Vrindaban A morning visit to

January 6th, 2001


A morning visit to one of my favorite lila-sthans, Govinda-kunda, the mystical pond on the side of Govardhana Hill where Lord Indra bathed Lord Govinda with the sacred waters of the celestial Ganges and the milk of the divine surabhi cow.

We sit by at the base of the mount of Govardhana by the large elongated sila that I occasionally worship with opulence and devotion and affectionately call Govinda-Hari. The morning sun rises in the east, shining straight across Govinda-kunda, radiating and shimmering on the large boulders of the sacred hill standing before us. We also sit and bask for a moment with welcome relief from the chilly winter night. I close my eyes and feel a rare and soothing silence slightly mixed with some distant shouts from the peaceful residents of Annayor, the small adjacent village, who wash their clothes and bathe there. A stilled and tranquil mind is rare for a born New Yorker, but that is the mystical potency of this sacred space.

I sense that the devotees with me also feel the hallowed moment. Bathed in the sanctity of this holy place, I begin to speak of its glories. I suddenly recall another magical day spent at Govinda-kunda and tell a personal story indicative of her sacredness. It is late morning and Govinda-kunda is especially quiet?the solitude assisted by the heat of a mid-April sun. We are searching for a sila. It is something I never do, and something I don?t recommend, but my friend has been sanctioned, and certain unique events indicate that Giriraja is calling him for service.

After a long search, His Lordship appeared?a small perfectly square-sized shiny Govardhana sila the size of a small matchbox. We then seek, as is the tradition for this solemn worship, the blessings of a local brijabasi. I approach a lone brijabasi nearby who was sweeping the dirt floor of a simple makeshift Govardhana temple which humbly consisted of a stone platform before a huge Govardhan sila protruding from the mountain, covered by a simple shed. The handful of brahmanas at Govinda-kunda who maintain the few temples surrounding it are not the scholarly types, but poor, simple and friendly brijabasis. Not much concerned for the inviolability of this wonderful tirtha, they gladly give their blessings to anyone?for some small donation, of course. With confidence, I called this old brijabasi over and causally asked him to give us the sila we selected. I pointed to our small Giriraja, now neatly placed on a larg!e boulder in front of us. We were staggered by the response.

His raised his right hand, pointing his index finger, and forcefully rebuked us for our apparent irreverence. Occasionally pointing at Govardhana Hill he shouted, ?Bhagavan hai! Visvatma hai!” This is Krishna! This is the soul of the universe! After giving us a good admonishment, he finished our hopes with his final answer: ?If I give you this sila then?MAI SARIRA NASTA!?my body will be destroyed.”

My humble friend fell to his knees crying in shock, ?I?m not qualified! I?m not qualified!” We got the message, although Giriraja eventually came to my friend in another way. Still, time is short and the puja must start so I begin kirtan.

A full abhisheka begins. Govinda Hari is bathed repeatedly in water from Govinda-kunda and massaged with a full 200-gram bottle of fine saffron oil. With a new towel he is dried and then painted elaborately with will six different colored tilaks. By now the brahmanas arrive. They wait patiently, irreverently sitting on Govardhana Hill right behind our worship. From experience they are confident that I will amply renumerate them both for their blessings and for their ability to keep the many young village children who have arrived from disturbing our ceremony. A large herd of white cows pass, kicking up the soft sands. It?s Krishna Book-like: the cows, the brahmanas, the brijabasi children and Giri-Govardhana. We become more and more absorbed in our worship.

Next Govinda Hari is offered a large tulasi garland, six rose garlands, and a triple-twined red, white and black gunja-mala. We forgot the flute and peacock feather today, but Govinda Hari is stunning and the brahmanas grunt and nod their heads to the side, brijabasi style, in approval.

It is a small festival today so we do not pack the sweets in the fine wicker baskets that we keep for the worship. Still, three boxes of high class sweets from a brijabasi sweet shop are offered before Giriraja to fed to the the brahmanas, children, our devotees, and the cows, in that order. A dozen rupee notes and a bunch of coins are also placed there as daksina to the brahamanas for their blessings, but more as a bribe to keep our happy festival free from their harassment. Arati begins and everyone is given incense to offer which is carefully placed all around Giriraja like a smoking picket fence. The kirtan gets louder and the brahamanas are smiling ear-to-ear, patting us with both hands on our head and shoulders indicating, ?Well done, well done, I offer you all our blessings.? The festival is so engaging that one becomes lost in time. It?s over and we leave, but the effect is very powerful. We fe!el it strongly in our hearts.

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