TREASURES OF JAIPUR
F e b r u a r y 1 8 – 1 9 , 2 0 0 1
OUR ENTOURAGE OF GAURA ÇAKTI, Mickey and Sherry Goldman, and I reached Jaipur on the morning of February 18. There we were joined by Çré Prahläda and Rukmiëé Priya from Våndävana. Mickey and Sherry were eager to see the sights of the Pink City, constructed by Mahäräja Jai Sing II as a fortress to protect Çréla Rüpa Goswami’s Deities, Çré Çré Rädhä-Govindajé, who left Våndävana when the fanatic Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb ordered the destruction of all sacred images and temples in the late 17th century. In time, other important Gauòéya Vaiñëava Deities (Rädhä-Dämodara, Rädhä-Gopinätha, and Rädhä-Vinode, the Deities of Jéva Goswami, Madhu Pandit, and Lokanätha Goswami respectively) came for the same reasons. They have all been worshipped here since. Rädhä-Govinda, being the principal Deities of Jaipur, are worshipped nicely, but not as much attention is given to the other Deities.
Hundreds of years ago the rulers gave prominence to the worship of the Deity, knowing that by doing so there would be good fortune for the people. However, modern rulers ignore the Deities, preferring instead to concentrate on their own endeavors to gain name, fame, and money. As a result, the beautiful city of Jaipur is slowly deteriorating. Also, there has been a severe drought here for more than three years. Water is rationed, most people being supplied for only two hours a day. As a result, crops are affected and the price of food has escalated. No one knows how to solve the problem, but the answer is clearly given by Çréla Prabhupäda in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam :
When the Hare Kåñëa mantra is chanted by many men together, the chanting is called saìkértanaa, and as a result of such a yajïa there will be clouds in the sky. In these days of drought, people can gain relief from scarcity of rain and food by the simple method of the Hare Kåñëa yajïa. Indeed, this can relieve all of human society. At present there are droughts throughout Europe and America, and people are suffering, but if people take this Kåñëa consciousness movement seriously, if they stop their sinful activities and chant the Hare Kåñëa mahä-mantra, all their problems will be solved without difficulty.
—Bhäg. 9.1.17, purport
On top of our list of the many attractions in Jaipur was the Rädhä-Govinda temple. In fact, it was naturally the first place to visit because of its being in the very center of the city. Thousands of people begin their day there by attending maìgala-ärati and greeting the Deities later in the morning. I feel a special attachment to Rädhä-Govinda for several reasons: They are the beloved Deities of our principal teacher in the art of loving Kåñëa, Çréla Rüpa Goswami; Their history is colorful and intriguing, with Their daring move from Våndävana to Jaipur; Their present worship touches the heart and brings forth spiritual feelings.
I first came to Rädhä-Govinda’s temple as a new sannyäsé in 1979. I was traveling alone on my way to South India to visit the appearance site of Lord Nåsiàha in Ahovalam. When I entered the temple room early one morning, there were thousands of people singing beautiful songs to Govindajé with intense emotion. With their hands together in namaskära, they swayed back and forth, appealing to the Deity with love and devotion. I had been chanting Hare Kåñëa for years, but I had never chanted with so much feeling. The fact that thousands of people were doing so simultaneously had an overwhelming effect on me. I realized that the holy name was the only means of deliverance in this age, and I witnessed that the beauty of Govindajé made those devotees call out to Him with feeling.
Let the twice-born enter the fearless kingdom of yoga, Vedic study, and solitary meditation in the forest. Let them become liberated in that way. As for us, we will spend hundreds of thousands of births chanting the holy name of Lord Kåñëa, whose splendid dark complexion and yellow garments are like a host of blue lotus flowers blooming in a grove of yellow-flower-bearing kadamba trees.
—Padyävalé, Introduction, Text 18
As Mickey and Sherry entered the Rädhä-Govinda temple room with me, they appeared relieved that visiting a temple didn’t mean going through the pushing and shoving we had experienced with the enthusiastic followers of Çré Näthjé in Nathdwar. Although there were thousands of people coming to see Govindajé, the temple room is large and spacious. To my surprise, Mickey and Sherry went straight to the front in order to get a good view of Rädhä-Govinda and study Their transcendental forms. In Nathdwar they had only a glimpse of Çré Näthjé; here they wanted to see first-hand who all the commotion was about.
