The Festival of Dogs — Kukkurer Mahotsava

26 11 2009

Jai Nitai!

The Festival of Dogs, or kukkurer mahotsava in Bengali, is perhaps the most famous lila of our Dada Mosai, Sri Sri Radharaman Charan Dev. The lila demonstrates faith in Krishna and faith in the words of the guru. Also, it shows how all living beings should be respected and to see that the Lord is in everything and everyone. Recently a couple of people have inquired about this lila and on this blog, you can read where B.V. Sadhu Maharaj’s grandfather Rajarshi Raja Raghunandan Prasad Singh of Mungher actually witnessed the event. So, here it is presented as written in The Life of Love.

THE FESTIVAL OF DOGS

One day when Babaji Mahashaya was returning from Mahaprabhu’s Temple performing kirtan with his party, a bitch came and joined the procession on the way. The sankirtan-party stopped at places and sang and then proceeded with redoubled vigor, singing the sankirtan with maddening peals. Every time the party stopped the bitch would pause till the party passed by and then she would roll and toss on the ground just as a devotee would do to bless his soul. She went on doing this, and followed the party to their destination, and then she found it in her heart to stay with them at their place. They called her Bhakti Ma (Mother Devotion), for she was no ordinary dog—she was never found falling out with the rest of her species as other dogs would, but always keeping company with the devotees and regularly attending the sankirtan at home and abroad wherever it was held.

Days went on, and Bhakti Ma was taken ill. She was wasting away day by day till one day it was felt she was going to shuffle off her mortal coil, and so the sankirtan was held in her hearing to pour down the Lord’s blessings on her de­parting soul. So she passed away with the Lord’s Name on her ears, and her body was thrown into the sacred stream of the Ganges—a departure, to be envied by saints with hopes of salvation in after life. The Chira Mahotsava was duly performed, as usual after the departure of a devotee, on the fourth day after her demise, and Babaji Mahashaya thought of giving an entertainment- service to the Vaishnavas for blessing her soul in the Land of Bliss.

This entertainment was accordingly held on the four­teenth day after her departure. Babaji Mahashaya said that some of her kin must be fed to complete the ceremony in the proper way. His attendants were struck dumb with surprise to hear this strange proposal from the lips of our Barha Babaji. For, whoever heard that dogs could be formally invited to dinner and made to act accordingly?

But there was one—our old friend Navadwip Das Babaji­ who had the nerve to believe in everything that fell from Babaji’s lips. He started up and said, “Well then, please let me know what I must do to see it done?” Babaji Mahashaya said, “Why, it is so simple. You should only prostrate yourself whenever you meet any of the dogs in the street and tell them with folded hands, ‘we humbly solicit the favour of your company along with your friends and relatives at the dinner service, to be held tomorrow in memory of our late lamented Bhakti Ma, at the premises of our gurudeva in the Barhal Ghat quarter of the city,’ and so it shall be done.”

Now, this is the usual form of invitation letters addressed to our human guests on such occasions, and we may readily guess at the incredible impropriety of this address to be deli­vered to dogs for similar purposes and the heavy responsibility of the man appointed to shoulder this mighty task. Navadwip was only too keenly conscious of the charge laid to his care, and he fell at his Babaji’s feet with tears in his eyes. He felt that it was something which he could never hope to accomplish by himself unaided by the mysterious powers on high, and Babaji Mahashaya slapped him on the back and let him go.

Navadwip was surcharged—he staggered—he reeled and tottered from side to side as he walked and one would have taken him for a drunkard or a madcap who met him in the way. But on close scrutiny one might have seen that he was absorbed—the figure of a saint of power to work miracles at his own sweet will. And so he went and took a round in the city, acting up to the biddings of his master, till it was night-fall, when he returned back to his lodging.

Next morning, preparations were going on for the proposed entertainment and Vaishnavas were summoned to join the festi­val, when news arrived that some of the leading Vaishnavas came to think that their prestige would be at stake if they would go and join a festival, where dogs were some of the invited guests. Barha Babaji went personally to the Barha Akhrah to settle the affair, but to no purpose. Some of them were inexorable, but the festival was held inspite of their stout resistance, and thousand others came to witness the strange performance.

Some of these guests had a shrewd suspicion that it would end in a farce after all, for evidently it was something impossible, which could never be brought about. Others had great confidence in the Babaji, and thought he could make impossible possible when he had a mind to do it. Then came Radheshyama Baba and all stood up and prostrated them­selves before this worshipful personage. He was affectionately disposed towards Babaji Mahashaya, and he began to take him to task for setting his hands to a task which could not on the face of it be accomplished at all. He also urged that he would be sorely aggrieved if the proposed entertainment of dogs would prove a failure, for he could not brook to hear Babaji Mahashaya belittled by anybody, although our Babaji himself might not take it to heart and laugh it away.

Babaji Mahashaya argued that God—they all agree to affirm—was omnipresent, present in dogs as well as in men, and so appeals made to God in the dogs must necessarily have the same effect as those made to God inherent in men. He prayed them to remember that God came out of a pillar and manifested Himself as Narasimha, when Prahlada appealed to Him to show Himself to his demon father Hiranyakashipu. So, as it is true that God is in all beings, by the same truth shall the dogs come and take their share in the proceedings of the day. He concluded by saying that it was their want of faith in the Lord that made them suspect the practicability of the whole thing.

The day wore on, and the assembly were just hoping to see their skeptical prophecies fulfilled, when be­hold! the dogs actually began to appear, one by one. Barha Babaji Mahashaya saw this, he started to his feet at once, he prostrated himself before his canine guests, and duly received them as he showed them to their seats on the royal road at the Barhal Ghat. There was great sensation amongst the people, and they gazed on one another in dumb surprise. The news spread, and thousand others came to witness the strange performance. 0 wonder! Is it possible that dogs would accept human invitation and come as guests in response to our human appeals! May be, they are come, only in expectation of the bits and crumbs thrown away on such occasions. But no, not one, two or four of them for the matter of that—they come in crowds, some fifty to sixty of them have already appeared on the scene! And what was more wonderful–dogs would quarrel, we know, they would fly at each other’s face whenever two dogs would meet—but no, these dogs came and sat down quietly side by side, as we men should do in our entertainment halls! It was something phenomenal indeed and men stood on both sides of the public road to notice the strange proceedings of the unheard of affair.

