Holy Places

Path To The Spiritual World

Complexity: 
Easy

* * *Pilgrims circumambulating India’s holiest city come to the end of the much-traveled thoroughfare of repeated birth and death* * *

Nestled ninety miles southeast of Delhi near a curve of the winding Yamuna River, Vrindavana is for Hindus what Jerusalem is for Jews and Mecca is for Mohammedans. En masse the pilgrims come—especially on the holy days—by train, bus, ricksha, taxi, horse-drawn tanga,and even on foot. Carrying their children and luggage, looking wide- eyed and innocent, they come to see the holy tirtha, to touch the sacred earth, to beg the blessings of the Deities in the temple, to hear from the pious residents, to chant the holy names of the Lord, and to circumambulate on bare feet the sacred land of Vrindavana.

It was in Vrindavana that the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna, passed the first fifteen years of His earthly pastimes fifty centuries ago. There Lord Krishna pleased His parents and neighbors by acting like the perfect child, delighted His young boyfriends by playing with them as equals, killed His mortal enemies by His omnipotence, and charmed the cowherd girls by His all-attractive presence. Through these Vrindavana pastimes, He attracts all of us to rejoin Him in the spiritual kingdom, far beyond our mundane sphere.

Five hundred years ago Lord Krishna appeared again to teach, as well as to relish, transcendental love for God. In this incarnation He appeared as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the most exalted devotee of Krishna. He journeyed to Vrindavana, spontaneously compelled by a strong emotional love for the worshipable land of Krishna. Vrindavana, Lord Caitanya knew, was transcendental, the spiritual world itself projected within the material context. In great ecstasy Lord Caitanya, during His pilgrimage to Vrindavana, relived within His heart the pastimes Lord Krishna had enacted there forty-five centuries before. Sri Caitanya later asked six of His prominent followers to reside in Vrindavana, establishing temples and excavating the ancient holy places. The work of these six Gosvamis of Vrindavana paved the way for successive generations of saints and holy teachers who have traveled to Vrindavana, lived in Vrindavana, worshiped Vrindavana, and sung the glories of Vrindavana.

In 1932 Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the founder of the Gaudiya Math, led an army of pilgrims on a month-long circumambulation of the entire Vrindavana area. And in 1956 His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada—foremost disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura went to Vrindavana to live and write.

One day a stranger to Vrindavana asked Srila Prabhupada, “Why are you living in Vrindavana? Why have you selected such a dirty place to live after retiring?” Srila Prabhupada noted, “Materialists consider Vrindavana an unclean city because there are many monkeys and dogs there, and along the bank of the Yamuna there is refuse. Such people cannot understand that Vrindavana is always a representation of the original Vrindavana, the abode of Lord Krishna in the spiritual world. Lord Krishna and His abode, Vrindavana, are equally worshipable.”

In the winter of 1971 my husband, Yadubara, and I decided to do a photo article on a quaint Indian village, and we asked Srila Prabhupada, who had traveled widely in India, which village would be most suitable. Srila Prabhupada replied that since we were foreigners we would be cheated and robbed wherever we went. We were instantly disappointed, and as Srila Prabhupada looked at us, we must have appeared obviously so. He paused, and after a moment he advised us to go and photograph Vrindavana. In the summer of ‘71 we went to Vrindavana. Then, in the fall of that year, we became disciples of Srila Prabhupada. Now we visit Vrindavana almost yearly.

During my last trip, I joined a few of my Godsisters for daily excursions on the six mile footpath that encircles the town. Srila Prabhupada had explained that one who circumambulates holy places of pilgrimage like Vrindavana counteracts circumambulating through repeated births and deaths in this material world. So, confident of making some spiritual advancement, every afternoon at three my Godsisters and I met together and set off at a brisk pace along the dusty paths, to return by five.

We were staying at ISKCON’s Krishna-Balaram Temple, just a one-minute walk from the westernmost edge of the parikrama (circumambulation) trail. Starting from there we walked through what Srila Prabhupada called “the shimmering silver sands” of Ramana-reti, an open area surrounded by woods, where Krishna, His brother Balarama, and Their friends and calves sported together.

At Ramana-reti we turned right and entered a wide, shaded path that at one time ran along the bank of the Yamuna River. Over the years, the Yamuna has changed course and today flows about half a mile to the north of the path.

After a half-mile walk, with flower gardens hidden behind a five-foot-high mud wall on our left and small ashramas (devotee residences) on our right, we came to Kaliya-ghata. Here the path fanned out, and on our right we saw the string of bathing ghatas from centuries before, each ghata with its wide stone steps leading down to where the Yamuna once flowed. Towering over one such ghata was a huge kadamba tree, seeded from the very one Krishna had jumped from fifty centuries before to chastise the great serpent Kaliya. Just past Kaliya-ghata, we saw the Madana-mohana temple, its time-worn spires majestically adorning a steep hill. Madana-mohana, one of Vrindavana’s first temples, was built by Sanatana Gosvami, one of the six Gosvamis of Vrindavana deputed by Lord Caitanya. Srila Prabhupada has explained that by worshiping the Madana-mohana Deity, we can learn about Krishna, ourself, and our relationship with Krishna. This knowledge, he said, is the first business of human life.

Next we entered a more populated area. On the right, the domes of various temples stood out among two- and three-story apartment buildings. On our left were mud houses and huts and the inevitable scraggly children. Seeing us walking and chanting on our beads, they skipped alongside us, mimicking our “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

Further along the parikrama path, partially hidden by a concrete building and a high wall, is Imlitala, the tamarind tree that shaded Lord Caitanya. During His visit to Vrindavana Lord Caitanya would sit under this tree each afternoon, chanting Hare Krishna and explaining the chanting to His visitors. Now the place where He sat is marked by His footprints, and just a few feet away a temple overlooks the Yamuna River.

