in the south, and Puri in the east. Badrinarayan in Badrinatha was especially worshiped in Satya-yuga, Rama in Ramesvaram in Treta-yuga, Dvarakanatha in Dvaraka was especially worshiped in Dvapara-yuga, but Lord Jagannatha in Puri can be worshiped by everyone in Kali-yuga. In fact, the importance of Jagannatha Puri, sometimes called Purushottama-Ksetra, is explained in chapters 52 through 57 of the Uttarabhaga section of the Narada Purana. There we find it stated that simply by visiting Puri, which is rarely achieved except for those who have performed many pious acts, and by seeing the Deity of Jagannatha (Krishna), one can easily attain freedom from future births and reach the spiritual abode.

In the middle of this city is the large temple dedicated to Lord Krishna as Jagannatha, meaning “Lord of the Universe.” From the Skanda Purana we get information that the original construction of the first Jagannatha temple was in Satya-yuga, millions of years ago. It is related that Lord Jagannatha told Maharaja Indradyumna that He first appeared in the Svayambhuva manvantara of the first part of Satya-yuga, on the full moon day, after being pleased by devotion. This is about 153 million years ago. Then Brahma installed the Deities in the temple. This appearance is celebrated by the Snana Purnima, or Snana-Yatra, which is the public bathing of Lord Jagannatha, His brother Balarama, and His sister Subhadra. The celebrated Ratha-Yatra festival is said to have started in the time of Svarochisha Manu, or the second manvantara period, and is predicted to continue until the end of the second half of Lord Brahma’s lifetime. Even in the Ramayana by Valmiki Muni (Uttara Khanda 108.30) it is related that when Lord Rama was getting ready to leave this world he told Vibhishan, Ravana’s younger brother, that in His absence he should worship Lord Jagannatha, the Lord of the Iksvaku dynasty.

The Skanda Purana also fixes the date of the Ratha-Yatra festival, which should be celebrated on the second day of the bright fortnight if the month of Ashadha, a day called Pushyami Nakshatra by astrological calculations. The Padma Purana describes (as related in Sanatana Goswami’s Dig Darshini Tika to his Brihad-Bhagavatamrita, 2.1.159) that in Purushottama-kshetra, or Jagannatha Puri, the supremely blissful Personality of Godhead pretends to be made of wood. In this way, although the Lord takes on what appears to be a material form, it is completely spiritual by the causeless mercy of the Lord for the conditioned souls who cannot perceive the transcendental domain.

The main temple building, called Sri Mandir, was built in the 12th century by King Chodaganga Deva, though the site goes back much farther as described above. This is a huge complex where buildings house as many as 5,000 priests and assistants. The whole compound is surrounded by a thick stone wall 20 feet tall that encloses an area 665 feet by 640 feet. The wall has four large gates, one on each side. The additional smaller buildings were added after the 16th century. The main temple, which reaches 215 feet in height, is where we find the six foot tall Deities of Jagannatha, Balarama, and the shorter Subhadra. They stand on a five foot high throne facing the pilgrims as they enter the temple room. Outside the main temple hall are over 100 smaller shrines dedicated to the various demigods. There is an arati ceremony six times a day from 4 AM to 9 PM when devotees come in for darshan of the Deities, in which they sing, chant, or worship the Deities in ecstasy. As many as 50,000 people come to the Jagannatha temple in a day. Unfortunately, foreigners are not allowed into the temple grounds, but you can get a look at the temple from the roof of the Raghunandan Library across the street for a donation.

The temple compound also has a huge kitchen, employing over 650 cooks and helpers who make hundreds of vegetarian preparations for the 54 separate offerings that are given to the Deities every day. After the food is given to the Deities it becomes prasada, or the Lord’s mercy. By taking such spiritually powerful food it is said that one becomes more and more spiritually surcharged and free from past karma. Much of the prasada is sold or given to people who depend on the temple. When I had my ricksha driver buy some for me, I got a basket with several clay pots filled with a variety of rice, vegetable, dahl, and sweet preparations. It was absolutely delicious and was enough for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two days. Taking this prasada at Puri is to partake in a tradition that goes back thousands of years and is considered especially purifying. It is said that only by Krishna’s grace does one get the opportunity to receive the remnants of food offered to Him.

The Appearance of Lord Jagannatha

The significance of Jagannatha Puri and the story of how the Deities first appeared goes back many hundreds of years to the time of King Indradyumna, who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. It is related that one time in his court the King heard from a devotee about an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, named Nila-madhava. (Nila-madhava is the Deity form of Lord Vishnu.) The King very much wanted to see this form of the Supreme and sent many Brahmanas to search for Nila-madhava. All came back unsuccessful except for Vidyapati, who did not come back at all. He had wandered to a distant town which was populated by a tribe of people known as Shabaras of non-Aryan heritage. He had stayed in the house of Visvasu, and later, at Visvasu’s request, married his daughter, Lalita.

After some time Vidyapati noticed that Visvasu would leave the house every night and return at noon the next day. Vidyapati asked his wife about this. Though her father had ordered her not to tell anyone, she told Vidyapati that Visvasu would go in secret to worship Nila-madhava. After repeated requests, Vidyapati finally got permission to go see Nila-madhava, only if he went blindfolded. But Vidyapati’s wife had bound some mustard seeds in his cloth so that a trail could be left to follow later. When they reached the shrine, Vidyapati saw the Deity Nila-madhava after the Shabara took off the blindfold, and he felt great ecstasy.

The story continues to relate that while Visvasu was out collecting items for worship, Vidyapati saw a bird fall into the nearby lake and drown. The soul of the bird suddenly took a spiritual form and ascended back to the spiritual world. Vidyapati wanted to do the same and climbed the tree to jump in the lake. Then a voice from the sky declared that before he jumped he should tell Indradyumna that he had found Nila-madhava.

When Visvasu returned to worship the Deity, Nila-madhava spoke and said that He had accepted the simple worship from him for so many days, but now He wanted to accept the opulent worship that would be offered by King Indradyumna. When Vidyapati went back to tell the King, Indradyumna immediately went to find Nila-madhava but could not locate Him. So the King arrested Visvasu, but a voice told him to release the Shabara and that he should build a temple on top of Nila Hill where the King would see the Lord as Daru-brahman, the wooden manifestation of the Absolute.

