While in New Delhi, we took rest and renewed our energy in preparation for our next divine adventure, which was the famous city of Vrindavan (also spelled Vrindaban).
Vrindavan is the location where Sri Krishna spent his childhood and this city is dedicated to the worship of both Sri Krishna and Radha Maa. The town is a pilgrimage center and is bustling with devotees flocking to numerous temples dedicated to Lord Krishna.
The city of Vrindavan holds very special memories for Swamiji. He lived here several years back as a young sadhu, and it was here that he studied and learned the language of Sanskrit from his Guru.
When we arrived in the city, Swamiji recounted many of the ways in which the city had changed over the years. There are now many more buildings, hotels, and large temples compared to those days. Though it seems more commercialized now, Swamiji was quick to point out the old architecture and construction, such as the uncured reddish brick walls, which still remains intact today.
We were in Vrindavan for just a few short days, but that gave us time to visit some special temples. The first temple we visited was Katyayani Peeth, a Shakti Peetham dedicated to the sixth form of Durga, who blessses Her children with ultimate purity. I was pleasantly surprised to find a temple for the Goddess in the famous abode of Lord Krishna.
Swamiji explained that many of the temples in Vrindavan open their doors for darshan only during specific times of the day and for Arati.
Swamiji realized we were 10 minutes away from the start of Arati and, wasting no time, he quickly laid his asana, opened his iPad, and recited the Aparajita Stotram. Just as we were finishing the stotram the doors opened and the Arati began!
The temple pujari was both graceful and meticulous in the performance of Arati, so much so, that it seemed as though Shree Maa’s eyes were glued to him. Filled with devotion, after Arati we paced behind Shree Maa and Swamiji as we circumambulated the temple three times.
The temple priests, upon realizing that they were in the presence of Shree Maa, payed their respects and offered Her the opportunity to bless all of us with a tilak from the sindur that had been offered to the Goddess. The priests then gave us all prasad and offered flower malas to both Shree Maa and Swamiji.
As we approached the section of town near to the temple, the streets became flooded with swarms of devotees who came to offer their love and devotion to Lord Krishna.
We came to a point on our journey where driving any closer to the temple would not be possible. With the utmost dedication to completing our journey, we eagerly climbed out of the car and joined the maddened crowd of devotees toward the temple.
A pedal rickshaw is a bike combined with a carriage on it that is small enough to navigate the heavy populated pedestrian area.
The crazed streets became more and more congested as we drew closer to the temple. Much like the streets of Varanasi, the buildings seem to converge together, making the streets very narrow with only sufficient room to walk. It now became impossible for even the pedal rickshaws to go further!
Once again, with supreme dedication to our sankalpa, we climbed out of the rickshaw and took to the streets by foot.
As we made our way along the cracked and cobbled road, our beloved Mother was protected on both sides by her dedicated daughters, who held Her hands and arms to ensure She did not stumble or accidentally step into cow dung. She was protected from the back by Swamiji, Amitabh, and me, who provided a much needed buffer from the pushy crowd.
Though our worldly senses were entertained by the numerous shops selling pictures of Gods and Goddesses, beautiful malas, intricate murtis, and sweet and savory snacks, we all kept our minds focused on our objective, which was to get to the temple.
Finally we reached!
We immediately went to the back of the temple, to the exit door, where they allowed Shree Maa and our assisting pandit to enter.
The guards at the exit were very firm that only one person could accompany Shree Maa through the exit, as it was for VIPs only. I was a bit annoyed that apparently they were not told, or did not understand, that Swamiji too was a VIP. But, our humble Swamiji was not at all bothered.
As Swamiji left Shree Maa with the pandit and began walking with us around the building, the guards relented and told Swamiji that it was fine for him to accompany Shree Maa. The rest of us quickly made our way back to the main entrance of the temple.
The scene at this temple was different from other temples we have visited.
This was not a temple where devotees could sit and worship. Rather, there was a constant stream of devotees entering the temple, making their way to the front for Darshan, hoping to get some prasad, and then exiting quickly.
The objectives of the guards and the police officers were to keep the wall of humanity moving through the temple with minimum chaos.
Though no sadhana or chanting was being done, it did not limit the expression of pure devotion coming from those who stood the long hours to get a 10 second darshan.
Many of them would throw up their hands saying, “Banke Bihari Ki Jai!” upon seeing the murti of Lord Krishna. There was such a great air of joy, celebration, and devotion all about the place!
As we entered the temple, we squeezed and squirmed our way through the crowd to try to get to the exit area where Shree Maa and Swamiji had found a small place to sit. Since the crowd was lining up to see the deity, it took us only a few moments to reach Shree Maa and Swamiji, who were already engaged in chanting the Vishnu Sahasranam. They hadn’t gotten too far alone before we joined them.
Read now as Swamiji shares with you his experience inside the temple:
As we left the temple, it was beginning to get dark, but we wanted to visit one more important site in Vrindavan before ending the day.
We found a most handy pedal rickshaw to take us to the Kunjavan forest.
Swamiji explained to us that it is believed that the trees of this forest are actually Gopis, the great devotees of Lord Krishna.
While during the day, the trees meditate like great Rishis, at night time they turn into Gopis and dance in celebration of Radha and Krishna.
I have to admit, my skeptical mind found this story a little hard to believe, but I left it for what it was.
As the sun was quickly setting, we enthusiastically made our way through the forest, opening our hearts to the bhavana of love and devotion that Krishna and Radha represent. After passing through several small temples and offering our prayers, we reached near the exit of the forest where there was a small outdoor shrine.
Upon seeing this quaint shrine, Shree Maa was suddenly struck with a great joy and began to dance and sing for Lord Krishna. Swamiji quickly joined in and the two of them magically turned into twenty-first century Gopis dancing under the moonlight. Suddenly, the rest of us followed suit and it felt as if the whole forest was dancing along with us!
In the bhavana of dancing with Shree Maa and Swamiji in the forest of Vrindavan, we felt for a moment that the trees really did turn into Gopis. They really were dancing along with us!
My skeptical mind was put to rest as this was the proof that, yes indeed, with the power of pure devotion, trees certainly can turn into Gopis!
Swamiji mentioned that most people are seeking physical proof of the metaphysical. They want some phenomena in the world, whether trees becoming Gopis or anything else, that will provide physical proof of what they believe. But this is in itelf an oxymoron, for the metaphysical is, by definition, not physical.
All of these spiritual wonders are perceived within the heart of the person filled with love for God. Without which, even the forest of Vrindavan would only appear to be just a grove of small trees.
We all said a prayer of thanks in our hearts to Radha and Krishna for the blessing of being able to accompany such great saints, who could make the real spirit of Vrindavan manifest.