Soon we were walking on the bank of the river alongside a huge stone palace with many steps and low archways. Pilgrims were bathing and offering their prayers to the sacred river in which the Lord used to frolic.

Our pace slowed as we plodded through more soft sand, and we weaved among the many cows waiting to be herded home from a day of pasturing. On this part of our trek there was a different mood. Gone was the refuse that Srila Prabhupada had commented on along the riverbank; gone were the open sewers, the badgering children, and the gaping pilgrims. We had to proceed single file along the narrow path, and when we glanced inside one small temple, we saw a sadhu sitting before an open scripture reading to a small group, while a peacock strutted in the courtyard before them. On our left was a sandy desert, and on our right, farms and ashramas.

Soon we came to a small temple no bigger than a large closet. The same devotee is there every day, either selling religious books or sitting quietly, chanting on his beads. He always kindly insists that we stop and take some caranamrita, water that has washed the lotus feet of his Deity Gopala (baby Krishna). He had mixed the sanctified water with yogurt and rose water, and we thankfully accepted the purifying and rejuvenating sips that he spooned into our open palms. And as we moved on along the parikrama path, not wanting to lose our momentum, we could hear him say how happy he was to see Westerners taking the most auspicious walk in the world.

Along the path we also passed many Vrindavana residents transporting their goods to market. They carried their fruits, vegetables, and firewood in wicker baskets balanced gracefully on their heads (one sped ahead of us on a bicycle with a basket tottering on his head). Donkeys overloaded with bags full of sand (for construction), buffalo and bulls pulling wagons, and saffron-robed sadhus were all part of the scenario. Often they would greet us with “Jaya Radhe,” reminding us of Srila Prabhupada’s words: “All theinhabitants of Vrindavana are Vaishnavas. They are all auspicious because somehow or other they always chant the holy name of Krishna. Even though some of them do not strictly follow the rules and regulations of devotional service, on the whole they are devotees of Krishna and chant His name directly or indirectly.... Even when they pass on the street, they are fortunate enough to exchange greetings by saying the name of Radha or Krishna” (Cc. Adi 5.232, purport).

By and by we crossed one of the two busy main roads that lead to Vrindavana, and we could peer through some rundown buildings on the right and see Davanala-kunda, so called (davanala means “forest fire”) because there Lord Krishna stopped a fire that threatened to envelop Vrindavana.

Now we were on the final stretch, and with relief we spotted the domes of the Krishna-Balaram Temple in the distance. We reflected on how we had just encircled Lord Krishna’s abode, with its five thousand temples, countless sacred tulasi plants, devotees, Deities, and wish- fulfilling trees; and how we were a little more purified for it.

Finally we crossed Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg and arrived at our starting point. But we didn’t stop yet. Not till we got to the cold drink stand and a nimbu pani (fresh lime juice, with ice, water, and sugar). Sitting down was a great pleasure.

“Before parikrama, I feel too tired to go,” my friend Vidya said, “and when we get back, my legs hurt. But somehow or other, I go so far, so fast, every day. It’s almost like something carries you around.” Sitala and I share her feelings. It’s a mystical experience to circumambulate Krishna’s holy land, Vrindavana.

The Authenticity of Spiritual Places

Complexity: 
Easy

from Back To Godhead Magazine, #35-05, 2001

Pilgrimages can enhance our devotion to the Lord, provided we go to authorized holy places, and in the proper mood.

When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu—Krishna Himself in the role of His own devotee—was present on earth five hundred years ago, He sometimes traveled to holy places, or tirthas. Not only did He tour South India, but He traveled to Vrindavana, Lord Krishna’s eternal abode on earth. When Lord Chaitanya was about to leave for Vrindavana, King Prataparudra ordered his servants and soldiers to accompany the Lord, to make His path easier and especially to erect monuments at each place the Lord stopped. It is said that anyone who visits places where Lord Chaitanya stopped even briefly will receive great benefit from such tirthas.

Wherever the Lord went, tremendous crowds of pious people followed Him to get a glimpse of Him and receive His blessings. He was always merciful to the people, but sometimes He would escape without their knowledge and go on to the next place.

Raghava Pandita, seeing the great crowds following the Lord, took the Lord away to his house. The Lord stayed at Raghava Pandita’s place for one day. The next morning He went to Kumarahatta.

Srila Prabhupada writes:

From Kumarahatta, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu went to Kancanapalli (also known as Kancadapada), where Sivananda Sena lived. After staying two days at Sivananda’s house, the Lord went to the house of Vasudeva Datta. From there He went to the western side of Navadvipa, to the village called Vidyanagara. From Vidyanagara He went to Kuliya-grama and stayed at Madhava Dasa’s house. He stayed there one week and excused the offenses of Devananda and others. Due to Kaviraja Gosvami’s mentioning the name of Santipuracarya, some people think that Kuliya is a village near Kancadapada. Due to this mistaken idea, they invented another place known as New Kuliyara Pata. Actually such a place does not exist. Leaving the house of Vasudeva Datta, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu went to the house of Advaita Acarya. From there He went to the western side of Navadvipa, to Vidyanagara, and stayed at the house of Vidyavacaspati. These accounts are given in the Chaitanya-bhagavata, Chaitanya-mangala, Chaitanya-candrodaya-nataka, and Chaitanya-carita-kavya. Srila Kaviraja Gosvami has not vividly described this entire tour; therefore, on the basis of Chaitanya-caritamrita, some unscrupulous people have invented a place called Kuliyara Pata near Kancadapada. (Sri Chaitanya-caritamrita, Madhya 16.205, Purport)

From this information we can understand that some so-called holy places are not authentic. What, then, constitutes an actual holy place?

Before Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in the West, we knew very little of holy places. We knew that a church or synagogue was meant to be a holy place, and we may have had a conception that the heart was meant to be a holy place, the seat of God. We may have even known of what is called the Holy Land in the Middle East. But we certainly knew nothing of the holy places in India, or of the details that made a place holy in the first place.