Babaji Mahashaya was transported beyond measure to find that his God sent His grace to show to the skeptical multitude what true faith could do even at the present age in the teeth of the gigantic disbelief so foolishly entertained in the Spirit and Spiritual truths. His eyes reddened with emo­tion as he threw the skirts of his clothes round his neck, and humbly beseeched his God in the dogs to issue orders for the dinner to be served. At this, all the dogs looked up to him at once, and he knew what they said, after which he instructed his men to supply his guests with the plantain-leaves, and serve them up with all the items of the entertainment rolled into a mass for their acceptance.

So, it was done, his biddings performed, the dogs were severally served with boluses on their leaf-plates on the royal road. Now, look here, wonder again! Dogs with edible matter before them, and they would not touch, they would not partake of food supplied to them! All the leaves were served one by one, and they sat upright, when Babaji Mahashaya spoke in a broken voice and with tears in his eyes, requesting them to begin.

At this time, a black dog came and sniffed at the leaves after which the dogs fell to their leaves. Cries of “Hari! Hari!” and “Ulu! Ulu!” were heard on all sides around and they verily seemed to rend the skies above. It was a scene of scenes enacted before the wondering multi­tude, and their exclamations and roars of applause echoed and re-echoed in all quarters of the city. The service ended, the dogs turned away from the leaves, and then an earthen pot filled with water was offered to each of them. They drank of the pots and sat still—bits were taken as mahaprasada from their leaves and water in a pot as a wash from off their feet—for they were Vaishnavas indeed, and no ordinary dogs, nay, they were God Himself invoked and in­carnated by the power of the mighty faith in the Omnipres­ence of God—and then Babaji Mahashaya again folded his hands and prostrated himself before them, asking them if they were satisfied, and requesting them to pardon any shortcom­ings on the part of his attendants and retire to their own places at their own sweet will. The dog-Vaishnavas then left the scene, one by one as they came, and Babaji Mahashaya in a paroxysm of transcendental joy rolled and tossed on the blessed leaves from one side to another again and again. The men scrambled for a morsel of the mahaprasada, and our Radhashyama Baba embraced him heartily as he blessed his darling with tearful eyes before he took leave to repair to his lodgings.

Babaji Mahashaya gathered the mahaprasada all in a lump, offered it to the departed spirit of Bhakti Ma and then par­took of it in high glee along with his attendants in the Ashram. It was about ten o’clock in the night, when it was per­ceived that a plateful of prasada was lying unnoticed, and Babaji Mahashaya coming to know this, asked his men to keep it intact, for it struck him one of his guests was yet to come and it was to be set apart for him in case he would turn up in the night. After a while Babaji Mahashaya was coming out of his bed-chamber when he found a red dog lying at the door of his room. The dog saw him and got up atonce, and cast significant glances as it looked up to him. He called Chaitanya, his mate in charge of the prasada, and asked him to serve prasada up to the guest at once. Chaitanya acted up to it, and Navadwip Das now coming up and looking at the newcomer exclaimed that verily it was the same dog he met first of all and the same whom he requested to convey the message to each and every one of the kinsfolk and bring them all to the scene of occur­rence. So now, they all saw why this particular guest was late, for he had to go about and send them up, before he himself could come to take his share of the entertainment.

Now, to whom is the credit due? Whose glory should we sing? Bhakti Ma or Babaji Mahashaya? The dog-Vaishnavas or Navadwip Das, whose fervent appeals brought them to the scene? Or God Himself and faith in God, which is at the root of this grand performance? Yes, of course, it is faith, and faith in God, which is to be cherished above everything else— faith, which would open fresh vistas for human understanding to comprehend the High God and His higher laws, whose operations would pass for miracles in the eyes of men—yes, faith, which is the source of all power and love and joy to which we are all entitled as children of immortal bliss—and faith, which would dispel all ignorance and bring us face to face with God, and Sweetness and Light and the Spirit of Love which is in Him and Him alone.

We would have more instances to show that this faith in our Babaji Mahashaya enabled him to cure many diseases, nay to stop great epidemics like the plague in Calcutta and cholera at Puri for the matter of that, and even invested him with the power of bringing men back from the horrid jaws of death to live in this world again. Such instances were only too frequent in the life-history of this great man. We would not enter here into these details, for the final triumph of faith lies not in these petty miracles to overpower the feeble men­tality of the world-wise busybodies of the work-a-day world, but in the fact that faith alone can bring to us all that we are hankering after in life. Faith alone can give us our Lord of Love, Who is the One Eternal Fountain of Bliss Profound, and we think we have seen enough of our Babaji Mahashaya by this time to get at this truth of truths to guide our destinies in the journey of life. May we all cherish this faith in the Lord in our heart of hearts, and may we all bask in the moony sunshine at the feet of our Lord of Love.

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Sri Sakhi Ma ~ Her upbringing and the story of her vesh

25 11 2009

Sri Sakhi Ma seated near her Dada Mosai (Radharaman Charan Dev)

I was speaking the other day with my gurubrother, Subrata Adhikary Ji. We were discussing the lila of Sri Lalita Sakhi Dasi (Sakhi Ma). I had posted a little bit of information and several photos related to her recently on my blog. The information is very commonly known among people who are at all familiar with her. I obtained that information from a biography on Radharaman Charan Dev titled, Carit Sudha, otherwise known as The Life of Love, which is the English translation done by O.B.L. Kapoor. The problem here is that Sakhi Ma wrote Carit Sudha, and as far as possible by her she tried to exclude herself from the events in the biography. She did this out of humility. So many of the lilas that Radharaman Charan Dev, who from here on will simply be referred to as Baba Mahashaya, performed featured Sakhi Ma as one of the main characters. Many are probably unaware of this, but she had a very strong personality. Both her and Baba Mahashaya were Simha rasi, in other words they were Leos according to their birth charts and had forceful, and outgoing personalities. Most could not stand up to Baba Mahashaya, but Sakhi Ma with her strong nature could and often did. While many of Baba Mahashaya’s sisyas would be afraid to speak in front of him, she had no fear whatsover. There was a great chemistry between them and their relationship was extremely sweet and loving, with so much intimacy and depth.

