Pandharpur,in Maharashtra, is one of the most prominent pilgrimage sites in India.
Although many ISKCON devotees may be unaware of Pandharpur, historically the
town is of great significance to Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Lord Caitanya visited Pandharpur for a full 11 days during His travels through India. His elder brother Visvarupa, who left home at an early age, made Pandharpur his sannyasa-ksetra and left this world from there. Lord Nityananda took initiation from Laksmi Tirtha on the banks of the Chandrabhaga river, which flows through Pandharpur. The presiding Deity of the town is Lord Krsna in His form of Vitthal.This famous and popular deity resides in an ancient stone temple that covers a large area. Millions of pilgrims visit Pandharpur each year. We spent 3 days there and the town reminded me very much of India when I first visited 40 years ago. ISKCON has a large property on the other side of the river which is also popular with pilgrims. Pandharpur is a “must see” for all ISKCON devotees visiting India. It is a 3 hour drive from Pune. [ Photos by Indradyumna Swami ]
“Here our Lord herded the calves, and here He played the flute. I pray that I may pass my days shedding tears as I speak these words on the Yamuna’s shore.” [ Sri Raghupati Upadhyaya, from Rupa Goswami’s Padyavali ].
After setting up our 2015 festival tour in Maharashtra, I am back in beloved Vrindavan for a few days before proceeding to Australia. This morning I woke up to the cooing of peacocks, the mooing of cows, temple bells and sadhus chanting. I quickly showered and with camera in hand, set off on Vrindavan parikrama. Sharing my good fortune, I pray these photos will convey the transcendental attributes of this amazing abode of Sri Sri Radha and Krsna.
Dear disciples: “The Hourglass” a class given in Pune, India last week is now available on www.narottam.com. The class is about the powerful effects of time and how best to use time in Krsna’s service.
Varsana is where Srimate Radharani lived in Her youth. It is dear to all Vrajavasis. A number of them are fortunate to take birth and live their lives in that sacred abode. On my way out of Vrindavan to Australia this morning, I stopped by Varsana to roll in the dust, visit King Vrsabhanu’s palace, take the mercy of the genuine sadhus who live there and pray to Radharani for Her grace to please my spiritual master with my upcoming preaching in Sydney and Hong Kong. It is extremely hard to leave Vraja … but I will be back in one month to begin our festival programs in Maharashtra.
“I wander over this earth meditating on Her, who is a moon shining in the rasa-dance arena, who is a host of bright lamps in Vrsabhanu’s palace, and who is the central jewel in the necklace of Goloka.”
sri rasa rangasya vikasa candrika
dipavalir ya vrsabhanu mandire
goloka cuda mani kantha bhusanam
dhyatvaparam tam bhuvi paryatamy aham
[ Narada Muni, Garga Samhita 1.8.12 ]
Tomorrow I fly to Sydney, Australia for a 3-day seminar. I follow in the footsteps of many godbrothers and godsisters who pioneered the movement there year’s ago. I will eagerly seek out the association of those Vaisnavas who now carry on Srila Prabhupada’s mission ‘downunder.” All glories to Madhudvisa prabhu, emperor of kirtan. All glories to all the Australian devotees!
“I understand that you are now preparing for going to Australia and I am so much glad that you are so enthusiastic in preaching the transcendental cult of Krishna Consciousness. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu will be very much pleased upon you. Lord Caitanya desired that this cult of love for Krishna, which is the highest benefit for the living entity, shall be preached all over the world. As an intelligent boy you can understand how much this Krishna Consciousness Movement is necessary for the benefit of the human society … So I am appealing to everyone, especially intelligent boys like you, to take up the propaganda work of Krishna Consciousness Movement very seriously, and it will be a great service to the human beings …. We are authorized, and we shall go ahead more and more. [ Srila Prabhupada letter to Bali Mardan dasa, January, 21, 1970 ]
“My dear Lord. O Supreme Personality of Godhead, because of my association with material desires, one after another, I was gradually falling into a blind well full of snakes, following the general populace. But your servant Narada Muni kindly accepted me as his disciple and instructed me how to achieve this transcendental position. Therefore, my first duty its to serve him. How could I ever leave his service?” [ SB 7.9.28 ]
The ongoing hostage crisis in Sydney is unfolding just a few hundred meters from where we are staying. Parts of the downtown area are on lockdown, numerous streets are closed and helicopters are flying overhead. People close to the drama are being advised to stay inside. Many here never expected that an apparent terrorist operation could take place so close to home. We pray for a peaceful outcome. But the Srimad Bhagavatam informs us that in this material world there is danger at every step and therefore it behooves us to return to the spiritual world, Vaikuntha; that place where there is no anxiety.
