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A Call to Vrindavan's Sacred Shores-2

2. Darshan


On that auspicious day, fortune favoured us. As we approached Seva Kunj, the air hummed with the melodious strains of devotional songs, each note a heartfelt offering to the beloved deities. Amidst the gathering, I felt a gentle tug at my soul, drawing me closer to the radiant form of Radharani and I found myself seated in close proximity to the divine couple. Across from me, a woman adorned with a serene smile caught my gaze, her eyes seeming to hold the wisdom of ages within their depths. In that fleeting moment, our eyes met and a silent understanding passed between us like a whisper on the breeze. With a sense of peace settling over me, I closed my eyes, allowing the divine energy to wash over me like a cleansing tide.

Seva Kunj is named after the divine leela where Sri Krishna lovingly tended to Shrimati Radharani's tired feet. As I gazed upon their divine forms, tears of gratitude welled in my eyes. With each droplet I felt the weight of years of accumulated burdens melt away, leaving behind only a sense of lightness and joy. With trembling hands, I accepted the prasad, the fragrant betel leaf a symbol of divine grace bestowed upon me. With a heart overflowing with happiness, I savoured the sacred offering, reserving a portion for Vishnupriya Didi and Kunjalata, grateful for their presence in my life and the blessings they bestowed upon me.

After Seva Kunj, our trusted rickshaw driver whisked us through the streets of Vrindavan, each turn leading us closer to the enchanting abode of Sri Radha Shyamsundar. Ascending the steps of the temple, a gracious lady from Odisha, a servitor of the Lord, beckoned us with a welcoming smile. She spoke with us in Odia leading us to behold the divine form of Sri Shyamsundar. As she led us closer to the sanctum sanctorum, she explained to us in Odia that the divine form of Sri Shyamsundar is a symbol of the boundless love of Radharani, who manifested the deity from the depths of her own heart. In my previous trip to Vrindavan, the same lady had asked me to get gunjamala for Shyamsundar. Recalling this and determined to get the gunjamala, I dashed outside. This time I procured the four gunjamalas as instructed. They were meticulously crafted garlands of tiny gunja flowers, their delicate white blooms being Shyamsundar’s favourite.  Beside me, Ellora too had acquired four garlands, her eyes shining with the same fervent devotion that filled my own heart. The lady assured us that the deities would adorn these gunjamalas at night and we could get a glimpse of the deities wearing the garlands if we would be present during mangal aarti the next day. Overwhelmed with joy, we lingered for the sandhya aarti darshan, our souls uplifted by the celestial melodies that filled the temple’s sacred hall and then left for darshan at Sri Radha Damodar Mandir.

In the sacred embrace of Radha Damodar Mandir, we were privileged to partake in darshan of the revered deities, each bearing the imprint of devotion from the illustrious saints of Vrindavan. As we entered the hallowed halls, the air reverberated with the resonance of ancient prayers, echoing the timeless devotion of Srila Jiva Goswami, Srila Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami, Srila Jayadeva, and Srila Bhugarva Goswami. Before us, right beside the divine form of Sri Radha Damodara served by Sri Jiva Goswami, stood the enchanting deity Sri Radha Vrindavanachandra, the embodiment of divine love, worshipped by Srila Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami. The sacred form of Sri Radha Madhava, revered by Srila Jayadeva, radiated an aura of transcendental beauty, drawing us into its divine embrace. In reverence, we bowed before Sri Radha Chhailachikan, the cherished deity of Srila Bhugarva Goswami, and offered our homage to the sacred Govardhan shila, gifted by Sri Krishna himself to Srila Sanatana Goswami.

Srila Sanatana Goswami, in his late years, made a daily pilgrimage from Vrindavan to Govardhan Hill for Parikrama, a sacred tradition he held dear. One day, Lord Krishna himself appeared before him, urging him to forgo the strenuous task and remain in Vrindavan. But Sanatana Goswami, unwavering in his devotion, expressed his deep yearning to behold Govardhan, without which his days would be bereft of solace. In response to his steadfast devotion, Sri Krishna bestowed upon him the sacred Govardhana shila, adorned with divine imprints — the Lord's footprint, flute, stick, and his cow's footprint. This sacred stone, when circumambulated four times, bestows upon the devotee the blessings equivalent to completing the arduous Govardhan Parikrama. Inspired by this sacred tradition, we reverently encircled the temple four times, our steps synchronized with the melodic strains of bhajans offered in devotion to the Lord. As the shadows lengthened and evening descended, we hastened back to the temple gate, where our rickshaw awaited our return. Journeying back to Vishnupriya Didi's ashram, we were greeted with the fragrant aroma of prasad, the divine offering to the deities.

Earlier, when we were planning this trip, Ellora had confided in me her deep-seated wish to have darshan of Sri Premananda Maharaj. His serene visage and profound words, delivered through television broadcasts, had captivated us both. His teachings on treading the path of righteousness, desire for satsang and advise to keep chanting, resonated deeply, instilling in us a desire to witness his presence firsthand. Upon inquiring, we discovered that Premananda Maharaj began his day in the wee hours, around 2 AM in the morning, embarking on a walk to Keshi Ghat before returning to his ashram. This knowledge cemented our resolve to rise before dawn and seize the rare opportunity to glimpse him in person. Our excitement was palpable as we eagerly shared our plan with Didi.

Kunjalata quickly volunteered her bike, confidently assuring us that the sparse traffic in the pre-dawn hours would allow us to triple ride without any issues. I couldn't help but smile, remembering how long I had known Kunjalata. As a young girl, she used to come to our home to practice, her dedication and grace already evident. Over the years, she naturally took on the role of Krishna in all our productions, her performances blessed by the Vaishnavas. Her life took a beautiful turn when she married Vishnupriya Didi’s brother and settled in the sacred town of Vrindavan.

Every year, as I plan my pilgrimage, my routine remains steadfast. After informing Didi, my next call is always to Kunjalata. She eagerly anticipates our Vrindavan panchakoshi parikrama and the Giriraj Govardhan sata koshi parikrama, spiritual journeys that we undertake together with reverence and joy. Our shared devotion also extends to planning our Odissi dance offerings in the temples, a tradition that has become a cherished part of our stays. This camaraderie, woven with threads of faith and friendship, has been a constant source of joy for several years.

With Kunjalata’s enthusiastic assurance that she would accompany us, we finally retired to our hotel. As I lay down, my thoughts swirled with visions of the forthcoming encounter with Sri Premananda Maharaj. The anticipation was electric, each moment bringing us closer to the divine experience that awaited us in the early hours of the morning.

... to be continued

Gunjamala for Sri Radha Shyamsundar

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