Monday, 26 October 2009


Radharani's Compassion
Sundara Lala
Vrindadevi Astaka 2
Ter Kadambha 1
Ter Kadambha 2

Yesterday was Gopastami. We discovered a most wonderful place, namely the goshala of the 'Care for Cows' project in Vrindavan, which is run by Kurma Rupa Prabhu. There we had a great photo session with a one week old calf. He was so sweet and cute that one could hardly leave him.

Care for Cows in Vrindavan maintains abandoned cows, bulls, retired oxen, and orphaned calves. It is run by international volunteers who offer their talents and resources to tend to the neglected cows living in Krishna's holy land. They provide stray cows hay, flour, fresh grass, medical attention and a place where they can recuperate from injuries. At present they host a herd of three hundred.

There are approximately three to four hundred abandoned cows in Vrindavan requiring accommodation. Unless they are protected they are destined to subsist on refuse and become plagued by various debilitating and often terminal diseases or suffer injury from careless motorists. However, the most immediate danger is that they become abducted for slaughter by cattle rustlers who are active in this area today.

Gopastami marks the day when Krishna was given the responsibility to herd the grownup cows. To mark this occasion a go puja ceremony had been conducted by offering arati, i.e. incense, a lamp, water, flowers, a chamara and fan to a cow, who had a new born calf with her. After the ceremony everyone had the opportunity to feed the cows, bulls and calves with laddus, bananas and gour. They were very eager and excited and relished such and an opulent treat. Devotees could also brush and pet the cows to their heart's desire.

Cows are amazingly affectionate animals, who eagerly reciprocate the love they receive. We in turn felt we could stay the whole day at the goshala to pet, hug and feed the cows. During all of this a group of devotees sang beautiful bajans and kirtans. Obviously the cows liked that too. We felt this was the highlight of our stay in Vrindavan. We have taken many photos and short video clips, which we will share with you on our return.

The goshala has also five antelopes. Sometimes one can see an antelope on Govardhan Hill during parikrama. When grownup they have an almost dark-bluish colour. Therefore they are also known as blue cows. The antelopes have a similar mentality to cows and therefore mix with them easily.

The crowning of the day was a delicious prasadam feast with rice, dahl, two subjis, chutney, puris, gulabjamuns and sweet rice, all served on traditional leaf plates and leaf cups and in an atmosphere so peaceful and tranquil that one was able to get a small but real glimpse of the spiritual world. Kurma Rupa Prabhu explained that pleasing cows is the easiest way to please Krishna. After all Krishna is a transcendental cowherd boy and the cows are more dear to him than even the brahmanas. Pleasing the cows is also not difficult. One can easily do so by simply stoking or feeding them. Kurma Rupa Prabhu publishes a monthly newsletter with beautiful photos, which no one should miss to read. It maintains one's connection with Krishna's cows and Vrindavan.

Tomorrow is our last day in Vrindavan and this may well be our last blog entry from the Holy Dham. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Thank you for following us all along our pilgrimage, which kept us inspired to write this blog despite a terribly slow Internet connection. We are leaving around 9 PM by taxi to catch our flight in Delhi in the early hours of Thursday morning. Thinking of leaving Vrindavan we are overcome with mixed feelings of separation and the desire to see all of you in Leicester and share some of the nectar and inspiration we have so plentifully received from here.

I remember the wonderful welcome from Dina Bandhu Prabhu on the day of our arrival. Seeing me in the temple room he gave me a big hug and said: "Hey Gauranga Baba, welcome to Braj." It seems only a few days have passed since then. I truly don't know where the days have gone but I feel fortunate that we had the opportunity to have a peek into Krishna's backyard and to associate with so many wonderful Vaishnavas from all over the world. We made new friends and deepened our friendship with old ones. Vrindavan is certainly a place where affection flows easily, - to the cows, the devotees, the dogs and even the monkeys, despite them being so mischievous that they chewed up Varshana's glasses.