After great endeavor, King Indradyumna built the temple at Sri Kshetra, now known as Jagannatha Puri, and later prayed to Lord Brahma to consecrate it. However, Lord Brahma said that it was not within his power to consecrate the temple since Sri Kshetra is manifested by the Supreme’s own internal potency and is where the Lord manifests Himself. So Brahma simply put a flag on top of the temple and blessed it, saying that anyone who from a distance saw the flag and offered obeisances would easily be liberated from the material world. Nonetheless, after much waiting the King became anxious since Nila-madhava had not manifested Himself. Thinking his life was useless, the King decided he should end his life by fasting. But in a dream the Lord said that He would appear floating in from the sea in His form as Daru-brahman.

The King went to the shore and found a huge piece of wood that had the markings of a conch, disc, club, and lotus. This was Daru-brahman. But try as they might, the men could not budge the wood. In a dream the Lord spoke to the King and instructed him to get Visvasu and put a golden chariot in front of Daru-brahman. After doing this and forming a kirtana party to chant the holy names, and praying for Daru-brahman to mount the chariot, Daru-brahman was easily moved. Lord Brahma performed a sacrifice where the present temple now stands and installed a Deity of Lord Narasimhadeva, the Deity that is now on the western side of the temple.

From the wooden Daru-brahman, the King requested many expert carvers to carve the form of the Deity, but none could do so for their chisels immediately broke when they touched the wood. Finally the architect of the demigods, Visvakarma, (some say the Lord Himself) arrived as an old artist, Ananta Maharana, and promised that he would carve the Deity form of the Lord inside the temple in three weeks if the King would allow him to work behind closed doors. But after 14 days the King became very anxious because he could no longer hear the sounds of the carving. Finally he could stand it no more. On the advice of the queen he personally opened the doors of the temple to see what was happening. Then he saw the forms of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama, and Lady Subhadra. But because the King had opened the doors sooner than he was supposed to, the Deities were not completed; Their feet and hands had not yet been carved. Thus, the Supreme manifested Himself in this form.

The King felt he had committed a great offense for having opened the doors before the allotted three weeks had passed, so he decided to end his life. But in a dream Lord Jagannatha told the King that though he had broken his promise, this was just a part of the Supreme’s pastimes to display this particular form. The King was told that this form, even though it appeared to be incomplete, was actually the form of the Lord that was meant to be worshiped in this age of Kali-yuga. Occasionally the King could decorate the Deity with golden hands and feet. Yet those devotees filled with love would always see the form of Lord Jagannatha as the threefold bending form of Syamasundara, Krishna, holding a flute. Thus, the Supreme appeared in this form so that people could approach and see Him, especially as He rides through town on the huge carts during the Ratha-Yatra festival.

The Ratha-Yatra Festival

During the Ratha-Yatra festival is the most popular time to go to Jagannatha Puri. This is usually in July when it is very hot. But thousands upon thousands of pilgrims flock to Puri to take part in this auspicious event, which is said to have been celebrated for thousands of years, making it one of the oldest and one of the biggest religious festivals in the world. This is the time when the Deities come out of the temple for all to see. It is also the time when as many as a million people gather in this small city with one purpose: to show their faith and devotion to God in the form of Lord Jagannatha.

As big as this festival is, it can be quite expensive. The only festival in the world that is bigger than this is the Kumbha Mela festival that draws many more millions of people. The Ratha-Yatra festival is financed primarily by the Orissan government with an annual budget of $50,000, which is a very large sum for India. But with the number of pilgrims that come to Puri each year, the temple and surrounding businesses also are benefitted with the extra financial income.

The actual construction of the carts begins two months before the festival day, on the third day of the bright fortnight of Vaisakha (April-May). More than 600 trees, or 400 cubic meters of wood, are needed for the construction, taken from the local forests along the banks of the Mahanadi River. Using the same simple tools and procedures as they have for the past hundreds of years, once the basic elements are made, such as the wheels, then the actual construction begins only a few weeks before the festival. When I saw the carts a few days prior to the festival, I doubted that they would be finished in time. However, the construction crew works on them night and day, and everything was ready the day before the festival.

In the main road in front of the temple huge stacks of wood are used to assemble the three chariots which will reach up to three storeys tall and will roll on wheels, each eight feet high. The chariots are painted with bright colors and the tops are covered with red, black, yellow, or green canopies. The colors signify which chariot is for which Deity. Lord Jagannatha uses red and yellow, Lord Balarama uses red and green, while Subhadra uses red and black. The Deities are also painted with particular colors that mean something. Jagannatha’s blackish color represents faultless qualities; Balarama’s white color signifies enlightenment; and Subhadra’s yellow color signifies goodness.

Each cart is different. The cart of Lord Jagannatha is called Cakradhvaja or Nandigosha, which means tumultuous and blissful sound. Using 16 wheels, it rises 45 feet tall, and weighs 65 tons. It also carries a figure of Garuda on its crest, and is drawn by four white wooden horses. Balarama’s cart is called Taladhvaja, meaning the sound of significantly powerful rhythm. It has 14 wheels, and is drawn by four black wooden horses. It carries Hanuman on its crest. Subhadra’s cart is called Padmadhvaja or Darpadalan, which means destroyer of pride. It has a lotus on its crest, uses 12 wheels, and is drawn by four red wooden horses. After the Ratha-Yatra festival the wood from the carts is used as fuel for the big kitchen in the temple, which can last up to nine months.

About two weeks before the festival, the Deities of Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra are given a ritual bath, which is performed on the front main wall of the temple, which allows everyone to observe it from the street below, or one of the surrounding buildings. This is called the Snana-Yatra. After this They play the pastime of getting a cold. They are then taken to a designated area and given special treatments and offerings. They may also be repainted at this time. About every 12 or 19 years the bodies of the Deities are replaced with new ones carved from a ritualistically selected Daru-Brahman in the form of a nima tree. This is known as the Nava-Kalevarna festival. It occurs when there is a leap (additional) month in the Vedic calendar that appears between Snana-Yatra and Ratha-Yatra. This was last performed in 1996, 1977, and 1969. After such an occurrence, the crowd that attends the Ratha-Yatra in Puri expands from the usual 700,000 or so to as many as two-and-a-half million.

As the Ratha-Yatra festival draws near, thousands of pilgrims come to Jagannatha Puri, but as many as a million or more people may be in town on the day of the festival. Some are top officials in the Indian government or other VIPs. Many people begin arriving in front of the temple near the carts on the morning of the festival. At first it is very interesting to wander about looking at the nicely decorated carts and all the pilgrims who have attended. But then the police begin cordoning off the area around the carts. Then there are only certain areas where people can get between the carts and the buildings. This creates bottlenecks which can be very dangerous when too many people are pushing on each other trying to get through. I saw people begin to panic at times because of the pressure on them, and worried mothers had to hold their babies above the crowd to make sure they did not get crushed.

