Another Side of Bhaktivinoda Thakur 28 : Sri Gopinath’s Sevā Pālā

Gadadhar Pran Das has sent me a couple more chapters of Another Side of Bhaktivinoda Thakur to share with you all. Jai Radhe! Jai Gaura! 

We have found that some devotees don’t believe in this sādhana, and take it to be mental concoction. So before beginning this chapter’s story, let us examine Rupa Goswami’s guidelines for those who hanker to take up rāga-mārga bhajana.

Another Side of Bhaktivinoda Thakur 28 : 

Sri Gopinath’s Sevā Pālā

As we were reading in Chapters 26 and 27 about Gaura and Gadadhar’s madhura lilas that unfold in Their bhāvāḍhya and rasātmikā moods, now in the next two chapters (28 and 29) it will be similarly rewarding to investigate how the bhaktas’ sevā unfolds in two ways also: in the ānugatyamayī and in the pratyakṣa moods.

The first step is the ānugatyamayī sevā, when one serves the Lord following after their guru, guru-varga and Mahaprabhu’s nitya-siddha bhaktas. In the next stage, however, which is called pratyakṣa or direct sevā, the bhaktas receive the privilege to share a one to one loving relationship with Svayam Bhagavan. This chapter will provide some examples of the ānugatyamayī sevā.

What Does Pālā-Sevā Mean in Vigraha Worship?

When a very special vigraha that is known to be jāgrata, i.e., able to make amazing, supernatural wonders occur, is served by many Goswami families on a rotational basis, the specific day and time that one of these families gets their turn to serve the deity is called a sevā-pālā. For example, in Khardaha, Nabadwip and Baghnapara, this traditional system has been handed down over the generations from the time the famous vigrahas there were first inaugurated centuries ago. Sri Nityananda Prabhu – along with His family of Vasudha and Jahnava, Birbhadra and Ganga – established Sri Shyamsundar’s worship at Khardaha. Vishnupriya Devi and Vamsivadan established Sri Dhameshwar Mahaprabhu’s seva in Nabadwip, and on Ma Jahnava’s request Ramai Thakur and His family members established Sri Sri Krishna Balaram’s nitya sevā at Baghnapara.

We should mention though that in Goloka Nabadwip, Gadadhar Pandit’s sevita Gopinath vigraha is carried out in the pāla-sevā system too, as there are countless bhakta families in His parivāra who eagerly yearn for the chance to perform Sri Gopinath’s premamayī sevā.

Readers can remember how Gadadhar’s garden estate was described in previous chapters. It is located in the dhama’s southwest section on the Alakananda Ganga’s picturesque bank, and the jeweled palace of Madhava Mishra and Ratnavati (Gadadhar’s parents) rests in the centre.

But nearby in a beautiful flower garden we can find Sri Gopinath’s elegant moonstone mandir contoured in the pattern of a thousand petaled kalhāra or white lotus. And surrounding this mandir in every direction are the palatial palaces of Gadadhar’s family members and disciples.

Our Svārasikī Sthiti (Eternal Place in the Lila)

Now we come to the most important question in līlā-smaraṇa: How can we enter the picture? Although our Vraja Goswamis have clearly taught about this process, many of us may not be familiar with these teachings. So to help others get some idea about how to perform mānasī sevā, we will tell something about our personal desires. And we can mention that when the meditation is written down, the picture becomes much easier to focus on.

To succeed in līlā smaraṇa, however, we require two things: āśā-bandha and samutkaṇṭhā. Āśā bandha is to believe firmly that the Lord will surely reveal Himself. And samutkaṇṭhā is our great longing to attain His sākṣāt darṣana. We have found that some devotees don’t believe in this sādhana, and take it to be mental concoction. So before beginning this chapter’s story, let us examine Rupa Goswami’s guidelines for those who hanker to take up rāga-mārga bhajana.

