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Oddisi Dance: Questions for Vrindarani Dasi

Interview by Kaustubha das

Vrindarani Dasi (originally from St. Petersburg) is a 17 year old student at the Venunad Kala Kendra school of Odissi Dance in Vrindavan, India. Recently I had the pleasure of spending some time with her and her family in their beautiful home in Vrindavan. After an evening of kirtan in their small roof-top temple to Radha Govinda, Vrindarani kindly answered some questions about the classical form of Indian dance called Odissi. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

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Constructing the Exotic /A Review of the Art of Michael Bühler-Rose

[In a article for Whitewall Magazine, Meenakshi Thirukode reviews Construction of the Exotic, a recent photo series, by BhaktiCollective.com contributing writer Michael Bühler-Rose. Enjoy the article below. The entire series can be viewed at his website Michael Bühler-Rose. Kaustubha das]

Whitewall’s South Asian Art Expert, Meenakshi Thirukode, looks at Michael Buhler Rose’s recent photo series, “Constructing the Exotic.” Find out if his work is merely the continuation of the Orientalist fixation or the embracement of another culture?

A strikingly beautiful young woman of European descent dressed in Bharatanatyam (a classical dance form that originated in Tamilnadu, in the south of India) costume sits poised on an ashen colored rock, the softness of her expression jarringly in contrast to the insentient stone. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

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Radha Govinda Temple / Photos by Robert Stoetzel

divyad-vrndaranya-kalpa-drumadah
srimad-ratnagara-simhasana-sthau
sri-sri-radha-srila-govinda-devau
presthalibhih sevyamanau smarami

In a temple of jewels in Vrndavana, underneath a desire tree, Sri Sri Radha Govinda, served by Their most confidential associates, sit upon an effulgent throne. I offer my humble obeisances unto Them. [Sri Caitanya Caritamrita Adi 1.16]

The Radha Govinda Temple is seen as one of the most impressive examples of North Indian architecture. It sits in the middle of the Yogapitha, the sacred place where Radha and Krishna would meet.

The deity of Govinda, believed to have been established thousands of years ago by Krishna’s grandson Vajranaba, was rediscovered by Srila Rupa Goswami in the 16th century. The construction of the temple was begun under the direction of Raghunath Bhatta Goswami and his disciples, headed by Raja Man Singh (a general in the Army of Emperor Akbar) and was completed in 1590. Jiva Goswami praised Emperor Akbar in his Govindam Mandir Astakam (Eight Prayers in Glorification of the Govinda Temple), which is carved into the temple’s stone. The inscription reads “Emperor Akbar is a very kind-hearted person and a Vaishnava. I give my blessings to Emperor Akbar. In his kingdom all the Vaishnavas are living very peacefully.”

Less than 100 years later Emperor Aurangzeb ordered the temple’s destruction. Before his soldiers arrived the deities of Radha and Govinda were moved. They now reside in the grand Govindaji temple in Jaipur.

Before its destruction the temple stood seven stories high. Just two stories remain. Still, the Radha Govinda Temple remains a towering monument to Lord Govinda and a place where one can feel a connection to the great saints of the past and the history of Krishna devotion in Vrindavan.

Kaustubha das

Robert Stoetzel is a New York based photographer traveling and photographing in India trough March 2009.

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December Vrindavan

As the busy month of Kartik1 reaches it’s end, the crowds of pilgrims in Vrindavan gradually thin. December’s cold brings a thick fog and with the change in ambiance comes a change in mood. The spirit shifts. It feels like Vrindavan is calling the soul to move from festive celebration to hushed, solemn contemplation and prayer. In the mornings one can circle the path around the town visiting holy spots veiled in haze.

Early in the morning, Keshi Ghat, usually lively with pilgrims and sadhus bathing in the holy Jamuna, becomes a lonely place. Boats sit idle on the bank. Beautifully carved sandstone piers invite you to rest a moment, take a few drops of holy water on your head, gaze up river toward the Madan Mohan Temple, and offer a prayer in silence.

This is the place where Krishna killed the horse demon Keshi who represents false pride, an obstacle on the path of bhakti. In the Bhagavad-gita Arjuna refers to Krishna as Keshi-nishudana (slayer of Keshi). His hope was that, by his divine instructions, Krishna would slay the doubts which hindered his spiritual conviction. At this spot, Krishna bhaktas have been offering similar prayers for thousands of years.

Kaustubha das

Robert Stoetzel is a New York based photographer traveling and photographing in India trough March 2009.