The Ratha-Yatra festival can be both spiritually ecstatic and physically exhausting. Though July is in the monsoon season, if the rains have not arrived yet, it gets very hot. When it is hot, you will be soaked with sweat a few hours after the sun comes up. In fact, from where I was, I saw dozens of Indian people who had collapsed from the heat and had to be carried away from the crowd on stretchers. The heat can take a lot out of you, especially when in a crowd of many thousands. So it is best to have a source of water with you, like a canteen.

A good place to be during the festival, if you do not want to be on the street amongst the people, is on a rooftop. But you have to make reservations and pay for your seats several days in advance. Even then there may not be any guarantee that you will get the seats you want.

I have been at Jagannatha Puri to attend two Ratha-Yatra festivals, once in 1991, and another in 2001. At each one things happened at different times of the day. In 1991 it was around eleven in the morning when the temple priests came out to sanctify the carts. In 2001, everything got started much earlier, and the priests came out before 9 AM. They walk up the gangplanks to the platform on the cart and sprinkle holy water around while circumambulating it three times and chanting specific mantras for purification. Later, the priests bring out the small Deities that will also ride on the cart.

When the big Deities are brought out, first there is Lord Balarama, then Lady Subhadra, and then Lord Jagannatha. Each time excitement suddenly fills the air and many men blow conch shells and bang on drums and cymbals to announce the arrival of the Deities at the main gate of the temple complex. Then the smiling face of Lord Balarama appears through the doorway and the crowd shouts and chants, “Jai Balarama. Baladeva ki jai!” Generally, however, unless you are situated on a tall building, you cannot see the faces of the Deities because there are so many assistants that help move Them. But you can easily see the huge headdress They wear. Once the Deity is on the cart, the headdress is torn off and distributed amongst the people as prasada.

Daityas, strongly built men who lift the Deity, carry Lord Balarama. It is described that they move Him from one large cotton pillow to another, however, I couldn’t see any. Lord Balarama is five feet and five inches tall and has an arm span of 12 feet. When carried, there are five men on each arm, with up to 50 men pulling in front and 20 offering support in the back. All of these carriers are Daityas, members of the Dayitapati family who are descendants of Visvavasu. Gradually, taking about a half hour or so, Lord Balarama moves from the temple gate to the chariot and is placed on it so everyone in the crowd can see Him. Then Subhadra, who is less than five feet tall, is also carried from the temple to Her chariot. And finally Lord Jagannatha is brought out. He is five feet and seven inches tall with an arm span of 12 feet, and also needs many assistants to be moved.

In 1991 it was around two o’clock, when the King of Puri arrived in a procession, walked up the planks to the platform and swept the cart with a gold handled broom, and then sprinkles sandalwood scented water on them. He circumambulates the platform three times and is assisted by the priests. He does this to each of the carts. In 2001, however, this took place around 10 AM, and everything that year happened in a much more timely manner.

It should be pointed out here that the way the King sweeps the carts is an example of how the festival has changed over the years. If you read accounts of the Ratha-Yatra festival as described in the Caitanya-caritamrta, there are some major differences in the festival we find today compared to 500 years ago. The King used to sweep the street in front of the carts as they paraded down through the town. The reason he no longer does this is related in a story I was told. It seems that at one time years ago a King of Puri, Purusottama Dev, was to marry a princess who was the daughter of a king, Maharaja Sallwo Narasingha, from the district of Kanchi. When the Ratha-Yatra festival was to take place, the father of the princess was invited, but sent his minister Chinnubhatta Godaranga instead. When he attended, the King of Puri performed the devotional tradition of sweeping the road in front of the carts. The visiting minister, however, rather than being impressed with the devotion of the King for Lord Jagannatha, did not approve of him sweeping the road, even if it was for the Lord. When he reported this to King Sallwo Narasingha, the king objected to the idea of his daughter marrying the King of Puri since he was merely a street sweeper. Purusottama Dev was extremely angry that he, as the servant of Lord Jagannatha, would be insulted for his service like that. So he gathered his troupes and went to Kanchi to teach King Sallwo a lesson. Unfortunately, King Purusottama Dev was badly defeated.

On returning to Puri in such a downcast mood, he stopped at the simple cottage of Saikatacharya, a great ascetic, householder devotee of Lord Jagannatha. This devotee pointed out that the King had forgotten to ask permission from Lord Jagannatha before he went to attack King Sallwo. With this realization, the King returned to Puri and visited the temple of the Lord, crying over his defeat, asking why the Lord had let this happen. He spent the night in the temple, and with doors closed, before the night came to an end, the King heard a voice asking why he was so distraught over such a simple thing. The voice said to go gather his troupes again, and that we two brothers, Jagannatha and Balarama, would go along to fight on the King’s behalf. As the news spread, many people, both old and young, joined the King’s forces to fight with Their Lordships. However, as they went, the King was filled with some doubts whether Their Lordships were really going with him.

While the King and his army went onward, far ahead were two soldiers that rode on one black horse and one white horse. They stopped to quench Their thirst at a small village near Chilika Lake by buying some yogurt from a devotee named Manika. She offered Them yogurt, but when she asked for payment, they said They had no money. Instead They gave her a jeweled ring and told her to give it to King Purusottama Dev, who would then give her payment.

After some time, the King caught up to the lady, who flagged him down to give him the ring and asked for payment for the soldiers’ drink. The king was shocked to see the ratnamudrika ring of Lord Jagannatha and then regained his confidence that, indeed, Their Lordships had certainly come with him. In payment for the ring, the king gave her the whole village, which is still named Manikapatna. After this the king and his troupes were victorious over King Sallwo, and he also took King Sallwo’s daughter as well. However, he did not marry her after the insult her father had given him. He instructed his minister to see that she get married to a qualified sweeper. After one year, at the next Ratha-Yatra, the King again performed his sweeping ceremony. At that time, the king’s minister announced that the king was the most qualified sweeper, since he swept for Lord Jagannatha, and that the princess, Padmavati, should marry him. Then Maharaja Purusottama Dev married the princess and she later gave birth to a great devotee of Lord Caitanya, who became known as King Prataparudra. Anyway, at some point after this, the King of Puri discontinued sweeping the streets and now sweeps the carts.

The festival parade also used to start in the morning and then stop at noon near the Jagannatha Vallabha Gardens where the Deities would get offerings of food, worship, etc., from the many devotees. There would also be many groups of people singing devotional songs, and though you will still see some people in kirtana groups, there were very few in 1991, while there were several big kirtana parties in 2001, including a large one consisting of the devotees from the Iskcon temple in Mumbai (Bombay).