I also remember the moment I stood in front of Radha Syamasundara thinking if Radharani has forgotten me or still remembers me. It had been three years since our last visit. The next moment the pujari placed a flower garland around my neck in confirmation that Radharani, the queen of Vrindavan, has welcomed us to Her Holy Dham. A few days later I tried this 'magic' with Krishna and Balarama also and in a moments time I had a garland around my neck too. Krishna and Balarama ki jaya! Sri Sri Radha Syamasundara ki jaya! Sri Vrindavan Dham ki jaya! All glories to all the devotees of Lord Caitanya! All glories to Srila Prabhupada, who so kindly introduced us to Sri Vrindavan Dham.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Srila Prabhupada's disappearance day

The Dust of Braj
Jaya Radha Madhava
Krishna is the Lover of Radha

Srila Prabhupada's departure bed

Yesterday we celebrated the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada who left his body in Vrindavan on 22 October 1977 at 7:20 PM, just after the evening arati. The day before devotees took the murti form of Srila Prabhupada around Vrindavan, visiting the major temples in the town. It was a huge procession. The murti of Srila Prabhupada sat on the very same palanquin which was used to carry Srila Prabhupada's body throughout Vrindavan after he had departed. Leaving ones body in Vrindavan is a joyous affair mixed with strong emotions of separation.

The temple had been wonderfully decorated with elaborate flower arrangements everywhere. For the morning arati a tape of Srila Prabhupada singing 'vibhavari sesa' had been arranged. The atmosphere was so thick and heavy that one could have literally cut it. There were so many devotees present, it was like an endless stream and the temple room was packed to the maximum. I was surprised how many people fitted in. Devotees came from everywhere and it felt like this was the highlight of the entire kartik festival.

Srila Prabhupada's murti at his samadhi

Devotees fasted till midday and at 2 PM there was a feast in honor of Srila Prabhupada. As evening approached devotees flocked into Srila Prabhupada's quarters, the same rooms where he spent his final days and from where he departed. I managed to get a place at the altar during the evening arati and then made my way towards Srila Prabhupada's room.

By some good fortune I was accepted amongst those who were able to stay in the room Srila Prabhupada departed from. There was very limited space and most devotees were moved on. Lokanatha Maharaja sang a sweet kirtan. Srila Prabhupada's bed had been decorated with a beautiful flower arrangement and a huge flower garland. There were mostly senior disciples of Srila Prabhupada present and at 7:20 Gopal Krishna Maharaja placed the very same chaddar which covered Srila Prabhupada in his final hours on everyone's forehead. What a mercy! Then everyone circumambulated Srila Prabhupada's bed and offered obeisances by touching ones head at the feet of the flower covered bed.

Thereafter senior devotees shared anecdotes of and experiences with Srila Prabhupada. This was the real nectar and the programme went on till late at night. I would like to relate one story which I heard from Dina Bandhu Prabhu and which I find remarkable, especially as it is the only account of this sort we have.

One evening Srila Prabhupada called Bhavananda into his room and said the following: "When I was in the spiritual sky Krishna told me to go to the material world and write those books but I replied that it is a horrible place to go to. Krishna again said that I must go and write those books and again I said that it is a horrible place! How will I maintain myself there? Krishna replied that He will personally look after me. Just see today I have everything, so many temples all around the world, so many devotees etc."

I never heard of this account before but I did hear that Srila Prabhupada said that these books were directly dictated to him by Krishna. On the other hand we heard last night form Abhirama Prabhu that at one point Srila Prabhupada strongly said "if you make me into God I will turn my back an all of you and go back to India."

Sri Sri Radha Syamasundara at the Krishna Balarama temple

There is a wonderful set of DVDs available called 'Memories of Srila Prabhupada', which we have at the Centre and on which senior disciples relate their experiences with Srila Prabhupada. It contains so much nectar. Personally I have only scratched the surface of it so far and only watched perhaps 3 out of 19 DVDs. I will certainly watch the rest of it on our return and will also make it available to everyone else interested.

Dina Bandhu Prabhu, our parikrama guide and dear friend, was unfortunately not well over the past two days. Therefore the parikrama to Yavat, Ter Kadamba and Vrindakunda had to be canceled. I met Dina Bandhu today at the temple and he said that he feels again being under the 'living'. Please pray for his full and speedy recovery.

