Three days in Barsana

Binode Baba with Pandit. 

Well I am back, folks. Radhe Radhe. Barsana is really my best place right now. I feel so natural there. I love the narrow lanes and streets. I love the sandstone stairways that go up to the temple. The upward climb is invigorating and I try to do it without stopping or slowing my gait. As I write I can feel the effects in my upper calves.

I also love going on the Parikrama around the hill with Vinode Baba and his entourage.

Brahmachala is amazing. The view from Ladili Lal's wide deck is like a glow of orange brown effulgence in the orange setting sun sky. When you walk along the ridge from Maan Mandir towards the Jaipur temple, with all these shriveled trees and the skinny monkeys it seems to shimmer with a divine luster.

The monkeys run like mad when Vinode Baba comes disttributing his goodies -- sweets and chapatis. I don't think there is that much food on the mountain. The monkeys in Barsana are much smaller than their cousins in Vrindavan. Amazingly, however, they don't go down into the town to cause trouble and ravage the garbage dumps wherever they find them. Nor do they steal glasses. There are thousands of them on the mountain, but they are barely noticeable down below in the town. Which disproves my theory that the red rhesus monkeys will always gravitate to human refuse and remain indifferent to their natural habitat. Maybe there is something different about Nature in the rocks of Brahmachal.

It is almost impossible for me to speak of Brahmachal without talking about refuse. The other day while on Parikrama with Vinode Baba, he took a slight detour to go around Dahiya Kund. I had never been there before and I noticed the Braj Foundation had put up a stone information board, explaining the lila and the Braj Foundation's role in repairing the kund at the request of Ramesh Baba.

Well, though this work was done only a few years ago, it looks like an abandoned outpost from the Nehruvian period. Decorative pillars have fallen. Stone slabs are overgrown with grass and weeds. Local residents use the place for drying cowdung and protect their valuable patties from damage with thorns. The kund itself is practically empty of water, except for a puddle or two, and fast growing eucalyptus are growing rapidly along with other acacia bushes. It is hard to say what good has come of the TBF's work if it is reduced to a ruin so quickly. Things degrade very quickly in this country, and if they are neglected in this way, that is what can be expected.

What is worse is that most of the water that is meant to supply the kund never makes it. The parikrama path around the kund, and also built by TBF is like walking on stepping stones through the middle of a bog. I would say wetland, but since it is waste water from the buildings at the bottom of the hill in Gahvarvan and is filled with all the usual kinds of refuse it feels more like .a sewer. It might be nice if it wasn't a sewer.

We are all very proud of Ramesh Baba and his Padma Shri award and all the good work he has done for the environmental movement. But quite frankly, the garbage disaster that is on Brahmachala starts with Gahvar Van and Maan Mandir and continues unabated all the way to the Ladili Mandir. It is impossible not to notice and I wonder why so many people don't!

Perhaps it is that they only see the sacred and do not perceive at all that the plastic wrappers and a thousand other variations of throw away crap that litter the entire length of the Parikrama.

And I am not being entirely negative here. I barely saw it this time either, and certainly I looked at it with barely any emotional charge, as we foreigners often feel. Brahmachal does really vibrate at a frequency that transports you into some kind of world of light. I got an inkling of Rupa's verse__

dṛṣṭaiḥ svabhāva-janitair vapuṣaś ca doṣair
na prākṛtatvam iha bhakta janasya paśyet |
gaṅgāmbhasāṁ na khalu budbuda-phena-paṅkair
brahma-dravatvam apagacchati nīra-dharmaiḥ ||6||

One should not look upon a devotee as a mundane being after seeing the flaws of body or mind produced by his nature. It is like the fact that the Ganges waters lose their divine nature as liquid Brahma because of the bubbles and mud that are in the nature of river water. (Upadeshamrrita 6)

So I stuck to the happy mood and dashed off to the Ladili Lal temple where one enters yet another world. There is a kind of joyful anarchy, something of a crazy community of multiple groups of devotees doing their own bhakti thing, or tourists and pilgrims wandering round gazing at everything -- the sadhus, the Gosais, the people in general, just milling around and looking down at the town or Jaipur mandir from the verands.

