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Giriraj Parikrama

The one trip that all of us in my family look forward to is the trip to Vrindavan in the month of Kartik every year. For my daughter, the most enticing part is the day we go for Giriraj Parikrama. Our friends in Vrindavan also eagerly wait for this trip as our joy becomes manifold when we carry on the parikrama together. The entire Govardhan Parikrama is around 26 km and usually it takes 5-6 hours to complete the parikrama.

“Govardhan” or “Giriraj Ji”– the name itself reminds us of Lord Krishna as one of his names is Shri Govardhannath. In the previous posts, we read about the beautiful story of Indra maan bhang Leela many times and and learnt how the child Krishna lifted Shri Govardhan Parvat for seven days. Brij Bhumi is the only sacred place where you can see the location of all those Leelas of Sri Krishna and feel his existence in every corner. Every day, thousands of devotees come for Govardhan Parikrama. Every place of the Brij Bhumi is the witness of the divine beauty of Lord Krishna.

We took an auto rickshaw from Vrindavan that dropped us off in Radhakund. We started our Parikrama by bowing down and offering our obeisance to Radhakund and the Parikrama Marg. Radhakund is one of the most revered places in the Brijbhoomi, located around 3 kms from Govardhan. As the name suggests it is dedicated to Goddess Radharani, the eternal consort of Lord Krishna. Radhakund is the epitome of the eternal love of Shri Krishna and Radharani, and devotees visit this place to pay homage to their sacred love.

There are more than 250 kund in the whole Brij pilgrimage and every kund has its own unique story which is not only interesting but also mysterious. It is believed that, Lord Krishna created a lake/kund on Goddess Radha’s behest to wash off the sin of killing a bull (demon Aristasura) which came to be known as Shyamkund. Shrimati Radharani, along with her sakhis (friends) also created a lake which became famous as Radhakund.

A demon called Aristasura attacked Krishna in the form of a bull. In the fight that ensued, Krishna eventually killed him very simply, without any effort, but Radharani and sakhis didn’t want Krishna to bear the sin of killing a bull. Hence, they proposed that Krishna should take a dip in all the holy rivers and confluences to get rid of the sin of killing a bull.

Krishna thumped the ground with his toe and created Shyamkund where he got all the rivers to come and took a dip in Shyam Kund. Next he turned to Radharani and pointed out that he had become rid of the sin but Radharani was then carrying the sin of taking the side of a demon who came in the form of bull. Hence, she should also atone by bathing in all the holy rivers.

Radharani and sakhis started digging a kund adjacent to Shyamkund using their bangles which came to known as Radhakund. Once the kund was made, the sakhis began to bring water from the nearby Mansi Ganga to fill it up. But no matter how many pots of water they poured, the earth beneath soaked all the water. Radharani was disappointed as the kund was far from ready.

Krishna cannot see Srimati Radharani in distress. Hence, he called all the rivers and holy confluences including Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Godavari etc. to appear before Radharani and fill up her newly formed Kund. All the rivers appeared, sang glories of Radharani and requested her to allow them to fill her kund. Radharani happily agreed and she along with her sakhis took a dip in it.

Krishna also jumped in the Radhakund. He declared that henceforth it would be his favourite place in the entire creation and anybody taking a dip in it will attain Radha Krishna Prema, the eternal love of Lord Krishna and Radharani. Radharani and her sakhis then jumped in the Shyamkund and declared, that lake would be her favourite place in the entire creation.

Radhakund and Shyamkund are situated adjacent to each other in a village named Arita near Govardhan hill. Three miles away in the northeast of Govardhan hill these two kunds/ lakes are considered as the most sacred place for the Vaishnavas. Believed to be eyes of Govardhan hill, this place has witnessed many sweet pastimes of Lord Krishna and Radha.

After praying to Radha Kund, we started walking barefoot and found out we had company as many people were doing Parikrama that day. We passed people either single or in groups, chanting and singing bhajans while doing the parikrama. One has to start at a point and complete the Parikrama in clockwise direction, keeping Govardhan hill to the right. We saw people carrying out Doodh Parikrama, where devotees held a pot of milk as they walked around the Govardhan hill. One had to offer the milk continuously at the time of Parikrama. Most of the devotees make a small hole in the bottom of the pot and hold them as the lines of milk will be offered continuously marking the Parikrama path. We were most amazed to see devotees offering Dandvat Parikrama Dandvat Parikrama means doing the Parikrama around the Parvat with your whole body lying on the ground such that every part of the body touces the ground. The devotees have to complete a specific distance every day and continue from there. As if that was not arduous enough, we came across people offering 108 Dandvat Parikrama This is one of the hardest among all the Parikarmas. In this Parikarma, devotees carry 108 stones with them to keep a count of the Dandavats. It takes months to complete one Parikrama as in a day, a devotee can only complete a maximum of 5-10 meters. This is often done by the saints. One can see piles of stones throughout the path. Some sadhus undertake this parikrama for most of their lives. We also came across people performing Couple Dandvat Parikrama This is done together by a couple, husband and wife alternating the Dandvats during the parikrama. There were also many devotees performing Sohni Seva ParikramaSohni Seva Parikrama is done with the broom. Devotees clean the area as they perform the Parikrama.

Amazed, we continued our parikrama in awe of the devotees heading from Radha Kund towards Kusum Sarovar.

… to be continued

Picture Credit: Shyama Mohanty

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