11 Jan PURI PARIKRAMA PART FOUR
My apologies for the break in between and the delay in offering you “Puri Parikrama Part 4”. We celebrated Jagannath Ratha Yatra in Kuala Lumpur last weekend at a grand scale. Incidentally, we have 28 Ratha Yatras in Malaysia!…Yes! 28. The festival has indeed put me in the mood to continue narrating my wonderful experiences on the last 2 days of the famous Puri Parikrama.
I forgot to mention in Part 3, that in the late evenings around 7.00pm, the International devotees were invited to gather at the beach front to hear more Jagannath katha from the Maharajas. A very thoughtful arrangement by Ananga Mohan prabhu. The atmosphere was always intimate, as there were usually less than 30 devotees around and after a hot and humid day, the cool sea breeze was a relaxing panacea. On the 25th night also H.H. Jayapataka Swami joined us on the beach. Maharaja spoke about Sri Mahaprabhu’s pastimes in Puri followed by a questions and answers session. I asked Maharaja since all 3 aspects of Aiswarya, Audarya and Mathurya were found in Puri, is this the best place for one to leave his body? Maharaja replied that since so many of our prominent acaryas left their bodies here, Puri must be a very special place, further even upon devastation in the end, Sri Khestra will continue to exist. It is eternal. We derived so much knowledge about the glories and potency of Jagannath Puri by attending this parikrama.
What I also liked about these evening rendezvous was that we could hear more details on the past times of the various places that we visited earlier in the day. H.H. Purushottam Swami always gave these kathas so much flavour and humour. He would run from our group to the Indian Group, making so much endeavour to please all the devotees. He makes time to speak to everyone and enquires about their comfort. His secretary, Sriharikanta prabhu also took very nice care of the devotees.
As I was leaving the beach, guess who I saw??? Yes! Our own little Nrshima Kripa from Ujjain with his mother, Subhangi mataji. He came flying into my arms for a big hug. I am so amazed by this little boy. He like many of the other ISKCON children are very special souls. I recall that on the last day of the parikrama, Nrshima Kripa actually walked with his mother and when he saw me, he chatted excitedly. He pointed out at the river nearby and said that it was the Yamuna and Kaliya the serpent was hiding in there! He said if we waited for a while, Krishna will jump out of the lake and kill the bad Kaliya….wow….Isn’t that amazing?! That is what Krishna “conscious” is all about, Isn’t it? ….seeing, hearing and feeling Krishna all the time. A lesson from Nrshima Kripa das, the 3 year old.
Coming back to the parikrama, on the 25th, we continued our second day of the parikrama with a zest, fully enthused. We visited Kapala Mochana Madadeva, 4 out of the 5 (panca tirthas) i.e. Markendeya Sarovara, Indrayumna Sarovara, Rohini kunda, Narendra Sarovara, the birth place of Srila Bhaktisidhanta Sarasvati Swami Prabhupada , Sri Jaganatha Vallabha Garden, Sri Nrshima Dev Temple and ended at the Gundica Temple at about 2.00pm.
I must mention that when we arrived at the birthplace of Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Swami Prabhupada, there was a bit of a chaos. The Indian contingent was just leaving whilst we were inching our way into the premises. It was a very festive atmosphere. One can hear at least three to four different kinds of languages being spoken at the same time! Lots of “Haribol! Haribol! could be heard. When we finally managed to settle in, H.H. Lokanata Swami proceeded to the front and sat in the middle with the twin brothers on each side. H.H. Rama Govinda Swami and H.H. Gauranga Prem Swami joined us a little later and sat at the back of them. There was such sweet banter and loving exchanges between Maharaja and the Twin Brothers. I was sitting right in front and could see Maharaja’s every expression when he spoke.
He spoke about the glories of Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Swami Prabhupada briefly but emphasized how he felt so overwhelmed with gratitude for being able to be in ISKCON and how as members of ISKCON all our activities are the activities of Srila Rupa Goswami and sanctioned by the guru parampara. Maharaja also mentioned that we must be brave, step forward and take the risk to perform the activities that will please Krishna. I remembered that and wrote it down immediately. I felt very empowered by Maharaja’s words and it indeed left an impact. He said Krishna is Trivikrama….He manifests from a small boy to a huge manifestation. So, there is no fear of anything as He will always protect us and our every endeavour to please Him. Nectarian words heard in the residence of our exalted Acarya.
Although we had to walk through puddles of mud water and uneven paths, I could appreciate the lush greenery here. One incident that comes to my mind was when we walked through a scenic village. I saw the father getting on his motorbike, probably to go to work and the son dressed in school uniform running out to touch his father’s feet for his blessings. The father although in a hurry placed his hands affectionately on his son’s head. It was very nice to see this exchange of respect and love practised in a traditional way.