After the King has swept the carts, they quickly begin to disassemble the gangplanks that lead up to the cart and begin to fasten the wooden horses that point the direction. Many thousands of devotees surround the carts and the people in the front take up the long, thick ropes to pull the chariots down the main road to the Gundicha temple, where the Deities stay for a week. Then the leaders on the carts that ride near the wooden horses direct those who are pulling the ropes to take up the slack. When everything is ready, a whistle is blown by the chariot driver and a hundred people on each of four ropes begin to pull. Then the numerous priests and assistants on the carts that ride along begin to bang on the gongs and cymbals, and suddenly the cart lurches forward and begins to move.

Once the carts get going, you mostly hear the spectators simply shout out, “Jayo, Jai Jagannatha,” and raise their hands in the air and watch the cart go by. Many police have to guard the chariot wheels to make sure no one gets too close and is crushed under them. In 1991 it was after five o’clock before Lord Balarama’s cart got started and loudly rumbled down the road and soon reached the Gundicha temple. In 2001 it started by about 10:30 AM or so. Subhadra’s cart began to move a while later.

Lord Jagannatha’s cart did not get started until after six o’clock in 1991, which was quite late, but got started by 11 AM in 2001. However, both times it did not make it to the Gundicha temple until the next day. The people pulled it about two-thirds of the way before it almost ran into some shops on the side of the road. So Lord Jagannatha spent the night wherever the cart had stopped. The following morning the people redirect the cart and continued with the Ratha-Yatra to finish pulling it to the Gundicha temple about two miles down the road from the main temple where the Deities stay for a week before returning to the temple in a similar parade.

Sometimes the chariots mysteriously stop, though everyone is pulling hard. In fact, it is not unusual, as in the case of this festival, that a chariot may stop completely and stay there overnight and then continue the next day. Sometimes if there is difficulty, the local government minister will pray to Lord Jagannatha for forgiveness from whatever offenses the residents of the town may have committed. Then the chariots begin to move again as if they move only by the will of Jagannatha.

The parade is a fascinating event in which to participate and see. But when the chariots get rolling, the crowd gets very intense. You either have to get out of the way to let them by, or struggle, as you get pushed this way and that, to move with the crowd as it goes with the cart. Many people try to pull the ropes and it is not easy, and can be dangerous, to get a place nearby.

The Deities spend the first two nights on the carts outside the Gundicha temple, or wherever else They may be if They do not make it there the first night. During this time, pilgrims can climb up on the carts and see the Deities very closely and even embrace Them. But the priests are quick to charge everyone a certain number of rupees for this opportunity, which makes for a very good business for the priests. When I climbed a cart and was about to give a “donation,” as many as five of the attendants grabbed the money at once before I let go of it. And when I did not let go of it right away, they started to get very angry. This was after I had been assured that I could climb the cart to see the Deity of Lady Subhadra and there would be no charge, and I would also be allowed to take a photograph. I indeed was allowed to see Lady Subhadra and even embrace Her, which is a rare event for any pilgrim, what to speak of a Westerner. But after I had given my donation, I took out my camera to take a photograph and a guard immediately came over and objected and ordered me to get down off the cart. So that brought an abrupt end to the episode. Nonetheless, if one can overcome this businesslike atmosphere, it can still be a very devotional and memorable event. And you can also go up on the carts of Lord Jagannatha and Lord Balarama as well, if you can handle the crowds and the many priests who ask for donations, or who want to direct people, sometimes forcefully with the use of sticks. Some people simply stay on the ground and offer prayers and small ghee lamps from a distance. Others climb all three carts to get the personal darshan of all three Deities.

The Deities are then taken inside the Gundicha temple only on the third night. After the Deities’ stay at the Gundicha temple, They return a week later to the main temple in a similar parade that is attended by fewer people. This can be a time when you can get much closer to the carts and walk more easily with the parade, providing you have time to stay in Puri for this event. Again, the Deities come out of the Gundicha temple as before and are placed on the carts with much fanfare from the devotees. Then again the King of Puri comes to cleanse the carts, and shortly thereafter the carts are ready to be pulled in a most festive parade back to the main temple. The return trip usually happens all in one day. However, again the Deities stay outside on the carts for two nights, allowing everyone who wants to climb up on the cart for a close darshan. Then on the third night there is the Suna Vesa festival in which the Deities are dressed in gold outfits. Again, the city becomes extremely crowded as people want to see the Deities in the golden ornaments. These include gold crowns, hands and feet, golden peacock feather, gold earrings, different golden necklaces, and ornaments such as a silver conch and gold disk for Lord Jagannatha and golden club and plow for Lord Balarama. These are all solid gold, and all together weigh up to one ton.

No one is allowed on the carts for the gold festival except for the intimate servants of the Deities. The way the crowd works for this festival is that they approach the carts from the main road. The closer to the carts you get, the thicker the crowd becomes. You are then directed by numerous police to walk with the crowd around the front of the carts and then down a side street. The police will also not let you stop along the lanes, but make sure everyone keeps moving. As you walk, you can then look toward the Deities to see Them in Their unique gold ornaments. They look especially powerful dressed as They are like this. Your darshan is only as long as it takes for the crowd to move, and then you must continue on, or come back around again, all of which can take an hour to make it through the crowds. Then as you come back around, the street is divided into two lanes, one for those approaching the carts and the other for those leaving. So you have to continue a ways away before you can begin to come back around. Getting directly in front of each of the carts is the only way you can have a direct line of sight toward the Deity during this event.

After this, the Deities stay on the carts one more day and are then taken into the main temple the following evening, as They were when taken into the Gundich temple. Then the Ratha-Yatra festival is completely finished until next year.

The Internal Meaning of the Ratha-Yatra Festival

The meaning of the Ratha-Yatra parade is steeped in religious sentiment. The form that Lord Krishna takes as Jagannatha is the manifestation of His ecstasy that He feels when He leaves the opulence of His palaces in Dwaraka, represented by the Puri temple, to return to the town of Vrindavan and the simple and pure spontaneous love the residents there have for Him. Thus, there is no difference between Lord Krishna and Lord Jagannatha. So in the mood of separation from His loving devotees, Jagannatha mounts His chariot and returns to Vrindavan, which is symbolically represented by the Gundicha temple. In this way, the esoteric meaning of the Ratha-Yatra parade is that we pull the Lord back into our hearts and rekindle the loving relationship we have with Him. Many great poems and songs, such as Jagannatha-astakam, have been composed describing the event and the highly ecstatic devotional mood one can enter while participating. Many verses are also written in the Caitanya-caritamrita that describe the pastimes Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had during these Ratha-Yatra festivals 500 years ago.