Sakhi Ma’s younger brother, Sri Dinesh Chandra Bhattacharya wrote a book titled, Sri Sri Lalita Sakhi in order to make her glories known and to portray her involvment in various lilas with Baba Mahashaya and his companions that Sakhi Ma herself purposefully left out of her own book. In this book one can learn a great deal more about the character and life of Sri Sakhi Ma. One of the lilas that Subrata Ji related to me from this book is how and when she first began to wear Sakhi-vesh and he also told me about the family in which she grew up, about her vast learning, and how she came to the feet of Baba Mahashaya and accepted him as her guru.

Sakhi Ma, was given the name Gopal Krishna, from his parents. He was born in 1873 in a family of highly advanced spiritual personalities. They were from the highest of Brahmin families and gave diksha and assumed the responsibility of thousands of disciples. During her time the traditional custom was that even the Prabhu Vamsh Goswamis were not allowed to sit and eat in the company of such Brahmins. Her eldest brother would frequently move from place to place to take care of his disciples and Gopal Krishna during childhood would stay at home and help take care of the family. Soon it became evident that Gopal Krishna possessed great intelligence and a flawless memory. He was trained and very learned in the Sad Darshanas or six schools of Indian philosophy, i.e, vaizeSika, nyaya, saGkhya, yoga, mImAMsA, and vedAnta. The school in which he studied Sanskrit gave him the title Vidyaratna.

During his childhood Gopal Krishna strictly practiced brahmacharya and yoga sadhana. He became advanced in yoga and began to seek a guru. He would leave home many times to seek a guru and to further his yoga studies, and his elder brother would send him money to survive on. He would go to many holy cities including Haridwar and Varanasi. Then one time he left home without informing anyone of his whereabouts. He was gone for a long time and eventually he went to Jagannath Puri. At first sight of Baba Mahashaya his heart was stolen and he took him into his fold. Baba Mahashaya then changed his name to Jaya Gopal.

I had written this earlier blog post about her receiving sakhi-vesh from Jagannath Dev, but that was not the whole story. The occasional or temporary donning of sakh-vesh was not uncommon at all during those times. On various special occasions or as inspired by Nitai Chand, Baba Mahashaya would dress in sakhi-vesh and dance in ecstasy before Radhakanta at Jhanjpitha Math and other places. It was common for Nityananda Vamsh Goswamis to put on sakhi-vesh while performing their puja or aroti. So for Jaya Gopal to receive the sakhi-vesh at Jagannath Mandir was not that unusual of an occurance, though certainly an instance of him receiving great kripa.

After that lila Jaya Gopal resumed his normal attire. In the book by Dinesh Chandra Bhattacharya we hear the story as told by Baba Mahashaya. On one occasion Baba Mahashaya decided to have a play performed on Braja-lila. He asked someone to write the play according to his wishes and to obtain all the necessary outfits, make-up, backdrops, etc. to produce the play. On the day of the play Baba Mahashaya first performed some astonishing kirtan that got everyone in such a spiritual frame of mind that they were easily able to enter into the mood of the character that they were to perform. Everyone got submerged in the bhav of the wonderful play and totally identified with their characters. The play went on for a long time and it got quite late and when it ended everyone took prasad and went to their rooms for rest.

The next morning everyone noticed that Jaya Gopal was missing. They searched for him and then came to realize that he was in his room, but not answering their calls. Someone informed Baba Mahashaya that Jaya Gopal was in his room still dressed in sakhi-vesh, crying many tears, and ignoring the calls of everyone. Everyone was anxious for Jaya Gopal’s welfare hoping that he was not unwell. Baba Mahashaya became angry because she was not obeying the Vaisnavas and so he went to her room thinking he would break down her door himself. When he pulled back his leg to get ready to kick the door, a miracle happened. He heard a voice in the sky saying, “Charan! Have you started thinking that you have become a big guru? You are not respecting your own disciple and the state she has already reached, by thinking I have not reached there, so how could she.” After hearing the voice Baba Mahashaya became very calm and happy. In a sweet voice he asked, “Jaya Gopal, will you please come out of your room?” Jaya Gopal opened her door and stood in front of Baba Mahashaya with folded hands while fully attired in her sakhi-vesh. Baba Mahashaya embraced her and told her, “Radharani has showered special mercy upon you so you should try to keep this bhav intact and permanent. Vesh alone will not do much until you have attained the proper bhav and behave like a gopi of Braja.” He gave her detailed instructions on how to maintain her bhav and then gave her the name Lalita Sakhi Dasi. People later referred to her simply and affectionately as Sakhi Ma or Sakhi Thakurani.

Later several people tried to copy her behavior, but they couldn’t maintain it for long. Only a couple of people come to my mind that were highly successful in their practices while adopting sakhi-vesh. Their names were Kusum Didi and Kisori Dasi. At some point I will include the story of Kishori Dasi on my blog.





Rajarshi Banamali Roy and Rajbari ~ Jagadbandhu and Radharaman Charan Dev

21 11 2009

Rajarshi Banamali Roy

The great zamindar of Tarash in the district of Pabana, Sri Banamali Roy was born in 1863. Shortly after his birth, his mother and father gave him up in adoption to Raja Banavari Lala, the zamindar of Tarash, and they went to Brindavan to do bhajan. Banavari Lala died when Banamali Roy was only 17 years of age. The heavy responsibility of being the zamindar of Tarash rested on his shoulders. He was a good and kind landlord and he started to open hospitals and schools, and dug wells and did many other things to help the people under his care.

He received the samskars of a sadhu from his parents. At first he became attracted to the Brahma Samaj and their meditation on the formless absolute, but later he became a great Vaisnava by the influence of Prabhu Jagadbandhu Sundar. One day in Pabana he was traversing the highway in a royal fashion, riding upon a decorated elephant, and surrounded by guards and other attendants when he happened upon Prabhu Jagadbandhu performing kirtan and dancing among hundreds of devotees. Banamali Roy got off of his elephant, removed his shoes and joined in the kirtan. As if under a spell he was dancing and singing with his arms raised above his head. When the kirtan was finished he came to Jagadbandhu and offered his obeisance at his feet and asked him to visit him at his residence.