The Siddhānta of Bhakti-rasāmṛta sindhu 

In Chapter 24, we presented a long discussion of Sri Rupa’s kṛṣṇaṁ smaran janaṁ cāsya verse from Bhakti-rasāmṛta sindhu 1.2.293. So let us now look at the following verse to carefully analyse this topic:

sevā sādhaka-rūpeṇa siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi
tad-bhāva-lipsunā kāryā vraja-lokānusārataḥ

Those hankering to become Krishna’s eternal associate, a rāgātmikā bhakta, should follow the bhāvas and the lila activities of His eternal Vraja associates in two ways: by performing bhakti sādhanā in their present body, and by performing mānasī sevā in their mentally conceived siddha deha. (BRS 1.2.294)

Here it may be noted: To ideally practice these teachings one should always chant Harinama japa as they focus on mānasī sevā in their mentally conceived siddha deha.

Srila Kaviraj Goswami gives this verse’s meaning as follows:

nijābhīṣṭa kṛṣṇa preṣṭha pāche to lāgiyā
nirantara sebā kara antar mana haiYā

Always perform sevā in your mind as you stick close to following Krishna’s priya Vraja associates who are nijābhīṣṭa, i.e., having the same mood with Krishna that you wish to establish with Him. (CC 2.22.155)

Rasa Analysis

Here the word nijābhīṣṭa refers to the smaraṇa that goes on according to our personal ruci or desires. This is an important factor for attaining siddhi because everything that we contemplate has to be based on what we strongly desire. For only then will it be possible to reap the fruit of our bhajan.

What we would like to do now is transfer the meaning of Rupa’s sevā sādhaka-rūpeṇa siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi verse from Vraja to Nabadwip. This is commonly done and practical, as Rupa’s teachings apply to Gaura lila as much as to Krishna lila since Vraja and Nabadwip are non-different.

So here is how the verse’s meaning transforms:

Those hankering to become Gauranga’s eternal associate (a rāgātmikā bhakta) should follow the bhāvas and lila-activities of His priya Nabadwip associates in two ways: by performing bhakti sādhana in their present body, and by performing mānasī sevā in their mentally conceived siddha deha. This is what we hope to do in the upcoming story. And the Gaura parshad who is nijābhīṣṭa for us is Gadadhar Pandit, as we keenly desire to associate with Him and closely follow after His madhura bhāva and sevā to Gauranga.

The Story Begins

The sevā-pālā falls on this day. Upon rising very early before dawn, Premamayi and our three daughters – Madhavi, Malati and Mallika, and I with our three sons – Gopinath, Govinda and Madanmohan, head for the Ganga ghat to have an early morning bath. It’s still dark outside. Nevertheless, the kokilas can be heard from the newly budding mango trees as they pleasingly coo to announce spring’s arrival.

After bathing, doing a brief Ganga puja, and heading back to the palace, we quickly dress ourselves in new cloths. Everyone has one thought in mind: We shall go to see Gadadhar just as He rises, and then offer our prayer to perform His Gopinath’s sevā pālā tomorrow.

Upon arriving at Gadadhar’s doorstep we hear an omniscient voice call out: “O Prana-da! You’re here! Come in, come in. I was just remembering, isn’t tomorrow your sevā pālā?”

When stepping into the room, leaving our family members outside, I start to offer Gadadhar a sāṣṭāṅga praṇama. But before I can do it, He catches me in His arms and affectionately seats me on His bed. Then in elation He inquires “O where is bou-di? Has she come too?”

“O yes,” I reply. “Madhavi’s mother is waiting outside with the others.”

“O that’s wonderful!” Gadadhar exclaims. “Let them come in. We’ve got lots to discuss.”

As Premamayi starts to offer a pranam, however, Gadadhar motions to her saying “Na, na, na! This isn’t necessary. Please be comfortably seated beside your husband.”

And when our sons and daughters offer their obeisances, Gadadhar pretends not to notice – as He looks to me and then to Premamayi with moist eyes that are saturated with love.

Rasa Analysis

We can never forget that Gadadhar is Radha Herself in Gaura lila. So we feel shy when coming before Him. But on the other hand, since my father Madhusudan Mishra is the elder brother of Gadadhar’s father Madhava Mishra, He doesn’t utter my name Pranananda. Rather, out of affection He calls me “Prana-da” instead which means His dear elder brother. And He treats Premamayi with respect and affection too, calling her bou-di,"His elder brother’s wife."

