North East Tour 2012

Posted on May 4, 2012 by Anita dasi

Written by: Savitri devi dasi and Bakula dasi.

Malbazar

On April 2nd, we (Savitri dasi, Bakula dasi and Sulata dasi) left Vrndavana at an auspicious time and arrived in Siliguri the next day which was Ekadasi. Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by our godsister Damodari from Malbazar (in North Bengal) and Prakash from Hamilton ganja. Then the five of us took the train to Malbazar, our first destination. We were met at the station by Pradip, a disciple of B.V. Siddhanti Maharaja and three of his friends who helped us with our many boxes of books.

We stayed at the house of Damodari’s mother Venu didi, our godsister. They had informed us that there was a grand opening of a Hanuman temple and for six days before the main opening, many people would attend the daily programs so it would be a good opportunity for us to distribute Srila Gurudeva’s books.

Newly initiated devotee helps with book and poster distribution

The next day we went to the Hanuman temple with our books. The organizers were very friendly and offered us a table at a stand where they served prasadam to the visitors. By the mercy of Srila Gurudeva, we sold many books and posters. We decided to go there every evening because at that time many people would come to take darsana after fulfilling their duties.

On the fifth day, Sulata and Damodari went to a place called Chalsa for book distribution, and we went to the home of a very nice, pious lady who we had met during our book distribution. We had a very nice conversation about bhakti-yoga and how one’s life is affected by following this path. Rupa could not speak any English so it was a good chance for us to practice our Hindi. Later her husband, a pharmacist, joined our conversation and then we ended with kirtan.

On April 6th we were invited in the early morning by a local schoolteacher and his family. We had already met his mother in Vrndavana. She was very happy to see us again and said that she was longing to make a return visit to Vrndavana, but due to being an elderly Indian lady, she can’t travel alone. She told us she is hoping that someone will be willing to accompany her in the future.

After a little breakfast, the neighbor of the teacher came by and insisted that we also visit her house, which we did. After half an hour we left and went to our main program, the house of a policeman, whom we had met one year ago. When we arrived there, his family members showed us their temple room in their new house. They had some questions about Bal Gopal Krsna. After giving them some advice on the method of worship, we all sat down for kirtana and harikatha.

Later that day we heard that we had been invited to the house of some local people where Sripad BV Siddhanti Maharaja had stayed a month ago for seven days during the time he was giving Bhagavad Saptaha. The lady of the house and her friends warmly welcomed us and after exchanging some joking words, we honored delicious prasad.

In Malbazar, the people who came in contact with BV Siddhanti Maharaja had become very inspired to pick up the cult of Krsna consciousness. We were happy to see how many of them were participating in kirtana, chanting and were so enthusiastic to help us. Many people now say “Radhe Radhe,” upon meeting us, or each other. It is not easy to gather thousands of people for a Bhagavat Saptaha and inspire them to give up bad habits and follow Ekadasi. We could understand that this was the power and mercy of Srila Gurudeva.

Some of them had taken harinama and diksa from Maharaja and were proudly wearing the Gaudiya Vaisnava tilaka. On Ekadasi, the devotees of Malbazar joyfully performed nagar-sankirtana for three hours throughout the whole of Malbazar. We were very moved to see this and also to participate in it. Mahaprabhu stated that His name will be preached in every corner of every town and village:

 

pṛthivīte āche yata nagarādi gārma

sarvatra pracāra haibe mora nāmas

In every town and village, the chanting of My name will be heard. In as many cities, towns and villages, as there are on the surface of the earth, My holy name will be preached and chanted.

(Caitanya Bhagavata, Antya-lila, 4.126)

 

This is a clear evidence that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s words are always true. Our trip to Malbazar was very successful by the mercy of Srila Gurudeva.

 

Joretang and Tarpu

On April 7th, after taking leave from all the devotees and friends in Malbazar, we proceeded towards Joretang which is a town in the state of Sikkim. We were joined by our godbrother Yasodanandana Prabhu who usually accompanies us to help with book distribution and class translation. Squashed in a jeep, we arrived in Joretang at midday. Our contact here, the kind owner of the Puspanjali Hotel, had arranged some rooms for us in a Darmashala. Joretang lies at the border of China, Butan and Nepal. This means that it is a security sensitive area. According to the new rules, foreigners are not allowed to distribute books unless they have a missionary visa. When we arrived, we were immediately visited by a person working for “special branch”, the police who look after the security of Sikkim.  They made us aware of the new rules and regulations and said that they wished they could help us but their hands were tied. This was due to the fact that some Russians from another temple came here and, despite the warning from the FRO, had distributed books and roughly handled the police. This was not at all appreciated by the local government. For this reason, the rules are being much more strictly implemented.

We made two groups, one group did sankirtana and the other party, which consisted of Savitri didi and Yashodanandana Prabhu, sold books. Indians, or those who are in possession of an PIO card (person of Indian origin), are allowed to preach and distribute books freely. In this way, we became successful by Gurudeva’s mercy.

