Kirtan All the Way
By Pranjal Joshi
A memoir of our trip to Jaggnath Puri Dham and Mayapur Nawadeep Dham.
The announcement was made well in advance, One Prabhu who was leading us all the way and was in charge of the whole program told us that a trip would be going soon two these two places in Eastern India– Puri and Nawadeep and a bell rang in my ears as soon as I heard this. I just wanted to grab this opportunity as I was going to get a memorable 8 day long devotee association and a chance to visit the places where the Lord Himself performed pastimes with His most intimate disciples and some of the greatest devotees in History of Gaudiya Vaishnavism spent their lives, preaching the holy name and serving the Lord. Charges were just Rs. 4000 for the entire trip and it included everything. So, I just booked a place for myself in advance and got ready to go.
It was March 25 when I reached HARE KRISHNA CENTER by a city bus in Jaipur at 5:30 PM.The Prabhu who was in charge of the whole trip gave us a brief idea of the whole trip. He warned us against DHAM APARADH or offenses committed at the holy places. Also, he asked us not to look at these places materially. We loaded ourselves with books of Srila Prabhupada in cartons which were to be distributed all the way–on railway stations and inside the train.
The whole place was full of luggage of pilgrims. Most of them were new faces for Me.There were 50 prabhus and 27 matajis who went for the trip. Announcement regarding the devotees was made.
The next morning, we started from Delhi to Jaipur by bus as we would get the train from Delhi. At the night, it was difficult to sleep in the bus. We directly reached ISKCON Delhi- the very grand and beautiful temple of Shri Radha Parthasarathi for the Mangal Arti at 4:30 AM.We moved to railway station from there, took our train. I slept in the train and got up for lunch prasadam.There was kirtan by our group at all major Railway Stations all the way and also in the train itself.
The entire third day was spent in Puri Express had a big halt at Kharagpur in West Bengal,devotees took bath on the station and then did kirtan and book distribution. We had ample prasadam–oranges,chivda,puri etc. Matajis had prepared a lot of prasadam which was sufficient for the whole journey.
Experiences in Train–
One person was chewing tobacco, He took one Krishna Book and Gita from us, I felt How munificent Mahaprabhu is that He is giving His mercy to everyone. He also had a Ramayan at his home.
Another person who was totally drunk was afraid of touching the Bhagavad Gita and felt wrong in touching the Bhagavad Gita but as soon I showed Him the pictures and told that mercy of Gauranga is for everyone, He read it for about an hour. I could convince Him that everyone in the material world was in a state of intoxication, he was telling Me that He did nothing wrong in His life other than taking wine (though He was eating EGG CURRY in the train too).
I gave books of Srila Prabhupada to many people to read (only after knowing they were not going to buy them) and they all liked them. Someone was interested in knowing Karma-Yoga, someone just read it as He had nothing else to do in the train and then there were people who were too inquisitive and then those who got fond of us after mixing for some time.
There was kirtan by our devotee group for hours together and I could hear it in the background. Jai Shachinandan Gaur Hari!
We got down from the train at Balasore(Baleshwar,Orrisa) and headed for Kheer Chor Gopinath (even Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came here). There was ‘hari katha’ in the temple premises and I also brought pictures of temple deities for my friends at Jaipur.
The deities were of Govind ,Gopinath and Madan-Mohan and all of them were together(nowhere in the world would you find them like this).Sripad Madhvendra Puri served them.He saw the deities in a dream and the Lord told Him the place where He could find Him.This great and ancient place was visited by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu,Lord Ramchandra and Srila Madhvendra Puri and many other great souls. We honored the most special ‘kheer prasadam'(I never had anything in my life ever before). We got them in small ‘kullad'(small earthen pots). This temple is not visited by many pilgrims and most of the devotees are from Orrisa itself. I took one pot of ‘kheer’ for Rs.40 and licked ‘every nook and corner’ of the small ‘kullad’ till; I started getting mud on my tongue. It was Super! Many people in the way came forward to help us when they saw us spreading Krishna’s message. Afternoon prasadam was there in the temple premises for all of us and the temple was constructed in an elegant Oriya style. In evening, a bus came to take us to Puri, we halted for while at Bhubaneswar got our dinner packed and reached Puri at 1 AM.Our staying place was just near the temple. Jagganath Puri Dham Ki Jai!
