05 Jan PURI PARIKRAMA PART ONE
I waited for almost 20 over years to visit the spiritual abode of my most worshipful Lord., the Lord of the Universe, Lord Jagannatha. I lamented for many years that I was not able to visit the sacred dwelling place of Lord Nilachal which is compared to Vaikuntha in this material world. I was convinced that when that fateful day arrived to place my head on the purest dust of Jagannath Puri, my life’s journey would change, that a curve would manifest in my spiritual path that would meander me towards fulfilment or completion. Yes, every one of my senses especially the eyes craved for that first glance of my Lord in Shri Purushottam Dham……Shri Jagannath Puri….Shri Ksetradham.
In my experience, I could never visit any of the Holy Dhams unless I had the blessings and approval of Guru Maharaj. It is only by the dint of his causeless mercy that I am able to visit these places of pilgrimage. So, after obtaining Guru Maharaj’s permission I went ahead to go with the Kuala Lumpur yatra for the famous Puri Parikrama organized by His Holiness Purushottam Swami. When Maharaja visited us recently in Malaysia, he drowned our senses with the glories of Lord Jagannath for 3 continuous days and enchanted us with the mystical stories of the Lord’s pastimes with his beloved devotees. Maharaja infused in us the element of hankering to experience this most auspicious pilgrimage. By His mercy and blessings, we could finally make the trip.
Before I venture into the details of my journey, I beg forgiveness from my spiritual master, my siksa gurus and senior devotees especially His Grace Anangamohan prabhu who led and guided the International Party for my impudence of even trying to describe the spiritual potency of Jagannath Puri. I beg to share my humble realizations with all my friends and well wishers so as fortify myself further in my own practise of Krishna consciousness and pray to be exonerated from any kind of sense gratification and false pride.
I decided that I will write about my own insight rather than the ‘parikrama’ itself or about the glories of the ancient temples that we visited. I would like to relate about the people, the humble and special devotees that we met, the surroundings, even the trees and the lavender coloured coned shaped flowers that grew in the many lotus ponds in Puri…. the finer things that truly made the parikrama special to me.
The day we arrived in Jagannath Puri we were greeted by our gurubhai, Satyabhanu prabhu. I was very happy to see him and he too reciprocated with warmth. His first words were, “Mataji remember I told you in Ujjain at Guru Maharaja’s Vyasa Puja that you will come to see Jagannath?…see you are here!” The blessings of vaisnavas will only enhance and bestow on us all auspiciousness. He made such wonderful arrangements for the Malaysian yatra under the supervision of HH Purushottam swami.
I wish to mention here that prabhuji and his wife Divya have been married for a year now. I knew Divya an Oriyan disciple of HH Jayapataka Swami from Calcutta, when she was looking for an appropriate alliance. Both of them take care and cook for the Maharajas who come to Puri, man the bookshop and undertake any task given to them by the Authority with such humility. I was so pleased to hear others in the yatra comment on how prabhuji emulates Guru Maharaja’s sense of care and hospitality, like a proud sister. As an elder sister I was so happy to bless them on the occasion of their first wedding anniversary that day and gave them a gift as I was not able to attend their marriage.
I realize that we expect loving care and hospitality from the devotees when we are travelling in India or anywhere else away from home but how much are we willing to sacrifice ourselves? Granted that giving up one’s privacy, comforts and sharing of material belongings is a hard thing to do but it has to be done for the pleasure of devotees who need our help and shelter. In return Krishna will facilitate us in the most wonderful way through a devotee. It’s a beautiful cycle…give with no expectation and you will always be given.,..even more..I am sure many of you experience this. I can swear by it. The essence is to care for others with genuine concern and love. So, I would like to thank these nice devotees for their loving hospitality.
Guess what was the first prasad we honoured in Jaganath Puri??? Satyabhanu prabhu brought puree and potato subji from our ISKCON Temple I swear it was the most delicious puree I ever tasted! We stayed in a Guest House called Konark Hotel nearby the ISKCON temple which made it possible to attend mangal arati. I was surprised to find that ISKCON Puri was such a small temple and it could hardly accommodate the crowd that was trickling in. But after some practise in shoving and pushing in Sridham Mayapur at mangal aratis…I could handle any volume of devotees!
Since we arrived a day earlier, on 22nd November, we had the opportunity to visit Bhubaneswar. So, after a sumptuous breakfast we got onto a comfortable bus that took us to Sakshi Gopal Temple, ISKCON Bhubaneswar and the famous Konark Temple which is also an ancient archaeological sight. In the Sakshi Gopal Temple, I found the persistence and perseverance of the pandas or brahmanas to get laxmi from the visitors in any which way they could, quite disturbing. After being counselled on how to behave and react with these brahmanas, I was still not prepared for the actual encounter. I felt very intimidated and fearful of their loud and harsh manner of speech but I kept my mind focused and begged Krishna to bestow on me the mercy of being “detached” to my surroundings and to take darshan with the right consciousness. Even after we got into the bus, two elderly brahmanas came right up the bus door and started shouting and cursing for want of laxmi. I have to confess that I left the Temple feeling “unfulfilled”. I wanted to “feel” the place and the unforgettable pastimes of the Lord there but could not do so. Hence a very good excuse to come again next year.
