Nandalal Devi Dasi (ACBSP) Passed Away

By: His Holiness B.B. Govinda Swami

On this last Ekadasi my godsister Nandalal Dasi passed away from this world at the age of 72. She joined ISKCON in 1971. Having been married before (joining) ISKCON, she remained single.

A few years after she joined she went to Srila Prabhupada’s room one day. He looked at her and said, “Forget these nonsense material husbands. Take Krishna as your husband.”

He gifted her a beautiful small Deity of Krishna. Her Krishna was with her wherever she went.

Nandalal came to Vrindavan in 1977 or 1978. That is where I met her.
And starting from that time she lived 18 years at Govardhan. There was nothing at Govardhan at that time, but as a relatively young western woman she led an amazingly austere life, at the mercy of Sri Radhe, in the dust of Vraja. I never saw her again, but we met on Facebook and she was always so inspired to hear about Vraja.

All glories to Nandalal Mataji! May Sri Sri Radhe Shyam grant her eternal residence at the side of Giriraja Govardhan.












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6 Responses to Nandalal Devi Dasi (ACBSP) Passed Away

  1. Sangita Devi Dasi says:

    In honor of the passing of our dear Godsister, Nandalal Dasi ACBSP
    (Posted on (

    By Deena Bandhu Das

    Here is part of a manuscript she wrote about her dandauti parikrama of Govardhan. Many thanks to Annabelle Anavadyangi Dasi
    My dear Godsister Nandalal departed this world this morning (March 16, 2015), an auspicious Ekadasi. She would have turned 73 in May. Here is a document she wrote of an important event in her life.
    Because many devotees have never heard of me or the instructions that Srila Prabhupada imparted when giving me a Deity I think it important to preface this ‘off-the-beaten-path’ portion of my Memoirs with those instructions. Without them I know you will wonder why I ever went out to live for 18 years at Govardhan Hill after Srila Prabhupada left his body. Perhaps with the addition of this event it will make more sense.
    So this is the story of why I moved to Vraj Mandal in 1978.

    I was initiated in 1970 in Los Angeles. Shortly after joining the temple I was told by temple authorities that because I was 28 and had been married as a karmi, I should not get married in the Movement. I became Karandhar Prabhu’s secretary and was also in charge of the Brahmacarinis for periods of time. After about a year, I began to feel rather left out as so many other devotees were being permitted to go up to Srila Prabhupada’s rooms for darsan or to perform some small service. I had never gotten to go and also not on morning walks or into the garden, and I began to plot and scheme how I would get up to see Srila Prabhupada! Finally I cooked up a ‘wonderful and impressive’ question that I wanted to ask Prabhupada, and miraculously, Karandhara relented and said I would be allowed to go up.

    namaḥ paṅkaja-nābhāya
    namaḥ paṅkaja-māline
    namaḥ paṅkaja-netrāya
    namas te paṅkajāṅghraye

    My respectful obeisances are unto You, O Lord, whose abdomen is marked with a depression like a lotus flower, who are always decorated with garlands of lotus flowers, whose glance is as cool as the lotus, and whose feet are engraved with lotuses.

    Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.8.22
    Teachings of Queen Kunti

    As soon as I entered Srila Prabhupada’s rooms and paid obeisances, I prepared to launch into my wonderful question. Only a word or two were out of my mouth when Srila Prabhupada interjected with:

    “So! You do not need any of these nonsense husbands! You should take Krsna as your husband!”

    (Not sure, but don’t think the question was regarding husbands)

    Then he said, pointing at his desk: “Here! You take this Deity with you!” and as I was hesitating, he said again: “You take this Deity with you!” even more emphatically.

    So very carefully, I reached over and picked up the beautiful silver Deity of Krsna in three-fold bending form playing a flute. He was just 3 inches high.

    Namah pankaja-nabhaya… Then, Srila Prabhupada proceeded on with his instructions which were to forever change the course of my life: He said, “So, you should take Him with you where-ever you go, and you can worship Him anywhere, even under a tree; and when you get somewhere permanent you can set Him up and worship Him. You should get a box to carry Him in and you can put some cloth.”

