From the first moments in Vrindavan, the sweetness of Lord Krishna could be felt, that feeling that arises only in the place where Radha and Krishna spent their days. "Only by Radharani's grace are we here, so tomorrow morning, before anything else, we will go have Her darshan" Swami said to us. So in the morning we went to the RadhaRamana temple to say 'Jai Shri Radhe!' and give our thanks. It was an interesting temple in that it was built like an open air courtyard-later we saw that this style is common to Vrindavan, with many temples open at top. We were early and enjoyed the opening of the curtains to see Radha.
(Buying Tulsi malas to offer to the deities at RadhaRamana Mandir)
(Inside the temple, morning Darshan of Sri Radha Krishna)
Dr Sathya Narayanadas of Jiva Institute hosted our stay in Vrindavan which quickly felt like a second home to us. The ashram was cozy and reminded us on our ashram somehow.
(Performing Aarti to welcome Swamiji upon his arrival)
After settling in and spending some time with Satya Narayana Dasa, Swamiji invited Mahamandaleshwar Santosh Das Ji Maharaj to come and visit from Varanasi, which he gladly accepted, accompanying us for a day of visiting other temples and sadhus. Beautifully attired in bright sunshine yellow and our Swamiji radiant in orange, the two made an impressive picture. Not only this, but the genuine camaraderie between the two made it a pleasure for everyone present.
Our first stop together was to the ashram of Mahamandaleshwar Swami Chitprakashananda Giriji Maharaj who had invited our group for lunch. Although we were a little late in our arrival, they received us wholeheartedly and honoured Guruji, Dr Sathya Narayanadas and Mahant Santosh Das Ji very nicely. They were seated on a stage; each received garlands and gifts and we had small satsang. Afterwards we had a nice lunch.
Swami Chitprakashanand Giriji is a prominent leader in the Niranjani Akhara, a Shivaite group encompassing millions of devotees in India and several temples and ashrams around the country and it was through his kindness that Swamiji and all the pilgrims of Bhakti Marga were able to accompany his procession and bathe with the sadhus on the most auspicious snan on the 10th of February in the Kumbha Mela this year at Allahabad. This was monumental because he is a Saivite and we are Vaishnavas and until then, this had never occurred.
Then to finish the evening we went to Bankhe Bihari temple, received His darshan and began a spontaneous parikrama around Vrindavan. Barefoot for ten kilometres we circumambulated the city, first along the banks of the Yamuna overlooking the sunset and then through the city by starlight. Along the way in a small house we met the descendant of Nithyananda Prabhu and took the blessing from his mala. Singing the Lord's name and dancing as we walked was really special.
(Map of the path followed around Vrindavan during the parikrama)
(River Yamuna at sunset)
(The mala beads of Prabhu Nithyananda, the dearest and closest companion of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu)
The next morning we went first to pay our respects to a disciple of Radharaman Charan das. He is about 104 years old, lies on his sun bed outside, attended by one disciple, and chants constantly Harinaam. It was quite moving for all to see that although he was sick, still his hand and lips were constantly moving, reciting the name of God. It seemed that he was already more with God than with us.
Then we went to the goshala, the cow stables, of Sathya Narayandas' Guru who recently passed away. After looking at the big, big bulls and cows of the goshala, Santosh das and Sathya Narayan das bade us farewell and a safe journey and that they would see Swami again soon in the following year when his time would permit.
(Report from Bhagyshri, currently in India with Swamiji)