Now someone could question: “Wouldn’t your desire to be Gadadhar’s elder relative be an act of over familiarity and a transgression of the proper etiquette on your part?” As it is not unlikely that bhaktas might think like this, it will help to first examine how Rupa Goswami defines prema before we try to answer:

samyaṅ masṛṇita-svānto mamatvātiśayāṅkitaḥ
bhāvaḥ sa eva sāndrātmā budhaiḥ premā nigadyate

That which purifies one’s heart completely to awaken excessive mamatā, i.e., feelings of closeness, affection and possessiveness for the Lord, and which is the mature stage of bhāva, is called prema by the pandits. (BRS 1.4.1)

Rupa next gives an example of mamatā by quoting the Bhāgavatam, 11.12.6, where Krishna says:

te nādhīta-śruti-gaṇā nopāsita-mahattamāḥ |
avratātapta-tapasaḥ mat -saṅgān mām upāgatāḥ ||

Hey Uddhava! The gopis didn’t study the Vedas or associate with great saintly persons. Neither did they practice celibacy, tapasyā, or serve the holy tirthas. Simply by offering their loving union they have attained Me. (SB 11.12.6)

In other words, owing to the gopis’ feelings of closeness and possessive love they share a special intimacy with Krishna that no other bhakta can. Yet it is simply to share a closer tie of mamata with our istadeva Gadadhar that we hanker to be his close elder relative. Thus as we constantly dwell on this relationship, some day by His mercy it will become eternal, as Narottam das Thakur confirms in Prema-bhakti-candrikā:

sādhane bhābibe yāhā, siddha dehe pābe tāhā

Whatever you contemplate during sādhana, that you will achieve in your siddha deha upon attaining siddhi.

In Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, Kṛṣṇa-vallabha prakaraṇa 27, Rupa Goswami tells that there are two ways to become sādhana-siddha: yauthikī and ayauthikīYauthikī means in a group, and ayauthikī means by oneself. Since our desire is to serve the Lord along with a family, upon attaining prema, our yauthikī sādhana siddhi will easily be arranged by Yogamaya. But this requires firm faith.

Gadadhar’s Nirdeśa (Merciful Order)

As we came to beg for Gopinath’s seva, now Gadadhar tells what will happen: “O Pranada! Listen. Tomorrow’s sevā pālā will be special. Because as you know that Nabadwip’s Holi festival is going on everywhere, tomorrow Mahaprabhu and the bhaktas are scheduled to enjoy this sporting at our place. So let there be two festivals in one. In other words I want you and your family members to conclude Gopinath’s sevā pūjā with a mahā abhiṣeka in the nāṭ mandir. Then Mahaprabhu and the bhaktas can all have darshan just before the Holi festival begins. How does that sound?”

*According to Siddha Krishnadasa Baba’s aṣṭakāla bhajan Guṭikā, the Holi utsava when the devotees engage in throwing colored powders and shooting fragrant liquid flower rasa from jewelled syringes at each other, goes on for 40 days in Goloka Nabadwip – starting from Vasanta pañcamī, which is the first day of Spring, up to Gaura Purnima. On each day the festival takes place in a different bhakta’s home. Yet tomorrow, on the Kṛṣṇa-daśamī tithi of Phalgun, it will be Gadadhar’s turn to host this mahotsava and our sevā pālā just happens to be scheduled on this day too.]

“Prana-da! Please do one thing,” Gadadhar requests. “You may go this evening on my behalf to every one of our parivāra’s bhakta’s homes and invite them to assist in tomorrow’s mahā abhiṣeka.”

“O please tell us the names of these bhaktas,” we reply. Before He can speak, however, Gadadhar becomes overtaken by emotion and tears stream from His eyes as He answers: “First there is Dhruvananda who is just like My Lalita. Then there is Ananta Acarya, Kavidatta, Nayanananda Mishra, Ganga Mantri and Mamu Thakur. But I can never forget Srinath Cakravarti, Uddhava das, Jitamitra, Kastha-kata Jagannath and Pushpa Gopal. Oh, I could go on and on praising these bhaktas who are limitless in number, and more dear than My very life. For in Vrindaban, as they are all gopis who unite Me with Krishna, they now serve to unite Me with Gaura – so how can I ever repay my debt to them?”