    There are godsisters of mine who remember us all rowed up on the floor in the Brahmacarini ashram in LA sleeping with my Deity. Yes! This Deity lived in the Brahmarcarini ashram in LA with us ladies for awhile after I received Him! After that Srila Prabhupada gave permission that He be kept on the temple altar where-ever I was and from time to time, if I was too overloaded with service, other Pujaris were assigned to bathe and dress Him in the mornings. So, Yes! I think you could say He was treated like an installed Deity, but significantly, One Who could be worshipped anywhere, even under a tree.

    I have a long story to tell, but it all stems from these few sentences of instruction given to me in Los Angeles in about 1971 or 72.

    By 1976 I was living in Krishna Balarama Mandir in Vrindavan. I was in the room, as were so many of us, when Srila Prabhupada left his body on November 14, 1977. I remembered devotees saying that one of the last desires Srila Prabhupada had was to go to Govardhan Hill. And in 1978 when all the single ladies were asked to leave the Vrindavan temple, I moved to Govardhan Hill with the Deity that Srila Prabhupada had given me. I have to say, I cannot thank Gurukrpa Prabhu (then Swami) enough for giving that order. Sometimes devotees hearing this express outrage that we were thrown out, but I can only say thank you. It made my life sublime.


    Niruopadhi-karunena sri-sacinandanena
    Tvayi kapahi-sahho ‘pi tvat-priyenarpito ‘smi
    Iti khalu mama yogyayogyatam mam agahnan
    Nija-nikata-nivasam dehi govardhana tvam

    Although I am a cheater and a criminal, unlimitedly merciful Lord Sacinandana, who is very dear to you, has given me to you. O Govardhana, please do not consider whether I am acceptable or not, but simply grant me residence near you.
    Text 10 from Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami Sri Govardhana-Vasa Prarthana-Dasaka (Ten Appeals for Residence at Govardhan Hill)

    I think possibly I was the first Western devotee to do Dandavat Parikrama of Govardhan Hill in the very early 1980s. By the time I decided to do it I had moved from Kusum Sarovara, my first home at Govardhan Hill, and was living further into the forest of Sri Govardhan at Madan Mohan Mandir in Govind Kund. Having said that, I need to tell you, I was told by devotees at our temple in Vrindavan that I was definitely in Maya… (This is MAYA, Prabhu!!! NOT BONAFIDE!!! You’re becoming a Sahajjiya!!!) I can only smile looking back at all this, as we were all pretty new to everything way back then. I also had no idea there was a proper way to begin a Dandavat Parikrama (Darsan at Hari Mandir, Puja and taking bath at Manasi Ganga, starting the Dandavats at Manasi Ganga, etc). I didn’t chant the mantra all the Vrajvasis chant, instead chanted Hare Krishna. My Hindi was terrible, couldn’t understand a thing, etc., etc., etc., and so, I started out all wrong. I think about the only thing I did right for sure was to chant Hare Krishna and I did do it in the month of Kartika. Despite all my obvious failings and on top of that being ‘totally in Maya, Prabhu (!)’, I think I can safely say, rituals are not the only way to get the mercy of Giriraji, although they can help. So please don’t contact me to guide you. Take the spirit of my efforts if you like, that may be ok, but no need to follow my route. Get in touch with someone eminently qualified like our dear godbrother Deena Bandhu Prabhu to tell you how to execute a proper Dandavat Parikrama…

    On the day I decided to begin, I had been thinking of doing this parikrama for some time, but had been filled with trepidation. It was a rather daunting decision—could I actually complete the whole thing? Was I in Maya??? As it happened, that day I was carrying my little white hand-sewn shoulder bag with a change of clothes in it. My Deity was secure in a muslin bag around my neck for safe keeping; I was barefoot, and of course I had my bead bag. Standing at the ourskirts of Govardhan Village on the Govardhan Parikrama Path and facing toward Radha Kund, it came to me that it was either Now or Never, so, gathering up my courage, I took the plunge.

    I knew I could not go forward from whereever I stopped at the end of the day, I could only go backward to find shelter, food and water. I also knew you don’t use a Govardhan Sila to mark the beginning of each new dandavat. This must be an ordinary stone. So I offered obeisances to Srila Prabupada and started. I knew how to do a dandavat, lying out full length as we always did for temple dandavats before the Deities and Srila Prabhpada when he was still present. This is the way I began: placing the stone at the end of my fingertips and then getting up, folding hands in pranam to Govardhan Hill, stepping up to the stone, grasping it and again going down in dandavats and again placing the stone. Thus, measuring the length of Govardhan Hill with the body as an offering, all the while chanting Hare Krishna, I began.