It was a new day and We went to temple in morning. We were stopped outside by the police. They were a bit ‘suspicious’ about ISKCON devotees (thought may be some of us would be Christians or foreigners). We had to tell our name, father’s name, gotra(sub caste) and the name of village only then we were allowed to enter the temple. Firstly, our group visited all the temples in premises in Jagganath Mandir.It was heavily crowded inside the temple, then we went through a ‘sweet struggle’ to have darshan of the Lord Himself who resides in this huge complex of Shri Purushottam Shetra….in the form of a huge and different deities(a very special form of Krishna) along with Subhadra Devi and Lord Balram (his sister and brother)…..the sight is ‘out of the world’.
We had our lunch after darshan.Our lunch was arranged at ISKCON temple,which is very near to samadhi of Srila haridas Thakur.After that, we took a ‘holy bath’ at the ‘mahatirtha’ or the great ocean at Jagganath Puri….Mahaprabhu called it ‘maha tirtha’ after Srila Haridas Thakur Himself took bath here.We had a lecture from Chaitanya Charitamrita at the samdhi of Srila Haridas Thakur.The painting were very beautiful and I felt as if the Lord Himself was present with some of His most intimate disciples here.We went to ‘Tota Gopinath’ for darshan and spent an hour there,Vhaitanya Mahaprabhu depicted His final pastime here by entering into the deity of ‘Tota Gopinath’.
Got up in the next morning and went straight to Gambhira,Chaitanya Mahaprabhu lived for many at Gambhira. There was ‘Hari Katha’ and kirtan here.Gambhira is now visited by many ISKCON devotees,Russians love it !
We visited Siddha Bakula- Pravachan and Kirtan here, went to Gundicha mandir after that.
In evening, we were given freedom and so we could separate ourselves from group and go to our favorite places or for shopping.
I chose to go to Gaudiya Math,it was established by HH Madhav Maharaj,this is the appearance place of Srila Bhaktisiddanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada and is also the house of Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur who was the magistrate at Puri. I was there for evening Gaur Arti and kirtan. I was fortunate enough to do parikrama of the temple with 4 sanyasis of the Gaudiya Math.
Jagganath Puri Dham — Puri is one of the four Dhams.The main temple at Puri has 4 gates.Puri is famous for Mahaprasadam,Lord Himself honours prasadam at Puri.It is Duga Devi who gets pradsadam first and then its distributed to everyone.Jagganath loves rice ! It is also known as ‘Anna Brahma’.Jagganath has the biggest kitchen in the whole world. Mostly ‘Hindus’ come here for ‘tirtha yatra’ (pilgrimage) or as tourist, they also get mercy of Jagganath.
ISKCON at Puri has a deity Of Shri Gaur Hari and Radha Giridhari,Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur establehed a bhajan kutir here in 1902 due to which a deity of Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur has been established in this temple.
We were then off to Mayapur Dham by Puri express.
We reached Howrah station and took train to Nawdeep in morning the other day,it was like local trains in Mumbai.The journey from Nawdeep to Mayapur was in a boat. We honored prasadam at Chandrodaya Mandir in afternoon( Gada building was the place where we stayed and honored prasadam).In evening, I was in front of the very beautiful deities of Radha Madhav and Ashta Sakhis,Srila Prabhupada’s big deity was right in front of Radha Madhav and Ashta sakhis were in other hall.There was fabulous kirtan and I could just stand in front of Lord Narasinghadev for the whole Narasingha arti.It was Papmochani Ekadasi that day and Ekadasi mahaprasadam was facilitated at the prasadam counter….incredible ! I reached the house of Bhadra Charu Prabhu in evening and took his association for a few hours,He dropped Me to Gada Building,where I stayed with a congregation of 77 devotees from Jaipur.Bhadra charu Prabhu is a local devotee from Mayapur(basically from Orrisa)…who has his service as the Manager of Guest House at Mayapur…he has his office at the Lotus Building.