There was another reason for us to come to Joretang. We could see how successful the Bhagavat Saptaha in Malbazar had been, so we wanted to arrange for Maharaja (Srila Siddhanti Maharaja) to also preach Bhagavatam in Joretang for the benefit of the local population. We were introduced to a man who owns one of the biggest construction companies in Sikkim, and he promised to help sponsor and arrange a Bhagavat Saptah for February next year. We are all very hopeful that this will happen and those who live in Sikkim will also be inspired to follow the teachings of Mahaprabhu.

We were unexpectedly visited at our darmashala by Mr BK Bandhari, the head of a Pranami Village in Tarpu. He invited us to visit their village in the mountains (approximately 15 km from Joretang) for a spiritual, cultural exchange. We agreed and made the necessary arangements.

The next day, in the evening after performing sankirtan and book distribution, we left for Tarpu. On the way, the jeep driver stopped and told us to take darsana of the trunk of Sri Ganeshji. We climbed up the hill and saw something which indeed looked like the trunk and the forehead of Sri Ganeshji. The story goes like this, one lama was passing by this spot and suddenly started shivering. He climbed up the hill and there he unearthed the trunk and forehead of Ganeshji. He told the villagers that Ganesh was staying on the hill in a cave. Later on, this was also confirmed by a pandit who was travelling through that area. He told them that if they dig deeper, they will unearth the whole body of Ganeshji and they should build a temple there.

Half an hour later we arrived in Tarpu where we met Mr Bandhari. He explained to us that the village consists of about 30 homes of devotees of Krsna. They call themselves “Pranamis” and always greet others with “pranam”.

To reach the temple, we had to climb down a narrow, very steep path at dusk. It took us half an hour to reach the Pranami temple which was located in a very picturesque village surrounded by mountains. The devotees there did some classical Indian kirtana, then Mr Bandhari introduced us and briefly explained our purpose for visiting the village. We were asked to do some kirtana and give some harikatha. Yashodanandana Prabhu, due to his expertise in the Hindi, Bengali and Nepalise language, translated our harikatha. We spoke about guru-tattva, nama-tattva and the glories Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The Pranami devotees worship the crowns of Radharani and Krsna instead of Their deity forms. The crowns are nicely placed on a beautifully decorated altar. Just like in our Gaudiya math, arati and bhoga offerings are done throughout the day in a timely manner. Because the jeeps don’t drive after dusk due to the dangerous mountain roads, we spent the night in the temple. The pranami devotees were very softhearted, kind and generous. They gave us prasadam and made warm beds for us. We very much appreciated the nice exchanges we had with them and felt happy to see how one pointed they were to the worship of Sri Sri Radha and Krsna.

 

Darjeeling

The next day, in the pouring rain, we left Joretang and proceeded towards Darjeeling. After 3 hours of driving up the steep mountain road, we arrived and went to meet Gopal Prabhu, our godbrother, in his shop which is close to the jeep stand. We left most of our luggage in his shop and went to the Marwadi darmashala. After resting and taking prasadam, we started our book distribution while light rain fell from the cloudy sky. In the evening we went to a small Radha Krsna temple next door to our darmashala which we had visited the previous year. The owner was very happy to see us again and asked us to do some kirtana. We were joined by all the family members and then, by the sound of our kirtan, more and more people sat down and sang with us. On the request of the owner, we repeated some kirtans which we had sung last year in his temple. We discussed the possibility of a Bhagavad Saptaha being given there and the owner became very enthusiastic. He promised to make some inquiries amongst the Marwari families to see if they would be interest in sponsoring the Bhagavad Saptah.

The next day in the early morning, we went to see Akhilesh Prabhu, our young godbrother. He and Gopal Prabhu took harinama by phone from our Gurudeva. His family have a small stone carved temple, in which Radha and Krsna were carved in the stone. He was happy to see us and revealed to us that he was eager to visit Vrndavana, but that he was in the process of applying to enter a college program in Bangalore so that had delayed his trip. We told him about our temple there and advised him to visit the devotees to get some association and inspiration.

Last year we met a boy who invited us in his village near Darjeeling, where most of the people worship Radha and Krsna, but due to sickness in his family, this program was canceled. For that reason we proceeded towards Siliguri which is the gateway to the North East.

Siliguri

In Siliguri, we found a good, clean room in Sikh Temple so we stayed there for 2 nights. We successfully distributed books in the city and were very inspired by the positive response of the people. On our last night we had a surprise visit from the uncle of Yasodanandana Prabhu who then brought us to his house for a few hours. Last year we stayed in his home with his wife and sons for one night, and he kindly let us store our books there for a few months. This year we were unable to stay with him because his sons were in the middle of their exams. Because of our visit the previous year, and also due to the association of Yasodanandan Prabhu, the boys have become inspired to read Bhagavad-gita every day, and both of them have become vegetarian. We discussed various points from the Gita, and the importance of taking sadhu-sanga so that our doubts and confusions are erased.