Offering the Invitations

This afternoon around 4:00 P.M. my eldest son Gopinath, Premamayi, and our eldest daughter Madhavi join with me to invite the bhaktas. The first home we visit is Dhruvananda Brahmachari’s . After being greeted at the door by a servant and escorted inside, we enter a spacious room where the Brahmachari is seated on a flower decorated Vyasasana. As he is delivering a Bhāgavata discourse to a large assembly, we take our seat to listen. But then we cannot help but notice that Gadadhar is seated right before the Vyasasana and is attentively listening. Dhruvananda is describing Radha-Krishna’s dāna līlā and he has the whole audience enthralled. But when he comes to the part where Radha exhibits Her kila kiñcita bhāva – this is when Gadadhar can no longer remain patient – He displays those same emotions which are a marvel to witness! After the pāṭha, however, when Gadadhar notices us, He turns to the assembly to request: “A special abhiṣeka will take place tomorrow morning at Gopinath’s mandir. Would any of you wish to come and assist?”

As many of Gadadhar’s followers instantly volunteer, this saves us from a visit to those bhaktas’ homes. But Gadadhar then tells us: “Hey Prana-da! Why don’t you and bou-di next go to the home of Nayanananda Mishra?”

As we arrive there, and ask for Nayanananda, his father cordially tells us: “Go quickly to the garden for he and many others are now enjoying pāśa khelā with Gadadhar.”

When we enter the garden, we see he is right. There is Gadadhar, and He really appears to be enjoying the dice game in a jovial spirit. Then He says: “I am just practicing with all of you today to warm up. Because next time I contest my Prana-ballabha I surely hope to overwhelm Him with My dice playing prowess!”

In seeing Premamayi and I standing there, however, Gadadhar is suddenly caught off guard! So He lowers His head and changes the subject, saying: “O by the way, would any of you like to join Me tomorrow morning at Gopinath’s mandir? We have a pompous rāja abhiṣeka to perform.”

In hearing the request, everyone wants to come. But then Gadadhar turns to us, and says: “Just see how I have lightened your burden. Nevertheless, one task still remains: O Pranada! O Bou-di! Please go to the home of Jadu Ganguli, and request that He and His entire family come tomorrow.”

As we arrive there, Jadu Ganguli’s wife greets us at the door with a smile to exclaim: “O please come in. Gadadhar said that you will be coming.”

When she escorts us into the garden, however, there is Gadadhar sitting in a jewelled pavilion, and surrounding Him is a whole group of Jadu Ganguli’s family members and 8 friends. Everyone is picking flowers and stringing garlands. And as we curiously look around we notice that many large baskets are already filled to the brim with a vast variety of highly scented malas. Yet even Gadadhar is making garlands. And when looking over to us, he exclaims with a wink: “Hey Prana-da! Hey Bou-di! Just see how we are lightening your burden. All of these malas, wreaths, pushpa ornaments and pushpa crowns will be sent to Gopinath’s mandir for His puja and abhiṣeka tomorrow. Would you like to join us in making a few garlands?”

After helping out for a while, Premamayi and Madhavi head for the kitchen to invite Jadu Ganguli’s wife. But they are surprised and overjoyed to hear her reply: “Oh yes, Gadadhar has requested that we assist you in the kitchen tomorrow. Don’t worry, lots of Ma Goswaminis will come to make sure that everything turns out just right.”

When returning home, Premamayi suggests: “Why don’t we take darshan of Gopinath’s sandhya arati on the way?”

Upon entering the mandir, we see our parents amidst the crowd – and Gadadhar’s parents are also there. Thus we bow our heads to offer them a respectful gesture with folded hands. It appears that everyone is eager to see the arati. But when the mandir’s doors open, allowing a thick cloud of aguru incense smoke to emanate from inside, there stands Gadadhar dressed in a sparkling white dhoti and chaddor to begin the arati! So as the enchanting vibration of gongs, bells, conch-shells, mrdangas and karatals fill the mandir, we cannot help but curiously wonder: “How is Gadadhar appearing in so many places today?”

Rasa Analysis

In the Bhāgavatam’s Tenth Canto, chapter 69, Narada personally saw how Krishna manifested limitless separate forms to engage in different activities in each one of His 16,108 queens’ palaces simultaneously. Yet He also saw that devotees such as Uddhava, Rohini and others were able to do this too! So, in a similar way, because Gadadhar’s bhaktas all wish to have His direct association – He appears before all of them simultaneously. And wherever He happens to be, the bhaktas viewing Him assume that He is awarding them special mercy as He loves them the most.