    Whew! I quickly began to get the message that this was NOT going to be easy!!! Try doing pushups all day long for 10 days in a row and you kind of get the idea, but not really.
    It was dusk when I arrived at Uddhav Kund, midway between Govardhan Village and Radha Kund, covered in dust, limping, fully aware of every aching muscle in my body including some I never knew I had. Fortunately the temple was not yet locked, and I went into the Mandir for darsan. The Pujari and residents there, numbering 2 or 3 Brajvasis and one Sri Sampradaya sadhu, were just lighting their tiny oil lamps and having a little Prasad before taking rest for the night. Out in the more isolated areas of Vraj at that time, there was no electricity and people generally prepared to take rest shortly after sunset. Needless to say they were amazed to see me showing up at this unusual hour when wiser souls had left the path long before and were comfortably resting in daramsalas or their own homes for the night!

    Noting my arrival and realizing I was alone doing dandavat parikrama, they very kindly offered me a few chapatis and a place up on the roof of the Mandir to stay the night. The Pujari there is a famous resident of Vraj, whom it is said did 5000 parikramas to get his son, a devotee of the Lord; he recognized me from when I had lived at Kusum Sarovara. I gathered my little bag and prepared to go down to Uddhav Kund to take bath. It was chilly and I was pretty stiff ,tired, and totally covered in Vraj Raj (the cintamani dust of Vraj Mandala). Seeing this, the Sadhu stepped up and said to me, ‘No, no mataji, no need for taking bath now! You have taken bath in the dust of the feet of all those doing Govardhan Parikrama, in the dust of Giriraji Himself, and in the sacred dust of Vraj Mandal. No need to bathe in water tonight!’ and so with the offering of a thin blanket loaned by the Mandir, I climbed up to the flat stone roof of the Mandir.

    The moon was just rising over the empty fields and thorny bushes that cover Vraj in that deserted and lonely area. Govardhan is not manifested on this side of the Parikrama path nearly the entire way from Govardhan Village to Radha Kund and then from Radha Kund past Kusum Sarovara : there it manifests at Syama-kutir on the way back to Govardhan Village. I could see the silhouetted domes of Kusum Sarovara not far away, on the other side of the Parikrama Path. It was a familiar and reassuring sight as I had lived there so long. I also knew that after dark these very isolated parts of Govardhan could be dangerous as dacoits (gangs of thieves) also lived in these areas. They sometimes attacked lone travelers and small, isolated Mandirs. The Brajvasis living in such places were always on guard to prevent attacks.

    There was a small fire burning in a mudcovered bucket stove on the stone slabbed roof and one could see and feel the glory of Vraj Mandal spread out in all directions in the starry, moonlit night. It was so quiet and serene there. No cars, no people except those souls fully dedicated to a life of service to the Lord in His Holy Dhama. Such a simple life to live. No running water, no indoor toilets, no heating system except a small fire now and then on a cold night, no fans even in hot season. No TV, no phones, no computers. Just the hand-hewn stones of the Mandir, the dust of Vraj, a peacock cry in the distance, the breeze stirring in the trees and a cow lowing softly. Just the Holy Dhama surrounding you on all sides and the association of the Lords dedicated devotees. There is no other life more wonder-filled or satisfying.

    As Srila Prabhupada writes in Krsna Book, Krsna was so kind to his dear friend Uddhav he sent him to Vraj on the pretext of sending a message to the residents of Vrindavan. After witnessing the love of the Gopis for Sri Krsna, Uddhav prayed to become a blade of grass or a creeper there so the Gopis would place their feet upon his head.
    And thus, I fell to sleep, covered in the enchanted dust of Vraj, enfolded in the gentle, forgiving arms of Vrindavan Dhama that first day of my dandavat parikrama.

    Sri Uddhava instructed Gopa Kumar that if he wanted to attain that most rarely achieved goal of serving Krsna in Goloka Vrindavana as a true Vrajavasi- then he must go to this Gokula Vrindavana to perfect his sadhana. Gopa Kumar was not a learned person and was described by Narada as quite naive. But he had one pointed faith and desire to serve Sri Madan Gopal in Vraj. And this carried him past all obstacles.

