By Vaisheshika Dasa
A sampling of the thousands of pilgrims who honor sacred Govardhana Hill during the special month known as Karttika.
There’s not a more charming or mysterious place in the universe than Govardhana Hill in Vraja Mandala, some ninety miles south of Delhi. While present on earth Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill and held it for seven days to protect the residents of Vrindavan. He also revealed that Govardhana is identical to Himself. Now, fifty centuries later, millions of pilgrims come here to perform parikrama—a reverential walk around the hill—during the holy month of Karttika (October/November).
Only by the mercy of the Vaishnavas have I been allowed to stay here for a while in this magical place during this magical month. I’ve taken shelter of the Bhaktivedanta Ashrama, nestled at the base of Govardhana Hill and presided over by His Holiness Keshava Bharati Dasa Goswami. For my own purification, I’ve been making some notes. Here are today’s:
The precious powder clinging to the feet of the pilgrims who walk around Govardhana Hill is cintamani [spiritual] dust. One particle of this dust is more valuable than all the wealth in the material world.
See the varieties of pilgrims who come to walk around Govardhana.
Staunch and silent, a swift sadhu wrapped in saffron cloth flies by, his gaze fixed forward. Because he makes this journey daily, he knows every pebble, tree, and cow, having passed them hundreds of times before.
Three women, two young and one venerable, have banded together and sing songs to Giriraja (Govardhana) as they go. They seem to float around the hill, carried by the divine sound of their own voices.
A householder with dark brown skin and slick, jet-black hair, and wearing brown pants and a smudged white shirt, walks proudly along the path, his wife and kids in tow. The kids march, taking two steps to every one of their father’s, looking noble as they keep up the pace. Their sari-clad mother dutifully carries a bag brimming with a water bottle and biscuits and probably some other refreshments.
A sadhu on the path, bare-chested and wearing only a calf-length orange cloth, kneels next to a pile of smooth stones and then suddenly lunges forward, his lean back muscles rippling as he places one stone at a time on a pile of stones that lies before a simple shrine of Radha-Krishna. An incense stick stuck in the ground below the shrine billows fragrant smoke. He will throw 108 stones, one at a time, and then lie face down in the dust with each toss. After advancing his pile of 108 stones, he’ll move his entire operation forward one body length, only to start the ritual again. Nine months from now, he will complete his parikrama of Giriraja and will probably begin again.
A Different Kind of Circuit
To a man rushing to work on a freeway far away from this place, these pilgrims might seem mad. (After all, they are going in circles around a hill.) But the freeway driver runs his circuit too.
Every soul in the universe wants wealth and happiness and has been wearily searching for it around every corner. But “Alas!” says Prahlada Maharaja, “People are searching in vain, running after a mirage.” Every promise for happiness has been broken.
But at Govardhana, all these pilgrims have the same gleam in their eyes. They are connected to a spiritual current that runs through the path—they feel solace in it.
As a cook laboring to grind fresh spices soon relishes their scent and flavor, the pilgrims here feel Govardhana’s sweetness entering their souls with each step. It shoots up through the soles of their feet and into their hearts as they walk barefoot along the path. They become greedy for more of this ambrosia, and so they walk in circles around the hill.
These souls are fortunate, for they have discovered the secret of life: The happiness we have been so feverishly searching for—all over the universe—is hidden, like a treasure, within our own hearts.
The route to finding this treasure is the raja-vidya, the king of all sciences. But the amazing fact is that this science is an open secret.
Let those who have ears hear:
Lord Krishna reveals in the Bhagavad-gita (4.30) that by performing yajna, sacrifice to the Lord, we will taste eternal happiness and go back to Godhead.
“All these performers who know the meaning of sacrifice become cleansed of sinful reactions, and, having tasted the nectar of the results of sacrifices, they advance toward the supreme eternal atmosphere.”
Sacrifice Is Life
In Kali-yuga, Lord Chaitanya has brought the supreme dharma of the age, sankirtana-yajna. Yajna is the wellspring of happiness. Drink there by performing sankirtana on the order of Lord Chaitanya, following the footprints of the six Goswamis. Please Srila Prabhupada by distributing his books throughout this short lifetime. Focus on this endeavor and try to increase it all over the world as Srila Prabhupada did, and then even the Supreme abode of the Lord, Vrindavan, the ultimate abode of all happiness, will open to us by the mercy of the Lord.
Sankirtana-yajna is life.
Govardhana-parikrama ki jaya!