The Mayapur Temple complex is huge. It was light rain in evening and I reached a very magnificent ‘dome shaped structure’ which is the ‘Pushpa samadhi’ of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.It was covered with colored glass on all sides and at the top. On first floor, the books of Srila Prabhupada were displayed along with pictures showing His pastimes.The samashi Complex was kept very ‘neat and clean’ by the temple authorities.Books of Srila Prabhupada were displayed at every ‘nook and corner’ of the temple compound. Whole premises was dotted with presence of houses,shops,temples and buildings. Work for a huge temple was going on at the center of the compound. It was a huge complex but all of it was glowing.
Breakfast prasadam of Pizza and Cake following day (you will get the best ones in Mayapur). We moved to Yogapeeth with our group,doing kirtan and clapping.Yogapeeth has the tree near which Nimai pandit appeared and the samadhi of Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur is also here. A temple here was constructed by His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddanta Saraswati Thakur,then we went to Radha Kund and Govardhan.I took rest in my dorm in afternoon and had darshan of Radha Madhav in evening as they were too captivating. I just went to Govaindas here and was thinking of the one in Vrindavan.I has ‘Russian salad’, I took some books from Lotus Building.I seperated myself from the group and stayed the whole day in the temple with Shri Radha Madhav.
Three cats were also present just outside the hall where the deities of Radha Madhav are, this is the place where prasadam is given in Mayapur.The cats always ‘honored’ special prasadam of Radha Madhav in Mayapur and also hear kirtan,I was left wondering at the fortune of these cats who live in Dham,they hear kirtan all the time and also the ‘Mangal Arti’.They are real devotees of the Lord !
The whole group of ours went to ‘Gurukul’.Shri Ram Vigraha Prabhu (ACBSP) was in charge of an ashram for Gurukulis at Mayapur,He was from Mexico and told us about His pastimes with Srila Prabhupada.He was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1975.He told us that women in Mexico were gracefully dressed and asked Srila Prabhupada for benediction,Srila Prabhupada blessed all of them. He told us that Srila Prabhupada said people in Mexico speak in a language that is close to sanskrit in its accent. His friends gave Him two pieces of deities in Mexico. His Grace Ram Vigraha Prabhu told us that His friend in Mexico gave Him two pictures of deities of Mexico. A Kanha deity is carried in a palanquin in Mexico,He told us ancient Mayan civilization also had some traces of Vedic culture. There were also Hanuman Mandir and Garuda Temples in Mexico.
We also met one Gurukuli from Brazil,He was ready to show us the Gurukul.
We then went to Mayapur Goshala had chach and gave ‘gur’ to cows. Inside Goshala — all cows had names like Rukmini, Surabhi, Chitra, Rohini, Anusuya; calves were separate, we just loved them. The day I was leaving, I was searching for my slippers for an hour but I did not find them anywhere, so I had to buy a pair of new sandals from a devotee’s shop and as soon as I came back I saw my slippers with my friend. I was just thinking that what an arrangement Krishna had made here so that I buy new slippers (as many devotees specially Russians had such slippers, I also felt like having them and went to the shop and looked at them as I also wanted to have them but I would not buy them as since I already had one pair with me) ….so Krishna made me buy them.
We were back to Gada Building for lunch prasadam.Some young boys went back to Howrah by train(as it would be too crowded in train, we went by bus to Howrah).It took us 5 hours to reach,2 hours were taken within Kolkata as it is a huge city. We did kirtan and had prasadam on Howrah platform, we boarded our train to Jaipur late night.
This is the end of “Kirtan All The Way” our trip to Puri Dham and Mayapur Dham in months of March and April in 2011.
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Source: World Hindu News (WHN)