Varshana Kishori Mataji has in the meantime gone to Mumbai to be with her brother for the remainder of our time in India. She will join us again in Dubai, from where we will travel all together with Emirates Airlines back to the UK. We are painfully aware that our time in Vrindavan is running out fast, however, we look forward to meeting all devotees in Leicester to share much nectar and inspiration with all of you on our return. Next Saturday's programme, which is the 31st of October, will therefore be at the Centre again. We hope that all of you will be able to attend.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Govardhana parikrama

Jaya Madhava Madana Murari 1
How Giriraja came to Bless us with His Presence
Janmastami Song

Krishna and Balarama at the Govardhana ISKCON temple

The day before yesterday we did Govardhana parikrama, the circumambulation of Govardhana Hill. It is a 22 km stretch, which took us some 11 hours to complete, including breakfast, lunch and many stops at various places of spiritual significance.

I have done this parikrama several times before. All in all this was the easiest walk out of all of them perhaps thanks to my well cushioned flip flop sandals and the rather overcast sky. Many devotees went barefoot for the whole parikrama and some went barefoot for part of it. All together we had 6 buses with devotees from Russia, Spain, South America and many other countries around the globe, a truly international pilgrimage.

The starting point of our parikrama was Kusum Sarovar, a wonderful palace and bathing ghat right next to Govardhana Hill. Kusum means flowers and sarovar means lake. It is a famous place of Lord Krishna's pastimes some 5,000 years ago. Radharani and the gopis used to come here to pick flowers for their pastimes at Radha Kunda.

A beautiful view of Govardhana Hill

Near Kusum Sarovar is Manasi Ganga. Here Krishna's famous boat pastime used to take place. You can read more about it on our Kartik Diary 3 (Around Govardhana Hill). No parikrama is complete without visiting the temple of Haridev, which is close to Manasi Ganga. Lord Caitanya also started his Govarham parikrama 500 years ago by bathing in Manasi Ganga and taking darshan of Haridev. Therefore all Vaishnavas follow in His footsteps still today.

At Manasi Ganga Deena Bandhu Prabhu told us the pastime of the origine of Manasi Ganga. After Krishna killed the demon Vatsasura, who had appeared in the shape of a calf, His cowherd friends told Him that He had incurred sin and that they would not play with Him anymore until He had atoned for it by bathing in the Ganges. Krishna replied that the Ganges was far away. Then by meditation He brought Ganga to that place. Therefore it is called Manasi Ganga, because manasi means mind. Previosly Manasi Ganga was a river, but today one can only see a large lake. It is said that bathing in Manasi Ganga is thousand times more purifying than bathing in the Ganges.

Manasi Ganga

Our next big stop was Govinda Kunda. This is the actual place where Lord Indra apologised for sending torrents of rain on the brajabasis and cows, because Krishna had stopped the Indra yajna. It is also the place where Airavata, Lord Indra's elephant carrier, gave Krishna an abhisheka bath, the waters of which formed the present Govinda Kunda.

When Lord Indra arrived on Airavata all the cows were frightened by this huge elephant with many trunks and ran away, forcing the cowherd boys to run after them. Only Madhumangala, who was lame could not run away, but hid behind a bush. After Indra and the other demigods had left, Nanda Maharaja and the cowherd men appeared on the scene and found the most exquisite arati paraphernalia such as golden trays inlaid with all sorts of precious stones, chamaras, peacock fans, lamps etc. They questioned the cowherd boys where this paraphernalia came from but they could only reply that they ran away after seeing this gigantic elephant. Madhumangala was the only one who had seen everything.

He explained that he saw a huge elephant with many trunks and a man with eyes all over his body with a beautiful crown on his head bowing down before Krishna. He also saw a man with four heads and many other men, all offering prayers to Krishna. Then this big elephant started to pour water over Krishna and all of them did arati to Him. There were also beautiful women dancing and singing and after that they all left leaving the arati paraphernalia behind.