Baba sits somewhat regally surrounded by his very distinctive looking inner group -- vairagis with dreadlocks and wearing a few rags, flamboyant Radha Kund tilak all over their body. And so of course anyone coming in to the temple, especially someone important from the devotee world, has to come and give his pranam. The local children, many of whom are beggars, harass him for sweets without caring for the distinguished Vaishnava raj sabha.

Sometimes Brijbasis or temple Gosais come and regale Baba with folklore and legends. Sometimes they even put on a show for him spontaneously, singing devotional Brij-related songs and stories from a well-developed long tradition. It is bliss. It really is bliss.

The temple courtyard is surrounded by steps and two meters of verandah. People sit here, many of them Babas and other sadhu types, chanting japa or just watching. Many have their regular place where they come day after day, waiting for the curtains to open and arati to begin with a great crash of bells.

Everyone at arati sings their own song, or don't sing at all. Arati is about just looking, or staring at the deity, darshan, if you can get a glimpse through all the heads. But when it is over, there is a great cry from the devotees Jai Radhe! And there is a hurling of flower petals at the Divine Couple.

And then start the stotras. Two main groups chant different mantras. In the back it is the old Gosais and in the front it is the youth. The young men chant Kripa Kataksha Stotram with unparalleled vigor. The meter is very rhythmic (short long short long, etc.) and unchanging, totaka, I think it might be, and so lends itself to increased tempo and staccato regularity. kadā kariṣyasīha māṁ kṛpākaṭākṣabhājanam. And then they sing Radha Kishori daya koro, with lots of utsaha. The result is uplifting. The young guys have a lot of energy. [Note to self: couldn't this energy be applied to cleaning Brahmachal?]

In the back the old Gosais chant a potpouri of verses , some standard and many from the Radha Rasa Sudha Nidhi. The temple is filled with a joyful racket while a priest takes the burning lamp through the crowd to offer it to some other shrines When he comes to the steps at the back of the courtyard leading to the open veranda, the Gosais separate to make a path for him and they take the flame prasad as he passes.

Then you do parikrama of the temple and go down one of the three ways down the hill on that side. An interesting one is in Rangili Gali which breaks off from the main stairway. It is very narrow, very unchanged from the old times. Anyway, it looks unchanged.

I have a friend from Birnagar, Krishadas, who lives with his wife in one of the houses on that lane. He invited me to lunch one day. There is no electricity. There is a great view of the Ladili temple from the roof. I thought it was pretty cool.

And this is something that was very cool for me this time is that I seem to have some interesting friends in the Vaishnava community there. The first day I saw Anurag Baba in the temple and he told me to come and see him. I went the next day. We sat and mostly he talked. The man is a wealth of information about north Indian religion, and knows everyone and all the stories about everyone. He is originally from the Punjab. His father was a professor and an Arya Samaji. But he used to give Ramayan readings also. Anurag came to Braj when still a teenager and has been here ever since. He goes everywhere, knows all the histories and traditions. He told me that he was depressed because in the last year or two so many (23 he said) great Vaishnavas left the world. His bhajan, he said, is not to chant japa of the holy name, but to repeat the names of 2000 saints on his mala.

We mostly talked about parampara because I have been thinking about it a bit lately. Anurag Baba is initiated in the Nitai Gaur Radhe Shyam parivar, but he is one of those extreme independent types. From the time of Boro Dada and Ramdas Babaji, the Nitai Gaur Radhe Shyam panthis have a great tolerance as well as respect for eccentricity. So on the parampara issue he was very liberal, saying that no one can restrict the will of the omnipresent and omnipotent God to reveal himself in response to a soul that establishes a relation with him.

At any rate, I can barely remember a word of it and of course I did not have a recorder because I was without gadgets for a day or two. He told me so much about Shyam Charan Das, the founder of the Shuk sampradaya, who did not have a sampradaya himself. Hit Harivamsh, and so on. He said, "Are these not mahatmas?" Basically, his objection is only to those who are narrow-minded and claim that their revelation is the only authentic one. He also knows a lot about Sikhism and its Hindu roots, Nanak and Guru Govinda Singh and so on. Like I said, the man is a treasure trove.