    Next morning I was up at 3:00 am and chanted my rounds before going down to Uddhav Kund to bathe and launder my cloth. In the early 1980’s Uddhav Kund was in a rather dilapidated state, a difficult place to navigate in the dark. I took a little Prasad from Uddhav Mandir as my clothes dried and then, once again, with prayers to Sri Giriraji, Sri Uddhav, and the Deities of Uddhav Kund and after seeking the blessings of the residents there in that magical, solitary place, I continued my dandavat parikrama of Govardhan Hill. The day was bright and warm, the parikrama path mostly deserted. In the tradition of Gopis, occasional groups of Brajvasi ladies in bright saris, laughing and chattering away like flocks of exotic, colorful birds strode by, feet outlined in red lac, glass bangles tinkling, ankle bells ringing; clear-eyed babes perched nonchalantly on their hips.
    Otherwise, it was quiet, the serene, clear, atmosphere of Vraj sparkling in the sunlight. The empty fields of the farmers, just newly sewn with mustard which would bloom a mass of golden yellow in the winter months soon to come, bordered both sides of the parikrama path. Only my chanting and sounds of birds were to be heard as I rose and fell, rose and fell, rose and fell.

    As noon approached, Brajvasis passing by shared a spoon or two of subji on a couple of chapatis with me as I sat beside the path. During these early years few Western devotees were to be encountered out in Vraj so hospitality and curiosity were the usual modes of encounter. I was grateful for their mercy as I could carry nothing with me on this parikrama and actually perform the parikrama itself. So, as it should be, I was completely dependent upon the kindness of strangers.

    As I labored onward toward Radha Kund, and as I was to become increasingly aware in the days to come, it is not physically possible to do Dandavat Parikrama. It is such a physically demanding sacrifice that one has to laugh while also chanting, completely in awe and disbelief at what is taking place. I think most people who do it say this. To rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall, from morning to evening in the holy cintamani dust of Sri Govardhan Hill can only be possible by the mercy of the Supreme Lord in the form of Sri Giridhari Himself. It is He who carries the devotee in His arms throughout the many days it takes to complete this offering. That such an impossible act occurs while you the performer look on and experience it all in complete wonder and amazement is just another one of the glories of Vraj Mandal. Sri Giriraj Maharaj Ki Jai!!!

    As early afternoon came on, I was nearing the outskirts of Radha Kunda and decided it would be best to find a place to stay and try to go through the village of Radha Kunda the next day. This was just the second day of dandavats and I was as exhilarated as I was bone weary. As I recall, I rested that night in the mandir of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur which had a dharamsala attached where pilgrims could stay. NOTE: Am unsure of this and more research is necessary. It may have been the Lord Jagannath Mandir.

    Evening was swiftly approaching as I washed my cloth in a bucket at a hand pump in the dharamsala and hung it up to dry. As you may know, the residents of Radha Kund also do not do their laundry in Radha and Shyam Kunds as is more commonly done at some of the other kunds around Vraj, but perform such chores from water pumped from wells. I was also quite hungry, but as I recall, being in a Brahmacari Ashram, was too shy to inquire if there might be any Prasad. I lay down wrapped in my sari on the bare wood planks of my cot, a little cold and hungry, and very shortly was sound asleep.

    “Of the many objects of favored delight and of all the lovable damsels of Vrajabhumi, Srimati Radharani is certainly the most treasured object of Krsna’s love. And, in every respect, Her divine kunda is described by great sages as similarly dear to Him. Undoubtedly Radha-kunda is very rarely attained even by the great devotees; therefore it is even more difficult for ordinary devotees to attain. If one simply bathes once within those holy waters, one’s pure love of Krsna is fully aroused.” Nectar of Instruction Text 11
    Purport by Srila Prabhupada: …‘according to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur even great sages and great devotees like Narada and Sanaka do not get an opportunity to come to Radha-kunda to take their baths, what, then, to speak of ordinary devotees?’
    One godbrother told me he had once asked another: ‘Why, if Narada Muni and Sanaka Rsi could not get an opportunity to take bath here, could we?’

