Govardhana-puja Govardhana I tried to

November 5th, 2002


I tried to take benefit of being in Govardhana on Govardhana-puja by circumambulating Govardhana Hill. The visiting devotees would start coming to our ashram by 7 o’clock, so I divided my parikrama in two parts–the first half, the Aniyor side, which I would go around early morning so I could return in time, and the second half, the Radha-kunda side, which I would circle late afternoon after the feast so I could return for the Damodarastakam.

Festive, uplifting, walking among the throngs of singing brijabasis on Govardhana-puja day!

The temple program: His Holiness Bhakti Caru Swami, His Grace Gopiparanadhana Prabhu, and Kesava Bharati Prabhu spoke, followed by go-puja (worship of the cows) in the front garden, annukuta (a mountain of bhoga across from the ashram at the foot of Govardhana Hill), and finally, a sumptuous feast.

Highlight: Loving the devotees, living the pastime.

Our ashram rests exactly on the parikrama path of Govardhana Hill where thousands upon thousands of pilgrims stream by on major festivals, especially Govardhana-puja. It is an excellent location to serve them. Gaura Narayana Prabhu, the temple president of our Bhaktivedanta Ashram, asked if I would like to help distribute prasadam to the pilgrims, since it was sponsored by my disciples in America. There are many uplifting devotional programs here today and I wasn’t expecting the prasadam distribution to be the most inspirational for me, but it was. Perhaps it’s because of the inherent mood of this activity–loving reciprocation with the devotees, especially the brijabasis–that brought the pastime of Govardhana-puja alive. The pilgrims, practically all devotees, mobbed our booth to get one of the thousands of Giriraja laddus prepared last night by our devotees. They were respectful, however, and not wild. And by their gestures–a nod, a smile, a slight bow at the waist or head–they acknowledged their appreciation. Several sadhus even spontaneously hugged me. For hours we happily distributed our mountain of sweets as fast as we could to the outreached hands of the happy pilgrims circumambulating Govardhana Hill, just as their forefathers did at the time of Lord Krishna:

“The honest and simple cowherd men, headed by Nanda Maharaja, accepted Krishna’s proposal and executed in detail everything He advised. They performed Govardhana worship and circumambulation of the hill. [Following the inauguration of Govardhana-puja, people in Vrindaban still dress nicely and assemble near Govardhana Hill to offer worship and circumambulate the hill, leading their cows all around.]” –Krishna Book, Chapter 24.

Highlight II: The secret of avoiding and overcoming Vaishnava aparadha.

After the feast I spoke with Dr. Fakir Mohan, an elderly unassuming Vaishnava scholar from Oriya. Last year we went on Govardhana parikrama together and I noticed that he was fervently chanting a simple bhajan. I asked him to translate what he was singing. The song, Sri Vaisnava-Vandana, by Devakinandana dasa, offers respect with limitless enthusiasm to all Vaishnavas–systematically beginning with the devotees of Vrindaban, then Mahaprabhu’s associates in Puri, next the devotees of Navadvipa, and after that, the Vaishnavas anywhere in Bengal. I especially liked some of its concluding lines:

“With upraised arms I pray to the feet of all of Gauranga’s bhaktas, in whichever country they may reside!”

“Holding a straw between my teeth, I submit at the feet of all the servants of Mahaprabhu that were in the past and will be in the future!”

Today when I discussed this song with Fakir Mohan Prabhu, he revealed an important and somewhat startling detail of the song’s history. Devakinananda dasa, its author, was the initiated name of Gopala Capala, mentioned in Sri Caitanya-Caritamrita as the envious person who offended Srivasa Thakur and then suffered from leprosy. What I discovered today is that he later repented, took initiation from one of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s direct associates, and became a great Vaishnava known for his unbounded appreciation of the devotees–a veneration resulting in this song, Sri Vaisnava-Vandana.

I’d recently begun to chant this song daily, and this seemed to deepen my respect for the devotees. When I shared this with Fakir Mohan Prabhu, he revealed with conviction the mahima (glories) of this song:

“Anyone who sincerely chants Sri Vaisnava-Vandana by Devakinandana dasa will be protected from Vaishnava aparadha (offense to the devotees), and like Gopala Capala, will also be relieved of any offense already committed at the lotus feet of the Vaishnavas!”

I circumambulated Govardhana Hill, served the brijabasis, and fully honored this auspicious day, but the fruit of my worship was this simple insight of worshiping the devotees.

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