Our discussion about Deity worship had evolved since our initial conversation, when they politely referred to it as “idol worship.” But they had experienced something special at Çré Näthjé’s temple and were curious to know more. Their attitude reminded me of Çréla Prabhupäda’s words at the installation of the first Rädhä-Kåñëa Deities in Los Angeles: “If you see these Deities as brass, They will remain like that to you forever. But if you approach Them with love and devotion, one day They will speak to you!”
On the way to Jaipur from Udaipur, Mickey and Çré Prahläda discussed Deity worship. I was intrigued, because Mickey and his wife are from conservative Jewish families where, of course, “idol worship” is condemned.
Mickey: Does the Deity have to be thousands of years old, or can someone establish a new Deity?
Çré Prahläda: New Deities are made according to the directions of scripture. Six types of Deities are described therein: those made from wood, stone, metal, gems, and earth, and those in the mind.
Mickey: I would tend to believe in a Deity in the mind.
Çré Prahläda: That’s the highest form of worship, but also the most difficult. Therefore, the physical Deities are given to help focus our internal meditation.
Mickey: Is Deity worship like yoga?
Çré Prahläda: There are different types of yoga. The process we follow is called bhakti-yoga, the yoga of love and devotion. Through Deity worship we practice worshipping God with love.
Mickey: This is all so interesting, so fascinating. I could never have understood it unless I came here and saw it for myself.
Seeing Mickey and Sherry intently studying the forms of Rädhä and Kåñëa, the head püjäré did an amazing thing that only deepened my faith in the power of the Deity to reciprocate with our approaches to Him. He called Mickey and Sherry forward to the front of the altar and had them stand just a meter away from Rädhä-Govinda! Sherry had spontaneously purchased a garland outside the temple, and now that she was in front of the Deity she gathered strength and slowly handed it to the püjäré, indicating that he should give it to Rädhä and Kåñëa. Understanding the special nature of the moment, the püjäré took the garland and gave it to Rädhäräëé, then took two garlands from Rädhäräëé and tulasé leaves from Govindajé’s feet and presented them to Mickey and Sherry. The many pilgrims present and I watched in amazement.
When Mickey and Sherry came back from the altar, they garlanded themselves, ate the tulasé leaves, and folded their hands in namaskära, looking at Rädhä and Kåñëa.
Deciding that from this point on I would have no hesitation in bringing them closer to the Lord, I gave them a number of Govindajé’s mahä-lugloo sweet balls and said that they should distribute them to the people. As soon as they held the prasädam out, they were deluged by pilgrims eager for mercy. Mickey was in bliss and turned to me saying, “It’s better to give than to receive.”
We left early the next day for Våndävana. Mickey and Sherry were eager to go to Våndävana because I had told them there were five thousand temples there. Mickey asked if there were Deities in every temple, and I said, “Yes, of course.”
Then he asked if all the Deities were black. I replied, “Yes, most of Them.” When he asked, “Who is the girl who’s always standing next to Kåñëa?” I gave him a brief explanation.
As he started with yet another question, I had to say, “Mickey, let’s rest now for a little while. We’ll talk about all this in Våndävana. The atmosphere there is conducive for these types of questions.”
For a few moments he was silent. Then, like a young boy, he asked, “How long will it take us to get to Våndävana?”
“I don’t think it’s going to take you very long to get there, Mickey.”
“What’s that?” he said.
“Nothing. Let’s rest.”
I couldn’t believe the transformation that had taken place in our two guests from rural America. Only days before they had so many doubts about the process of worshipping the Deity of the Lord. Now they were expressing so much eagerness to see Him. Kåñëa is surely the supreme mystic!
I offer my respectful obeisances to wonderful, playful, mischievous Kåñëa of Rädhä-Govinda who, if He desires, can make an ocean dry land, dry land an ocean, a blade of grass a thunderbolt, a thunderbolt an insignificant blade of grass, fire cool, or snow a blazing fire.
—Padyävalé, Introduction, Text 6