    This was the reply: Lord Caitanya broke open the storehouse of love of God and distributed it freely, not discriminating as to who is qualified and who is not. That tide of love of God flowed freely within our disciplic succession down to Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur who handed it off to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. In turn Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati ordered his faithful disciple A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to carry it to the West where he himself, drowning in the flood of love of God, disseminated it freely to everyone. And because we have taken up this mission to fulfill the desire of our beloved spiritual master by distributing his books and telling everyone we meet about Krsna, this becomes our qualification to approach Sri Sri Radha-kunda. To the very lowest has come the highest: unqualified love of God, unattainable even by great devotees and sages.
    That day as I was about to begin parikrama of the topmost pinnacle of lila pastimes which are decorated with the bejeweled forest groves of the 8 priniciple sakhis of Srimati Radharani, where Caitanya Caritamrta was written and where the bhajan kutirs of the Six Goswamis and other great saints of our Sampradaya are found, I flashed back to 1976 in Los Angeles where a very different scene had occurred. That year I was in LA for the last time to collect funds to go to India. One day in the month of July a gas main suddenly blew up in the center strip of Venice Blvd at Watseka Avenue just opposite the temple. The explosion shattered the huge plate-glass window of Balians Grocery across the street and melted the phone in the phone booth outside the Laundromat we used behind the temple. We all ran outside to find flames and smoke shooting 2 stories high! Workers performing excavation work in the center strip had hit a gas main which exploded instantly throwing a backhoe and workers ten feet into the air. Flames were running down the gutters on both sides of the street. People died. The Laundromat was turned into a temporary morgue for the bodies. Almost immediately helicopters were circling overhead! By order of the police the entire area, including our temple, was evacuated for fear that at any moment gas leaking into the underground sewer tunnels could blow up the entire area!
    As all were fleeing out of the area, myself and several devotees were rushing into the Temple to evacuate the Deities, one of which was the Deity Srila Prabhuapda had given me Who was being cared for on the temple altar at the time. My Deity and His paraphernalia were quickly gathered and taken out to safety while I rushed in several more times to assist in removing the paraphernalia of Rukmini Dvarkadisha. Each time I ran into the temple I wondered if this would be the last time I ever ran anywhere again.
    This incident set off, for me, months of nightmares in which I found myself in Europe in what seemed to be World War II (I was born in 1942 shortly after commencement of the Second World War). I experienced scenes which were so terrifying I awoke each time praying never to have another one. I lived through one scenario where I was running through a village as bomb doors opened above me and bombs began to fall all around. Another time I was in a fox hole shooting and being shot back at. I had this dream twice. In the second dream, I was shot and died, a lowly young (probably German) soldier on a bloody battlefield of death and carnage – only to emerge again in 1942, the daughter of cattle ranchers in Wyoming in the USA!

    Whenever there is a rise in irreligion the Lord descends Himself as He did in his covered yellow incarnation as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
    Clearly, it was not by accident that Srila Prabhupada made his destination the United States of America. So many devotees mention that they come from cattle ranching families or that their fathers were butchers. And how many that didn’t fall into those direct categories were born into vegetarian families? Practically none. The history of this planet is a bloody one. In Kali Yuga it has always been about war. And as we have come to realize, wars stem from killing, much of which is killing of animals. As they say, ‘what goes around, comes back around’; it is the vicious cycle of the Law of Karma.
    Increasingly we’re getting a vision of the future that awaits anyone born here in the Age of Kali; who but us understands the significance? Who can say what must be done to break the repeated cycle of violence to animals. A cycle which in return creates wars in which the butchers and gluttons are themselves cast into the carnage of blood-soaked, abattoir-like battlefields full of fear, pain, violence, slaughter and death? Srila Prabhupada said, such so-called humans are nothing better than animals. And that is our birthright. We know it well.

    I used to wonder why Lord Caitanya appeared 500 years ago. Why didn’t He come now when things are unspeakably worse? Why did Srila Prabhupada’s time with us last such a very brief 11 years? Why were we, coming from the backgrounds that we came from, the ones who received his mercy, his association and his instructions? Why us?

    These were questions that I pondered there on the banks of the sacred kund of Srimati Radharani as I began the day’s Dandavat Parikrama. And the answer is now becoming clear as, in my mind, almost 40 years later, I rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall, in the writing of my dandavat parikrama of Govardhan Hill.