After hearing the kirtan of Jagadbandhu, an extreme change came over him. He felt the bliss of bhakti overwhelming his heart and attracting his mind. Jagadbandhu came to his house and stayed for several days and instructed him in the path of raganuga-bhakti. Now Banamali Roy’s heart turned towards Vinod-Vinodini. Previously Banamali Roy had no interest in serving the deities of his father, the Raja Banavari Lala. Banavari Lala’s life and soul was Vinod-Vinodini, but after his passing they were neglected because Banamali did not believe in the worship of Sri Murti. Please read the excellent blog post on the lila of Vinod-Vinodini written by my gurusister Bisakha Dasi for the entire story.

Jagadbandhu Prabhu first came to Brindavan in 1890 at the request of Banamali Roy. He stayed there for about 6 months mostly at the mandir of Vinod-Vinodini that Banamali established. Jagadbandhu travelled throughout India and reportedly even went to Paris between the years 1890-92 and then returned to Brindavan to stay with Banamali Roy. Banamali was elated to see the unspeakably charming appearance of Prabhu Bandhusundar again. All of the mahatmas of Brindavan were attracted to Prabhu. One day while standing before a tamarind tree, Jagadbandhu told Banamali that the tree was a great soul and that he would leave the body of the tree the next day at 1 p.m. Banamali arranged for Harinam Sankirtan to be sung for 24 hours around the tree as instructed by Jagadbandhu and at the time predicted the tree fell over and died. On another occasion Jagadbandhu saw the parents of a dead boy weeping bitterly at the cremation ground. Feeling compassion for the plight of the parents, Jagadbandhu said to the dead child, “Re lala, lala, lala” (Oh dear child, Oh dear child) and revived the boy. The boy then consoled his parents by explaining the transitory nature of the world and that nobody is related to anybody. Only God is permanent so you should worship the Lord with all your heart. After saying these words the boy again returned to the state of death.

Banamali Roy was a central figure among the community of Vaisnavas living in Braja. Many, many Vaisnava mahatmas graced his home with their presence, kirtan and Hari-katha. Banamali served the Vaisnavas and Brajabasis with his wealth. He built a hospital and opened a school for teaching bhakti-sastras and arranged for free lodging and free food for the students. He started a printing press where he printed the Srimad Bhagavatam with eight commentaries and other books as well, which were given for free to the sadhus and Vaisnavas. This was an extremely amazing time in Braja. There were many siddha-mahatmas living there during this period. Banamali Roy had the great good fortune of meeting and serving them and they showered their blessings upon him. Some of the more well known personalities were Sri Radhikanath Goswami, Sri Bijoy Krishna Goswami, Sri Gaurakishor Siromani, Sri Ramahari Das Babaji, Sri Krishnasundar Roy, Sri Jagadish Das Babaji, Sri Ramakrishna Pandit Baba and of course, Sri Jagadbandhu Sundar Prabhu. He also attained the association of my parat-para guru, Sri Radharaman Charan Das Dev who spent a great deal of time with him and profusely showered his blessings upon him too. Rajarshi Banamali Roy established a mandir called Rajbari at Radhakund. Vinod-Vinodini used to stay there, but after some time they wanted to return to Brindavan. Two brothers came to stay at Rajbari and they each brought their own deities, Sri Sri Radha-Govindadev and Sri Sri Radha-Madana Gopal, who still reside there today. The samadhi of Sri Banamali Roy can be found behind the mandir. It is just steps away from Sri Shyam Kund. The pictures in this post were taken by me yesterday. I spoke with the pujari Sri Rasika Mohan Sharma and he told me a little of the history of Rajbari and Banamali Roy. He is also well known as an astrologer.

Entrance of Rajbari

Inside the mandir

Sri Sri Radha-Govinda and Sri Sri Radha-Madangopal

Portrait of Rajarshi Banamali Roy and Prabhu Jagadbandhu Sundar on the altar at Rajbari

The pujari Sri Rasika Mohan Sharma

The samadhi of Rajarshi Banamali Roy

Another view of the samadhi of Banamali Roy

In The Life of Love (Carit Sudha) some of the interaction of Radharaman Charan Dev with Banamali Roy is described in the following chapters:

TALKS AND REJOICINGS IN RADHAKUNDA

One day Sri Kamini Kumara Ghosh, the manager of Rajrshi Banamali Raibahadur came to Baba Mahashaya and said, “I have come to invite you on behalf of Sriyuta Banamali Babu to his house in Radhakunda on the occasion of Gopashtami , when his Thakura, Vinoda and Vinodini will go into the forest to celebrate Gopashtami. Baba Mahashaya said, “I will be too happy to go and have the darshan of Radhakunda, Shyamakunda, Vinoda-Vinodini  and Their devo­tee Rajarshi Banamali Babu.”

The next day Baba Mahashaya started for Radhakunda with his companions. When Banamali Babu was informed that Baba Mahashaya had reached Manasi Ganga, he went forward with Haricharan Das Babaji, Rasika Das Babaji, Vishnu Das Babaji, Nityananda Das Babaji and a number of other ma­hatmas to receive them in a garden, half way between Kusum­sarovara and Radhakunda. From the garden he brought them to Radhakunda and, after they had made obeisance to Radhakunda and Shyamakunda, to the Temple of Vinoda and Vinodini in his house. Baba Mahashaya kept looking at Their beautiful faces for some time and then started singing songs in Their praise. Tears flowed from his eyes and sattvika-bhavas appeared all over his body. After sometime he controlled his bhava and at the insistence of Banamali Babu sat down to take shital-bhoga with others. Baba Mahashaya first put a morsel of the shital-bhoga into the mouth of Haricharan Das Babaji. Haricharan Das Babaji put a morsel from his pattal (leaf-plate) into the mouth of Baba Mahashaya. In this way Baba Mahashaya fed a morsel to everyone and everyone fed a morsel to him. Everyone was overwhelmed with a feeling of joy mixed with love, he had never experienced before. Baba Mahashaya was by nature ever so joyful and mirthful, so loving and lovable that by his every single act, he seemed to disseminate joy and love and win the hearts of people he met.

Rajarshi Banamali Raibahadur had arranged for the stay of Baba Mahashaya and his companions in the Madanamohana Temple and for their mahaprasad at his own place. So, they went and stayed in Madanamohana Temple. The next morn­ing Baba Mahashaya asked his companions to bathe in the Radhakunda three times every day and also to circumambulate Radhakunda and Shyamakunda and prostrate before the kuti of each mahatma living on the bank of the kunda.’