To explain the internal meaning of Ratha-Yatra further, Lord Jagannatha is the embodiment of Lord Krishna’s love for Srimate Radharani. While Lord Krishna was living in Dwaraka, he felt great separation from Radharani and the residents of Vrindavana. On the day of one solar eclipse, He traveled to Kuruksetra with His brother Balarama and His sister Subhadra on His chariot. There He met Srimate Radharani and other residents of Vrindavana, all of which wanted to take the Lord back to Vrindavana. While traveling and thinking of this meeting, He entered mahabhava, the highest sentiments of loving exchange. In that state, His eyes dilated like fully bloomed lotuses, and His hands and legs retreated into His body. In this way, the form of Lord Jagannatha is called radha-viraha-vidhura, the separation from Radharani, and also mahabhava-prakasha, the manifestation of mahabhava for Radharani. Lord Caitanya was the embodiment of Srimate Radharani’s love for Lord Krishna. So Lord Caitanya taking Lord Jagannatha from the main temple to the Gundicha corresponds to Srimate Radharani’s wanting to take Lord Krishna from Dwaraka back to Vrindavana, the place of spontaneous and ecstatic love of God.

It is also explained that by participating in this festival, chanting and dancing, or helping pull the ropes of the chariots, one becomes free of many lifetimes of karma. One can even become liberated due to the spiritual potency of Lord Jagannatha’s presence. One of the ways this happens is explained as follows: at the very end of one’s life when the memories of his activities pass through the mind, when he remembers the amazing Ratha-Yatra festival his mind stops and focuses on that event. Thus, he dies thinking of Lord Jagannatha and is liberated from material existence and returns to the spiritual world, just like a yogi is transferred to the spiritual strata when his mind is fixed on the Supersoul at the time of death. This is why thousands of pilgrims come to Jagannatha Puri every year for Ratha-Yatra.

Other Places of Spiritual Importance in Jagannatha Puri

While in Jagannatha Puri, there are many other places of interest that pilgrims come to see, so I will describe a few of these. About a quarter mile from the Jagannatha temple, walking toward the beach, is Siddha Bakula. This is where, 500 years ago, the great saint Haridas Thakur used to live and chant the Hare Krishna mantra 300,000 times a day and where Sri Caitanya would visit him. Since Haridas could not enter the Jagannatha Temple, being of a Muslim family, Lord Caitanya took the stick He had used as His toothbrush and stuck it in the ground. It immediately grew into a beautiful shade tree, under which Haridas Thakur lived. Sanatana Gosvami had also stayed here for a time as well.

Haridas attained such an elevated position of ecstasy from chanting the Hare Krishna mantra that even though a beautiful prostitute came to tempt him with sex, he was not interested. Thus, he is called the namacarya: the master of chanting the holy names. In 1991, a small shrine was found here, along with the old and bent tree under which Haridas would chant. However, since then, as found in 2001, there is a nice temple and plenty of walled protection for the tree at this place. The tomb of Haridas Thakur, where you’ll also see beautiful Radha Krishna Deities as well as an image of Haridas, is located next to Purusottama Gaudiya Math near the beach. This is an important place of pilgrimage.

A 15 minute walk from here is the temple of Tota-Gopinatha. The Radha Krishna Deities here are especially beautiful, and it is accepted that Sri Caitanya ended his life by entering into the Deity of Tota-Gopinatha. Also near this area is the old house of Kashi Mishra. It is now used as part of a temple and has nice diorama exhibits of Sri Caitanya’s life. It is here we find the Gambhira room, which is where Sri Caitanya lived for 12 years. Through a small window you can see Sri Caitanya’s original wooden sandals, water pot, and bed.

A short walk to the east of the Jagannatha temple is the Gaudiya Math temple and the place where Srila Bhaktisiddhanta took birth. A little farther east is the Jagannatha Vallabha Garden, which is almost across from the Balagandhi temple which used to be where Lord Jagannatha would stop during His Ratha-Yatra parade to accept food offerings from all the devotees. At this garden, Sri Caitanya had many pastimes and is where He saw Lord Krishna manifest Himself. A little ways away from the garden is Narendra Sarovara, a small lake where many festivals have taken place with Sri Caitanya and his associates. Even now many pilgrims will visit and take a holy bath in this lake. The Govinda Deity from the Jagannatha temple is brought here for festivals where He is given boat rides. There is also a little temple with Lord Jagannatha Deities located here. So if foreigners want to see Lord Jagannatha they can usually come here for darshan, unless it is during the Ratha-Yatra festival.

Farther down the main road of town near the Gundicha Mandir is the very old temple dedicated to Lord Narasimha, which we can enter to view the Deity. This is also where Sri Caitanya engaged in many kirtanas with his close associates. Not far away is Indradyumna Lake where Sri Caitanya once manifested His Mahavishnu form showing His associates His supernatural qualities as an incarnation of God.

About 14 miles from Jagannatha Puri is the Alarnatha temple at Brahmagiri. Lord Alarnatha is a four-handed form of Lord Vishnu. Whenever the Jagannatha Deities in Puri would be removed from the altar before the Ratha-Yatra festival for two weeks, Sri Caitanya would stay here. This is a temple where, at the end of the kirtana hall in front of a Deity of Sadbhuja, there is a large stone slab with the imprint of Sri Caitanya’s body. Once when He fell onto the stone in an ecstatic trance, the stone melted leaving the imprint of Sri Caitanya’s body as we find it today. Across from the Alarnatha temple is another Gaudiya-Math temple that was established by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. It is also here where we find the small Alarnatha Deity that was uncovered during excavations around the main Alarnatha temple. However, once when Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was staying at his temple, the priest at the Alarnatha shrine had a dream in which the Lord came to him and said that He wanted to accept the worship of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. Then the priest brought the small Alarnatha Deity to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta who worshiped Him, and where the Deity has remained since then. Also in this town of Bentapur we can see the birthplace of Ramananda Raya, a close associate of Sri Caitanya.

Nineteen miles north of Jagannatha Puri is Konarka, a most interesting temple to Surya, the sun-god. Although it is very old and no longer used for worship, many people come here every day. A Surya temple was here as long ago as the 9th century, but the present temple was built in the 13th century to resemble a huge chariot and has 24 gigantic stone wheels all around it. There are also carvings of seven strong horses who pull the chariot, and the temple is covered with many panels of stone figures depicting many aspects of life, such as scenes with hunters, soldiers, ascetics, maidens, birds, elephants, etc. There are also three green chlorite deities of Surya in niches on the outside of the temple, reached by ascending flights of stairs. The interior has been filled in and blocked up to help support it. Outside the temple grounds are many shops who sell food or the usual gamut of nick-nacks.