We were welcomed by shady trees which made for a nice stop at the Sri Jagannatha Vallabha Gardens. I noticed that most of the trees were “leaning” in a particular angle or direction. Later, Jananivas prabhu mentioned that even the trees were facing Sri Mandir due to their hankering to see Jagannath! Here, both Jananivas prabhu and Pankhajangri prabhu spoke about how this whole area was a beautiful garden filled with fragrant flowers for the pleasure of the Lord.
After narrating some wonderful pastimes of Ramananda Raya, .H.H Rama Govinda prabhu who was present with us declared that one has to be so blessed and fortunate to have the opportunity to visit these places and to hear the pastimes of the associates of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabu. He said that although he has been to several puri parikramas, he never had the opportunity to visit these gardens. We were made to reflect on our good fortune created by Srila Prabhupada.
The other place that was really beautiful was Narendra Sarovara, north east of the Jagannath Temple . It’s a small temple on an island within the lake. The temple is dedicated to Lord Jagannath Baladev and Subhadra. This place of the Lord’s chandan yatra and the well known Boat Festival. Madan-Mohan who is none other than Jagannath is taken for a boat ride decorated by flowers known as chappa. In my mind I asked myself, “How can anyone doubt the precision or truth of these facts?? It was mentioned so precisely “chappa flowers”. Guru Maharaja mentioned during the Ujjain Retreat, when we did the Ramayana, that these narrations are not just mere fiction or mythology, they are real and factual. I cannot but fortify Guru Maharaja’s vehement statement by saying that once we understand and accept this edict, we will perceive the glory of our vaishnava history, heritage and culture without a single doubt. Where else will one find this kind of precision or accuracy in information??
Here we sat by the stone steps, sang along with Ananga Mohan prabhu and took the scene of this beautiful place in. I also found Indrayumna Sarovara to be special. When we arrived at the spot, walking through narrow road paths of a small town, one immediately notices the beautiful humongous banyan tree. This tree was awesome!. The thick dark bark of the banyan tree had beautiful vines growing all over, hundreds like hanging strings forming a nice canopy. It was said that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabu sat and preached under this very tree. Everyone sat on the stone stairs and surrounding area. Opposite this tree is the Neelakanda Mahadev temple. An ancient Temple. The presence of Lord Shiva is all pervading in Puri. On the right hand side of the sarovara is the small Gundica Temple. After sprinkling ourselves in the holy water and a 20 minute rests, we moved on to the Sri Nrshimha Dev Temple.
This Temple is also a “must see” in the list of Temples. I confess to being partial to this beautiful manifestation of the Lord but the vibration pervading in this Temple is indeed tangible. Devotees were singing “Namaste Narashimaya” all the time and by the time I reached the main alter, it was a “goose-bump” experience. As I had to sort out the travelling and accommodation plans for the KL Yatra in Calcutta with Ananga Mohan prabhu, I didn’t get enough time in this temple. Another place that beckons a second visit.
Thereafter our last stop for the seconnd day was the Gundica Temple!…What a beautiful place and amazing architecture. I found the big space and huge court yards very pleasing. Our friends, the monkeys, were hyper active that afternoon. One didn’t let me in easily….I was targeted for the day, I think. After patiently waiting for a while, when the coast was clear, I walked in with a group of locals. By this time , I was behind the rest of the gang. We spent about half an hour in there. When we all congregated in front of the Temple, it was already after 2pm. We decided to take a rickshaw to Totta Gopinath Temple for lunch.
We walked back to our hotel after Prasad and decided it was time for the BIG DIP!..Yes! the sea…..We left for the beach an hour after lunch and braved the monstrous crashing waves. I swear the waves were high and voluminous… so much water. I can see how people drown here . Maha Sagara, he just tugs and pulls, sucks you into His whorls and drags you into his belly! After consuming a significant amount of sea water, I decided I had enough of Maha Sagara and headed back to the hotel. Some remained at the shore enjoying their water play. Later that evening, we went to the beach again for more Jagannath Katha. This time His Holiness Gouranga Prema Swami was also there to share more nectar with us. After a tiring day, we called it a night at 10.00pm. We had to prepare for the 19 km walk the next day. It was a fabulous day!
So ends the 2nd last day of the Puri Parikrama. Please forgive me for not being able to give you a detailed account of every sight as it would take more than 4 pages. However, for those of you who would love to read and know more, please grab His Holiness Purushottam Swami’s book on Puri Parikrama. It’s an amazing guide and it would definitely give you more details of each holy sight.
Once again I apologized for my impudence in attempting to write about the glories of the holy Puri Parikrama and it’s divine potency. By the causeless mercy of my spiritual master only I am able to share my thoughts and experiences. I will endeavour to offer the final part, Part 5 soon.
Jagannath Baladev Subhadra Mayi ki Jai!
Sri Puri Parikrama ki Jay!
Vaisnava Vrinda ki Jay!
Chitrangada devi dasi