And of course that is not all that I have to say about Barsana! I really go for the kirtan at Vinode Baba's and to listen to him talk.

Vinode Baba really does look like Santa Claus. At least, it seems that his entire face has been shaped around a smile, with high round cheeks and twinkling eyes. This becomes most manifest when he is doing kirtan or quoting a good verse that hits the point about some aspect of bhajan. Yesterday it was about nishtha, total commitment. Vinode Baba sticks to the basics, Gita and Bhagavata. He doesn't go off on lila sphurtis or poetic descriptions from Radha Rasa Sudha Nidhi or anything like that. He talks a good vairagi line. Nama bhajan, that is the main thing.

The kirtan is always resounding, no matter how many people. No matter who else is there, or even whether Baba himself sings, It always takes you into a world the kirtan itself creates in that environment. Vinode Baba's band of merry men is really dedicated to the Maha Mantra. They are mostly good singers and instrumentalists, and guests and vairagis from the neighborhood are naturally attracted and participate. Often there are talented musicians who come.

In the Priya Kunj ashram people are constantly coming for darshan, but most are disappointed. They don't know that the best time for darshan is kirtan time. It is a bit late in the evening (around 9), but that is when Baba makes his appearance..

And now that will probably be the destruction of the Pyari Kunj idyllic vairagi community. Me publicizing it like this.

By the way, after what I said about Dohiya Kund, I should mention that Priya Kund, which I wrote about effusively not so long ago is also showing the signs of deterioration and neglect. The water is filling up slowly with empty plastic bottles and chip wrappers. Half of the structures and steps are not swept or maintained, and many of the pillars or domes on the chatris have been broken. Several of the chatris have already disappeared entirely. This is less than two years after the refurbishment! But they sure do keep pumping water into it, and it is still a playground for the youth in the hot season.

Alright, that is enough. You see what happens when there is three days without Facebook, how things get pent up. There are things I must tell the world! My friend!!

Jai Radhe !


Jagadananda Das said…
Postscript #1

While I was in Barsana, the official electtion results came and Narendra Damodar Modiji was returned to the Prime Minister's office with a resounding majority for a second term.

I feel good cheer at his victory.

In my view, the man is worthy of the name "Rajarshi" even though he was born in humble beginnings as the son of a sweetmaker, a tea-stall keeper..

As a teenager he thought of becoming a sannyasi and went on pilgrimage to the Chari Dham, but was ultimately directed inwardly to a life of service to society, through the spirit of nationalistic volunteerism that is the RSS.

I am an appreciator of the talent of face-reading, which I do more out of instinct than scientifically, but Namo has a good face!, worthy of his nickname

I would vote for him on his face alone
Jagadananda Das said…
Postscript #2.

I was walking towards the Ladili mandir from the Jaipur temple on the path (which they have now made entirely motorcycle free, halleluja!) and saw a baba sitting on a bench trying to zipper close his bag. I asked him if he had too much stuff. He laughed and said, well this is everything I have.

I talked to him for a while. His face was gaunt and dark, but his skin was bright and his eyes shining and expressive.

He told me he had found a nice place to shelter near Maan Mandir in the bushes. He eats at the chhatri Ramesh Baba runs. Two meals a day, tea in the morning. I asked him if he has a jhopri. He threw his hands in the air and laughed. If Radharani makes one for me, who knows. "You're not going to make one yourself?" I asked. No.

He has been there for five years. He was educated, was in service in Indore or something, and when he took retirement he decided to become an itinerant sadhu. He said Bholanath is protecting me. He had a small trident that he carries with him.

It was a pretty small bag.
Anonymous said…

“Bhagavān Śaṅkara knows the man who uses Tripuṇḍras as His own person. They that hold Tripuṇḍras with devotion can have Bholā Nātha under their control; no distinction is made here between the Brāhmaṇas and Cāṇḍālas. Even if anybody be fallen from the state of observing all the Ācāras or rules of conduct proper to his Āśrama and if he be faulty in not attending to all his duties, he will be Mukta (freed) if he has used even once this Bhasma Tripuṇḍra.”