The Morning Puja

Since Madhavi, Malati and Mallika are experienced in Sri Kelicanda’s nitya-sevā at home, they are ideally fit to serve Gadadhar’s Gopinath vigraha too. After returning very early from their Ganga snana, dressing themselves in śuddha vastra saris, braiding their hair with bakul malas, and putting on fresh alaka tilaka, they enter the mandir while softly uttering Gopinath’s name. They perform ācamana, āsana śuddhi, and then look to the deity with folded hands as they recite the appropriate bhūta śuddhi mantras:

om kiśorī gopa vanitāḥ sarvālaṅkāra-bhūṣitāḥ
nigūḍha-bhāvā govinde madanānanda mohinī
nānā-rasa-kalāpa-śālinī divya-rūpiṇī…

[From Dhyāna-candra Arcanā Paddhati]

But before the mantra recital is completed, Mallika interrupts to say: “Wouldn’t it be better if we simply change over to our Vraja mañjarī svarūpas? I’ll bet that Gopinath would appreciate that more!”

“You are right,” Madhavi answers. Yet when the three girls do so, they distinctly notice Gopinath’s new broad smile as His shifty eyes dart to their newly manifested forms!

“This is going to be exciting,” Malati exclaims. “But won’t we need a guardian since we are here alone with this flirtatious romantic (rasamaya nāgara)?”

“O don’t worry,” Madhavi says . “If your sevā bhāva is fixed on sevā alone, why should He do anything to disturb us? And don’t forget, we’ve got Him outnumbered for there are three of us and He is only backed by His shadow.”

But what happens next? As the girls start to remove Gopinath’s dress to perform His morning bath, His bodily splendor captivates their minds, and they succumb to His incomparable mādhurya!

So when Madhavi comes up close to put on His thin white bathing garment, and Gopinath outstretches His arms to embrace her, she surprisingly lets Him do it, as His stunning beauty has conquered her defenses.

“Hey You cunning brute!” Malati and Mallika exclaim as they try to free their elder sister from Krishna’s Kaliya-like coils. In seeing the fun, however, Gadadhar starts laughing -- as He has just entered the room to observe the morning pūjā. But when looking to Gadadhar, Mallika shrieks: “O can’t You do something to stop Him? Deities aren’t supposed to behave like this!”

In hearing the word “deity,” Gadadhar quickly answers to refute Mallika’s assertion:

pratimā nahi tumi saksat vrajendra nandana

“My Gopinath is not a pratimā (deity), but directly Vrajendra nandan. So how can you blame Him for acting according to His nature?”

“Alright, alright!” Malati exclaims. “But how will we be able to execute His puja if He continues to act according to His nature? Can You please arrange someone to protect us?”

“Yes, the girls are right,” Gadadhar contemplates. Thus He acts to save them. For just as they have taken on their Vraja mañjarī svarūpas, He manifests His previous svarūpa as Radha! Aho! Gopinath turns restless as His eyes instantly soar to Her!

Then Madhavi humbly requests: “O Vrindavanesvari Radha! Please stand to the left of Your Gopinath and kindly allow us to perform Your jugal seva – for isn’t this what we manjaris covet the most?”

After completing the puja in this way, the girls hear a knock on the mandir’s door and meekly answer: “Who is there?”

“O please open the door,” a voice exclaims. “We have brought Gopinath’s morning bhoga offering.” Recognizing His mother’s voice, Gadadhar quickly changes back from His Radha svarūpa, to inform the girls: “Please change back to your Nabadwip svarūpas, for My mother and your grandmother are standing outside.”

Opening the door, Gadadhar cordially greets His mother Ratnavati, and my mother
Premavati, by touching their lotus feet with bhakti. Then He requests the girls to take the bhoga offering from their hands. As Ratnavati notices the three girls, however, she tells her son: “Please inform them that their family is invited for breakfast with us this morning.”

Then while looking to Madhavi, Malati and Mallika with an affectionate smile, she adds: “After offering the bhoga please come quickly.”