Haridev near Manasi Ganga

Our next spot was at Punchari Ka Lautha Baba's Temple. This temple is dedicated to Lautha, a cowherd friend of Krishna, who sat and waited for Krishna to return to Vrindavana after He had gone to Mathura. The deity in this temple is therefore in a sitting position. Because this temple is close to Punchari he is also known as Punchari Ka Lautha. The deity of Lautha is red, has a mustache and is sitting. It is covered by layers of vermilion, which is regularly put on him. This deity is one of the most famous deities throughout Braj.

When Akrura was taking Krishna away to Mathura, Lautha asked Krishna when He would return. Krishna told him he would return the day after tomorrow. Lautha said he would not eat or drink anything until He returned. Therefore the deity is offered only water but not any solid food. Lautha then came to this place and sat down. He is still waiting for Krishna's to return after 5,000 years.

We visited many other important places, but it would exceed the format of this blog to describe them all. After we had accomplished half of the parikrama the sun became very hot. Fortunately, some of the parikrama path was in the shadow of some beautiful trees and I realised what a great service a tree can give and what the word 'shelter' really means.

Finally, we reached Uddhava Kunda. There we heard the story of the pujari (priest), who's father completed 5,000 Govardhana parikramas to get a son. It took him 15 years to complete his vow, after which he got a son. It is said that all ones tiredness from Govardhana Parikrama disappears when one takes bath in Uddhava Kunda. We did not get the chance of finding out as our group moved on towards Radha Kunda.

Giriraja somewhere on Govardhana Hill

After circumablulating Radha Kunda we headed back towards Kusum Sarovar, the starting point of our parikrama. There we had delicious lunch prasadam. By now it was 6 PM and the heat of the day had long disappeared. A few devotees had to keep the monkeys at bay, who were eager to snatch some of our chapatis. Somehow or other one brave monkey still managed to snatch a chapati from the distribution bucket. The monkeys in Vrindavan are very bold and mischievous.

Tomorrow Varshana Kishori Mataji is leaving our group to visit her relatives in Mumbai. I asked everyone what was their greatest austerity so far. Varshana Kishori said that Govardhana parikrama was the toughest part for her. Nandini Radha felt her greatest austerity was being ill and Samir said he did not do many austerities because he has been ill for the past so many days. I felt that shopping was my greatest austerity, which I take as a sign of some slight spiritual advancement, remembering the time when I first visited Vrindavan some 31 years ago and when I spent most of my time shopping, only to realize the day before our departure how quickly my precious time in Vrindavan had slipped away. I sat in Radha Raman temple and cried bitterly.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Govardhana Puja

Bahulavan & Radha Kunda
Jaya Radhe Jaya Krsna 1

The huge Govardhana Hill in the temple room

Today is Govardhana Puja. The morning arati was very wonderful, even though I was tired. Mid-morning we went with the deities of Krishna and Balarama to the nearby goshalla where devotees keep around 400 cows. There we had go puja, which is worship and feeding of the cows. One could buy laddu sweets made with gour, which is molasses from the early stages of sugar making. It is a great sweetener and is much healthier than white, bleached sugar. I am using it in my cooking all the time and the cows love it too.

After breakfast prasadam in the goshalla we returned to the temple where devotees had prepared a gigantic Govardhana Hill made from cooked rice as a base and covered with sweet halavah. The hill was decorated with all sorts of cookies and sweets, had honey lakes and kundas, toy cows and other animals such as peacocks on it. Some steps and stairs led to hidden caves. It was a true replica of Govardhana Hill as described in various scriptures such as Srimad Bhagavatam.

After the abhisheka bathing ceremony of the temple govardhana silas (rocks from Govardhana Hill) they were placed on top and the side of the hill and the arati ceremony and worship of Govardhana Hill began. All this was accompanied by the sweetest kirtan from Aindra Prabhu and his 24 hour kirtan band. Thousands of devotees flooded the temple and it was hard to move around. It was a most joyful atmosphere. Govardhana Puja is such a blissful festival, perhaps the most ecstatic festival in the entire Vaishnava year.

