14 Oct ISKCON Ujjain – The Spiritual Oasis Part 1
By Her Grace Citrangada Dasi
Hare Krishna Dear Readers,
Please accept my humble obeisances.
All Glories to Srila Prabhupada
All Glories to Guru Maharaja
All Glories to Sri Dhama Avantipura.
By the dint of Srila Gurudev’s mercy, I attempt to write some of my experiences in Ujjain this year and hope I manage to refect a speck of the glories of the dhama. After waiting for almost a year, finally September 2010 arrived and it was time to fly back to my most favourite place in this world, Ujjain. I booked my tickets with Airasia to Kolkata in April after Guru Maharaja confirmed that the 2010 Vyasa Puja celebrations will be held in Sridhama Mayapur. However when the venue for the celebrations changed to Ujjain, I must confess to being happier even though I had to buy another ticket to Mumbai. The intimacy and the presence of Sri Sri Radha Madan Mohan and Sri Sri Krishna Balaram are almost an integral part of the festival and imagining celebrating Srila Prabhupada’s Memorial Festival without Them made me feel a little sad.
I feel that Their Lordships preside over Srila Prabhupada’s Memorial Festival and give it the grandeur and importance that befits such a momentous day. They also so mercifully arrange for all of us to be together with Guru Maharaja as a family. So by the dint of Their divine plan, and to my elation, Guru Maharaja decided to celebrate the Festival and his birthday in Ujjain.
Every visit to Ujjain Dhama is momentous and unique on its own and I have been making these annual pilgrimages to Ujjain since 2005. Every visit carries with it the most sweetest impressions, sounds and even smell!…Yes…This time I realized that the fragrance that permeated the Temple hall and surroundings was not the same as before! Later I found out from one of the pujaris that we are now using a sweet smelling incense that is being produced in Ujjain under the guidance of Guru Maharaja. Yes, Even the fragrance in Ujjain is unique.
Sri Sri Radha Madan-Mohan Mandir manifests many different changes over the years and I find I have not run out of words and passion to glorify the spiritual abode of the most beautiful Deities in the ISKCON world. Call me prejudiced, but one look at Srimati Radharani and you are hooked! By the way, I have testimony for my assertion. My sister who visited Ujjain for the first time this year fell in love at first sight with our Princess of Vrajadham and now she plans to visit every year.
So, I dropped my bags in the Guest House and ran to see my Beloved Krishna Balaram and to my elation I saw Guru Maharaja walking down the stairs towards the Temple Hall. Although very conscious of my overnight shabby attire, I felt like the most special person in the world when Guru Maharaja said “Haribol, When did you come, I was expecting you earlier?” and for the life of me I can’t even remember what I replied! Actually I babbled I think, awestruck as usual by His very presence. In my happiness, all the tiredness of travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Kolkata, Kolkata-Mumbai, Mumbai-Ujjain just disappeared. Then I walked into the Temple, took darshan and sat for the Bhagavatam class. So that was the beginning of the precious 15 day holidays in Ujjain. But alas the only thing missing was my partner in crime who was stuck in New York with visa problems….yes…I am talking about my best friend, Arcana devi dasi.
Arcana arrived the next day and we literally flung ourselves on each other and jumped while we hugged. We were back together again to experience the joy of being with Guru Maharaja and the Deities, who are the basis of our deep found relationship and after that we just immersed ourselves in attending aratis, seminars, kirtan, dancing, chanting and everything else we planned to do in Ujjain.
The whole trip was such a soul enriching experience. Listening to the Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita classes given by Guru Maharaja was in itself a boon to the tainted senses but the morning classes on “Saranagati” was for me the most realishable of all. Apart from having my heart drenched with the sweetness of my spiritual master’s singing, the import of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur’s lyrics left such a deep and meaningful impression in my heart and mind. When I sing these songs at home now, I feel differently, I feel the significance of the words, the mood in which Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur must have composed these sweet poetic songs and mainly like what Arcana and I discussed, the essence of Krishna Consciousness was reflected in these beautiful songs. I sincerely believe that it is ONLY because of Guru Maharaja and his purity that these feelings become manifest in the heart of the disciple.
As for the seminar on Mahabharat, it was AMAZING. Not only is the epic amazing by itself but Guru Maharaja’s reading and recitation was even more amazing. I was truly spell bound by Guru Maharaja’s excellent power of memory and how he could get into every nook and corner of the greatest epic in the world with such ease. I realize more and more and more that Guru Maharaja is not an ordinary person and is truly a descendent of Srila Vyasadev. He remembered overlapping sub stories and plots, names of every character (even in different births and yugas), the names of places and forests, the minute details that would astound any avid listener….It was awesome, simply awesome. I envisioned the scenes playing like a movie reel in my mind whilst Guru Maharaja described the epic. I confess to watching the epic serial on television back home but I loved watching Guru Maharaja getting into the details of the scenes with such animation and wonder. I am sure everyone in the hall felt the same way.
Due to time constrain and a very heavy schedule, Guru Maharaja was not able to finish the seminar in a manner that I think he wanted to. He humbly apologized and mentioned that this was his first attempt at giving a seminar on Mahabharat. However I personally felt that if Guru Maharaja’s intention was to invoke our interest in this ageless traditional wealth of vedic culture and knowledge and the history of our ancestors, I believe he succeeded. After much discussion with everyone else, the response was tremendously inspiring. Everyone discussed about the mighty warriors; Yudisthira, Arjuna, Bheema (my favourite guy in the whole epic..) Drona, Shikandi, Ashvattama, Bhismadev etc and who can forget Druyodhana…and Karna. I still think of poor Draupadi and the trauma she went through…These people were real, they existed, they were part of our history and Krishna, our beloved Krishna….He was EVERYWHERE in this whole epic. I was so happy when I found a book in the airport entitled “Heros of Kurushetra”. We had REAL heros then!
Dear Readers, I have so much to write about this visit and will do so in “Ujjain Dhama- Spiritual Oasis Part 2”. I especially want to mention about the Memorial Festival itself and Guru Maharaja Vyasa Puja celebrations in the evening. I was very moved by the love and affection expressed by our 2 brahmachari brothers from Calcutta who are disciples of HH Tamal Krishna Goswami towards Guru Maharaja in the morning programme of the Festival and Radhastami of course.
Please forgive me if my article reflects the personal aspect of my realizations and views but that is the only way I can express myself and beg forgiveness if I have in anyway offended anyone with the above. With your permission I will write Part 2.
Thanking you once again for allowing me to write for the pleasure of Guru & Gauranga.