At about 7:30 a.m. Rajarshi came and said, “Today is Gopashtami. Vinoda-Vinodini will go to the garden between Radhakunda and Kusum-sarovara to celebrate the occasion. I have come to request you kindly to accompany Them.”

Baba Mahashaya was happy to hear this. After sometime he reached Rajarshi’s Rajbari (palace), where Ramahari Das Babaji, Madhava Das Babaji, Haricharan Das Babaji, Rasika Das Babaji and others were waiting for him. As soon as he reached there they stood up and took him and his companions to a room adjoining the Temple of Vinodaji. Since all of them did lila-smarana, they started talking about the lila. They requested Baba Mahashaya to say something about lila. Baba Mahashaya said, “Baba, what can I say about lila? Let me see if by your blessings Yogamaya Devi inspires some lila in my heart.” As he said this he was overwhelmed with bhava and, as if possessed by Yogamaya, began to narrate an amorous lila of Radha-Krishna slowly in a manner, which showed that he actually saw the lila as he described it. Tears flowed from his eyes and sattvika-bhavas appeared all over his body. Everybody heard like one bound by a spell. Everyone lost outward consciousness and seemed to enjoy the lila as he had never enjoyed it before. As the talk was going on someone came and said, “Bhoga has been offered. Mahaprasad is ready.” Rajarshi said, “Baba, we have to go for mahaprasad.” Baba Mahashaya clapped happily and said, “I am ready, I love mahaprasad as I do not love anything else. It is on account of my love and lobha for mahaprasad that I live in Puri and call Jagannath Dev ‘Baba.’ It is the same lobha that has brought me here. Let us go. I go ahead.” Ramahari Das Babaji said, “Baba, I am your uncle. My lobha is greater. I must go ahead of you.”

RAJARSHI BANAMALI ROY’S VISIT TO PURI

One day Baba Mahashaya received a letter from Shyama Das Babaji. The purport of the letter was as follows:

“Vrindavan is at present suffering from the scourge of plague. Many Vrajavasis are running away from Vrindavan and Govardhana and coming to Kusum-sarovara, which is so far free from the epidemic. Banamali Babu has shifted to Calcutta with Vinoda-Vinodini and his family. Sripada Radhakanat Goswami, Haricharan Das Babaj i, Nityananda Das Babaji, Rasika Das Babaji etc., have all gone with him. Kindly let me know what I should do.”

Baba Mahashaya could not remain calm, when he came to know about the suffering of the Vrajavasis. He burst into tears. After some time he wrote to Shyama Das Baba as follows:

“Jai Nitai-Gaura!

Brother Shyama Das, I received your letter. The plague should be taken as Radharani’s device for testing the faith of the people in Vraja. She wants to know whether they are attached more to Vraja or to their body. Whatever happens you should not leave Vraja. You only do trisandhya-kirtan with the Vrajavasis and rest assured that plague will not touch you. If possible try to come to Puri before Ratha­Yatra.”

A few days before Ratha-Yatra Shyama Das, Pandit Haricharan Das and Nityananda Das came to Puri and stayed with Baba Mahashaya in the Math. Soon after a letter was received from Banamali Roy Bahadur saying that he would reach Puri with Vinoda-Vinodini and his family before Ratha­Yatra. This was followed by a telegram from Kamini Babu to Pandit Haricharan Das asking him to arrange for a suitable accommodation for Rajarshi at Puri. Haricharan Das started his search for a suitable accommodation, but could not find any. In utter helplessness he requested Baba Mahashaya to help. Baba Mahashaya said, “You need not worry. So many Raja-Maharajas come to Puri. They are all accommodated somehow somewhere. Jagannath does not turn anyone away. Let Rajarshi come. We shall see what can be done. It is also possible that he may stay in the Math and may not like to go anywhere else.”

Another telegram came next morning saying that Rajarshi Banamali Babu was reaching Puri next morning. Pandit Haricharan Baba went to Baba Mahashaya in a flurry and said, “Look here! Rajarshi is coming tomorrow morning and you have not done anything to accommodate him.”

Baba Mahashaya said, “Why are you so much worried? It is not so easy for big men like him to move out. It is likely that you get another telegram saying that Rajarshi has stomach­ache, which prevents him from starting today.”

Panditji: That is not possible, because they have pur­chased tickets.

Babaji: There is nothing that is not possible.

At five o’clock in the evening Panditj i received another telegram. He read it and was stunned. He remained standing still for some time. Then he rushed to Baba Mahashaya and fell at his feet. He said, “Baba! Forgive me for blaming you for your indifference with regard to Banamali Babu’s visit.”

Babaji: Why? What has happened? Whose telegram is that?

Panditji: Kamini Babu’s.

Babaji: Read.

Panditji: You know it already.

Babaji: Shyama Das, you read.

Shyama Das began to read: “All of a sudden Rajarshi has developed severe stomachache. So we are not leaving today.”

This was followed by another telegram saying, “We have started today.” They arrived next morning. As soon as they reached Jhanjapita Math and went to Baba Mahashaya’s room, Rajarshi and his wife said, after making obeisance to him, “Baba, we shall stay in this room and not go anywhere else.”

Lalita Sakhi Dasi: This room is too small and not properly ventilated. How will you live in it?

Banamali: I have not come here for Jagannath darshan or any other purpose. My purpose is to enjoy the company of Baba Mahashaya to my heart’s content.

Then no one could say anything. Baba Mahashaya asked Lalita Dasi to vacate the room for them and shift his own things elsewhere.

Banamali Babu suffered from dyspepsia. He could hardly digest even old rice bound in a piece of cloth and boiled in half litre of water. Therefore someone asked Baba Mahashaya in his presence about arrangement to be made regarding his food. Baba Mahashaya replied, “No special arrangement. Since he is now an Ashram-vasi he will eat whatever is prepared in the Ashram with the other Ashramites after all other Vaishnavas have been fed.” Then he said to Banamali Babu, “Look, as long as you live in the Ashram, you will not spend a single paisa of your own.”

Banamali Babu said, “Baba, I shall abide by your wish, for am I not your own?”

