Today 22nd Aug, 2011 is Krishna Janamashtami, the day Krishna was born in ancient time. On this occasion, here is my journey to Navdweep in West Bengal, where the Bhakti Movement was started by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and then later on taken to international shores by International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which is headquartered nearby in Mayapur.... but before that lets know a little bit more of Krishna.
|Sri Chaitanya and Nityananda, is shown performing|
a 'kirtan' in the streets of Nabadwip, Bengal.
Who is Krishna?
Who is Krishna?
Krishna literally is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is an Avatar of Vishnu and considered in some monotheistic traditions as the Supreme Being. Krishna is identified as a historical individual who participated in the events of the Mahābhārata.
Krishna is often described as an infant or young boy playing a flute as in the Bhagavata Purana, or as a youthful prince giving direction and guidance as in the Bhagavad Gita. The stories of Krishna appear across a broad spectrum of Hindu philosophical and theological traditions. They portray him in various perspectives: a god-child, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero and the Supreme Being. The principal scriptures discussing Krishna's story are the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana and the Vishnu Purana.
Worship of a deity or hero called Krishna, in the form of Vasudeva, Bala Krishna or Gopala, can be traced to as early as 4th century BC. Worship of Krishna as svayam bhagavan, or the Supreme Being, known as Krishnaism, arose in the Middle Ages in the context of the bhakti movement. From the 10th century AD, Krishna became a favorite subject in performing arts and regional traditions of devotion developed for forms of Krishna such as Venkateshwara in Andhra, Jagannatha in Orissa, Vithoba in Maharashtra and Shrinathji in Rajasthan. The Gaudiya Vaishnavism sect of Krishnaism was established in the 16th century, and since the 1960s has also spread in the West, largely due to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
TEXT from Wikipedia
TEXT from Wikipedia
|Shri Radha madhav temple|
ISKCON - Mayapur
Now this brings me back to my journey to Navdweep and to ISKCON Headquarters at Mayapur. In the early hours of Friday, we started our 300 KM journey. Typically, the roads in India, specially in this part of the country, are full of challenges but as we left the crowds of Kolkata, the country side gave way to the lush green fields and the occasional rivers and canals provided much needed relief from the city environment and pollutions. By the time we reached Mayapur, it was evening.
My first steps to Sri Radha Madhav Temple complex was a kind of let down as I did not realise that it’s not a typical temple per se but a place for gathering of devotees. The main hall, Sri Sri Panchtattva Temple, had very attractive and magnificent larger than life deities of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with His associates Sri Nityananda Prabhu, Sri Advaita Acharya, Sri Gadhadhara Pandita and Sri Srivasa Thakura. These were installed in 2004, which was a remarkable event in the history of ISKCON. The small Pancha-tattva deities were installed earlier, in 1996.
I think that, what many of the ISKCON temples lack in the power emanating from the idols, they make it up with their devotion and love for Krishna. Our temples like Kedar Nath, Neel Kanth, Madurai Meenakshi temple, Bala Ji Tirupati etc are there for many centuries and people’s constant devotion, attachment and prayers make these places very vibrant in itself but then ISKCON Temples are different in thoughts, philosophy and services as well as modern structures. That somehow makes these places of worship, different and interesting. This realisation dawned on me the next day morning.
At 4AM in the morning, me and my friends went for mangala aarti, which goes on till 5 AM with ritual of lighted lamps, mantra chanting and a beautifully co-ordinated singing and dancing of the ISKCON devotees. To begin with it was just people chanting “hare Krishna” mantra.... and as the whole place got filled up with bhajan, kirtan (ritual chanting) and rhythmic dance, subtly and slowly the atmosphere changed. I was unmoved in the beginning but slowly I could feel the power ... of the collective religious devotion gathering all around me and at one point of time I could really feel the Krishna coming down from the place his Idol was placed and playing with all of us. In the end I was totally engrossed and flowed within the reverent feelings of the people around me. I did not know when I started matching my steps with all those devotees around, totally involved in their chanting, singing and dancing .....
In the evening, we were on time for Aarti - Archna ... which starts around 6 PM. As I was watching the preparation, I saw a very devout person listening to the Chanting and he could not hold himself more and started to dance on the sides of the hall behind a pillar, so as not to disturb the gathering. By 6.15 the atmosphere started changing.. the guards from outside came in and demarcated a place in the adjacent hall by ropes and a Tulsi (Basil) plant was brought in. Most of the ISKCON’ites gathered around it and the chanting began with Tulsi Puja. .. this slowly built in to a religious fervour and ended after 2 hours of devoted Aarti by most of the devotees. I saw two very small kids, one boy and a girl in the gathering, who were so involved with the whole ceremony. It was a pleasure to watch them dancing and chanting ‘Hare Krishna’ Mantra. The women were gathered outside the arena and formed their own group to sing the songs of Lord Krishna.
Next day, early morning we started our visit to Navdweep. When I stepped on the boat from the Mayapur to reach to the Navdweep, the journey itself prepared me for the vision that I was going to have in the birth place of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The river in its meandering ways with trees bent low, almost touching the holy waters of River Ganges, as if in obeisance. I almost saw Krishna playing joyfully in those branches of the trees... I kept wondering, what is so special in these dusty crowded streets where only a rickshaw can move..? What is it in the place that makes me bow down to touch the earth in deep reverence?
In Navdweep, I had felt a kind of blissful joy surge in me. Finally I was in the place where bhakti yoga took its root and the air was full of vibrancy and devotion. Many devotees fresh from the bathe, they took in holy Ganges, with droplets clinging to their clothes, like dew drops, smile on the enchanted faces; I could almost see them, just like gopis ready with desire in heart to meet Krishna, ... How graceful the way these simple village folks laid bare their love for Krishna. Among them I find myself so insignificant and small… how easy it is for them to be with you all the time along with their household chores.. and family duties.
|The temple where Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu|
used to worship Krishna
The streets were full of people and vendors showing me all kinds of things related to Krishna. Some were pushing their beautifully crafted Peacock feather fan, some placed in my hands, beautifully made idols. The tea shop was full of people starting the new day with an invigorating drink. The whole day, we spent going from one place of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s lila to another. In the evening, I tasted the best tea, while waiting for the boat to arrive for our return journey to the Mayapur.
I felt sad going back to Mayapur as the environment in Navdweep was full of energy and Krishna’s breath. I felt closer to Krishna when I was at Navdweep. There, among the people, who were carrying within them the devotion that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had for you, I was able to reach you more easily....
हरे कृष्ण हरे कृष्ण
कृष्ण कृष्ण हरे हरे
हरे राम हरे राम
राम राम हरे हरे
The long walk to Rishikesh - Kanwarias Bodh Gaya - Buddha Pilgirmage