Now it was time to circumambulate Govardhana Hill. Devotees moved or danced clockwise around the hill chanting loudly the Lord's holy names in full ecstasy. This went on for quite a while and I recorded some wonderful video footage of it, which I will upload to this blog and to our Facebook profile (Gauranga Sundara Das, Leicester) on our return. Now the hill was dismantled and the prasadam was distributed to the eagerly waiting devotees. The festivities went on till early afternoon and concluded with a grand prasadam feast for all.

Tomorrow we will go on Govardhana parikrama. We will circumambulate the original Govardhana Hill, which has a parikrama path of 22 km. It will certainly not be a s easy as circumambulate the hill in the temple room today. Many devotees do it by walking barefoot. I just spoke to one mataji who did it in four and a half hours. I will certainly not be able to do it entirely without shoes and for sure not in such a record time. Please give us your blessings and well-wishes that we can accomplish this great parikrama.


Syama Gauri Nitya-kisori
Ter Kadambha 1
Ter Kadambha 2
Damodara Pastime

Krishna katha at Chinta Haran Ghat

Today is Diwali, the day Lord Krishna's damodara lila took place some 5,000 years ago. Generally people remember Lord Ramachandra's return to Ayodya on this day but the Brajabasis (inhabitants of Braj, the land in which Lord Krishna performed His pastimes) care little about Lord Rama. For them only Krishna matters or better Radharani. The people of Braj therefore celebrate Krishna's damodara lila on Diwali day.

Our parikrama took us therefore to Gokula, the actual place of this pastime. Gokula is on the other side of the Yamuna river, a place so peaceful and serene one can hardly imagine in todays busy world. The place in Gokula where we sat down is called Chinta Haran Ghat. Chinta means worries and haran means take away. It is therefore the place where all ones worries are taken away. Indeed we felt exactly like this.

Mother Yashoda was very much worried about Krishna's butter stealing. She therefore thought that perhaps the servant girls did not know how to prepare butter nicely for her Lala. She thought let me prepare the butter myself and she gave all the servants a day off.

This was Diwali day. She brought milk from the best of cows, Padmaghanda. Padma means fragrance and the milk of this particular cow was so sweet and fragrant. Of course, we can hardly imagine anything like this today as the milk from many cows from even different countries is all mixed up.

Nanda Maharaja is the king of cowherds and he has 9 lakhs of cows. 1 lakh is 100,000. He has therefore 900,000 cows. Now the milk of the 1,000 best cows is fed to the 100 best cows and their milk to the 10 best and their milk to Padmaghanda. We can hardly imagine how sweet and fragrant this milk must have been.

It may sound strange indeed that Krishna eats butter, because the butter in our supermarkets is not something we would eat without bread for instance. However, we must understand that all milk was boiled after milking and then cooled down and turned into yogurt. It certainly makes sense in a hot climate such as India.

This yogurt then is churned into butter. It is said that butter made from cream has bad cholesterol and butter made from yogurt has good cholesterol. I have been told that such butter has also an extraordinary taste, smell and consistence and one can eat indeed great quantities of it with delight especially if it is sweetened as well.

Krishna and Balarama

On that Diwali day mother Yashoda put Krishna to sleep because as all mothers know it is very difficult to get the housework done if children are awake. Now she started to churn the yogurt into butter. This was done with a churning stick in a clay pot. The stick was held with a rope against the wall while another rope was several times looped around the stick which then with pulling movements right and left put the churning rod into motion.

The churning made a sound just like a mridanga drum and Mother Yashoda's bangles sounded just like karatals. While churning butter Mother Yashoda sang Krishna's names. This woke up Lala, who pulled His mother by her sari to get her attention. She took Krishna immediately into her arms and breastfed Him.

Suddenly, she could smell the over boiling milk on the stove in the kitchen. She put Lala down and run into the kitchen. This made Krishna very angry. He picked up a stone and smashed the butter pot. Then He climbed on the grinding mortar and untied butter pots, which were hanging from the ceiling, ate some of the butter and distributed the rest to the monkeys. He thought that they helped Him in His incarnation as Lord Ramachandra, but He did not reward them accordingly.