Since Ratha-Yatra was near, a large number of people had come from outside and were staying in the Math. Everyday food had to be cooked for about two hundred and fifty people. Cooking took a lot of time and by the time the Vaishnavas had eaten it used to be 3 p.m. At that time Baba Mahashaya sat down to eat with Banamali Babu and the Babaj is. It is surprising that though Banamali Babu was accustomed neither to the time of the meal nor the variety of things he had to eat, he digested everything well and his health was sound as long as he stayed in the Ashram.

Ratha-Yatra arrived and the usual ceremonies began. Baba Mahashaya’s kirtans in front of the ratha were, as usual, the greatest attraction of the occasion. This time the participation of Rajarshi Banamali Roy and his Babaji companions in the kirtans added an additional charm to it. For them, however, the company of Baba Mahashaya was more important than any­thing else. They spent all their time with him either in kirtan or in conversation, in which his repartees were not only enjoyable but enlightening and inspiring. During the conver­sation they got an opportunity to ask him questions regarding some of the most knotty problems, which defied their un­derstanding, and invariably got a satisfactory answer.





Tears are one of the principle offerings in the worship of Krishna

20 11 2009

Jai Nitai!

The following is an excerpt from a letter I received from my gurudeva about the path of bhajan.

The easiest way to receive bhakti for Bhagavan is “kAnnA” (weeping). It has originated in Dvapara Yuga from Radharani Herself when she was crying in separation from Krishna. At that time Lalita and Bishakha asked Radharani, “Radhey! We are unable to tolerate the pain you are feeling in separation from your beloved, let us take you to Mathura and bring you to Kanai there.” But Radharani replied, “No, Bishakha it’s better if you do this one thing for me, please manifest a deity of separation of Krishna and keep that always within my heart, so that I can cry in separation for him always…so that I can cry out all day and all night for Him. This is my greatest happiness.”

The happiness of crying in separation from Krishna is a million times greater than the happiness achieved while actually being united with Him. In the Kali yuga our beloved Gaurasundar cried out by calling, “Ha Krishna!” Likewise Srimati Vishnupriya Devi cried out by calling, ” Ha Gaura!” And my gurudev Srimad Ramdas Babaji Maharaj also cried by exclaiming, “Ha Gaura!” So the surest path to achieve Sri Sri Gaura Govinda is this mood of crying in separation. I can tell you with certainty that if you can keep crying like this you will definitely gain the lotus feet of Nitai Gaura Radhey Shyam in this very lifetime.





Sri Sri Sakhi Ma ~ some photos taken at Samaj Bari

16 11 2009

Jai Sri Sakhi Ma!

I stayed at Samaj Bari Ashram in Nabadwip last March for a couple of weeks leading up to Gaura Purnima. While I was there I took whatever photos I could get in relation to Sri Sakhi Ma. Yesterday was her tirobhav mahotsava, so today seems like a good day to share the rest of the pictures of her that I have. The last two photos are of a book of kirtan she wrote which she requested never be photocopied or published. This book is highly treasured and never leaves Samaj Bari.

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A painting above the door of her samadhi mandir. The Vaisnava Mahatmas seated there are (L-R) Sri Madhusudan Das Babaji, Sri Govinda Das Babaji, Sri Ramdas Babaji, Sri Govardhan Das Babaji, and Sri Nanda Das Babaji

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The entrance to her samadhi mandir

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Her purna samadhi

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Her bhajan kutir on the rooftop of Radharaman Bagh

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Another view of her bhajan kutir

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The room she used to occupy. This photograph is often brought into the Nat Mandir when her kirtans are being sung.

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The original book which contains various kirtans she wrote such a Holi and Jhulan kirtan in her own handwriting.

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Another page of kirtan in her handwriting





Disappearance Day of Sri Sakhi Ma & Sri Sripad Ramdas Babaji Maharaj

15 11 2009

Today is the 63rd tirobhav of Paramaradhya Sriyukta Lalitadasi Sakhi Ma & the 56th tirobhav of Paramaradhya Sri Gurudev Namacharya 108 Sri Sripad Ramdas Babaji Maharaj. Festivals are being held at Samaj Bari and Path Bari Ashrams, with sucak kirtan being performed, nagar-sankirtan, and grand feasts being served.

My beloved Sakhi Thakurani and my beloved param-gurudev Sripad Babaji Maharaj are such prominent and important personalities in my life, so on this sacred day I feel the need to write something about them. Their glories are beyond the reach of mere words. It is impossible for me to properly glorify them or describe their divine characteristics. So in my own simple way I will just present a small glimpse into their lives and activities, hoping that it will bring pleasure to my Vaisnava readers.

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Sri Lalita Sakhi Dasi (Sakhi Ma)

Lalita Sakhi Dasi was always engaged in seva. She had taken up the task of cooking for Thakurji and serving in the ashram, but dearer than anything else to her, was the service of her gurudev, Sri Radharaman Charan Dev. Externally, she was always engaged in service, but internally her bhava was that of a sakhi of Braja. She imagined that the ashram was the kunja of Radharani and all the Vaisnavas in the ashram were Radha’s sakhis.

Lalita Sakhi Dasi was born Sri Gopal Krishna. Later when he attained the sanga of Radharaman Charan Das Dev Babaji Maharaj in Puri, the young boy known as Gopal was given the name Jayagopal by Baba who accepted him as one of his own.

One day Madhava Pasupalaka, the sringari panda of Jagannathji came to visit Baba and gave him the carana tulasi of Jagannath and His prasadi mala. At that time Jayagopal was standing behind Baba and was fanning him. Madhava Pasupalaka said, “Baba, when I see this boy and some of his companions dancing before Jagannath they appear to me like the sakhis of Braj. You will be surprised to know one day when I was offering dhupa to Jagannath, I actually saw them wearing gaghra like the sakhis of Braj! I said to myself, ‘Perhaps Baba has made them put on the sakhi vesh today. Oh! How beautiful they look.’ Exactly when I was lost in that thought, the mala worn by Jagannathji slipped and fell down…I thought that had some special significance. So I brought it to you, and you gave it to this boy. That day I did not reveal that to you. Today prompted by Jagannath I have specially come to tell you.”

