The twin Ramesvara Mahadevas

2 06 2010

In a recent article about the guardians of Radha Kunda, I mentioned how Ramesvara Mahadeva protected the west side of the kunda. I just learned that there are actually two Ramesvara Mahadev shrines and they are side by side. If you look closely in the first photo below you can see the shrine to Shiva that I originally posted.


We are losing the natural beauty of Braja and the Govardhan parikrama experience

31 05 2010

Jai Nitai!

We are all more or less aware of the destruction and insanity that it currently taking place in Brindavan in the name of “development.” Instead of trying to maintain the spiritual and cultural heritage which is the real wealth of India,  the current government is instead simply  interested  in quick money by  exploiting  India’s sacred areas and resources in their rush to fatten their purses and attain  first-world status which they  will never achieve by such careless and destructive behavior.

Jagat Ji informed me yesterday that on the 29th of May bulldozers were sent to Anyour, which is a small village  about four  kilometres south of the town of Govardhan on the parikrama marg and asked if I could get some photos. Grateful for the opportunity to do some seva I packed my camera, jumped on my bicycle, and wondered what I was going to encounter. Before actually arriving in Anyour I saw some buildings destroyed. I was a little confused because what they tore down with the bulldozers didn’t seem to follow any pattern. It looked random to me…as if they just picked and chose whatever they felt like destroying as they went.

The Government wants to install stone walkways on both sides of the marg and from what I have gathered,  anything within 21 meters of the center of the road will be cleared out so the road can be widened and the stone pathways can be installed. It appears that soon you will no longer be able to walk on the natural surface of the sandy ground when doing parikrama. Let’s all hope and pray that they leave the inner margs untouched.

So far the damage from the bulldozers is somewhat minimal, but that is soon about to change. There are literally hundreds of trees that have  the  red and white stripes painted on them which I was told by some managers of Brij Vasundhara luxury cottages means that they are to be cut down. I spoke with one man and his son who lost their entire house which included a puja room for a large Govardhan sila they worshiped. The  walls and ceiling of the puja room were smashed and collapsing. Giriraj was covered in dust and surrounded by broken chips of bricks and cement. The man was squatting on a little section of the roof of his house that was still standing with his chin in his hands contemplating what he should do.  I saw several Shiva-linga shrines, a mandir of Durga Ma, and many other sacred places that will soon be crushed by the bulldozers.

Yesterday they began pouring concrete on parikrama marg from the road leading to the south side of Manasi Ganga heading towards town. The road that runs along with the parikrama marg will all be widened and covered with concrete and both sides of the marg will have those three-sided interlocking stones covering the natural dirt pathways we all so much enjoyed traversing.  Nearly the entire road from Govardhan to Radhakund has been chopped up in preparation for the concrete that will eventually (probably soon)   be  poured and like everywhere else I saw, they are preparing for the stone walking paths to be laid.

I will post some photos that will give an idea what is happening on the parikrama  marg  now from beyond the town of Govardhan up to the area of Govinda Kunda. I hope to return tomorrow when the bulldozers are scheduled to come back and take more photos.

The guardians of Radha Kunda and Mahaprabhu’s love for Shiva

27 05 2010

Radhakund is protected in all four directions by Mahadeva. The two most ancient mandirs are Kundesvara and Bankhandi. When coming to Radhakund it is best to first stop and offer your obeisances and prayers to Mahadeva and seek his permission the enter Radhakund. Kundesvara Mahadeva protects the south side of Radhakund. Bankhandi Mahadeva protects the east side. Ramesvara Mahadeva protects the west side and the Mahadeva shrine adjacent to the Radha Raman Mandir guards the north side. I have attached some photos I took of these four Mahadeva temples and told the story from Caitanya Mangal, by Locan Das Thakur about Mahaprabhu entering the village of Ekamraka, which is the place of Shiva and Parvati and is located in Bhubaneswar. Jai Bholenath!

Gaurahari walking like a ferocious lion eventually arrived at the village of Ekamraka. Shiva and Parvati stay in this village. Gaura’s heart went wild and He ran to see them. Soon Gaura Mahaprabhu found the temple. Great longings filled His heart. He became wild with ecstatic loving emotions. A beautiful flag fluttered on top of the mandir. Seeing the flag on the temple Gaurahari offered obeisances. He got up and continued walking until he was able to enter the temple of Shiva.

