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Kaustubha das

In Loving Memory of Aindra Das

The first time I visited India was in 1989. My flight arrived at the Delhi Airport at some early hour and I took a precarious taxi ride through the morning fog to the holy town of Vrindavan. Upon arriving, I prostrated in the dust of Vraja and headed straight for the Krishna Balaram Temple. It was shortly after the daily scriptural discourse and the place was nearly empty. As I approached the foot of the alter a musician caught my attention. He was alone, sitting before the shrine of Sri Sri Radha Syamsundar. He appeared austere. It was cold and he was wrapped in a ragged wool shawl. His music was unlike anything I had heard before. The melody was stripped bare. A desolate voice accompanied only by a frail harmonium scale, slow and slightly off beat – crawling, barely dragging along. His song was the cry of a dying man. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

An Appeal for the Merciful Sidelong Glance of Sri Radha

Sometimes called the national anthem of Vrindavan, here is Sri Sri Radha-kripa-kataksha-stava-raja (The King of Prayers which Petitions the Merciful Sidelong Glance of Srimati Radharani) from the Urdhvamnaya-tantra. Spoken by Lord Shiva and composed in a lovely meter, this exceptional prayer is daily sung in a charming melody by many Brijabasis (Vrindavan residents). CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Shivaratri in Vrindavan

On February, 23 the celebration of Maha Shivaratri was observed at the ancient Temple of Gopishwara Mahadeva in Vrindavan. Vaishnava’s honor the various Devas, seeing them as exemplar devotees of Lord Vishnu or Krishna. So in Vrindavan, the holy town of Krishna bhakti, Krishna devotees, following the edict of Srimad-bhagavatam, Vaishnavanam yatha shambhu,1 worship Lord Shiva as a Krishna devotee in his form of a gopi (Gopishwara Mahadeva). CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

  1. Shambhu (Lord Shiva) is the greatest of Vaishnavas
Kaustubha das

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.
Kaustubha das

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

Kirtan Podcast 2: Aindra Das

Aindra Smile

Whenever I stay in Vrindavan, I make a point of spending every evening in the Krishna Balaram Temple with hundreds of bhaktas singing in kirtan led by Aindra Das. An American who moved to Vrindavan in the early 8o’s, Aindra das leads a group of kirtaniyas who maintain kirtan 24 hours a day, everyday in the temple. He lives simply, he’s learned in the teachings of bhakti and he is deeply devoted to kirtan. One can always witness and experience the most amazing things at his kirtans, not just occasionally, but every evening. Here’s one example. It’s a fifteen minute recording that starts slow and gradually builds. The rhythms may feel unfamiliar at first, but if you relax and give it a little time I think you’ll find a special treasure here.

Kaustubha das

Aindra Das Kirtan
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Related Posts: PODCAST: As Kindred Spirits

Aindra Kirtan

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Portraits from the Kunds of Govardhan

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Prayers to Govardhan

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Sri Govardhana-Vasa-Prarthana-Dasakam
Ten Prayers for Residence at Sri Govardhan

Mexican architect Luis Barragan defined architecture as an art wherein one “creates aesthetic emotion in the atmosphere and when this environment produces well being.” By this definition, Govardhan Hill can be seen as the central architectural feature of the divine landscape of Vrindavan. Its fourteen mile circumference crowded with holy sites, Govardhan is a literal mountain of aesthetic stimuli for meditation on Krishna’s lila (divine play). For centuries it has remained the desired place of residence and pilgrimage for Krishna devotees.

Composed by the 16th century Chaitanya Vaisnava saint, Raghunath das Goswami, Sri Govardhana-Vasa-Prarthana-Dasakam is a poetic meditation on Govardhana Hill as the premier servant of Krishna lila, as well as a call for grace, via the refrain “nija-nikita-nivasam dehi govardhana! tvam”, “O Govardhana, please grant me residence near your side”.

Govardhana is seen as unique by Krishna devotees, being both a direct manifestation of God, as well as a servant of divine lila by providing a variety of idyllic environments just suited for the eternal soul’s loving union with the supreme deity.

In his book, Dance of Divine Love, Graham M. Schweig notes, “The special nature of lila is both playful and didactic. Although lila is for the pleasure of Krishna and His devotees, and everything that occurs in lila contributes to the delight and celebration of supreme love and beauty, there are aspects that also instruct those who have yet to enter into it’s esoteric domain.” Similarly, Raghunath das Goswami’s prayer not only celebrates Krishna’s divine play but also frames it as both a focal point of meditation and a model of servitude for the bhakti-yogi. Simultaneously, Raghunath das points to Govardhan as the ideal setting for sadhana (spiritual practice) for those with the aim of direct perception of Krishna lila as the Ultimate Reality.

Sri Govardhana-Vasa-Prarthana-Dasakam is composed in the meter known as malini, having fifteen syllables per quarter, and is sung here by Nityananda das, a student at the Srimad-Bhagavata Vidyapitam, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust’s Sanskrit school at the foot of Govardhana Hill.

Below, find the Sanskrit transliteration and English translation for the ten verses and an eleventh verse which serves as the phala shruti, (fruit or boon of hearing).