Often it is difficult to ascertain the exact location of a tirtha. It is too easy, especially with the influx of comparatively naive Western pilgrims to India, for people to create a holy place to bring in money. Vaishnavas and others, however, usually contest the authenticity of such places.

Qualifications Of A Holy Place

The main qualification for a place to become holy is that the Lord or His pure devotee appeared or had pastimes there. For Gaudiya Vaishnavas, followers of Lord Chaitanya, Vrindavana and Mayapur are the main tirthas. In the present age, Kali-yuga, holy places tend to become covered by the material energy, so it is sometimes difficult to understand the mood of such places.

Even when a holy place is established as authentic, the question still must be raised as to our own eligibility to understand its mood. A holy place must be approached with the proper spiritual attitude and humility if we are to gain anything by visiting it.

Nowadays, devotees in the Hare Krishna movement are more concerned with the question of how to define holy places because they are living in places established by Srila Prabhupada, not only in India but in the West. Are ISKCON temples holy places? Most of the land now owned by ISKCON was once owned by persons with no intention of its becoming a tirtha. We usually cannot claim that the site of a temple has historical integrity as a tirtha. Its claim to holy place status must be based on something else.

Several things constitute a tirtha:

  1. Devotees must have performed (or be performing) spiritual activities in the place, and the tirtha must be visited by sadhus, saintly persons. In fact, the Vedic scriptures state that a person who visits even the historically bona fide places of pilgrimage only to take bath is no better than a cow or an ass. Visiting a tirtha means associating with the saintly persons in attendance. Canakya Pandita warns that we should avoid a place devoid of saintly persons. And a place bereft of talk of Krishna, or God, and service to Him cannot claim holy place status.
  2. By visiting a tirtha we should feel enlivened in our Krishna consciousness; the tirtha should carry that potency.
  3. The chanting of the holy names must be present as a prominent feature of the tirtha. Concurrent with that should be deity worship. Srila Prabhupada told us that as he established the various deities around the world, he worried that his disciples would begin to feel the worship as a “burden in the neck.” But if the deity worship is going on uninterrupted and the devotees in the area are taking shelter of the deity, then that place is holy.
  4. Prabhupada defined a holy place as wherever the Srimad-Bhagavatam was being honored. That might be in a large temple or under a tree, and it may be in India or elsewhere, but wherever there is respectful and repeated reading of the Bhagavatam, that place becomes holy.

Obstacles To Pilgrimage

Devotees sometimes wonder if there are ever any reasons not to visit a particular holy place. Of course, travel is always inconvenient. One inconvenience may be political. Holy places may suddenly be subject to political division, which can make them difficult or even impossible to visit. What was once part of India later became part of East Pakistan, then Bangla-desh. If there is political dispute between the two countries, we may not be able to cross borders in the name of spiritual pilgrimage. Political divisions can also cause a holy place to become lost. Just as the Ganges sometimes shifts her course, so tracts of land upon which the Lord performed pastimes can become lost to our sight. Perhaps generations from now, the Lord or His pure devotees will again uncover them and pilgrims will be able to visit them for purification.

Another inconvenience may be our own inability to travel. Another may be our sense of personal disqualification to enter the mood of a tirtha. Lord Chaitanya’s devotees never visited the temples on Govardhana Hill, and it’s questionable whether Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati ever bathed in Radha-kunda. Many of Lord Chaitanya’s Navadvipa followers never went to Vrindavana.

Visiting a tirtha requires qualification. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura indicates this in his Navadvipa-bhava- taranga. After mentioning Ishodyana, which he calls “the Lord’s garden,” he writes that if anyone visits this place in Navadvipa, he will find only thorns. Still, those with qualified vision will be able to see the Lord’s garden through his descriptions of it. No holy place can actually be “seen” without qualified vision.

While holy places maintain an actual physical integrity, they also maintain an integrity in the descriptions found in devotional literature. During Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s time, a conflict ended in Indians killing a British officer and the British lining up their cannons and destroying a temple. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati noted that although the British thought they had smashed Krishna, they had done nothing more than destroy a temple.

If a tirtha disappears from our vision because of politics or time, we can remember it and see it by submissively reading the scriptures. A tirtha is revealed by the mercy of a pure devotee and is seen through the ears.

The scriptures also tell us that we are not required to travel the world visiting holy places. There is always the tendency for pilgrimage to turn into wanderlust, which results only in a superficial sightseeing. Although some devotees can sustain a feeling of Krishna conscious intensity when on pilgrimage, others are better able to meditate on Krishna and His tirthas while serving in the place assigned to them by their spiritual master. We have limited energy in this lifetime; visiting tirthas can become an entire service in itself if it is done frequently. Often, our spiritual master has assigned us a service other than pilgrimage, and we make more advancement by following his order than by going to tirthas.

Narottama Dasa Thakura has assured us that we can visit all the holy places simply by visiting Vrindavana or Mayapur. He also says that in Kali-yuga, pilgrimage is as much a source of bewilderment as of enlightenment. The real service to a holy place is to meditate upon the event that took place there, and it is just as potent to compose ourselves in our own place, meditate on the significance of the particular place, and to then allow the mood of that place to imbue our service with new life.

Every holy place has an internal reality. We are not always qualified to see it, especially if we remain outsiders to the mood. That is not only true of places like Vrindavana and Mayapur, but in ISKCON temples too. If we wish to really take advantage of the spiritual and historical authenticity of a particular place, we must learn to see with eyes of devotion. When Arjuna and his brothers were being taught archery, only Arjuna was able to see nothing but the eye of the target bird. Only he was successful at hitting the target.

