Dhanurdhara Swami January 24th, 2001
Today’s parikrama was special?perhaps the most memorable I have ever had. There were the sights of Vraja, the sweet kirtans, the pious sadhus and the stunning deities, but that is there on all parikramas. It was memorable in a more numinous manner. Some mercy came.
When we reached the halfway point of the Varsana parikrama at the steps Mor Kutir?one of the four hills of Varsana representing the four heads of Lord Brahma, where Radha and Krishna danced like peacocks and where a blind saint was inspired to paint a striking picture commemorating that pastime?our enthusiastic kirtan reached its heights.
We sang a local brijabasi favorite:
syama gori nitya-kisori pritama-jori sri-radhe
rasika rasilo chaila-chabilo guna-garabilo sri-krsna
“O Sri Radhe! You are a fresh young maiden with a slender waist, endowed with the luster of new adolescence; You posses the fairest olden complexion; You are eternally situated in the sweet blossoming of divine youth; You are the only perfect match for Your most Beloved.
“O Sri Krsna! You are the true relisher of transcendental mellows; You are sweet and relishable in every aspect; You are so effulgent that you represent the topmost superexcellence of pure enchantment; You are situated in great pride due to full awareness of Your own transcendental qualities.?
Our kirtan captured the view and hearts of the local brijabasis. They are gathered there in force to honor the passing of a local brijabasi saint, Babulal Ramji, who was, until he retired in his early seventies, the headmaster of the local high school. For the last ten years he chanted nama-kirtan constantly until his death two weeks ago at the age of ninety. The ashram of his family at the base of Mor Kutir was feeding the local sadhus and villagers. Hundreds of his old
students, now respectable middle-aged men, also gathered?many attending from all over the country. I think it was mostly this group that surrounded our kirtan and joined in with unbounded eagerness, but it was not wild. They just stood and clapped, sang, and grinned ear to ear, offering us their hearts in appreciation. “You are the real brijabasis,” one man offered, as others nodded.
By the purification accumulated over the last two weeks on parikrama, our kirtan today was potent and a very sweet taste of Radha and Krishna came, but unlike the real brijabasis, it is not yet the effortless inborn devotional condition of the heart. I pray for that, but by the mercy of Varsana-dhama the sweet devotion here left an indelible impression in my heart, a sincere hankering for residence in Vraja and the mood of the real brijabasis.
We continue on our Varsana parikrama. Our destination is the magnificent Sriji Radha Krishna temple on the hill, but we will have to move fast to catch the noon darshan. We pass by the Garhavan Forest, Radharani’s personal garden, and then descend the deep stone steps to the mystical Krishna-kunda. After ascending we proceed on the parikrama path through a small kunja tunnel and alight to the steps of Man Kutir?a sacred mount for the Varsana wallas where Krishna surrendered to Radhika’s transcendental pique. Suddenly I hear a scream and turn back! Some impish brijabasi children had cornered a monkey and its baby child in such a way that the monkey panicked and somehow lashed out and bit Prema-bhakti Marg who was trapped by the kunja.
Some local brijabasis volunteered a home cure. Prema and Rasaraja assure us that they will sit for a while, take care of it, and then join us. I am concerned, but
there is little we can do. We proceed quickly on the winding forest path to the Mandir.
Whew! Made it to the temple. We chant:
radharani ki jaya maharani ki jaya
bolo barsane wali ki jaya jaya jaya
“All glories to Radharani! All glories to the greatest of all Queens. Sing the glories of Radharani, who lives in Varsana.?
Varsana has a sweet mood and our kirtan is carefree and melodic. As I begin to chant the refrain an old and powerful brijabasi with thick glasses and wearing a dhoti forcefully interrupts and begins to lead as if he it his divine right to croon this native song by the force of his knowledge of the proper melody for it. With authority his right index finger is pointing to the floor in the middle of our kirtan shaking to the beat of our kirtan as if he is directing the rhythm of our dancing. His hand then abruptly stops and our kirtan freezes. He is now our leader and we look for direction.
We are awe struck as he belts out an emotionally laden pada, or verse, about a pastime of Radha-Krishna which he accompanies by is own devotional hand language illustrating the meaning of each verse. His left hand widens like a fan and is placed by his forward to describe Lord Krishna’s peacock feather. His hips sway back and forth in a subtle brijabasi dance that seems to perfectly capture the mood of the song. His voice is so strong and melodic that I distinctly heard one of our group call our old friend something like “the Stevie Wonder of Vraja.”
At the end of each song he again breaks into “radharani ki jaya maharani ki jaya” which we understand now to be the natural refrain to the verses his singing. While we begin to chant the refrain he then dramatically whips his head back towards the Deities, turns the kirtan back over to us, and then gazes at the altar in rapt attention as if we don’t even exist.
When our singing of the refrain “radharani ki jaya maharani ki jaya” is just about to finish he suddenly whips his head back towards us. Again be begins to direct the tempo of our kirtan with his bouncing index finger, and as before, he freezes our dancing with a flick of his wrist. Once more he belts out another fantastic pada. When he finishes, yet again he whips his head back to the Deities in the same apparent almost disdain. The pattern is repeated again and again as he describes the pastimes of Radha and Krishna in the groves of Vrindaban.
I turn back for a moment and I am surprised to see Prema-bhakti Marg standing in the back smiling and devotional absorbed. Most people would be too traumatized from a mad monkey attack in a foreign land to continue the parikrama with enthusiasm.
Our driver takes a shortcut back and it takes twice as long. I still wonder how we managed to skirt around a massive truck strike blocking the road by negotiating an impossible narrow ridge on the side of the road?between the ongoing stalled trucks and the ten foot drop from the highway to the field below?and how we then maneuvered between those stalled trucks to the opposite side of the road.
A feast awaits us at the goshala prepared by Nandanandana and his family?his wife, mother and his four daughters. His wife is so Krishna conscious and such an astute cook that she understands the culture of her visitors and cooks exactly according to their tastes, although she is Bengali and the basis of the prasadam is Bengali fare. Our group is from the West so, although she prepares an elaborate traditional feast, she cooks just a little less spicy, includes a fresh homegrown salad and tops off the meal with an ambrosial custard grape desert. The devotees are more than satisfied by their sincere mood of service.
I pass Prema-bhakti Marg and Rasaraja in the evening. She said she went to a doctor, the monkey bite was treated, and she is okay. Good thing she didn’t let the incident disturb her time at Varsana as she has waited anxiously for five years to return to Vrindaban and such moments in the dhama are precious.