About six miles from Puri is the Saksi-gopala temple, located between the Jagannatha Puri and Khurda Road Junction railway stations. A new station called Saksi-gopala is there where people get off to visit the temple. The Saksi-gopala Deity is the Gopala Deity who walked from Vrindavan to Vidyanagara, a town located 20 to 25 miles from Rajahmundry on the banks of the Godavari River. How this happened was that two brahmanas were traveling and visiting the holy places. One was poor and young and was serving the older and richer brahmana. The older one was so satisfied with the charitable service of the younger brahmana that he vowed in front of the Gopala Deity that he would give his daughter to the younger brahmana to be his wife. Later, when they returned home, the older brahmana hesitated to fulfill his promise due to pressure from his family. There was some controversy about this between the two brahmanas and in a meeting with the people of the town it was agreed that if the Deity Gopala would come to testify as a witness, the older brahmana would give his daughter as promised.

The younger brahmana went back to Vrindavan and related the situation to the Gopala Deity who finally agreed to walk. He told the brahmana that He would follow him and that the sound of His ankle bells would indicate He was there, but if the brahmana turned around to look, He would walk no farther. So for 100 days they walked toward Vidyanagara, then the sound of the Deity’s ankle bells ceased to sound. The brahmana looked back and the Deity was standing there smiling. The brahmana went to gather the people of the town who were amazed to see the Deity. Then the older brahmana agreed to give his daughter in marriage as promised and a temple was built for the Deity. Later the King of Orissa, Purusottama, was insulted by the King of Kataka (Cuttack). So Purusottama fought and defeated the King of Kataka and took charge of the city. He then brought the Gopalaji Deity from Vidyanagara to Kataka and built a temple there. The Deity also stayed in the Jagannatha Temple for some time, but then was moved to a village about six miles from Puri, called Satyavadi. Some time after that a new temple was constructed where we find the Saksi-gopala Deity today. Though the temple does not allow foreigners inside, many people visit this temple with the understanding that whether the Supreme is in the spiritual realm or expands Himself in the material realm in the form of a stone Deity, He can change what is spiritual into material and vice versa whenever He wants. This is why a stone Deity can do what is considered miraculous things, like walk, talk, etc. Thus, it is accepted that the bona fide Deity of the Supreme is nondifferent from the Supreme Himself.

These are some of the significant events and places that we can find in and around the town of Jagannatha Puri.

Story of the Appearance of Lord Krishna

The Story of the Appearance of Lord Krishna

 

            Once the world was overburdened by the unnecessary defense force of different kings, who were actually demons but were posing themselves as the royal order. At that time, the whole world became perturbed, and the predominating deity of this earth, known as Bhumi, went to see Lord Brahma to tell of her calamities due to the demoniac kings. Bhumi assumed the shape of a cow and presented herself before Lord Brahma with tears in her eyes. She was bereaved and was weeping just to invoke the lord’s compassion. She related the calamitous position of the earth, and after hearing this, Lord Brahma became much aggrieved, and he at once started for the ocean of milk, where Lord Vishnu resides. Lord Brahma was accompanied by all the demigods headed by Lord Shiva, and Bhumi also followed. Arriving on the shore of the milk ocean, Lord Brahma began to pacify Lord Vishnu, who formerly saved the earthly planet by assuming the transcendental form of a boar [as Lord Varaha].

            In the Vedic mantras, there is a particular type of prayer called Purusha-sukta. Generally, the demigods offer their obeisances unto Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by chanting the Purusha-sukta. It is understood herein that the predominating deity of every planet can see the supreme lord of this universe, Brahma, whenever there is some disturbance on his planet. And Brahma can approach the Supreme Lord Vishnu, not by seeing Him directly but by standing on the shore of the ocean of milk. There is a planet within this universe called Svetadvipa, and on that planet there is an ocean of milk. It is understood from various Vedic scriptures that just as there is the ocean of salt water on this planet, there are various kinds of oceans on other planets. Somewhere there is an ocean of milk, somewhere there is an ocean of oil, and somewhere an ocean of liquor and many other types of oceans. Purusha-sukta is the standard prayer which the demigods recite to appease the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kshirodakashayi Vishnu. Because He is lying on the ocean of milk, He is called Kshirodakashayi Vishnu. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, through whom all the incarnations within this universe appear.

            After all the demigods offered the Purusha-sukta prayer to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they apparently heard no response. Then Lord Brahma personally sat in meditation, and there was a message-transmission from Lord Vishnu to Brahma. Brahma then broadcast the message to the demigods. That is the system of receiving Vedic knowledge. The Vedic knowledge is received first by Brahma from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, through the medium of the heart. As stated in the beginning of Srimad-Bhagavatam, tene brahma hrida ya adi-kavaye: the transcendental knowledge of the Vedas was transmitted to Lord Brahma through the heart. Here also, in the same way, only Brahma could understand the message transmitted by Lord Vishnu, and he broadcast it to the demigods for their immediate action. The message was this: The Supreme Personality of Godhead would appear on the earth very soon, along with His supreme powerful potencies, and as long as He remained on the earth planet to execute His mission of annihilating the demons and establishing the devotees, the demigods should also remain there to assist Him. They should all immediately take birth in the family of the Yadu dynasty, wherein the Lord would also appear in due course of time. The Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, Krishna, would personally appear as the son of Vasudeva. Before His appearance, all the demigods, along with their wives, should appear in different pious families in the world just to assist the Lord in executing His mission. The exact word used here is tat-priyartham, which means the demigods should appear on the earth in order to please the Lord. In other words, any living entity who lives only to satisfy the Lord is a demigod. The demigods were further informed that the plenary portion of Lord Krishna, Ananta, who is maintaining the universal planets by extending His millions of hoods, would also appear on earth before Lord Krishna’s appearance. They were also informed that the external potency of Vishnu (Maya), with whom all the conditioned souls are enamored, would also appear by the order of the Supreme Lord, just to execute His purpose.

            After instructing and pacifying all the demigods, as well as Bhumi, with sweet words, Lord Brahma, the father of all prajapatis, or progenitors of universal population, departed for his abode, the highest material planet, called Brahmaloka.         