Similarly, we must learn to see to the heart of a place and not focus only on the externals, the apparent faults or shortcomings according to our estimations. We must see the saintly people living there and see a little of their purpose in serving their holy place.If we wish to find the spiritual essence of any holy place, we must learn to appreciate both the service and the mood with which it is offered there. Without that vision, we will always remain outsiders, even in the most spiritually authentic place.

The Treasure of the City of Victory

Complexity: 
Easy

In Jaipur, the capital of “the Land of Kings,” Lord Krishna is the center of devotion.

While visiting Jaipur, the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan (“the Land of Kings”), I have the good fortune to stay two houses away from the city’s most famous Krishna temple, the Govindaji Temple. I can easily walk to mangala-arati, the early-morning worship, without having to look for a ricksha. At 4:55 A.M. I walk out my host’s front gate and join the hundreds of rickshas, scooters, bicycles, and pedestrians hurrying toward the temple. The street buzzes with spiritual energy.

I walk across the temple compound and leave my shoes under a tree, praying to find them again among the thousands of shoes scattered all around. The large pink latticed wooden doors to the Deity room are still locked and chained, but a large crowd has already gathered, and people are singing again and again, “Govinda Hari, Gopala Hari, JayaJaya Prabhu Dina-dayala Hari.”

As the doors open, a white curtain is drawn sideways, unveiling another white curtain. Worshipers throw coins and flower petals toward the Deity chamber. Then the second curtain opens to disclose the beloved forms of Sri Sri Radha- Govinda. A shower of coins and petals falls at Their feet, amid shouts of “Jaya ho! Govinda! Radhe- Govinda!”

The men gather to the left, the women to the right, and while the pujari (priest) offers arati (a ceremony of worship),the people sing. All at once, devotees ring brass gongs, at the back of the hall a group plays hand cymbals and clay drums, and small groups carry on with separate kirtanas—a joyous cacophony in praise of Lord Govinda.

As the pujaris prepare to sprinkle sacred water over the heads of the worshipers, the crowd edges forward. No need to push—the mighty waves of the crowd’s ecstatic love for Govindaji carry one forward, closer and closer to the railing separating the hall from the raised platform around the Deity chamber. Some devotees dip under the rail and, arms outstretched, press their foreheads against the marble platform strewn with ghee-soaked grains. Their torsos forward, lower body in the kirtana hall, they are pressed still further forward by eager seekers of Govindaji’s mercy. Yet soon they pull themselves back from under the rail and rejoin the crowd.

For about half an hour, Lord Govinda’s devotees happily walk a circle around the Deity chamber, singing “Radhe-Govinda, Jaya Radhe Govinda, Radhe- Govinda, Jaya Radhe-Govinda, Jaya Radhe- Krishna, Pyare Krishna, Radhe-Govinda …” And while encircling the Deity, or on their way out, people share Deity prasadam.Women sit together in small groups to sing or speak about Govindaji and His wonderful pastimes.

Looking at the great multicolored river of devotees, crosscurrents flowing in and out of the Govindaji Temple, I remember Srila Rupa Gosvami’s “warning”: “My dear friend, if you are indeed attached to your worldly friends, do not look at the smiling face of Lord Govinda as He stands at Keshi-ghata on the bank of the Yamuna. Casting sidelong glances, He places His flute to His lips, which seem like newly blossomed twigs. His transcendental body, bending in three places, appears very bright in the moonlight.”

Yes, Govindaji has ruined the worldly life of many of the people of Jaipur. All they seem to care for is to see Him and get His mercy.

Jaipur: City of Victory

In 1727 the rajput king Jai Singh II laid the foundation for a new capital city on a recently annexed territory. Jai Singh dedicated the city to Lord Govindaji and named it Jaipur, “city of victory.”

Jai Singh had Jaipur designed according to shilpa shastra, the part of the Vedas that deals with design, architecture, and construction. The city was so well planned that even today town planners from all over the world come to study its layout.

The original city was protected by seven fortified gateways (pols), all still standing, and a masonry wall twenty feet high and nine feet thick. The city has now spread far beyond the wall, much of which has been torn down for building material.

The buildings of old Jaipur are built from solid blocks of reddish-pink sandstone. Sandstone readily cleaves into slabs, so buildings not built of it are faced with it. Jaipur was painted pink for a visit by Prince Albert in 1853 and became known as the Pink City. Staying true to the name, Jaipur still keeps the buildings diligently pink.

The major streets of the city are 111 feet wide. They cut the straight, narrow side lanes at right angles. The main street, two and a half miles long, runs from the Chand Pol to the Suraj Pol. On this street lies the entrance to the City Palace.

Within the precincts of the City Palace, which covers one seventh of the original city, Jai Singh built the Jantar Mantar, then India’s greatest astronomical observatory. Its sundial gives the time down to two-second accuracy.

Jai Singh’s great attachment to Lord Govinda led him to place Govindaji’s temple across from his palace and link the two with fountains bordered with four rectangles of gardens. The gardens, where peacocks still strut about, are neatly surrounded by stone balustrades. From his bedroom Jai Singh could see Govindaji on the altar.

The flat-roofed temple includes a hall in front of the Deities, a wide area for walking around them, and a large Deity chamber topped with marble-embossed domes with brass spires. The walls and ceilings of the temple are decorated with intricate white stucco designs on a pink background.

North of the temple are extensive pools and gardens dotted with chatras, or gazebos. The rectangular gardens line the sides of two intersecting rows of fountains and pools. A watchtower stands above each of the four entrances to the temple compound.

Other Temples to Visit

Many Deities of Lord Krishna left Vrindavana during the Mogul invasions, and several of them ended up in Jaipur. A few are within walking distance of the Govindaji Temple.

Radha-Gopinatha

Madhu Pandita Gosvami worshiped these Deities in Vrindavana. The temple is located in the Topkhanadesh area of Jaipur, near Chandpol Bazaar. Ask for directions when you’re in the area.