In the village of Ekamraka there are ten million Shiva-lingas. The main Shiva-linga is known as Visvesvara. It is said that the ground of that village looks like sandesa. The waters of all the holy rivers are present in the Maha-bindu sarovara which is there. Many different holy places are also present in that village.

Upon entering the temple, Gaurahari saw Shiva and Parvati. He bowed down before them, and was overcome with prema. Anyone who sees the linga of Shiva and Parvati finds that his troubles are soon broken into pieces. Seeing the linga of Lord Shiva, Gaurahari was overcome with ecstasy. His body trembled, and He was unable to remain peaceful. From His reddish eyes tears flowed nonstop, and the hairs of His body stood on end. Again and again He recited prayers.

Note: Sri Gaurahari then recites prayers that are said to have been composed by Himself to glorify Sri Shiva. The verses are known as Sri Shivastakam—eight verses along with a ninth verse known as the phala-shruti which states the benediction one receives by devotionally reciting these prayers.

Sri Shivastakam

namo namas te tri-daśeśvarāya
bhūtādi-nāthāyua mṛdāya nityam
cūḍāya gaurī-nayanotsavāya

I repeatedly offer my obesisances unto you, controller of the 30 primal devas…unto you, original father of created beings…unto you, whose character is gracious…unto you, whose head is crested by the sickle moon arisen from the waves of the Ganga and unto you, who are a festival for the eyes of the fair Goddess, Sri Gauri.

sa nṛtya-raṅgeṣta-vara-pradāya
kaivalya-nāthāya vṛṣa-dhwajāya

I offer my obeisances unto you, who are dressed in garments resembling molten gold, the moon, blue lotuses, coral, and dark rainclouds…unto you, who bestow the most desirable boons on your devotees by means of your delightful dancing…unto you, who are the master of the impersonalists, and unto you, whose flag bears the image of the bull.

tamo-bhide te jagataḥ śivāya
sahasra-sañjit-tvara-tejase ‘stu

I offer my obeisances unto you, who dispel darkness with your three eyes—the moon, the sun, and the fire…unto you, who causes auspiciousness for all the living entities of the universe and unto you, whose potency easily defeats that of thousands of moons and suns.

śārdūla-carmāṁśuka-divya tejase
sahasra-patropari saṁsthitāya
varāṅgadāmukta-bhuja dvayāya

I offer my obeisances unto you, whose form is brilliantly illuminated by the jewels of Ananta Deva, the king of snakes…unto you, who are clothed by a tiger skin and thus radiate divine effulgence…unto you, who sit upon a lotus of a thousand petals, and unto you, whose two arms are adorned by lustrous bangles.

premānam evādya harau videhi

I offer my obeisances unto you, who bring happiness to your servitors as you pour on them the liquid nectar of your reddish lotus-feet, which ring with charming ankle bells….Obeisances unto you, who are adorned with an abundance of gems—please endow me today with pure love for Hari!

śrī rāma govinda mukunda śaure
śri kṛṣṇa nārāyana vāsudeva
ity ādi-nāmāmrta-pāna-matta-

O Sri Rama! O Govinda! O Mukunda! O Sauri! O Sri Krishna! O Narayana! O Vasudeva! I offer my obesisances unto you, Sri Shiva, who are the monarch of intoxicated bee-like devotees, maddened by drinking the nectar of these and other Holy Names of the Lord. Obeisances unto you, who destroys all grief.

