Kiddie Parikrama

January 5th, 2005

January 5, 2005

Kiddie Parikrama

The beginning of winter in Vrindavana has always been my best time for serious writing and studying. It’s usually exceedingly foggy and cold. One naturally feels like staying indoors. It’s also the holiday season. Few foreign devotees visit as the international fares rise substantially making travel to India quite costly. I thus have few responsibilities during this time. Often I don’t even see a soul until late afternoon. This year, however, was different.

Many families close to me, mostly from New York, but other places also, came to Vrindavana for the holidays. Six families are here with eleven children ranging in age from two to nine. All but three of those children were under five.

The families did not come as a group, nor had I planned a program for them. When they asked for help, I agreed.

One of my main services is serving the foreign pilgrims. I thus wanted to enliven these hard working parents who, in separation from the dhama, couldn’t wait any longer for pilgrimage, although burdened (out of love) with small children. I thus organized “the braja mandal kiddie parikrama.”

Kiddie parikrama doesn’t mean that I geared the programs just for the children. It indicates that I organized programs so that parents with children would not be overly distracted and could also participate. That means shorter outings, more stories, less philosophy, plenty of kirtan and places with safe open spaces where children can roam.

Would I recommend it? I’m not sure. I can’t imagine the austerity of taking care of small children when living in a foreign place. As I said it wasn’t something I planned. I just happened to be here and they asked my help. In other words, it worked out much better than expected. For one thing, we were blessed with an exceptionally, once in a decade, mild and sunny winter.

What parikrama was the most enlivening for the children? Why, Nandagram, of course! It was magic. As soon as we entered Nanda Bhavan, they all spontaneously joined in the kirtan, remembering Krishna, the cowherd boys, His parents and the cows.

I began my speech there, “This is the place of Krishna childhood pastimes”. I hear a disturbed voice by side emphatically speak up as if slighted, “AND BALARAM!” It’s seven year old Rasa-parayana an ardent fan of the Lord’s older brother. I realize my oversight. “This is the place of Krishna and Balaram’s childhood pastime”, I continue.

I refused to take the whole group to Radha Kunda. It’s just too sacred for a kiddie parikrama. I became inspired to go anyway, but went twice in two smaller manageable groups. My plan: Close my eyes, chant loudly, take shelter of the holy name, and hope for the best. It somehow worked out.

Other highlights: A flatbed bicycle rksaw parikrama of Govardhana and a ceremonial bathing (abhishek) of Giri-govardhana at Govinda Kunda.

Perhaps this was the first Gaudiya Vaisnava kiddie parikrama in history. A friend, after hearing about it from the enlivened parents told me he liked the idea. He then conjectured that it was an especially good idea as they were Americans. He gave an interesting explanation why:

He had heard that a famous European social philosopher (the name escapes me) visited America over fifty years ago to study American culture and came back with a startling realization:

“In all places of the world the children mostly perform austerities to serve their elders, but in America it is mostly the parents who perform austerities to serve the children!”

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