Radha-Damodara

These are the original Deities worshiped by Srila Jiva Goswami in Vrindavana. The temple is on the right side of Chaura Rasta Road, about two hundred feet south of Tripolia Bazaar Road.

Vinodilal

In this temple devotees worship the Deities of Radha-Vinoda originally worshiped by Srila Lokanatha Gosvami at the Radha- Gokulananda Temple in Vrindavana.

The Vinodilal Temple is on Tri-poliya Bazaar Road, about 150 feet west of Chaura Rasta Road. To the left of shop 295, a flight of stairs goes up to the temple.

Radha-Madhava

Srila Jayadeva Gosvami worshiped these Deities. The temple is about five kilometers from downtown on Amber Road, on the right, next to a temple called Kanak Vrindavana. Look for the sign “Kanak Vrindavana and Govinda Deoji, Birla Restored.”

Visiting Jaipur

How to Get There

Plane: Direct flights from Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Udaipur, Varanasi, Aurangabad, and Ahmedabad.

Bus: From Delhi, 5 hours. From Vrindavana, 6? hours. Deluxe buses are available from the interstate bus terminal in Delhi. Private companies also offer deluxe buses to Jaipur.

Train: From Delhi, about six hours, depending on the train. Trains also run from Agra, Udaipur, Hyderabad, and Mathura. Reservations are required.

Car: Taxis are available for round trips from Delhi or Vrindavana.

Where to Stay

Jaipur has many hotels. We list here some recommended in the travel guidebook Holy Places and Temples of India, byJada Bharata Dasa (available from our Hare Krishna Catalog).

Lower priced: Ever Green Guest House (phone: 363-4460), Jaipur Inn (316-157), Diggi Palace (373-091), Swagatam Tourist Bungalow (310-595).

Middle: Aangam Travellers Home (370-880), Atithi Guest House (378-679), Madhuban (319-033), Hotel Mangal (75126), Hotel Megh Niwas (32266).

High: LMB (565-844), Hotel Khasa Kothi (375-151), Narain Niwas Palace Hotel (310-3710).

Where to Eat

Strictly vegetarian restaurants: LMB (Johari Bazaar), Natraj and Surya Mahal (MI Road), Annapurna (behind Raj Mandir Cinema), Woodlands (Sawai Ram Singh Road), Canakya (MI Road).

ISKCON Jaipur

ISKCON has a center in Jaipur, of modest size, about twenty minutes from the middle of town. The center has no rooms for overnight guests, but otherwise has the full range of ISKCON programs.

The address: E-243 Ram Path, Shyam Nagar, Jaipur 302 001; phone: (0141) 364022.

Smart Quote of the Day, August 5, 2015

Complexity: 
Easy

"Actually, if someone goes to Vrindavana, he will immediately feel separation from Krishna, who performed such nice activities when He was present there."

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Today's Smart Quote is from the Nectar of Devotion , Chapter 18, "Attraction for Living in a Place Where Krishna Has His Pastimes":

In the book Padyavali by Rupa Gosvami there is the following statement about Vrindavana: "In this place the son of Maharaja Nanda used to live with His father, who was king of all cowherd men. In this place Lord Krishna broke the cart in which the Sakatasura demon was concealed. At this place Damodara, who can cut the knot of our material existence, was tied up by His mother, Yasoda."

A pure devotee of Lord Krishna resides in the district of Mathura or Vrindavana and visits all the places where Krishna's pastimes were performed. At these sacred places Krishna displayed His childhood activities with the cowherd boys and mother Yasoda. The system of circumambulating all these places is still current among devotees of Lord Krishna, and those coming to Mathura and Vrindavana always feel transcendental pleasure. Actually, if someone goes to Vrindavana, he will immediately feel separation from Krishna, who performed such nice activities when He was present there.

Smart Quote of the Day, September 17, 2015

Complexity: 
Easy

"Because everyone is coming to the cities to get an education, thinking, "We can get more money," the agriculture is being neglected. Now there is scarcity because no one is engaged in producing nice foodstuffs."

Today's Smart Quote is from the Science of Self Realization, Chapter Six, in the section entitled, "Declaring Our Dependence on God."

Back To Godhead Magazine: So should everyone be free to try to achieve whatever standard of happiness he wants?

Srila Prabhupada: No, the standard of happiness should be prescribed according to the qualities of the person. You must divide the whole society into four groups: those with brahmana qualities, those with kshatriya qualities, those with vaisya qualities, and those with sudra qualities. Everyone should have good facility to work according to his natural qualities.

You cannot engage a bull in the business of a horse, nor can you engage a horse in the business of a bull. Today practically everyone is getting a college education. But what is taught at these colleges? Mostly technical knowledge, which is sudra education. Real higher education means learning Vedic wisdom. This is meant for the brahmanas. Alone, sudra education leads to a chaotic condition. Everyone should be tested to find out which education he is suited for. Some sudras may be given technical education, but most sudras should work on the farms. Because everyone is coming to the cities to get an education, thinking, "We can get more money," the agriculture is being neglected. Now there is scarcity because no one is engaged in producing nice foodstuffs. All these anomalies have been caused by bad government. It is the duty of the government to see that everyone is engaged according to his natural qualities. Then people will be happy.

BTG: So if the government artificially puts all men into one class, then there can't be happiness.

Srila Prabhupada: No, that is unnatural and will cause chaos.

Pushkara—The Place of Lord Brahma

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Chosen by the chief created being in the universe as the site for his temple, it has attracted sages and ascetics for thousands of years.

Once Lord Brahma, the empowered creator of the universe, desired to have a place on earth dedicated to him, so he threw three lotus petals toward the earth. When the petals landed, three holy lakes sprung up. Because the lakes had been created from the flower (pushpa) thrown from Brahma’s hand (kara), the area became known as Pushkara. The three lakes became known as Jyeshtha Pushkara (“senior Pushkara”), Madhya Pushkara (“middle Pushkara”), and Kanishtha Pushkara (“junior Pushkara”), or Budha (“old”) Pushkara, as it is more commonly known today.