Kaustubha das

Sri Govardhana-Vasa-Prarthana-Dasakam
Ten Prayers for Residence at Sri Govardhan


1.
nija-pati bhuja dandacchatra-bhavam prapadya
prati-hata madadhrishtod-danda-devendra-garva
atula-prithula-saila-sreni-bhupa! priyam menija-nikata
-nivasam dehi govardhana! tvam

O Govardhana! You became the umbrella which was held by the arm of your own Lord Krsna! In this way Sri Krsna diminished Indra, the king of the demigods, who was intoxicated by great pride. You are the incomparable king of all the big mountains, please allow me to live close by you.

2.
pramada-madana-lilah kandare kandare te
racayati nava-yunor-dvandvam asminn-amandam
iti kila kalanartham lagna-kastad-dvayor me
nija-nikata-nivasam dehi govardhana! tvam

O Govardhana! The young Divine Couple, Sri Sri Radha-Krsna, play splendid wild loving games in your every cave, so I became very eager to see Them there. Please allow me to live close by you.

3.
anupama-mangi-vedi-ratna-simhasanorvi-
ruhajhara-darasanudroni-sangheshu-rangaih
saha bala-sakhibhih sangkhelayan sva-priyam me
nija-nikata-nivasam dehi govardhana! tvam

O Govardhana! In topmost joy Krsna plays together with Balarama and the cowherd boys in your incomparable jeweled pavilions and thrones, in the hollows of your trees, in your caves, and valleys. Please allow me to live close by you!

4.
rasa-nidhi-nava-yunoh sakshinim dana-keler-
dyuti-parimala-viddham syama-vedim prakasya
rasika-vara-kulanam modam asphalayan me
nija-nikata-nivasam dehi govardhana! tvam

O Govardhana! You are the witness of Radha and Krsna’s tax game (In which Krsna charges tax from the ghee the gopis carry on their heads) which is an ocean of mellows. You increase the joy of the mellows of the devotees with your display of bluish platforms that are full of splendour and fragrance. Please allow me to live close by you!

5.
hari dayitam apurvam radhika-kundam atma-
priya-sakham iha kanthe narmana ‘lingya guptah
nava-yuva-yuga-khelas-tatra pasyan raho me
nija-nikata-nivasam dehi govardhana! tvam

O Govardhana! You affectionately and secretly embrace the neck of your own dear friend, Sri Radha Kunda, the place which is very dear to you and Lord Hari. Please allow me to live close by you and show me the intimate pastimes of the Divine Young Couple there!

6.
sthala-jala-tala-sashpair-bhuruhacchayaya cha
prati-padam anukalam hanta samvardhayan gah
tri-jagati nija-gotram sarthakam khyapayan me
nija-nikata-nivasam dehi govardhana! tvam

O Govardhana! You make your name, “nourisher of cows”, successful by constantly giving land, water, grass and the shade of your trees to the cows and thus you are famous in the three worlds. Please allow me to live close by you!

7.
sura-pati-krita-dirgha-drohato goshtha-raksham
tava nava griha-rupasy antare kurvataiva
agha-baka-ripunoccair-dattamana! drutam me
nija-nikata-nivasam dehi govardhana! tvam

O Govardhana! Your glories are increased by the enemy of Aghasura and Bakasura, Sri Krsna, when He protected the Vrajavasis and vanquished Indra by quickly using you as their new shelter from the rain. Please allow me to live close by you.!

8.
giri-nripa! haridasa-sreni-varyeti-nama-
mritam idam uditam sri-radhika-vaktra-candrat
vraja-nava-tilakatve klripta ! vedaih sphutam me
nija-nikata-nivasam dehi govardhana! tvam

O Govardhana! King of mountains! Because the nectar of your name as Hari’s best servant emanated from Srimati Radharani’s pearl-like mouth, which was revealed by Vedic scriptures like Srimad Bhagavatam (10.21.18), you are called the new tilaka (because of your long thin bluish shape at the edge of Vraja) of Vraja. Please allow me to live close by you.

9.
nija-janayuta-radha-krishna-maitri-rasakta-
vraja-nara-pasu-pakshi vrata-saukhyaika-datah
aganita-karunatvan-mam uri-kritya tantam
nija-nikata-nivasam dehi govardhana! Tvam

O Govardhana! You are the only giver of joy to Sri Sri Radha Krsna and Their associates, that are always surrounded by the people, animals and birds of Vraja in the mood of friendship. Please mercifully accept me and allow me to live close by you.

10.
nirupadhi-karunena sri-sachi-nandanena
tayi kapati-satho ‘pi tvat-priyenarpito ‘smi
iti khalu mama yogyayogyatam tamagrihnan
nija-nikata-nivasam dehi govardhana! tvam

O Govardhana! Although I am vile and deceitful, the causelessly merciful Sri Sacinandana(Sri Chaitanya) submitted me to you. Therefore, do not consider whether I am qualified or unqualified and accept me. Allow me please to live close by you.

11.
rasada-dasakam-asya srila-govardhanasya
kshiti-dhara-kula-bhartur-yahprayatnadadhite
sa sapadi sukhade ‘smin vasamasadya sakshach-
chhubhada-yugala-seva-ratnam apnoti turnam

Anyone who carefully recites these ten verses praising the king of mountains Srila Govardhana, the giver of divine mellows, will swiftly attain a place to live close by Govardhana, the bestower of bliss, and he will attain the precious jewel of the auspicious loving service of the Divine Couple, Sri Sri Radha Krsna.

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