śrī-nāradādyaiḥ satataṁ sugopya-
jijñāsitāyāśu vara-pradaya
tebhyo harer bhakti-sukha-pradāya
śivāya sarva-gurave namo namaḥ

I  offer  my respectful obeisances again and again unto you, who are forever inquired of confidentially by Sri Narada and other sages…unto you, who also grant favors to them very quickly…unto you, who bestows the happiness of Hari bhakti…unto you, who create auspiciousness, and unto you, who are the guru of everyone.

tat-prāṇa-nāthāya rasa-pradāya
sadā samutkaṇṭha-govinda-līlā-
gāna-pravīṇāya namo ‘stu tubhyam

I offer my obeisances unto you, who are a festival of auspiciousness for the eyes of goddess Gauri…unto you, who are the monarch of her life-breath…unto you, who are capable of bestowing sacred rapture, and unto you, who are expert in forever singing songs of the lila of Govinda with great longing.

etat śivāsyāṣṭakam adbhutaṁ mahat
śṛṇvan hari-prema labheta śīghram
jñānaṁ ca vijñānam apūrva-vaibhavaṁ
yo bhāva-pūrnaḥ paramaṁ samādaram

A person, filled with loving sentiments, and who listens with rapt attention to this eight-fold prayer to Sri Shiva can quickly gain Sri Hari prema as well as transcendental knowledge, the complete realization of that knowledge and unprecedented powers.

Gaurahari recited these prayers to Shiva. His companions who surrounded Him also recited prayers to Shiva. Then one of the Lord Shiva’s pujaris offered Shiva’s prasada remnants of fragrances, sandal paste, and flower garlands. After offering His obeisances to Lord Shiva, Gaurahari left the temple.

Gaurahari went to the home of a devotee and rested. Later He ate, and slept happily. At dawn, He who is the master of the three worlds arose. Gaurahari then bathed, completed his morning duties, and after offering His obeisances to Shiva, He  departed. Mahaprabhu continued His journey accompanied by His companions. Now I will describe a conversation that took place between two of His associates, Murari Gupta and Damodar Pandit. Please listen carefully to the description of their conversation. Damodara Pandita asked Murari Gupta, why did Gaurahari who is the Supreme Lord accept the prasada of Lord Shiva? Because of a curse by Bhrgu Muni it is said that no one should accept remnants offered to Lord Shiva. Why then did Gaurahari accept them being fully aware of such a curse? Murari said, please hear me. Oh Damodara, how can I know what is in the heart and mind of Mahaprabhu? I can only speak as far as my intelligence allows. If your heart thinks I speak the truth you may accept my words.

A person who serves Lord Shiva but does not honor the prasadi remnants of Shiva does so only because he thinks that Shiva and Krishna are different. The brahmana Bhrgu Muni spoke his curse for people with an impure heart that don’t know Shiva’s true glories. However a person who is fully aware that Shiva and Krishna are non-different, and who serves Shiva should certainly honor the prasad of Lord Shiva. Such a person brings great pleasure both to Siva and to Krishna. Shiva is the king of the Vaisnavas. For this reason he should be worshiped. A person who eats Shiva’s prasad is released from the prison of the material world. In truth Gaura was a guest in Shiva’s house. With a joy filled heart Shiva offered Him all hospitality. Please know that Bhrgu Muni’s curse is meant for the non-Vaisnavas. A Vaisnava who honors Lord Shiva brings pleasure to Sri Krishna. Gaurahari descended to this world to instruct the jivas. Damodara Pandit then said, you have destroyed my foolish ideas. Hearing these words everyone’s heart became full of bliss.  In this way Locana dasa narrates Sri Caitanyadeva’s pastimes. This is coming from the madhya-lila of Locan Das Thakur’s book. Similar descriptions can be found in Murari Gupta’s book, Sri Caitanya Caritra Maha Kavya in the third prakrama of his writing.

Manasi Devi and Chakalesvara Mahadeva Mandir

21 05 2010

Jai Nitai!

As I was taking photos of the project of cleaning the Manasi Ganga  I also took darshan and photos at a number of other mandirs as well. For now I will post the photos I took at Manasi Devi Mandir and the Chakalesvara Mahadeva Mandir.

Manasi Devi is the the Goddess that supervises and controls the Manasi Ganga area. There are four Devis in Braj Mandal that are considered by many as the most prominent. Manasi Devi on the bank of Brahma Kund  in Govardhan,  Yogamaya Devi (zrI pAtala devI) adjacent to the Govinda Ji Mandir in Brindavan, Paurnamasi Devi near Seva Kunj in Brindavan, and Vrinda Devi in Kamyavan.