The Blessings of Pushkara

The glories of Pushkara are mentioned in the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, the Padma Purana, and other scriptures. Srimad-Bhagavatam ( 12.12.61) states, “One who controls his mind, fasts at the holy places Pushkara, Mathura, or Dvaraka, and studies this scripture will be freed from all fear.”

In the Mahabharata, while describing to Bhishma, the grandfather of the Pandavas, the glories of many tirthas, or holy places of pilgrimage, the sage Pulastya mentions Pushkara Tirtha first. He says that Pushkara is famous throughout the universe and that anyone who goes there becomes as exalted as Lord Brahma. Pulastya says, “One’s sins are cleansed by just thinking of Pushkara.” Among various blessings obtained by bathing at Pushkara: one may be elevated to the heavenly planets, even the planet of Lord Brahma.

Some time after Brahma had empowered Pushkara to grant these extraordinary blessings, some of the devas, or demigods, complained to him that he had made it too easy for people to attain the heavenly planets. They feared that people would neglect their religious duties and the earth would be plagued with irreligion and its consequences. Lord Brahma conceded and proclaimed that from that time on, the boon of elevation to heaven by bathing at Pushkara would be granted only during the last five days of the month of Karttika (October-November). Today tens of thousands of people visit Pushkara during that period, and a great festival takes place.

The Position of Lord Brahma

The Vedic scriptures tell us that Lord Brahma was born from a lotus flower sprouted from the navel of Lord Garbodakashayi Vishnu, an expansion of Lord Krishna. Because Brahma was not born in the ordinary way, he is known as Atma-bhu, “the self- born.”

Though Brahma is called the creator of the universe, he creates by the power invested in him by Lord Vishnu. In fact, the position of creator, which Brahma occupies, is a post to which Vishnu assigns a highly qualified living entity. Unlike Lord Vishnu, the unlimited Supreme Person, Brahma is a jiva like us—one of the unlimited number of infinitesimal living entities who emanate from the Supreme Person.

Though Brahma is posted above all the other devas except Siva and Vishnu, his main qualification is that he understands himself to be an eternal servant of the Supreme Lord. Pilgrims to Pushkara, aware of Lord Brahma’s exaltedness, generally petition Brahma for material rewards, such as elevation to the heavenly planets. But people with a higher understanding know that such rewards cannot match the gift of pure devotion to the Supreme Lord, which Lord Brahma can also give.

The first verse of the Srimad-Bhagavatam says that the Supreme Lord awakened transcendental knowledge within the heart of Brahma. After much penance, Brahma realized that the Absolute Truth is Lord Sri Krishna, of whom all living entities—including Brahma—are eternal servants. Lord Brahma is the head of one of the four Vaishnava Sampradayas, or disciplic lines of devotees of Vishnu or Lord Krishna. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krishna Himself, aligned Himself with the Brahma Sampradaya. Therefore the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which descends from Lord Chaitanya, is also part of the Brahma Sampradaya, and its members may pray to Brahma for pure devotion to Lord Krishna.

Lord Brahma’s Sacrifice

This history is found in the Padma Purana, Srishtikhanda, Chapter 17:

Accompanied by brahmanas and other devas, or demigods, Lord Brahma once went to Pushkara to perform a sacrifice. Such sacrifices are to be performed along with one’s wife, so when the arrangements for the sacrifice were complete, Lord Brahma sent Narada Rishi, the sage among the devas, to bring Sarasvati, Lord Brahma’s consort. But Sarasvati was not ready to leave, so Narada returned to Pushkara alone.

According to astrological calculations, the sacrifice had to begin at once, so Brahma asked Indra, the king of the heavenly planets, to provide him a suitable wife to assist in the sacrifice. Lord Indra chose a cowherd girl, but the sacrifice required that the girl be of the brahmana caste. So the devas purified the girl, or elevated her caste, by passing her through a cow (into the cow’s mouth and out the other end), because in Vedic culture cows are considered pure and of the same caste as the brahmanas. The girl then became known as Gayatri, “one who was pulled through a cow.”

When Sarasvati arrived to find seated next to her husband another woman—Gayatri—she became angry and cursed him and some of the other devas present. But Gayatri adjusted the curses so that they would turn out favorably. For example, although Sarasvati had cursed Brahma that he would be worshiped only on the full-moon day of the month of Karttika, Gayatri declared that whoever worshiped Brahma would be blessed with wealth and a good family and would be reunited with Brahma.

Sarasvati Devi left the sacrifice in anger and went off to a nearby hill to perform penance.

Today pilgrims to Pushkara can visit temples of both Sarasvati Devi and Gayatri Devi.

Sarasvati Devi is also present in this world in the form of a river. Five branches of that river—Sarasvati, Supapra, Candra, Kanaka, and Nanda—flow in the Pushkara area, but at present they are invisible to ordinary eyes.

The Place of Sages

Pushkara has been known as a holy place for millennia, and today various sites around Pushkara honor well-known Vedic sages who performed penance there, including Agastya, Pulastya, and Markendeya. It was at Pushkara that the heavenly maiden Menaka distracted Vishvamitra, a warrior performing meditation to become a brahma-rishi, a brahmana sage. Later Vishvamitra attained his goal at Pushkara.

Today, thousands of years after the time of Vishvamitra, pilgrims still come to Pushkara to fulfill their desires. Those with the highest understanding pray to the holy place—and its presiding deity, Lord Brahma—to fulfill only one desire: that they may someday develop pure love for Krishna.

The Camel Fair

A camel fair is held in Pushkara each year for five days up to and including the Karttika Purnima, the full-moon night of the month of Karttika (October-November). Since this had long been the time when the most people visited the holy place for a sacred bath, it was natural that pilgrims would use the occasion as a chance to trade. What began with a few small, impromptu exchanges has grown into the largest camel fair in the world.

