24 Dec 2014

South India Pilgrimage: Day 5. Parthasarathy Krishna, Vamana, and a Trip to the Backwaters

Here's day 5 of the South India pilgrimage, written by the pilgrims Pakshi and Jahnvabai:

Underway Guruji told us the story of Arjuna, Krishna and Duryodhana and made reference to the temple that we visited the day before, which was dedicated to Sri Krishna, the charioteer.

How did it come to be that Krishna became the charioteer of Arjuna?

Before the battle of Kurukshetra, where the armies of the Pandavas and the Kauravas should fight against each other, the question came up which side Krishna would align with. Both Duryodhana and Arjuna wanted to ask for Krishna’s grace - but Krishna was sleeping. First Duryodhana stepped into his room and, proud as he was, stood next to his head. Then came Arjuna and he recalled a conversation with Krishna, where he said: “Never stay next to my head, but always at my feet!” So Arjuna was waiting humbly at the feet of his Lord. When Krishna opened His eyes, what did He see first? Naturally, His feet and therefore Arjuna, who was standing at His feet. Krishna sat up and only now he noticed Duryodhana behind him and in amazement he said: “Aha, you are also here!” (God sees first the humble-minded and to the proud he turns his back.) Both wanted to know with whom Krishna would be fighting. He declared that He would not take any weapon in his hand. To the one side he provided his powerful army, to the other he would serve as the charioteer. Krishna asked Arjuna: “What would you like?” “I was here first,” Duryodhana was protesting. “I want to choose first.” “I did not see you, you stood behind my head,” replied Krishna. Then Arjuna said: “Let him choose first, he is my older brother.” Duryodhana thought, I am not stupid after all. If Krishna doesn’t help fighting, what use is he for me as charioteer? “I decide for myself, the mighty army (all material things), then I will win for sure,” he said. “And what would you like to have Arjuna?” asked Krishna. “I only want You (God).” “Why? As charioteer I hardly will be of use to you.” But full of confidence Arjuna said: “Where You are, victory is guaranteed.” So both of them, Arjuna and Duryodhana were highly satisfied with their respective choice.

The Kauravas were laughing disrespectfully when they learned that Krishna would go to war only as charioteer of Arjuna. They did not comprehend what an importance the charioteer has. What would happen, if our bus driver suddenly would crash into a wall? We would all die. He holds our lives in His hands. Therefore it is very important to whom we entrust our life. (If God is our charioteer, nothing can harm us.) Then Guruji added: “Only to a few people the grace is given to be underway with Krishna like the gopis.”

We were all touched by Swamiji’s story and quite a few were crying, because for the first time, we learned about the deeper meaning of this long-known story.


A nice roofed wooden boar was waiting for us at the shore. Guruji lied down on the sofa and he had this dreamy glance in his eyes (like Naranyana). We sat down close to His Feet and enjoyed this moment.

During this gentle trip through a wonderful scenery with palm-lined riverbanks and green waterplants swimming on the surface, we shared our experiences and impressions of this trip. For a moment Guruji took over the steering wheel and instantly the story of the charioteer came to our mind.

After about three hours the boat had landed and we enjoyed a wonderful meal. As dessert each one of us got a coconut. Meanwhile people from the nearby houses came to the boat and tried to get in contact with Swamiji, either for a photo or for personal questions. He was open for whatever. Then we drove by bus to the Thrikkakara Vamana Moorthy Temple.

Vamana is the fifth incarnation of Vishnu in the form of a dwarf. The temple was built at the place where the story of the demon-king Mahabali and the dwarf occurred. Mahabali had a big kingdom which reached from the underworld up to the heavens. The devas felt threatened by the rules of the king. That’s why Vishnu incarnated as Vamana. Vanama asked the king for a piece of land, three foot large. The generous Bali agreed.Vamana grew gigantic and embraced with his first step the Heaven and with the second the Earth. But he didn’t find space for the third step. Mahabali didn’t want to break his promise and therefore offered his head for the third step. By that, his sovereignty was broken and he was pushed down to Suthala, yet Vamana granted him a last request. Mahabali wished, that he could visit Kerala once a year to make sure that his people went well. Vamana happily accepted this plea. So Bali visits his people every year during the Onam festival.

After we had venerated all murtis in the different parts of the temple and were endowed with Prasad, we sat down next to a group of singers who sat on a heightened corridor in front of the altar that was brightly lit by many oil lamps.

Guruji began singing bhajans and we tuned in whole heartedly.The temple singers enjoyed and asked us several times to sing even more. In the end they intoned a song and we all sang together. In this wonderful mood we departed from the temple.