Morning Prasāda

Since the bhaktas that Gadadhar invited to help with the abhiṣeka haven’t arrived yet, our breakfast at His home turns out to be a small family gathering. As we enter the gorgeously decorated room where prasada is served, we feel invigorated by the wonderful aroma coming from the kitchen.

When Madhava Mishra sits down with my father seated to his right, he motions that we take our seats on the decorative asanas before them. Then when Gadadhar sits in front of His father, I take my seat to His right. To my right sit Gopinath, Govinda and Madanmohan and to Gadadhar’s left today sit His younger brother Vaninatha and his son Nayanananda. When Ratnavati enters the dining room carrying a golden tray filled with highly scented warm rice topped in ghee, she first serves her husband, then she serves my father. My mother follows Ratnavati serving a host of bitter appetizers that include fried korela, neem leaves with eggplant fried in ghee and helancha shak.

When his father starts eating, however, Gadadhar lowers His head and outstretches His right hand (clasping it below with His left hand) to meekly beg a morsel from his plate. And in seeing His pitṛ bhakti (fatherly devotion), I follow His example to honor my father. But Gadadhar doesn’t stop there. When I begin eating He playfully outstretches His hand with a smile to beg a morsel from me!

[Although Gadadhar knows that this makes me feel very uncomfortable, still He loves to tease me in this way!]

In the kitchen Premamayi is filling the golden trays with newer and newer preparations. Then Ratnavati and Premavati (Premamayi’s mother-in-law) go out to serve them one after another. By assisting these two exalted Thakuranis in the cooking, she has learned how to make a few tasty new dishes today.

After her husband enjoys the meal, Ratnavati follows him to a side room where she pours water for washing his hands and mouth – as my mother similarly serves her husband. But what does Gadadhar do? He quickly goes to wash, and then stands before me in a jovial spirit holding the pitcher to wash my hands! In seeing His endeavor I could faint in embarrassment!

Rasa Analysis

We see Gadadhar as directly Gaura’s mūla-śakti and our samaṣṭi guru (supreme guru) – and thus our love for Him is mixed with aiśvarya jñāna (awe and reverence). Nevertheless, He often likes to amusingly jest by respecting me as His senior relative to maintain the family etiquette. And when our parents are present I cannot protest. Our desire to be older, however, doesn’t have anything to do with this; the actual reason for this will be explained in the next chapter.

Beside the kitchen is a small dining room where the ladies take prasada. As today’s host, Ratnavati first affectionately serves Madhavi, Malati and Mallika. Then when she sits down to enjoy the meal with our mother and Premamayi, they receive the chance to serve them.

The Scene in the Nat Mandir

We forgot to mention that when the girls were engaging in Gopinath’s early morning puja, our sons were helping us arrange the mancha (raised platform) in the natha mandir’s center where Gopinath’s raja abhiṣeka will soon take place. All of the flower malas and flower decorations that arrived from Jadu Ganguli’s home we have used to make a pushpa mandir and a pushpa raja singhasana where Gopinath will soon reign.

After taking prasada and returning to the natha mandir, however, we see that countless bhaktas continue to decorate it. They are hanging flower malas from the ceiling and from the archways, and smothering the floor with a thick layer of multi-colored lotus petals. Yet it is more surprizing to see that another team are making a pushpa ratha which appears to reach the clouds!

At this moment, Mahaprabhu’s bhaktas are arriving from every direction. Their waist belts are heavily loaded with yellow, pink and red powder bombs, and they clasp jewelled pichkaris (syringes) in their great eagerness to begin today’s Holi combat. As the mandir fills with bhaktas, Gadadhar requests our sons to begin a rasamaya kirtan and, to befit the occasion, they sing this song from Gīta govinda:

lalita-lavaṅga-latā-pariśīlana-komala-malaya-samīre |
madhukara-nikara-karambita-kokila-kūjita-kuñja-kuṭīre ||
viharati harir iha sarasa-vasante
nṛtyati yuvatī-janena samaṁ sakhi virahi-janasya durante ||

“O sakhi! Just see how the lovely labanga flower vines toss in the gentle southern breeze and the humming bees and singing kokilas are enlivening the Vraja nikunja mandirs. In this splendid spring setting Krishna lovingly dances with the Vraja kishoris.”