Baba said, “You are a favorite of Jagannath, and you can make the impossible possible. Kindly bless him that he may realize the bhava he covets. Baba gestured to Jayagopal who then went and offered his dandabat before the sringari panda who then placed his hand on Jayagopal’s head and said, “May Jagannath bless you.” As if a step of the immediate fulfilment of the wish and blessings of Jagannath received through the panda, Baba performed a lila. He asked Kunja Babu to sing a kirtan pada relating to Radhaji’s standing on the flat roof of Tungamani mandir to see Krishna going to the forest. Jayagopal placed the Sri Murti of Radhika on a cauki. With every change of bhav in the kirtan, he changed the dress, position, and movement of the Murti to assist in the visualization of Their gostha-lila.

When the kirtan described Radha and Krishna in Radhakunda, he made Radhaji sit by the side of Krishna. He stood behind Them and started to fan Them. Radhagovinda, Kishorigopal, and four or five others began dancing in front of the Murtis. Baba Mahasaya then began a kirtan describing the beauty and glories of Radhakunda. Everyone danced and sang in ecstacy, except for Jayagopal who was then weeping constantly.

Tears fell incessantly from his eyes. Suddenly he fell unconscious. At this time Baba Mahasaya came dancing near him and uttered a mantra in his ear. He got up, flung one corner of his cadara over his head and went and sat in the corner of the temple sobbing and weeping. Just then a man came holding a sari and said, “Jagannath sitting in my heart told me that one of you needs a sari, so I have brought it, who will wear it?” Navadwip Baba made Baba Mahasaya wear the sari. The situation aroused sakhi bhav in his mind and he began to dance like one possessed by a sakhi of Braj! Tears of love constantly streamed from his eyes and the sattvika bhavs appeared on his body. Others caught this emotional current emanating from him and they too began to dance and sing under the spell of this bhava.

After about an hour, Baba came to his own. He then gave the sari to Navadwip Baba and whispered something in his ear. Navadwip Baba then made Jayagopal wear the sari. After Jayagopal was dressed in sari, Navadwip Baba brought him near Baba Mahasaya. Baba said, “Radharani has–out of Her infinite kindness–bestowed this sublimest and sweetest bhav upon you. Retain it carefully and be happy. Vesa alone will not do any good. You have to live according to this bhav in thought, word, and deed. In this sakhi bhav don’t even once think of your own happiness. You will have to convert this bhav into your svabhav, you will have to make it completely your own, your natural disposition. The best way to do this is to constantly do the seva of Radha Krishna according to this bhav.

Navadwip Baba said, “What should we name him?”
Baba said, “What do you propose?”
Navadwip Baba said, “I wish that henceforth he be called Lalita Sakhi Dasi.”

She was a greatly learned scholar and many big pandits of Nabadwip would come to her with questions on sastra. It was seen that Radha and Krishna would be personally present when she gave Bhagavat-path. She used to love to celebrate Jhulan, Ras, and Holi lilas with great eclat and bhava. She wrote several wonderful kirtans herself which are sung to this day. She also was responsible for the writing of The Life of Love, the biography of Radharaman Charan Das Dev. She also wrote commentaries on Sri Surat Kathamrita and Sangita Madhava and had them published.

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Babaji Maharaj

Sri Sripad Ramdas Babaji Maharaj

Now, I will tell something about the disappearance of Sripad Ramdas Babaji Maharaj. It is intimately connected with the departure of Sakhi Ma. Inspite of illness during 1945-46 Babaji Maharaj tried his level best to perform all his duties. Babaji Maharaj was in Sri Khanda on November 18, 1946, when Sakhi Thakurani who was staying in Radharaman Bagh of Samaj Bari left to enter the nitya-lila. She did this quietly without revealing her intentions to anyone. It happened so suddenly that even Babaji Maharaj himself could not forsee the event. Babaji Maharaj commented to Basu Dada that his whole life’s deliberation became topsy-turvy because of the departure of Sakhi Ma.

The first Viraha Mahotsav of Sakhi Ma was held on December 5, 1946. After that Babaji Maharaj spend a lot of time in Orissa during 1947-48 to fulfill particular duties, but it was evident that the loss of Sakhi Ma was becoming increasingly difficult to bear. The lonliness took him to places deep in his thoughts. Travelling from village to village performing sankirtan and holding festivals went on from 1948-1953. During 1953 the 100th year advent of Sri Radharaman Charan Das Dev too place. The sucack kirtan of Narahari Sarkar Thakur was solemnized at Sri Path Bari Ashram on December 3, 1953. The loss of separation and the eagerness to meet was so aptly depicted in the kirtan that words could not describe it.

His mixed feelings were thus: When you held my hand in the form of Sri Guru, I have nothing more to expect. Nam and Namdatta are not separate.

Tie me up in your bonds of love. I have come to be tied by you.

There is no distinction between Nam, Nami, and Namdatta.

The lila vividly depicts itself whenever there is lila prasanga. That day Babaji Maharaj was uncontrollable as he continued to gift gems of his wisdom to all that were present. The atmosphere was electric. He ended the sucak kirtan by emphasizing that Nam and Namdatta are one and inseparable. Hence, we should chant Nam with utmost sincerity.

On December 4, 1953, Babaji Maharaj ended the day like any other day and went to take his rest. At about 2:30 A.M. he woke up and sat on his bed and called his sevak. He said, “No more this time—Didi (Sakhi Ma) is calling me—Didi is calling me–I have to go. Call everybody here and bring my Thakur here.”

He took bath and after finishing his necessary chores he returned to his room and paid his respects to all the photographs in his room. He sat on a chair and said, “All is gone! All of you chant Nam!” Then in a deep-throated voice he called out, “Bandhusundar! Bandhusundar! Radharaman! Radharaman!” He then said, “Let me sing on the floor.” He got down from his chair and started chanting:

“(Bhaja) Nitai Gaura Radhey Shyam ~ (Japa) Hare Krishna Hare Ram”

Tears were shooting from his eyes as if from a mechanical pump. Everyone joined in the chanting. In the meantime the photos he worshipped daily of his Sri Gurudeva and Nitai Gaura were brought from the Mandir. Babaji Maharaj gazed at Them in a reverie. Then in a booming voice, as if the essence of his whole life’s quest and it’s divine answer sprang out from his within and burst into, “Jaya Nityananda Ram!” which shook the entire ashram. The chanting continued. Babaji Maharaj was chanting, but gradually his eyes began to close and he became motionless, and entered into the realm of Sri Nam.





The benefits of likhita japa and the passing of Caitanya Das

9 11 2009

Jai Nitai!