Related Posts: Gopurams in Sepia / Portraits from the Kunds of Govardhan / Murals of the Krishna Balaram Temple

  1. Kartik is the eighth lunar month of the Hindu calendar. It is characterized by many religious festivals especially in the North Indian holy town of Vridavan.
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Murals of the Krishna Balaram Temple

Vrindavan is a town of literally thousands of Krishna temples, some small and mostly unnoticed, some popular and festive. Many date back hundreds or even thousands of years and new ones are always springing up. Among the most visited is the Krishna Balaram Mandir (temple) which was personally established by Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami in 1975. The temple is situated in Raman Reti, Vrindavan, where it is said that Lord Sri Krishna displayed His lilas 5,000 years ago. Sri Krishna and his brother Balaram would herd their cows at Raman Reti near the Yamuna River.

Approaching the temple, one passes under a grand marble archway connecting the samadhi (sacred tomb) of Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami, with a matching structure used for greeting and feeding guests. Next, one descends a few steps to enter through the temples large ornate doorway and, passing over the checkered marble floor, one comes to a sunken, open courtyard which provides a charming space for celebrating festivals or for simply resting and taking in the divine atmosphere. Past the courtyard, one steps into the temple itself where kirtan is held and scripture is discussed at the foot of the three magnificent alters dedicated to, on the left, Sri Caitanya and Nityananda, in the center Sri Krishna and Balaram, and on the right Sri Sri Radha Shyamasundara (Radha and Krishna).

Around the courtyard are large panels which serve as frames for murals depicting, on the left, the lilas of Sri Krishna and, on the right, the lilas of Sri Chaitanya. Other murals are squeezed into corners or fill open spaces. Collected here are photos of just some of the murals, to give the viewer an idea of the temples beauty and spirit of devotion. The photos are by Gitapriya dasi and unfortunately I don’t know the identity of the artists who painted the murals. If any viewer has information about the artists please feel free to leave a comment. I’ve included verses, relating to the lilas depicted in the murals, as captions.

For more photos and video of the Krishna Balaram Temple one can follow the links below.

Kaustubha das

Photos of the Krishna Balaram Temple

Video of the Krishna Balaram Temple

Related Posts: Gopurams in Sepia / Portraits from the Kunds of Govardhan

Kaustubha das

The Lila of the Bewilderment of Brahma

Brahma-vimohan front

Those who, even while remaining situated in their established social positions, throw away the process of speculative knowledge and with their body, words and mind offer all respects to descriptions of your personality and activities, dedicating their lives to these narrations, which are sung by you personally and by your pure devotees, certainly conquer your Lordship, although you are otherwise unconquerable by anyone within the three worlds. (Lord Brahma’s Prayers to Lord Krishna, Srimad-bhagavatam 10.14.3)

Today I’ve posted a painting Brahma Honors Krishna and an excerpt from its commentary from the book Intimate Worlds: Indian Paintings from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection. The commentary, by art historian John Seyller, briefly tells the Brahma-vimohan lila (the pastime of the bewilderment of Brahma). Some nice details about the painting’s design are included. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Hari Sankirtan

From A Portrait of the Hindus: Balthazar Solvyns
& the European Image of India 1760-1824

Sankirtan-detail

More from Robert Hardgrave’s A Portrait of the Hindus: here is Balthazar Solvyns’s etching of a kirtan gathering in 18th century Calcutta. The term sankirtan – a compound of the Sanskrit words san (together), and kirtana (glorification) – refers to the practice of congregational singing of the holy names of God, especially in public, as a practice and expression of bhakti. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

An Etching of the Khol

From A Portrait of the Hindus: Balthazar Solvyns
& the European Image of India 1760-1824


Khol detailAs promised, from Robert L. Hardgrave’s A Portrait of the Hindus, Balthazar Solvyns’s etching of the khol or mridanga drum. Here, I’ve provided a detail of the etching. The entire image can be found below. I’ve included an excerpt from the description by the artist, Balthazar Solvyns, and below that, an excerpt from Robert Hardgrave’s commentary, (I’ve not included the footnotes). One observation of my own: it appears that the musician is wearing, around his right ear, a small pushpa-mala (flower garland). CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

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A Portrait of the Hindus

A Portrait of the Hindus

Recently, while browsing the shelves of Strand Book Store, one title caught my attention: A Portrait of the Hindus: Balthazar Solvyns & the European Image of India 1760-1824 by Robert L Hardgrave. Published by the Oxford University Press, the 568 page book measures 9×12, with 287 halftone and 78 color illustrations. In the following days I will be posting some images from the book along with excerpts from the commentary. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

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Gopurams in Sepia

Some captions were adapted from the following sources.

Introduction to Indian Architecture, text by Bindia Thapar, Periplus

India, John Howley, Spiritual Guides

India, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides

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Portraits from the Kunds of Govardhan

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