Lured by Jayadeva’s beautiful description of Vrindavan’s spring season (and the soul-stirring singing ability of our three sons) Mahaprabhu comes dancing into the assembly! And His captivating dancing poses induce everyone else to dance. It appears that everyone has become transported in Vraja gopī bhāva. Just then Gadadhar requests us to bring Gopinath from the mandir to the abhiṣeka-maṇḍapa. Yet as six of us go to lift Him He appears to be lighter than a feather! Blowing conchshells, ringing bells, ulu vibrations and a lively band party all commence to fill the mandir with a variety of stirring sounds.

Gadadhar then waves His hands to request everyone to sit down – and with folded hands He makes an announcement: “Hey bhakta-vrinda!” He says. “We are highly honored to have all of you present in Sri Gopinath’s mandir today to enact Sri Vrindaban’s Holi mahotsava. But before the competition begins, hear My earnest request: Please take darshan of Sri Gopinath’s rāja abhiṣeka which will now begin.”

(As this chapter nears the end with a great part of the story untold, from here on we will describe all of the events only briefly.)

Gadadhar makes Advaita the abhiṣeka’s purohita (head priest) and requests Him to recite the mantras, and Gauranga is made the honored guest who will inaugurate the puja. Thus He begins by pouring pañcāmṛta over Gopinath’s entire body. Then seemingly out of nowhere 1,008 Nadiya kumaris show up. Wearing sparkling white saris with a bright red border, and carrying the abhiṣeka jala in golden jugs cocked over their hips, they form a long line from the Ganga’s ghat to the snana vedi.

After the pañcāmṛta is offered, Nitai starts pouring the Ganga jala (as I offer it to Him after receiving it from each one of the Nadiya kumaris’ hands). Now a long line of bhaktas is forming, and everyone is eager to bathe Gopinath. Meanwhile the band party’s music plays on, conchshells are blowing, bells are ringing and stirring ulu vibrations fill the sky!

When the abhiṣeka concludes, a curtain is placed around Gopinath, and we go in to dress Him in the new outfit that our daughters made for this occasion. Then with loud cries of Jaya! Jaya! and ulu vibrations, Gopinath is carried to the pushpa ratha and comfortably seated on His pushpa singhasana. (Just as Gadadhar’s Tota-Gopinath at Nilacala, this Gopinath can also sit down.)

Aho! As the pushpa ratha is pulled by those 1,008 Nadiya kumaris, Mahaprabhu’s Holi festival begins. Sometimes Prabhu enjoys the sporting in sakhya rasa, sometimes in His bhakta bhāva, and sometimes in Radha bhāva.

When the ratha arrives before each bhakta’s home, their wives and the other ladies of the house come with a special bhoga offering that we offer to Gopinath in the ratha. In this way Gadadhar’s parivāra bhaktas all get a chance to serve Gopinath as the ratha momentarily stops before their residence.

When Mahaprabhu and the bhaktas become completely covered in colors after a long time of sporting, everyone arrives at the Ganga’s ghata where jala keli begins. Then the pushpa ratha returns, and we carry Gopinath back to the mandir to offer the raja bhoga that Ratnavati, my mother, Premamayi and the lady members of Yadu Ganguli’s family prepared. As Mahaprabhu and the bhaktas relish the prasad, our three sons join us to help serve.

What Inspired This Chapter?

As bhaktas of the Lord, isn’t it our goal to enter His madhura pastimes where we will serve Him forever in the spiritual world? In this regard, rāgānugā bhakti sādhana is the advanced booking which will make it possible to reach there.

Our motto is: “We can be there now, simply by meditating on who we wish to be, and how we wish to serve in the nitya līlā. … Then someday, by the Lord’s mercy, all of these desires will fructify to become a reality on attaining siddhi."

This chapter gives an example of our ānugatyamayī sevā, when we follow a particular nitya associate (such as Gadadhar Pandit in this case) to serve Mahaprabhu and all of His bhaktas. These are our external roles when we serve in a family set-up.

But we should not forget, however, that there is an internal side of the lila too, when we serve the Lord (if we so desire) in a pratyakṣa (direct) one-to-one loving relationship. We look forward to writing about this in the next chapter.


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