A tent city spreads out on the plains west of Pushkara, and a grand festival takes place, complete with camel traders, horse traders, snake charmers, camel races, ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, handicrafts shops, ash-covered holy men, brightly clad Rajasthanis—practically all the color and excitement of the culture of Rajasthan. The fair attracts about 200,000 people, along with their 50,000 cows, camels, horses, and water buffaloes.

Pilgrimage to Pushkara

Pushkara, in the Indian state of Rajasthan, is 130 kilometers southwest of Jaipur. The population of Pushkara is about 15,000. The city of Ajmer (400,000) is 13 kilometers to the south. A scenic road from Ajmer to Pushkara winds up and over Snake Mountain. The elevation of Pushkara—1,500 feet above sea level—helps create a moderate climate during Rajasthan’s stifling hot season.

When to Go—September-March.

How to Get There—Jaipur is easy to get to from many cities by air, rail, or bus. From Jaipur take a train or bus to Ajmer or a bus to Pushkara. Jodhpur, another major city in Rajasthan, is about 230 kilometers from Pushkara.

Where to Stay—For its many visitors, Pushkara has plenty of hotels. The state of Rajasthan runs the comfortable Sarovar Tourist Bungalow, pleasantly situated on the banks of the lake. If you plan to go during Karttika Purnima (and the camel fair), reserve several months ahead. During the fair the Rajasthan government provides comfortable lodging for tourists in tents. To reserve either a tent or a room at the Sarovar Tourist Bungalow, write to Central Reservation Office, Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation, Ltd., Chanderlok Building, 36 Jan Path, New Delhi 110 001, India. Ajmer, a short bus-ride to Pushkara, also has many hotels.

Where to Eat—Restaurants in Pushkara are allowed to serve only vegetarian food. The Brahma temple has its own restaurant, known as the R. S. Restaurant.

The Temples

Pushkara has about 400 temples, many of them dedicated to various demigods, but the main temple is that of Lord Brahma.

Brahma Temple—The Lord Brahma temple is situated on the west side of town. Next to the four-headed deity of Brahma sits Gayatri Devi on the left and Savitri (Sarasvati) Devi on the right. Throughout the temple compound are shrines of demigods, such as Indra, Kuvera, Siva, and Durga, and saints and sages, such as Dattatreya, Narada Muni, and the Seven Rishis.

It is not known when the original deity of Brahma was installed in the temple. That deity was destroyed by the Mogul emperor Aurangzeb in the seventeenth century. The present temple was built in 1809.

Savitri Temple—The temple of Savitri, or Sarasvati, Lord Brahma’s first wife, sits on a hill about three kilometers from the Brahma temple. (Sarasvati Devi went to this hill in anger after cursing Brahma and the other demigods.) Since reaching the temple requires a strenuous one- hour walk, many pilgrims are content to view the temple from a distance. Savitri Devi faces east, looking wide-eyed and happy. The hill offers a full view of Pushkara.

Gayatri Temple—This temple sits on a hill on the opposite side of town from the temple of Savitri.

Varaha Temple—A beautiful white- marble Deity of Lord Varaha, Lord Krishna’s incarnation in the form of a boar, sits in a temple on a small hill, facing south. The present Deity was installed in 1784. The original temple was 150 feet high. It was attacked by Moguls at least three times, beginning in the twelfth century.

Ranganatha Temple—Located in the middle of town, this temple is home for a beautiful six-foot- tall Deity of Venu Gopala (Krishna playing the flute). There are also Deities of Radharani (Krishna’s consort in Vrindavan), Rukmini (Krishna’s consort in Dvaraka), Lakshmi- devi (the goddess of fortune), and Nrisimhadeva (Krishna’s half-man, half-lion incarnation).

Rama-Vaikuntha Temple—This temple of Lakshmi-Narayana is also known as the new Ranganatha Temple. It is on the east side of town.

Krishna Temple—This is the main temple of Madhya Pushkara, which is about two kilometers from Jyeshtha Pushkara, the central area.

Servant of Pushkara Tirth

During an initiation ceremony in New York City, 1971, Srila Prabhupada gave a new disciple the name Pushkara Dasa (“servant of Pushkara”). Prabhupada said, “Pushkara Dasa. There is a sacred lake in India, Pushkara Tirtha. Anyone who takes bath in that lake becomes a devotee. So you try to bring all people of the world to take bath in Pushkara.”

The Appearance of Radha-kunda

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On a field near Govardhana Hill, in the twilight, the demon Arishtasura had assumed the form of a bull and, at King Kamsa’s order, had tried to kill Lord Krishna. Instead, the Lord had slain him. Just prior to his attack, Krishna had been chatting with His girlfriends, the gopis of Vrindavana, who had become quite frightened by the demon’s angry bellowing.

Krishna strolled over to them, expecting to engage in their usual rasa dance. In this, the girls would form a circle, Krishna would miraculously reproduce His body between each two girls, and the party would ecstatically dance round and round. But the gopis, now relieved of their fear of Arishtasura, were in a playful, joking mood.

As Krishna tried to place His arm around the shoulder of one of them, she flinched and stepped back, saying, “I don’t think You should touch any of us now.”

Krishna smiled.

“Oh? And why not?”

“Well, You’ve just killed a bull. And the scriptures consider a bull to be as sacred as a cow.”

“True, but that bull was really a demon.”

“Doesn’t matter,” a second girl said. “He still had a bull’s body. So by killing him, You’ve committed a terrible sin.”

“I have?” Krishna beamed, playing along with their joke.

“Absolutely. You’re very contaminated now.”

“How terrible!” Krishna said with mock seriousness. “Then what should I do?”

“You should atone for Your sin,” a third gopi said.

“Atone?” He asked, eyebrows raised.