 

Hamilton ganja and Jaigaon

The next day we left early in the morning for Hamilton Ganja, the house of Yasodananda Prabhu’s parents. We got introduced to his lovely sister and aunty. After having brunch, we were taken to a tea plantation. The Manager, who comes from Krsna Nager which is very close to Navadvipa, gratefully accepted the books we gave him and told us that previously he had visited Mayapura. We were informed by some of the locals that a large number of the workers were Christians. Christianity is very prominent in this area. Most of the tea workers are very poor Adivassis who are exploited by the wealthy tea plantation owners. Sometimes they convert because of hearing the glories of Jesus Christ, but mostly it is due to being provided with a free education and other facilities that they sorely lack. After being guided through the tea factory, we were invited by a friend of Yasodanandan Prabhu who is famous in the area for fighting for better conditions for the workers who in some cases have very little to eat. He and his family are Christians. We sat with him and his family and discussed the commonalities between Vaisnavism and Chrisitanity and also the importance of being vegetarian.

Discussion at tea workers' home. They have no electricity.

After breakfast the next day, we went to a town called Jaigaon which is located next to the Butan border. There we did nagar-sankirtana and book distribution at the same time. For many people who lived there, it was the first time they had ever seen nagar-sankirtan. They were very happy to see us and many bought books and posters. One man gave us 500 rupees and asked us to use it to give books to those who don’t have enough money to buy them. We wanted to cross the border into Butan to distribute books, but Yashodanandana Prabhu informed us that the king is a Buddhist and does not allow other philosophies to be preached there. A few years ago, two members of ISCKON were arrested for distributing books, and they were imprisoned for 2 years. We settled for driving across the border to refill the car with gas.

At 6pm in Yasodananda Prabhu’s house we had an evening program and distributed prasadam to those who attended.

The following day Yasodananda Prabhu hired a flatbed rickshaw, and we put buckets of kitcheri prasad on top and Gurudeva’s books and went on nagar-sankirtana. We distributed prasadam to the villagers and they bought the small Bengali books and looked on in amazement to see western devotees dressed in Indian clothes doing kirtana. We then proceeded to the market place and continued our kirtana and book distribution there.

Rakesh, a neighbour of Yashodanandan Prabhu, invited us to his school, and we spoke to the children and to the teacher. We distributed some free books and answered the questions of the children. One boy asked whether Krsna was really darkish and whether one can get perfection in one day by chanting the holy name. With faith, all the children repeated the maha-mantra after us. Just before leaving, the teacher asked us to sing a short kirtana. All the neighbours heard our kirtana and invited us to their simple homes. We did kirtan in 6 houses and they gave us fruit, subji and rice. Two little children followed us from house to house, and when we at last reached their home, they became very happy and jumped with joy.

In the nighttime, people came to attend our evening program. We asked them to come and visit us Vrndavana in the month of Kartika. Some elderly ladies said that they were eager to go, but they had nobody to accompany them. We asked Yasodanandana Prabhu’s sister to arrange a group to join our Kartik program. That evening, an old Vaisnava was present among the guests. After the program he told us his amazing story. Approximately 15 years ago, he was walking along the street chanting, and at that time, a wild elephant came running towards him ready to trample him. Somehow he slipped and fell on the ground in front of the elephant. The elephant looked down at him for some time, then turned and walked away. That man had been wearing kanti mala and tilaka and was chanting the holy name. Telling this wonderful story to us, that devotee shed tears and started chanting the holy name of Sri Krsna. The depth of his chanting and his personality touched our hearts.

Shilong

On April 16th, at 2am, we left Hamilton ganja to catch a train to Shilong. After a whole day traveling, we arrived late in the evening in Shilog, where Anadi Krsna Prabhu was waiting for us. He brought us to our accommodation in a nice, centrally located hotel that he had arranged for us free of charge. Shortly after that we went to take prasadam in Laksmi didis house. She is a disciple of Parampujapad Vamana Gosvami Maharaja and is famous for her delicious prasadam. The next day, which was Ekadasi, our team split up into two groups. Bakula didi and Sulata went for book distribution, and Savitri didi went with Anadi Krsna Prabhu for house programs. In the evening we all came together again to attended some house programs. The following day we again engaged in book distribution, nagar-sankirtana and house programs. The people in Shilong were very supportive and friendly. We distributed more books here than any other place we visited. One very sincere man expressed his desire to arrange a Bhagavad saptaha so we gave him BV Sridhara Maharaja’s phone number. We hope that the saptaha will take place this year, may be before the month of Kartik and in this way Srila Gurudeva’s legacy of spreading the mission of Mahaprabhu will continue.

 

Srila Gurudeva ki jaya!

Nama sankirtana ki jaya!

Transendental book distribution ki jaya!