In solidarity with the people of Sydney, who were slowly coming to terms with the recent hostage siege downtown at Martin Place, we took our harinam party to the streets to give them solace and relief from the grief they were feeling. Our sign, “United in Prayer For Those We’ve Lost,” was greatly appreciated by the people, but so was our joyful singing and dancing, which brought a sense of relief and closure to the ordeal they’d experienced. People slowly began smiling again. We sold a number books that day as many sought answers to questions that often come up during tragedies.
For the past several months Hong Kong has been disrupted with massive street protests challenging some key government policies. Regularly tens of thousands of people have come out venting their anger and frustration by blocking important streets and avenues. On a few occasions the protests turned violent. Last week the police forcibly cleared the streets and stopped all demonstrations. Several days ago, when we asked for permission to do harinam with 100 visiting devotees from Mainland China, we weren’t sure the city authorities would grant us permission. But to our amazement they did. When we inquired as to how we got the OK, the response came back, “Hare Krsna singing processions are something positive.”
Last night, accompanied by a police escort, we took a small Ratha Yatra cart on harinam through old Hong Kong, distributing the gift of the holy names to everyone. Being Christmas Eve the people were in good spirits and many smiled, waved and even danced with us as we made our way through the crowded streets. A most perfect way to spend the night before Christmas!
“O Gurudeva! What mantra have you given me? What powers does it possess? As I chant this mantra, I feel that it is turning me into a madman.” [ Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-llia.7.81 ]
In a few hours I leave Hong Kong. In reality, I am leaving the blissful association of the Chinese devotees here, who are the sweetest of the sweet. The only consolation is that I am headed to beloved Vrindavan for a brief respite of 3 days. In two weeks time we begin preaching in earnest again with our 2-month festival tour in Maharashtra. Forty devotees from around the world will come together to present a joyous festival that we hope will inspire the people of that region to take up the teachings of Sriman Mahaprabhu.
Over 1400 devotees have already registered for the Sadhu Sanga Retreat scheduled to take place in a picturesque retreat center in Boone, North Carolina, USA over the Memorial Day Weekend (May 22 to May 25, 2015) featuring Radhanatha Swami, Sacinandana Swami, Giriraj Swami, Bada Haridas prabhu, Madhava prabhu, Aditi Dukhaha prabhu and Gaura Vani prabhu. We have run out of all onsite accommodations. Very few hotels nearby have enough rooms to accommodate the group of our size. However, the Appalachian State University has been gracious this year to offer their subsidized residence halls that are located at just a 15-min drive from the retreat center. Please register at www.sadhusangaretreat.com to relish this opportunity to chant kirtans all day in the association of such exalted devotees of our movement!
Bada Haridas and myself arrived back to winter in Vrindavan. It’s very cold and foggy in the mornings, but by the afternoon it warms up. Immediately after settling in we embarked on a 3-hour parikrama around the holy dhama. Along the way we met many of our old Vrajavasi friends.
“It Takes Time,” this morning’s class in Vrindavan on how to take advantage of the Lord’s protection to become perfected in Krsna consciousness and the importance of enlightening others.
An afternoon walk in downtown Vrindavan with my camera reveals the beauty of the town and it’s people on a cool winter afternoon.
Even in cold winter, Srimati Radharani’s home in Varsana teems with locals and pilgrims alike visiting the holy places of that sacred abode. A day before leaving Vrindavan we joined them, all the while begging Radharani to bless our upcoming festival programs in Maharashtra.
“I emphatically say to you, O brothers, you will obtain your good fortune from the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa only when Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī
becomes pleased with you.”
[ Srila Prabhupada, ‘Prayers To The Lotus Feet Of Krsna’, Verse One ]