Continue reading at:


Indriyagrāhanirmukte nirvātanirmalāmṛte
amanaske hrade snātaḥ parāmṛtam upāśnute

The yogi who has bathed in the lake of amanaska (immersed as one with the ocean of light), which is free from the rapacious animals of the senses and whose nectar is still, and pure, attains the eternal, highest reality.

Verse 90 of the Amanaskayogaśāstram attributed to Gorakṣanātha translated from Sanskrit into English by Jason Birch (comment in brackets my own).
Anonymous said…

Some further notes regarding the Sanskrit word “hrade” in verse 90.

See ह्रद (hradá), and 2. Hrada “a ray of light”:

See śatá-hrada “containing a hundred rays of light, lightning or a particular kind of light”
Anonymous said…

Apology, for:

2. Hrada “a ray of light”

it is on the next page of Monier-Williams (1037) see:

Anonymous said…

Jason Birch (in the footnotes of his text) describes the word written as “amanaskahṛda” and "amanaskahṛde."

“To be on fire in union (immersed [as one] in) a deep pool (of light).”
Anonymous said…

See readers comment (Wednesday, 06 September, 2017):

§ 178b of the Kumbhaka Paddhati of Raghuvīra describes the practice of letting go, the (undivided) vehicle of the conscious light-body merging as one with the great light of the primordial being (the one before all others):

“īśvara-praṇidhānena sidhyate nātra saṃśayaḥ ║179║

Claim possession of one’s own self, by going out forth in front into the bright splendour (great light) in original form (of the light body) and laying down the physical body; in this manner become perfect by ones will, attain one’s aim unloosing (like an arrow/missile) made to spring foreword (before the brow) and hit the mark (179b).”

The breath stops, a revolving circular ingress opens up before the yogin’s brow, and one’s lucid consciousness leaves the physical body springing forward through this revolving cloud fringed door and enters a torsion womb of (liquid) light to become as one with the great light (there are no words thereafter to describe this).

Some interesting developments regarding Gorakṣanāth's अमृत कुण्ड (a-mṛ'ta kuṇḍa) if you fancy having a dip:

YouTube - A Case Study of Bahr al-hayat (Carl Ernst):

The Islamization of Yoga in the Amrtakunda Translations (by Carl Ernst):

Chapter 4 of the Bahr al-hayat, by Muhammad Ghawth Gwaliyari.
Translated from the Persian by Carl W. Ernst:

Bahr ul-Hayat (Muhammad Ghawth Gwaliyari) Persian Language:
Anonymous said…

In regard to 'The Pool of Nectar,' this Microsoft Word document also makes interesting reading:

"Being Careful with the Goddess: Yoginis in Persian and Arabic Texts”
In Performing Ecstasy: The Poetics and Politics of Religion in India,
Anonymous said…

Baḥr‎ al-hayât‎

بَحْر (baḥr‎) sea اَل (al-) (of) the حیات‎ ‎(hayât‎) life-force (of the soul).

a-mṛ'ta kuṇḍa

अमृत a-mṛ'ta “go through, cross over (to) not die” + कुण्ड (kuṇḍa) (bowl shaped) well of water


अ (a) “not”:

मृ (mṛi) “to die”:

त (ta) nectar:

Nectar, see Ancient Greek νέκταρ; from Proto-Indo-European neḱ- ‎(“perish, disappear”‎) + -tr̥h₂ ‎(“overcoming”‎), from terh₂- ‎(“to overcome, pass through, cross over”‎):

कुण्ड (kuṇḍa) “a bowl-shaped vessel, basin, bowl, pitcher, pot, water-pot, a vessel for coals, a round hole in the ground (for receiving and preserving water or fire, cf. agni-kuṇḍa), pit, well, spring or basin of water (especially consecrated to some holy purpose or person), a particular appearance of the moon ( surrounded by a circle )”:
seo said…
Corporate Yoga in Delhi
good article post. thanks for sharing.

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