They all nodded firmly, wanting to laugh but restraining themselves.

“But how?”

The first gopi said, “I think You should bathe in every holy river in the world.”

The other gopis nodded.

“All the rivers?” Krishna asked.

“Yes,” the girls giggled. “All.”

“But that’ll take too long. I have a better idea.”

“Oh?” they inquired.

“Instead, I’ll bring the rivers here.”

“How can You do that?” asked the second gopi skeptically.

“Just watch.”

Krishna turned away from them and kicked His heel into the ground, making a hole.

Then He ordered, “O holy rivers, please come here at once!”

In a few seconds, the personified forms of every sacred river appeared there, standing with their palms folded and heads bowed. The men were bare-chested but decked in rich dhotis, whereas the women were wearing luxurious saris.

Krishna turned to the gopis.

“See? They’re all here.”

Although the girls were astonished, they scoffed, “We don’t see anybody.”

Krishna said to the rivers, “Would you please announce yourselves?”

Each river spoke his or her name, such as Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Sarayu, Sona, and Sindhu.

The gopis looked at each other doubtfully. Were those persons really those rivers?

Then the hole that Krishna had made with His heel suddenly expanded into a vast hollow, and all the personified rivers gladly entered it, each manifesting his or her own water form. It was now a beautiful, inviting, holy pond.

Krishna descended and splashed into it up to His neck, dunked His head several times, and climbed out, drying His dark glistening body with His hands.

“Well, now I’m completely pure.” He smiled. “You don’t have to worry anymore.”

The girls tittered, knowing they never had to anyway.

“But look at you,” Krishna said with mock condescension, pointing at them.

“What about us?” a few asked.

“You’re all impure.”

“Us?” several answered, incredulously.

“Yes, you!”

“No, we didn’t touch the bull,” the second girl said. “You did.”

“True, but you’ve never performed any religious activities for Lord Brahma’s pleasure. That makes you impure.”

Then Krishna’s favorite, Srimati Radharani, turned to Her girlfriends and said, “All right, if we’re impure, then we’ll become pure.”

“How?” the third gopi asked.

“I’ll make an even better pond than Krishna’s, and we’ll all bathe in it.”

“But where?” asked the second gopi.

“Just follow Me.”

With Krishna in tow, Radharani confidently led Her friends a short distance away. They noticed that Arishtasura’s hooves had dug a shallow ditch just west of Krishna’s pond, and Radharani decided to make Her pond there.

“Let’s start digging,” She said to Her friends.

They bent over, began clutching clumps of soft clay, and discarded them. After only an hour, they created a large hollow.

Krishna was astonished by how rapidly they had dug it.

When the gopis came out, the Lord munificently said to them, “You can fill it up with the holy water from My pond.”

“Your pond?” Radharani asked, patronizingly.

“Yes, why not?”

“Because Your pond is contaminated. When You bathed in it, You left Your bull-killing sin there. I don’t want that in My pond!”

Krishna laughed loudly.

“Then where will You get the holy water?”

“From the nearby Manasi Ganga lake. We’ll bring many pots of it here.”

Krishna recalled that some time ago He had meditated on the holy Ganges River, which was a considerable distance from Vrindavana, and had miraculously made it appear here as a lake. It was thus named Manasi Ganga (“the Ganges created by Krishna’s mind”). But now Krishna wanted to spare Radharani and Her friends the heavy labor of lugging thousands of jugs of water from there to here. So He gestured to His pond, and suddenly a male representative of all the holy rivers emerged from it. With tears in his eyes, he folded his palms, bowed his head to the ground before Radharani, and devotedly prayed to Her.

Radharani’s mood changed from playful to serious. She could see that he was approaching Her for some sacred purpose.

Rising to his knees, the representative said, “O Goddess, even those who know the scriptures well, such as Lord Brahma and Lord Siva, cannot understand Your glories. Only Krishna, the highest goal of all human effort, can. Therefore, He wishes to make sure that, when You’re fatigued, You can wash away Your perspiration. That would make Him very happy.”

Radharani gratefully glanced at Krishna, and then returned Her attention to the rivers’ representative.

“As soon as Krishna ordered us, we came here to live in His excellent pond. But we all have a desire, and only if You are pleased with us can it be fulfilled.”

Radharani pleasantly asked, “Oh? And what is it?”

“We desire to come to Your pond, for only then will our lives be successful.”

With a gentle smile, Radharani replied, “All right. Please do.”

Her friends nodded in agreement, feeling immensely happy.

At that moment, all the holy rivers in Krishna’s pond broke through its blackish clay boundary and quickly flowed into and filled Radharani’s pond. This movement sounded like a surging river during a heavy rainstorm.

As Radharani was enjoying this sight, Krishna seriously said, “My dear Radharani, may Your pond become even more famous than Mine. I will always come here to bathe in it and to enjoy water sports. Indeed, this pond is as dear to Me as You.”

Radharani was touched deeply and replied, “And I, with My girlfriends, will also bathe in Your pond, even if You kill hundreds of Arishtasuras here. And anyone who, with intense devotion, bathes in My pond or resides on its bank will surely become very dear to Me.”

“And dear to Me also,” Krishna added. “I will certainly bless such persons well!”

As the darkness enfolded them, Krishna and the gopis formed a circle and began their rasa dance. He resembled a rain cloud, and Radharani a flash of lightning. As They danced, They generated a torrential downpour of brilliant, transcendental joy. From that night on, Radharani’s pond (kunda) would be called Radha Kunda, and Krishna’s, Shyama Kunda. And anyone who would bathe even once in Her pond, or perform devotional service on its banks, would, by Her mercy, develop pure love for Krishna. Such love would of course culminate in continuous divine ecstasy. Thus, Radha Kunda would become known as the most exalted pilgrimage spot in the world.

For this reason, countless pilgrims travel many miles just to bathe in its spiritually exalting waters.