            The leader of the Yadu dynasty, King Surasena, was ruling over the country known as Mathura, wherein lies the city of Mathura, as well as the district known as Surasena, which was named after him. On account of the rule of King Surasena, Mathura became the capital city of all the kings of the Yadus. Mathura was also made the capital of the kings of the Yadu dynasty because the Yadus were a very pious family and knew that Mathura is the place where Lord Sri Krishna lives eternally, just as He also lives in Dvaraka.

            Once upon a time, Vasudeva, the son of Surasena, just after marrying Devaki, was going home on his chariot with his newly wedded wife. The father of Devaki, known as Devaka, had contributed a sufficient dowry because he was very affectionate toward his daughter. He had contributed hundreds of chariots completely decorated with gold equipment. At that time, Kamsa, the son of Ugrasena, in order to please his sister, Devaki, had voluntarily taken the reins of the horses of Vasudeva’s chariot and was driving. According to the custom of the Vedic civilization, when a girl is married, the brother takes the sister and brother-in-law to their home. Because the newly married girl may feel too much separation from her father’s family, the brother goes with her until she reaches her father-in-law’s house. The full dowry contributed by Devaka was as follows: 400 elephants fully decorated with golden garlands, 15,000 decorated horses, and 1,800 chariots. He also arranged for 200 beautiful girls to follow his daughter. The kshatriya system of marriage, still current in India, dictates that when a kshatriya is married, a few dozen of the bride’s young girlfriends (in addition to the bride) go to the house of the king. The followers of the queen are called maidservants, but actually they act as friends of the queen. This practice is prevalent from time immemorial, traceable at least to the time before the advent of Lord Krishna 5,000 years ago. So Vasudeva brought home another 200 beautiful girls along with his wife Devaki.

            While the bride and bridegroom were passing along on the chariot, there were different kinds of musical instruments playing to indicate the auspicious moment. There were conchshells, bugles, drums and kettledrums; combined together, they were vibrating a nice concert. The procession was passing very pleasingly, and Kamsa was driving the chariot, when suddenly there was a miraculous sound vibrated from the sky which especially announced to Kamsa: “Kamsa, you are such a fool! You are driving the chariot of your sister and your brother-in-law, but you do not know that the eighth child of this sister will kill you.”

            Kamsa was the son of Ugrasena, of the Bhoja dynasty. It is said that Kamsa was the most demoniac of all the Bhoja dynasty kings. Immediately after hearing the prophecy from the sky, he caught hold of Devaki’s hair and was just about to kill her with his sword. Vasudeva was astonished at Kamsa’s behavior, and in order to pacify the cruel, shameless brother-in-law, he began to speak as follows, with great reason and evidence. He said, “My dear brother-in-law Kamsa, you are the most famous king of the Bhoja dynasty, and people know that you are the greatest warrior and a valiant king. How is it that you are so infuriated that you are prepared to kill a woman who is your own sister at this auspicious time of her marriage? Why should you be so much afraid of death? Death is already born along with your birth. From the very day you took your birth, you began to die. Suppose you are twenty-five years old; that means you have already died twenty-five years. Every moment, every second, you are dying. Why then should you be so much afraid of death? Final death is inevitable. You may die either today or in a hundred years; you cannot avoid death. Why should you be so much afraid? Actually, death means annihilation of the present body. As soon as the present body stops functioning and mixes with the five elements of material nature, the living entity within the body accepts another body, according to his present action and reaction. It is just like when a man walks on the street: he puts forward his foot, and when he is confident that his foot is situated on sound ground, he lifts the other foot. In this way, one after another, the bodies change and the soul transmigrates. See how the plantworms change from one twig to another so carefully! Similarly, the living entity changes his body as soon as the higher authorities decide on his next body. As long as a living entity is conditioned within this material world, he must take material bodies one after another. His next particular body is offered by the laws of nature, according to the actions and reactions of this life.

            “This body is exactly like one of the bodies which we always see in dreams. During our dream of sleep, we create so many bodies according to mental creation. We have seen gold, and we have also seen a mountain, so in a dream we can see a golden mountain by combining the two ideas. Sometimes in dreams we see that we have a body which is flying in the sky, and at that time we completely forget our present body. Similarly, these bodies are changing. When you have one body, you forget the past body. During a dream, we may make contact with so many new kinds of bodies, but when we are awake we forget them all. And actually these material bodies are the creations of our mental activities. But at the present moment we do not recollect our past bodies.                       

            “The nature of the mind is flickering. Sometimes it accepts something, and immediately it rejects the same thing. Accepting and rejecting is the process of the mind in contact with the five objects of sense gratification: form, taste, smell, sound and touch. In its speculative way, the mind comes in touch with the objects of sense gratification, and when the living entity desires a particular type of body, he gets it. Therefore, the body is an offering by the laws of material nature. The living entity accepts a body and comes out again into the material world to enjoy or suffer according to the construction of the body. Unless we have a particular type of body, we cannot enjoy or suffer according to our mental proclivities inherited from the previous life. The particular type of body is actually offered to us according to our mental condition at the time of death.

            “The luminous planets like the sun, moon or stars reflect themselves in different types of reservoirs, like water, oil or ghee. The reflection moves according to the movement of the reservoir. The reflection of the moon is on the water, and the moving water makes the moon also appear to be moving, but actually the moon is not moving. Similarly, by mental concoction the living entity attains different kinds of bodies, although actually he has no connection with such bodies. But on account of illusion, being enchanted by the influence of maya, the living entity thinks that he belongs to a particular type of body. That is the way of conditioned life. Suppose a living entity is now in a human form of body. He thinks that he belongs to the human community, or a particular country or particular place. He identifies himself in that way and unnecessarily prepares for another body, which is not required by him. Such desires and mental concoctions are the cause of different types of body. The covering influence of material nature is so strong that the living entity is satisfied in whatever body he gets, and he identifies with that body with great pleasure. Therefore, I beg to request you not to be overwhelmed by the dictation of your mind and body.”

            Vasudeva thus requested Kamsa not to be envious of his newly married sister. One should not be envious of anyone, because envy is the cause of fear both in this world and in the next, when one is before Yamaraja (the lord of punishment after death). Vasudeva appealed to Kamsa on behalf of Devaki, stating that she was his younger sister. He also appealed at an auspicious moment, at the time of marriage. A younger sister or brother is supposed to be protected as one’s child. “The position is overall so delicate,” Vasudeva reasoned, “that if you kill her, it will go against your high reputation.”