When Mother Yashoda returned she saw the broken pots and little buttery footprints everywhere. She picked up a stick and approached Krishna from behind. When the monkeys saw the stick they immediately run away and Lala could understand that His mother was standing right behind Him. Out of fear He immediately run away and Mother Yashoda chased behind Him. Eventually she dropped the stick and Krishna, seen that she was exhausted, let her capture Him.

She said: "For breaking the pot I forgive you, but not for stealing. Because you used the grinding mortar as your accomplice I will tie you both together with a rope." However, when she wanted to tie a rope around Krishna's belly it was two fingers too short. She brought more rope and tied it together, but still is was two fingers too short. Even after bringing all the rope in the house she was unable to bind Krishna. It was always two fingers too short.

The older gopis began to laugh and said: " This morning you easily tied a little black rope around Lala's belly and now you can not tie a rope even after using all the rope in the house." Eventually Krishna allowed her to bind Him. This pastime has many more details, but it would be too much to write it all down.

Friday, 16 October 2009

From Nandagram to Vrindakunda

Govardhana Parikrama
Varshana Bhajans 1
Varshana Bhajans 2
Vrindadevi Astaka

On the way to Nandagram

Today's parikrama took us to Nandagram, which is Nanda Maharaja's palace and the place where Krishna performed His childhood pastimes. Varshana Kishori mataji did not feel too well this morning. Therefore only Samir, Nandini and myself went on this parikrama.

On the way to Nandagram we stopped at Nanda Baba's sitting place, which is not far from Nandagram. There he sat every afternoon waiting for Krishna's return from the pastures. The sign that Krishna was returning along with his cowherd friends and the cows was a huge dust cloud which was raised hight into the sky by the hooves of the cows. Once Nanda Baba saw this cloud. he became overjoyed that his dear Lala was returning.

Walking through the countryside of Braj is an amazing experience. One can see everywhere little huts with straw walls and roofs for storing feed for the cows and small houses with walls made of cow dung for storing dried cow paddy for fire fuel. The walls of those houses have even scratched in ornamented designs on it.

Cow paddy is made by mixing cow dung with straw and then drying it in the sun. It gives off much heat, burns lowly and is used for cooking, making chapatis etc. I have been told that chapatis rosted on cowdung fire have a most delicious flavour to it. I hope that I will be able to experience this myself one day. Moreover, it is an environmentally friendly cooking method.

At Nanda Maharaja's palace in Nandagram one can see the deities of Nanda and Yashoda and in between them Krishna and Balarama, who are both black and dressed in exactly the same way. Normally we would expect Krishna to have a blackish complexion and Balarama a whitish one. There are several explanations, which Dina Bandhu, our parikrama guide, kindly told us about.

Balarama is the older brother who was born just 8 days before Krishna. He feels therefore very protective and to confuse the demons who are sent by Kamsa to kill Krishna he smeared a mixture of ghee and ashes all over His body. The identical dress can also be explained as follows.

Every mother knows that little children are always fighting if they are dressed differently, especially children of the same or similar age. Mother Yashoda is a very clever mother who knows this and therefore dresses Krishna and Balarama in identical outfits. Having recently seen some of my own childhood photos I have to say that my mother was also clever and practical in this way.

On our return from Nandagram we visited nearby Pavan Sarovar, where we took a refreshing bath. You can read a detailed account of this holy site on our Kartik Diary 2006. You will have to scroll to the diary entry number 4, which is almost at the bottom of the page. There is therefore no need to repeat it here again.

Our last stop of the day was at Vrindakunda, where we also had a delicious lunch prasadam. At Vrindakunda Dina Bandhu Prabhu told us many pastime stories, which took place there or at Nandagram.

At Vrindakunda

One day Durvasa Muni passed through Vraja. Because the muni had a very hot temper the gopis quickly run away. However, Srimati Radhika, who was just a young girl at the time, did not run away and asked the muni to sit down while she cooked some prasadam for him. She made a stove out of clay as well as clay plates and cups. Now she also made laddus and all kind of other eatables out of clay.