The Chakalesvara Mahadeva Mandir and the immediate surrounding area is known as Chakra Tirtha. It is said that Krishna’s Sudarshan Chakra is embedded in the northern bank of Manasi Ganga. The Chakra was being used at the time to protect the Brajabasis from the deluge created by Indra at the time when Krishna was holding up the entire Govardhan Parvat.

Chakalesvara Mahadeva Mandir contains a group of five lingas and a beautiful Sri Murti of Nandi sitting and facing the main shrine. This is one of the main Mahadeva Mandirs that are protecting Braja Mandal. The other ones being, Gopesvara in Brindavan, Kundesvara in Radhakund, Bhutesvara in Mathura, Nandesvara in Nanda Gaon and Kamesvara in Kamyavan.

An introdruction to Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

20 09 2009

Jai Nitai!

The first time I came to Kolkata for darshan of Sri Path Bari Ashram, I was hosted by my gurubhai Subrata Ji at the home of his in-laws in Dakshineswar. I recall that right away a photo of a sadhu that was hanging on a wall caught my attention. He had quite a striking appearance. I asked what his name was and in reply I was told, “Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath”. His picture also graced the family altar. I don’t know why, but I never really got around to inquiring very much about him.

The last time I was in Kolkata was in March of this year for the tirobhav utsava of my gurudeva. One day during the utsava my gurubhai, the Mahanta, Raghunath Dada suggested I go to Mahamilan Math for darshan. It sounded fine to me, though I had no idea what the place was, so I got a rickshaw and after about a ten minute ride I was there. It turns out that it is the headquarters for the mission of Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath. It was a lovely and well maintained ashram with an Asta-sakhi Mandir. It was quite a pleasant surprise to see such beautiful Sri Murti’s of Radhey Shyam surrounded by Their dearest sakhis. Today, I came across some information about the life and teachings of Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath and was amazed by him and his accomplishments, so I thought I would write a little bit about him.

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

The life of this great Mahatma is astonishing and full of miraculous occurrences. To many people he was known as “Nam Avatar” because of his potency in spreading the practice of kirtan and Nam japa. At one point there was even a movement where people wanted to label his as a divine avatar, but he did not allow that to happen. Personally, I feel that he, like Sri Anandamayi Ma that I wrote about recently, is a special manifestation of divinity. I believe he came to spread the glories of Sri Nam as the best spiritual sadhana and in a way that could easily appeal to people following all sorts of spiritual paths and traditions. To aid his preaching he even started his own sampradaya known as the Akhil Bharat Jaiguru Sampradaya, which is still alive and active.

He took birth on the bank of the Ganga in a village named Keota in the Hooghly district on February 17, 1892, and was named, Prabodh Chandra.  His great-grandfather was an astrologer and when he did the horoscope of the child he exclaimed, “Look here! A Mahapurush has come! Blow the conch shell! Wherever this child will go, annadAna, (distribution of prasad) on a vast scale will follow him.” He was born in an orthodox Brahman family. His father was named, Pranhari Chattopadhayaya and his mother was Malyavati Devi. In 1897 as a six year old child he was lying in bed with his father and pointed his finger towards a large window and said, “Father, look! Shiva is standing over there!” The startled father questioned, “Where is Shiva? Where is He, my son?” His son replied, “There He is standing in front of me!” His father then said, “What does Shiva look like?” And the boy replied, “He has a fair complexion, is wearing tiger skin, has matted hair on head, three eyes, in the left hand a trident and in the right hand he has a damaru.” His father didn’t see anything and Shiva vanished. That young boy Prabodh Chandra Chattopadhyaya turned into Sitaramdas later in his life. And his mission since the age of six was to awaken the sleeping masses and show them pointing his finger– “Look, there is Shiva!”

