Kumbha Mela 2010 Book Distribution

Posted on April 6, 2010 by Raghava
by Anita dasi

Hari ki Pauri Gahat, Haridwar

April 2, 2010

I named him Gramps; all legs and elbows, with a bulbous nose. Part of a group of dhoti clad villagers which shared our train compartment from Matura to Haridwara. After about seven hours in the heat and overcrowding (I guess you don’t really need a ticket to ride that train), Gramps ripped the book I was reading out of my hands. He began to clap, flapping his elbows, and point at the mrdanga we had stored on the seat above with our bags. I grimaced, grumpy form the heat. But he insisted in clapping and pointing at the mrdanga. Well, we are on our way to Kumba Mela, one of the largest spiritual gatherings in the world. A kirtan would be appropriate.

Before I knew what happened Rasa Mayi dasi and Taruni dasi had everyone in the compartments near ours clapping, chanting and smiling. Gramps never really got the mantra down, “Hare Hare Hare Hare Krsna . . .” But I am glad he insisted on kirtan. It set the right mood for arriving in Haridwara for Kumbah mela book distribution.

April 3, 2010

Shortly after returning from Navadvipa parikrama I sent books to Haridwar with a transport company. The boxes wait in the warehouse until you go to claim them. After our train arrived we stopped at the warehouse, but the books were buried under a mountain of other boxes. It was late, we were exhausted from the journey, and the guys at the warehouse were lazy to move all those boxes. So we made arrangements that they would deliver the books between 6-8 am the next morning. At eleven I called, they said there road closures due to Kumbha mela, it will come at three. Next call, it will come at five. Next call, “I’ll call you back in five minutes.” Grrrrr . . .

Luckily we brought one box of a small Hindi book called Vaisnava siddhanta mala on the train. We filled our bags with those and started into town. It was a good book to get our toes wet. The cost is only 5 rupees.

People talk about “lines” when distributing books. Seeing that none of us really speak Hindi, we can’t say anything too clever. For me it goes something like this:

“Sundar quitab.” Beautiful book – I wonder if it translates like that.

The people stop and I put the book in their hand.

“Panch rupees only.” Five rupees only. I got the only part from all the shop keepers here in India. It’s obviously not Hindi but it brings out a smile.

“**^&%^*^###**” . . . I don’t know what they say exactly.

But when I say “USA” they are satisfied. Maybe then they try to shake my hand. Usually they carefully examine the book, and then pull out five rupees. Of course there are varieties, but that is more or less how it goes.

April 4, 2010

A dip in Ganga literally takes your breath away. Even though it’s April and the temperature in the midday is 35 Celsius (that’s 95 Fahrenheit for those of you who are like me and Celsius means nothing to you), but in Haridwara Ganga is coming right out of the Himalayas. It also takes your sins away:

tayoh samvadatoh suta

pravrtta hy amalah kathah

apo ganga ivagha-ghnir

hareh padambujasrayah

[Saunaka inquired about the conversation between Vidura and Maitreya: There must have been many narrations of the spotless pastimes of the Lord. The hearing of such narrations is exactly like bathing in the water of the Ganges, for it can free one from all sinful reactions” (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.20.5)]

After our bath, Taruni dasi and I made our way back to Madhavai Kunja, Srila Gurudeva’s matha and guest house in Haridwar. All along the way we distributed books to the pilgrims coming and going from the ghats as well as to the locals in shops and on the street. The books had finally been delivered early this morning.:)

We had organized a program with a person that Vasanti dasi met when we were here distributing books at the time of Siva Ratri. I spent the afternoon trying to piece something together to speak about. I decided on the Srimad Bhagavatam 3rd canto conversation between Maitreya Muni and Vidhura which took place in Haridwar. I wanted to read something that could help me connect to Haridwara as a holy city. I only got though Vidura’s questions, but there was more than enough beautiful material touching on guru tattva, the supremacy of bhakti, and the glories of harikatha. I guess it was for my own purification because just as we were about to leave we got a call that the grandfather from the home we were going to became seriously ill and had to go the hospital. Hopefully he gets better soon, and we can have a program later on.

A quick change of plans. We load up our trolley with a box of books and head towards Hare Ki Pauri, the main bathing ghat, to meet a new friend – Maharaja. Needless to say Haridwar is teaming with sadhus. Thanks to the kind donations to the book sponsorship program we are able to give out books at whatever price people can pay, but we try to ask even sadhus to give something, if even one rupee. One sadhu walked by me and thought I was giving the books out for free, took one, and kept walking. I called after him to give please give some donation. Well, as best as I could express it with the few Hindi words I know. He expressed back that he had no money. I asked again, and he said no and was determined to keep the book. So I relented and let him have the book for free. But then he saw how I was asking others for 10 rupees for books. Out of guilt, sympathy, inspiration or maybe just plain sucretee, he began to call people over to me and invite them to take a book. For the next three hours he drew in people, passed out books, pulled the trolley, and watched that no one took books without paying. All the while smiling and blessing me with his right hand. With practically no common language – all I could understand of his name was Maharaja – we both were just content to see the books work their way into the hands of those on the street. We did our best to let him know we would be back tomorrow, same time same place if he wants to help again.

April 5, 2010

After our morning snan in Ganga devi we displayed books and posters on a cloth. We had Gaura Nitai deties which we put on top of the box. We sat down to sing morning bhajans. In half a second a crowd gathered. Singing, clapping, staring, examining books, someone even wanted to buy Gaura Nitai – not for sale of course.

Many want to take our “snap,” that is local slang for photo. We always try to encourage them to take more than a photo as a souvenir of our meeting. A photo with a westerner is a novelty, but the books of Srila Gurudeva and our Acaryas will change their life. More than their life – drag them out of this samsar.

Taruni dasi had a few inspiring interactions in the evening she wanted to share. She met one newly married couple. The husband said, “I understand material life is useless, and I need to go to guru. But I feel responsible for taking care of my family.” Then they got to discuss how now that he has a family then he needs to also be responsible for the spiritual growth of his family. He wanted to try chanting the maha mantra. She felt the conversation went so nicely because she worked to involve the wife as well as the husband in the discussion.

Later on there was one boy from Delhi, around 16 years old. He bought one book, and then was hanging around as we were distributing the books listening in on conversations. Taruni noticed him and said, “Why just stand around, you can help distribute the books.” He began to help translate and pass out books. Later she saw him smoking. He saw her too and came up and apologized, “I just tried it for the first time with my friend. I am sorry. I will not do it again.”