I would like to briefly discuss one type of japa that is not often spoken of. It is called likhita japa. Likhita japa is an extremely effective spiritual practice that consists of writing down a fixed amount of your mantra, the mahamantra, the name of your Ishta-dev, or the name of your gurudeva in a notebook. Likhita japa is one of the most potent forms of sadhana because so many of your senses are engaged simultaneously in the practice. The mind, the eyes, the fingers and the hands all combine and cooperate together to create a highly concentrated form of meditation. It is deceptively simple, yet amazingly powerful.

One should make a vow to write a certain number of names or write for a certain length of time daily. Forget everything. Observe mauna and just remain alone with your Ishta-dev or your gurudeva and for a least a half hour and get fully absorbed in your likhita japa.

Below is an inspiring story from The Life of Love. I couldn’t help but to remember this story when discussing likhita japa.

One year during the Ratha yatra Radharaman Charan Dev (Babaji Mahasaya) was singing and dancing in ecstasy before the cart of Jagannath Dev. When the cart reached Rajbari suddenly a particular realization came to the mind of Babaji Mahasaya and he slipped out of the procession to sit alone on the veranda of Gopal Prasada Dutta. He appeared sad and grave and no one who saw him had the courage to speak to him to ask what worried him.

The reason for his anxiety was that he realized that his dear disciple named Caitanya Das who had long been ill was soon to breath his last breath. Caitanya Das was staying in a nearby house and was being taken care of by Jai Gopal Das (later to be known as Lalita Sakhi Dasi or simply Sakhi Ma). Babaji Mahasaya was the life and soul of Caitanya Das who was a highly elevated mahatma absorbed in Gopi-bhav. Whether awake or asleep, eating or drinking, talking or meditating, the subject of his thoughts and speech was always his beloved gurudeva, Babaji Mahasaya.

When Jai Gopal could understand that Caitanya Das was nearing the end of his life, he was uncertain what to do. Caitanya Das told him, “There is no cause for anxiety, please somehow bring Babaji Mahasaya here. If you can do that then I will know you are a true friend. I want to die while looking at Sri Babaji Mahasaya. The only thing I can give you in return for this service is the aprAkRta gopI-bhAva, so difficult to achieve even by the Rishis, but which gurudev has kindly bestowed upon me. You have it, and even while you serve the Lord in this world enjoy the highest bliss of the transcendental world.”

By this time Nabadwip Chandra Das began searching for Babaji Mahasaya. He stopped at the place of Caitanya Das and was alarmed to see his condition. Jai Gopal told him that they needed to find Babaji Mahasaya and bring him to Caitanya Das quickly. Nabadwip Chandra found Babaji Mahasaya and told him that Caitanya Das is dying and wants his darshan before he passes away. Babaji Mahasaya did not respond in the slightest…he didn’t even give a sign to indicate that he heard what was being said. Nabadwip Das returned and told Jai Gopal to speak to him. Jai Gopal was but a boy and he could hardly muster the courage necessary to speak to such a grave Babaji Mahasaya. He pulled himself together and went and stood before Babaji Mahasaya and said commandingly, “What kind of a mahapurush are you? Your disciple is dying and he wants your darshan and you are sitting here like one absolutely indifferent and unconcerned. Come, don’t waste time.”

Babaji Mahasaya got up and went to stand behind the bed of Caitanya Das. Nabadwip Chandra announced to Caitanya Das that Babaji Mahasaya had come. Caitanya Das beckoned with his eyes that Babaji Mahasaya might stand before him. Babaji Maharaj moved towards his feet and Caitanya Das observed him from head to toe and then fixed his eyes upon his face. Nabadwip Chandra lifted Babaji Mahasaya’s right foot and placed it on Caitanya Das’s chest. Tears came from the eyes of Caitanya Das as if to bid him farewell. Babaji Mahasaya was so far standing motionless and speechless, but now his heart broke and tears cascaded from his eyes. He said, “O Caitanya! You are leaving me to go where peace and happiness reign supreme. What can I say, except that I take upon myself all your sins, past and present, so that you may go with a pure heart and attain your desired end–the loving seva of the twin Lords of your heart, according to your bhava.

Meanwhile the cart of Jagannath Dev came to a halt and Babaji Mahasaya’s dear disciple, my param gurudeva, Ramdas Babaji who had been so far dancing and chanting in front of Jagannath’s cart suddenly felt an internal attraction and came running with the kirtan-party to the place of Caitanya Das. They were all astonished to see such an inspiring and elevating scene. Caitanya Das’s eyes were fixed on the face of Babaji Mahasaya and he was drowning in an ocean of bliss from the touch of the lotus feet of Babaji Mahasaya. Everyone was inspired to sing aloud:

“Ha! Nitai-Gaura Radhey-Shyam ~ Ha! Hare Krishna Hare Ram”

Tears were streaming from the eyes of everyone. All of a sudden they saw that the entire body of Caitanya Das trembled as leaves do in a breeze. His eyes widened, and he seemed to be seeing something new in Babaji Mahasaya. He looked at him with exhultation and with this he breathed his last.

Nabadwip Chandra removed the cloth from the chest of Caitanya Das, and he found two papers under it. One containg the Guru-vandana and the other containing a hundred thousand names of Babaji Mahasaya in his handwriting which showed his utter dedication to the feet of Babaji Mahasaya, his guru.

Babaji Mahasaya said mournfully with tears in his eyes and his throat choked with emotion, “Nitai Chand had kindly given me the company of such a pure and dedicated soul. I do not know why He has now deprived me of it.”

The body of Caitanya Das was taken to the seashore with a kirtan procession. Babaji Mahasaya himself washed it with water of the sea, dressed it with his own kaupin and bahirvasa and then clasped it and danced like one maddened in love. The face of Caitanya Das rested on his shoulder and his arms were flung round his neck. Baba danced for a long time. Who could stop him? People who saw this were reminded of Mahaprabhu dancing with the dead body of Thakur Haridas.

After some time when Babaji Mahasaya came to his own, Govinda Das took the body of Caitanya Das from him and laid it on the pyre of sandalwood. Fire was set to the pyre and everyone circumambulated the burning pyre dancing and singing:

“Ha! Nitai-Gaura Radhey Shyam ~ Ha! Hare Krishna Hare Ram”