Understandably Durvasa Muni refused to taste these preparations made of mud but Radharani suddenly pushed a clay laddu into the muni's mouth. To his great surprise the taste of that laddu was more delicious than anything he ever ate before. He therefore gave her immediately a benediction from his heart that whoever ate her cooking would live long and would never fall ill. From that day on mother Yashoda obliged Radharani to cook for her Krishna.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

A visit to Badrinath

Jaya Radhe Jaya Krsna 2
Sri Govinda Damodara Stotra
Kunti's Prayers
Govinda Damodara Madhaveti

Dina Bandhu and the local priest at Badarikashram

Today our scheduled parikrama pilgrimage took us to Badrinath or Badarikashram. The original Badrinath is high in the Himalaya mountains, so high that it is only accessible for a few months in the summer. During the winter it is completely snowed in.

I seem to have now definitely left my flue behind and feel again strong and full of energy, however, Nandini Radha mataji is now the latest victim of this 3 day discomfort. The buses were scheduled to leave for 5 AM but did eventually leave at 6. Samir did unfortunately not come with us. He was overwhelmed by the force of material nature. It was therefore only Varshana Kishori mataji and myself from our group who went on this pilgrimage.

There is the following story how Badarikashram came to be in Braj. One day Lala (little Krishna) saw that His mother was preparing all sorts of funny prasadam fried in ghee. It was not the usual kind of things such as rice, dhal and chapatis. Therefore He asked, "Maiya, what kind of funny things are you preparing and why are you preparing them?". Because little children ask so many questions all day long and mothers cannot do their housework she said "go to your father Nandababa and ask him".

This is what Lala did. Nandababa said: "Dear Lala, we are going on a pilgrimage to Badrinath and because it is a very long way off we are taking prasadam with us that will keep for all our journey." Hearing this Lala took His father by his hand and brought him to 'Adi Badrinath', a place equal to Badrinath in every respect, which He had quickly manifested by His divine energy so that His parents would not have to leave the area of Braj.

It took us a few hours by bus till we reached the area of Badrinath in the state of Rajastan. It is a beautiful hilly area covered with trees which can only be found on hills such as Badarikashram and the sacred hills of Varshana. These trees change in colour throughout the year from turquoise green to gold, copper and eventually to silver.

Dina Bandhu, our parikrama guide, who has been living in Vrindavan and Braj for the past 25 years told us many pastime stories of the area. To remember them all would be very taxing for anyones memory and especially mine. However, one story stood out.

Long ago there was a demon who did great austerities in this area, so much so that Lord Brahma appeared before him and asked him what he wanted. The demon replied that he wanted to become immortal. We heard this kind of request before, namely with Hiranyakashipu, which caused a lot of trouble, so much so that Lord Nrisimhadeva appeared to kill the demon and at the same time upheld the benedictions of Lord Brahma.

Lord Brahma replied to the demon that he cannot give the benediction of immortality because he himself is not immortal. Hearing this the demon replied, "then give me the benediction of 1,000 kavachas (protective armour) and that each kavacha will make me undefeatable for 1,000 years." Lord Brahma granted him the boon and the demon thought that he was now immortal.

As we know Nara and Narayana rishi, which are none other than Krishna and Arjuna, are eternally residing in Badarikashram in deep meditation engaged in austerities. They decided to curb the pride of this demon. First Lord Narayana fought with the demon for 1,000 years and thus broke his first kavacha. Now Arjuna fought with the demon for 1,000 years while Lord Narayana engaged again in meditation.

This went on until 999 protective armours of the demon had been destroyed. Arjuna, who had the last turn, however, let the demon off. The demon took shelter of Suryadeva, the sun god and was consequently born as Radheya, who is also known as Karna in the Mahabharata. In the great Kurukshetra war Arjuna was able to kill Karna, because Karna gave his remaining kavacha to Indra in charity.

We visited many other important places in the area, such as a 5,000 year old yogamaya temple. To talk about all of them would be too much for this blog. After meeting up with a few hundred devotees from the Vraj Mandal parikrama we took lunch together at the main Badrinarayana temple and returned to Vrindavan.