In April of 1943, in Jagannath Puri a sadhu was going around the Mandir of Jagannath Dev with a large group doing Nam Sankirtan. He was lean, had crown of matted hair adorning his head, a beard and a divine appearance. On his chest he wore the wooden sandals of his gurudev. Some local people joined his party and they were distributing some pamphlets. The sadhu did not know what was written in the pamphlets, nor were the local crowd known to him. After asking, he came to know what was being announced in those pamphlets–his own presence at Ankara Math in Cuttack at the akhaNDa nAm kIrtan. He was greatly surprised, and he found out from further questioning that they had come to know of his arrival in Orissa at this precise time from a 400 year old book maintained in the Ashram. One of the pancha sakhas of  Mahaprabhu, Achyutananda, had predicted that a preacher of the Mahamantra wearing his Gurudeva’s sandals around his neck, would come to Jagannath Puri at that predicted time for preaching and spreading Sri Nam. As soon as he heard this, he went into samadhi. The detailed descriptions of his family name, the story of his life, as well as his sect etc., were all written within that book. Not only him, but the descriptions of other great saints, both predecessors and contemporaries and their lives were described in that book. The book had said about this sadhu, “God Himself will assume the body of a man and appear as an incarnation through him. You should wait for his arrival.”

The sadhu who appeared before the eyes of the omniscient saint, Achyutananda four hundred years ago, is the loving guru of thousands of devotees, Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath.

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath with Sri Anandamayi Ma

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath with Sri Anandamayi Ma

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

Tarapith at Rampurhat – Jai Ma Tara!

7 05 2009

While in Nabadwip last March I had a desire to visit Sri Khanda. My gurubhai, Raghunath Da decided to arrange a day trip in which we could visit many places. We went to Katwa, Jajigram, Sri Khanda, Ekacakra, and on the way home we stopped at Rampurhat in Birbhum district which is where Tarapith is located. There Tara Ma is situated in her mandir on the banks of the Dvarka river. The temple was originally built by Vasistha, but due to the passage of time it was lost. A merchant named Joybroto was instructed by Tara Ma in a dream to build a shrine for her. This Ma Tara has two hands, is garlanded by snakes and is wearing sacred threads. Shiva is lying in her lap and sucking her left breast. The story goes that in order to alleviate the pain and buring from drinking poison to save the earth, Tara is feeding him her breast milk. Tarapith is a maha-shakti pith. There are 52 such shaktipiths in India.

The story of the shaktipiths goes as follows…Daksa was going to perform a sacrifice and invited everyone except Shiva and his wife Sati. Sati was the daughter of Daksa and he was angry at Shiva because he didn’t like that his daughter married a “yogi.” She had expressed her desire to attend to Shiva who had tried his best to dissuade her from going. Shiva eventually allowed her to go escorted by his ganas. But Sati, being an uninvited guest, was not given any respect. Furthermore, Daksha insulted Shiva. Sati was unable to bear her father’s insults toward her husband, so she committed suicide by jumping into the yagna fire. When Shiva heard about the death of his wife he became very distraught and immediately went there. He placed the body of Sati on his shoulder and in great anger he began the Pralaya Tandava, the dance of destruction. To save the worlds from destruction the demi-gods appealed to Vishnu for help. Understanding the situation, Vishnu called upon His Sudarshan Cakra and cut the body of Sati into 52 pieces. This caused Shiva to settle down and thus the worlds were saved. The various pieces of her body fell at several spots all through India and formed sites which are known as shaktipithas.

Before Sati was given permission by Shiva to attend the sacrifice her and Shiva had some strong difference of opinion. She was furious that he forbade her to go and Shiva wanted to get up and leave her to her anger, but in whatever direction he turned Sati would appear before him standing in peculiar and strange forms, and thus all the ten directions were enveloped by ten surprisingly novel manifestations. These ten forms are known as Dasa Mahavidya. Tara is one of these manifestations of Maha-Kali, Maha-shakti representing, among other things, ten super-psychological sentiments (rasa).

Darshan of Tara Ma was a very powerful experience as one would expect because a shaktipith is a spiritually rich and energizing location. Tara is the deity of karuna, compassion…the rescuer. When helpless jivas of Kali yuga are drowned in an ocean of worldly misery, she extends her hands to them.

I wasn’t allowed to take any photos in the Mandir and unfortunately didn’t think to buy any from the street vendors so I am posting images that I found online that most looked like her the way I remember her. There was a well-known unorthodox tantric guru of Tarapith named Bamakhepa. You can find an article on his life at the following address.