However ISKCON Bhubaneswar left me in a trance. It was beautiful, so special and the vibration and ambiance of this temple is indescribable. It doesn’t have the pomp and grandeur of the bigger ISKCON temples in India but one really feels the presence and energy of His Holiness Gour Govinda Maharaja here. I couldn’t leave the Temple Hall. I fell in love with the sweet, sweet Krishna Balaram deities who made me feel so welcomed…I could not take my eyes away from Them during darshan and didn’t even realize the others had left the temple hall for lunch at Govindas. The pujari who must have witnessed my dazed look, picked up a big green guava fruit from the feet of Their Lordships and dropped it in my hands. Yes! They made me feel so welcomed….
Satyabhanu prabhu who came looking for me in the Temple Hall, after seeing my tearful eyes, said that he will introduce me to the pujari, who happened to be another gurubhai. This young Bengali god-brother had such a sweet disposition. He came forth to greet me with a big smile and we simultaneously paid obeisances to each other. He also recognized me from Ujjain. We spoke for a while and bid farewell with plans to meet again this year for Guru Maharaja’s Vyasa Puja.
I must mention here that I felt so proud to have the association of my Godbrothers who have dedicated their lives in the service of Guru and Krishna. I felt blessed and happy to have this family that Guru Maharaja gave us as we are connected through him via initiation. The feeling is so wonderful. Even if we are a big family in ISKCON, when we meet a God-brother or sister, the binding factor is Guru Maharaja and with this bond we share the sweetness of being able to share the glories of our spiritual master and his loving mood. For me, I feel a sense of pride and honour when I see my God-brother or -sister engaged in such loving devotional service to please Guru Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada and Krishna. My first reaction is to give them encouragement, to genuinely praise their humble efforts and to appreciate their commitment. We cannot take for granted the difficulties that lie beneath every single devotee’s endeavour to stay fixed at the lotus feet of the spiritual master and ISKCON, so as a family member, we must give each other this strength and support.
The other factor is Guru Maharaja’s Vyasa Puja…..it is such an important occasion for many obvious reasons and now I realize even more how important it is, as it brings us, brothers and sisters together for a common purpose. Guru Maharaja not only gives us the opportunity to associate with him in a personal and spiritual platform during the Vyasa Puja celebrations but he facilitates us with an opportunity to acquaint ourselves with each other as brothers and sisters in devotional service. The importance of this mercy cannot be reiterated more. We not only need to guide and care for each other in our spiritual life but share our hearts and minds on how we can serve Guru and one another better in the spiritual platform. No man is an island as the saying goes and the same works for all of us under the roof of ISKCON. I am grateful for this amazing grace. One of my new year resolution is to be more conscious of this aspect in my spiritual and material life.
After that it was a long drive to the other famous Temples in Bhubaneswar and the Sun-God Temple in Konark. It was an awesome sight and definitely considered an archaeological feat that will be glorified for time immemorial. Such is the brilliance of our Indian culture and history. The worship of the Gods, the history of these temples interrelated with sociology, archaeology, astrology and the science of religion itself is evident that India once ruled the world as Bharat-varsha.
The landscape of the country side was a pleasure and a soothing balm to the eyes. Such greenery, fertile and lush wealth of flora and fauna and not forgetting the wide span of paddy fields that looked like a field of gold during sun set. As the bus had big open windows, half my body was outside the window,(to the horror of the bus driver who kept giving me signs), relishing the blowing of clean damp air on my face whilst thanking God for the gift of sight and smell. Orissa was revealing herself to me that day; her splendour, her generosity and wealth. She was exactly how I expected her to be…beautiful and generous. I could live here….that was my last thought before I went to bed that night feeling very, very contended.
The next day was 23rd the day we planned go to take darshan of the LORD OF THE UNIVERSE!….Even though everyone kept telling us about the many obstacles or impediments that we might face to get into Sri Mandir, I was confident that Sri Sri Jagannath Baladev and Subhadra will allow us to take darshan of Them without any problems…I believed that we were going to walk in with the feeling that our Lord was waiting to see us as much as we were dying to see Him. The day finally came and what a climax!…..never ever to be forgotten.
So, I will stop here for now and continue with part 2 at the soonest. Thank you for your time and for allowing me the opportunity to share my thoughts. My endeavours are only to please my spiritual master and hope these writings will evoke the right mood and realization. It is also a forum to express and communicate. Please feel free to comment and advise.
Your insignificant servant
Chitrangada devi dasi
Article Compiled And Sent By Her Grace Chitrangada Dasi