            In this way Vasudeva tried to pacify Kamsa by good instruction as well as by philosophical discrimination, but Kamsa was not to be pacified because his association was demoniac. Because of his demoniac associations, he was a demon, although born in a very high royal family. A demon never cares for any good instruction. He is just like a determined thief: one can give him moral instruction, but it will not be effective. Similarly, those who are demoniac or atheistic by nature can hardly assimilate any good instruction, however authorized it may be. That is the difference between demigod and demon. Those who can accept good instruction and try to live their lives in that way are called demigods, and those who are unable to take such good instruction are called demons. Failing in his attempt to pacify Kamsa, Vasudeva wondered how he would protect his wife, Devaki. When there is imminent danger, an intelligent person should try to avoid the dangerous position as far as possible. But if, in spite of endeavoring by all intelligence, one fails to avoid the dangerous position, there is no fault on his part. One should try his best to execute his duties, but if the attempt fails, he is not at fault.

            Vasudeva thought of his wife as follows: “For the present let me save the life of Devaki; then later on, if there are children, I shall see how to save them.” He further thought, “If in the future I get a child who can kill Kamsa–just as Kamsa is thinking–then both Devaki and the child will be saved because the law of Providence is inconceivable. But now, some way or other, let me save the life of Devaki.”

            There is no certainty how a living entity contacts a certain type of body, just as there is no certainty how a blazing fire comes in contact with a certain type of wood in the forest. When there is a forest fire, it is experienced that the blazing fire sometimes leaps over one tree and catches another by the influence of the wind. Similarly, a living entity may be very careful in the matter of executing his duties, but it is still very difficult for him to know what type of body he is going to get in the next life. Maharaja Bharata was very faithfully executing the duties of self-realization, but by chance he developed temporary affection for a deer, and in his next life he had to accept the body of a deer.

            Vasudeva, after deliberating on how to save his wife, began to speak to Kamsa with great respect, although Kamsa was the most sinful man. Sometimes it happens that a most virtuous person like Vasudeva has to flatter a person like Kamsa, a most vicious person. That is the way of all diplomatic transactions. Although Vasudeva was deeply aggrieved, he smiled outwardly. He addressed the shameless Kamsa in that way because he was so atrocious. Vasudeva said to Kamsa, “My dear brother-in-law, please consider that you have no danger from your sister. You are awaiting some danger because you have heard a prophetic voice in the sky. But the danger is to come from the sons of your sister, who are not present now. And who knows? There may or may not be sons in the future. Considering all this, you are safe for the present. Nor is there cause of fear from your sister. If there are any sons born of her, I promise that I shall present all of them to you for necessary action.”

            Kamsa knew the value of Vasudeva’s word of honor, and he was convinced by his argument. For the time being, he desisted from the heinous killing of his sister. Thus Vasudeva was pleased and praised the decision of Kamsa. In this way, he returned to his home.

            Each year thereafter, in due course of time, Devaki gave birth to a child. Thus she gave birth to eight male children, as well as one daughter. When the first son was born, Vasudeva kept his word of honor and immediately brought the child before Kamsa. It is said that Vasudeva was very much elevated and famous for his word of honor, and he wanted to maintain this fame. Although it was very painful for Vasudeva to hand over the newly born child, Kamsa was very glad to receive him. But he became a little compassionate with the behavior of Vasudeva. This event is very exemplary. For a great soul like Vasudeva, there is nothing considered to be painful in the course of discharging one’s duty. A learned person like Vasudeva carries out his duties without hesitation. On the other hand, a demon like Kamsa never hesitates in committing any abominable action. It is said, therefore, that a saintly person can tolerate all kinds of miserable conditions of life, a learned man can discharge his duties without awaiting favorable circumstances, a heinous person like Kamsa can act in any sinful way, and a devotee can sacrifice everything to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

            Kamsa became satisfied by the action of Vasudeva. He was surprised to see Vasudeva keeping his promise, and being compassionate upon him and pleased, he began to speak as follows: “My dear Vasudeva, you need not present this child to me. I am not in danger from this child. I have heard that the eighth child born of you and Devaki will kill me. Why should I accept this child unnecessarily? You can take him back.”

            When Vasudeva was returning home with his firstborn child, although he was pleased by the behavior of Kamsa, he could not believe in him because he knew that Kamsa was uncontrolled. An atheistic person cannot be firm in his word of honor. One who cannot control the senses cannot be steady in his determination. The great politician Chanakya Pandita said, “Never put your trust in a diplomat or in a woman.” Those who are addicted to unrestricted sense gratification can never be truthful, nor can they be trusted with any faith.

            At that time the great sage Narada came to Kamsa. He was informed of Kamsa’s becoming compassionate to Vasudeva and returning his firstborn child. Narada was very anxious to accelerate the descent of Lord Krishna as soon as possible. He therefore informed Kamsa that in Vrindavana personalities like Nanda Maharaja and all the other cowherd men and their wives, and on the other side Vasudeva, his father Surasena and all his relatives born in the family of Vrishni of the Yadu dynasty, along with all their friends and well-wishers, were actually demigods. Narada warned Kamsa to be careful of them, since Kamsa and his friends and advisors were all demons. Demons are always afraid of demigods. After being thus informed by Narada about the appearance of the demigods in different families, Kamsa at once became very much alarmed. He understood that since the demigods had already appeared, Lord Vishnu must be coming soon. He at once arrested both his brother-in-law Vasudeva and Devaki and put them behind prison bars.

            Within the prison, shackled in iron chains, Vasudeva and Devaki gave birth to a male child year after year, and Kamsa, thinking each of the babies to be the incarnation of Vishnu, killed them one after another. He was particularly afraid of the eighth child, but after the visit of Narada, he came to the conclusion that any child might be Krishna. Therefore it was better to kill all the babies who took birth from Devaki and Vasudeva.

            This action of Kamsa is not very difficult to understand. There are many instances in the history of the world of persons in the royal order who have killed father, brother or a whole family and friends for the satisfaction of their ambitions. There is nothing astonishing about this, for members of the demoniac, greedy royal order can kill anyone for their nefarious ambitions.

            Kamsa was made aware of his previous birth by the grace of Narada. He learned that in his previous birth he was a demon of the name Kalanemi and that he was killed by Vishnu. Having taken his birth in the Bhoja family, he decided to become the deadly enemy of the Yadu dynasty; Krishna was going to take birth in that family, and Kamsa was very much afraid that he would be killed by Krishna, just as he had been killed in his last birth.

            He first of all imprisoned his father, Ugrasena, because he was the chief king among the Yadu, Bhoja and Andhaka dynasties, and he also occupied the kingdom of Surasena, Vasudeva’s father. He declared himself the king of all such places.

 

From the writings of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada from the first chapter of “Krsna” book, based on the Tenth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.