Dhanurdhara Swami November 11th, 2000
Govardhana – Kartik-Purnima (End of Caturmasya)
Every purnima (full moon day), pilgrims come from all over North India, Uttar-Pradesh, Delhi Punjab, and Haryana for a full parikrama of Govardhana. There has been a nonstop parikrama outside our property for the last twenty-four hours. The crowds actually start from the Ekadasi before the full moon and steadily build to a crescendo on purnima. In the last five years, these crowds have dramatically increased in size each year to the point where Govardhana parikrama has become a prominent part of the spiritual and social life of North India.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was also a Govardhana Hill in Upstate NY where all of the devotees on the Northeast coast of the US could festively head to every month as part of their spiritual/social life? With all its dirt, disorder, and poverty, Uttar-Pradesh wallas (the residents of India’s largest state) still have the wealth of Govardhana Hill in their state.
Kartik-Purnima in Govardhana is the most popular purnima. I can count from my window at least thirty people walking past the front gate of our ashram every ten seconds. I estimate that an average parikrama takes 5 hours and thus calculate that every 24 hours there are almost 500,000 pilgrims circumambulating Govardhana Hill. Many of these people are walking together with the people from their village to form kirtana groups. It’s a Fifth Avenue crowd in rush and density, but with dhotis, red and yellow Rajasthani turbans, and a lot more devotion. I also see Olympic-like sadhus wearing babaji-vesa (short white dhotis) in great shape?racing and chanting around with beads in one hand and walking sticks in the other. There are also a few old Indian village ladies, with their old skirts and buttoned-down shirts, dressed somehow like the granny from the ?Beverly Hillbillies? (if you go back that far).
Gunagrahi Maharaja, an expert percussionist, admires the wild enthusiastic drums?mostly dhola, a North Indian wood drum?which accompany each kirtana. He has a keen ear for music and told me that he can hear about ten distinct kirtanas at one time. He also has bad insomnia from the jetlag, and since the window to his room faces the parikrama path, he’s usually kept up throughout night. Though he’s not at all bored with the show, the lack of regulation is taking its toll.
As I am writing I also hear the cacophony of kirtanas outside my window: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Radhe Krishna, Radhe Krishna, Honk! Honk! Indian cars and busses with loud speakers are blaring Hindi bhajans and selling home medical cures.
We ended kartik with a feast. I’m somewhat of a connoisseur of feasts?not just the preparations, but with the serving and atmosphere created to relish it as well. Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu is eagerly waiting to break his kichari fast for the month, but we all sit in anticipation.
The legend, or I should say history, of Govardhana is based on large quantities of food, offered and eaten. From personal experience, I have full faith in the benediction that we can sit by the side of the King of mountains and eat as much as we want?aniyor! aniyor! Our kitchen is a bit famous, and as expected, everything is expertly cooked. To our surprise Giriraja has been offered a large variety of North Indian, Gurjarati, Bengali, and international fare: Puris, rice, bitter melon, sukta (Bengali spiced vegetable soup), channa subji (Punjabi chick pea and vegetable preparation), palak paneer (spinach and cheese), dahl, bhel puri (An exotic Gujarati snack with chidwa, and several chutneys), dhokla (Gujarati dahl bread), coriander chutney, saffron srikant, sweet rice, rasa malai (Bengali cheese and cooked down milk sweet), vegeratarian jello, and butter pecan ice cream.
I was amazed by how much everyone ate. What we really relished, however, was the affection we all had for each other by spending the month together at
Govardhana practicing and sharing Krishna consciousness, a mood nourished perfectly by that wonderfully cooked feast, perfect serve-out, and the hospitable atmosphere of humble devotees. I was on the roof outside of my room talking to Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu when we spotted Kesava Bharati Prabhu walking quickly toward us. Ravindra Svarupa has a way with words and sometimes he would utter spontaneously perfect descriptive phrases like, “Here comes Kesava Bharati, the affable spirit of the place!”
Kesava Bharati’s open-heartedness and warmth from the beginning of the project has helped create and maintain a unique mood here of strict Krishna consciousness with a full openness of heart. I overheard heard Ravindra Svarupa tell him, after completing his own arduous vow and wandering in the garden gazing affectionately at Govardhana, “I’m going to miss this place!”