    Writing of this particular day of my journey in dandavats, I couldn’t get the story of Bahulastami, the Kartik advent of Radha Kunda, out of my mind. It is so significant for us in particular that Lord Caitanya came here 500 years ago to re-discover the location of Radha and Shyam Kunds, then mere muddy ponds in a farmer’s field. In reality these kunds are actually the scene of the lila of ‘purification’ of Krsna for the sin of killing the bull demon Aristasura.

    For the lowest of this Age, through the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprahu comes the highest mercy. But before proceeding, I want to interject a note of caution, lest we forget: we do not bathe in Radha kund solely to become purified of any of our many sins, including that of animal slaughter, abortion, murder and flesh eating; primarily we bathe here, with great sobriety and reverence, to enable us to attain pure love of God in the mood of the Gopis of Vraj.

    As this my vision slowly faded, I again looked out upon the banks of Radha-kund, which at the time of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s visit to reveal its location, was known as Aristagrama, the home of the demon Aristasura appearing in the form of a bull! Pushing all other thoughts aside with the dawning realization of how truly fortunate were I and my godsiblings and all those to come after us, my journey, measured length by length continued on around Radha Kund and out the other side. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

    vraja bhuvana sudhamsoh prema bhumir nikamam
    vraja madhura kisori mauli ratna priyeva
    paricitam api namna yac ca tenaiva tasyas
    tad ati surabhi radhakundam evasrayo me

    May very fragrant Radhakunda, which is named after a girl who is a realm of love for He who is the moon of Vraja, a girl who is like the most precious jewel in the crown of the sweet girls of Vraja, be my shelter.

    api jana iha kascid yasya seva prasadaih
    pranaya sura lata syat tasya gosthendra sunoh
    sapadi kila mad isa dasya puspa prasasya
    tad ati surabhi radhakundam evasrayo me

    The mercy obtained by serving Radhakunda makes the celestial vine of pure love for the prince of Vraja, which is famous for bearing the flowers of service to my queen, sprout. May that very fragrant Radhakunda be my shelter.

    Sri Radhakunda-astaka by Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami
    Verses 4 & 5

    By the end of the day, I was quite tired and also pretty hungry. Radha Kund is a village full of spiritual significance; it is full of devotees who live very simply. Many are poor. I was lucky enough to have a few rupees on me and was able to purchase alu tikkia off a cart as the day progressed. I was beginning to worry about spending another cold night without a blanket and more substantial foodstuffs. Mundane thoughts to say the least, but one has to keep body and soul together. I was just an insignificant sojourner, pretty much un-noticed amidst the pilgrims on the crowded, cobbled streets of Radha Kund.

    As I was nearing the end of my dandavats for the day, I suddenly heard a cheerful voice calling my name! Nandalal dasi!!!! Ki hal hai? (what’s happening/how are you?) It was Uddhav Sharma from Kusum Sarovara perched on his bicycle, a jute bag of fresh subji hanging from the handlebars and his young son Kannheya sliding off the back to greet me! Clearly I was doing dandavat parikrama as they could see and they appeared quite delighted (and amused) to see me doing it. I was very equally happy and relieved to see them! Upon hearing I was without Prasad and a blanket for the night, they returned quickly to Kusum Sarovara and Kannheya then pedaled back bearing a blanket and subji roti cooked by Yasoda, Uddhava’s wife. I can still see those large hands of Yasoda as she used to squat before their small cookfire shaping ‘basi rotis’ by hand into nice, thick bhajra chapattis, so tasty and filling.
    So, my belly full and a warm brajvasi blanket to cover me, I ended the third day of dandavat parikrama.
    Jai Sri Rupa, Sri Sanatana, Bhatta Raghunatha
    Sri Jiva, Gopal Bhatta, Dasa Raghunatha

    Day four proved to be physically much easier for me. My body and mind were adjusting to the rigorous schedule of dandavats at last and I was headed for my old home at Kusum Sarovara. My day thus began on an easy note. Once again I was out amongst the fields of Vraj which I always preferred to the bustling town areas, and, as my body was not so stiff and sore as on the previous days, I set a good pace.
    Interestingly, I was soon overtaken by a young Indian couple also doing dandavat parikrama! In all my time in Vraj I think this is the only one in which I encountered this nicely preserved tradition. The husband was performing the dandavats with his wife walking behind. Each time he prostrated himself in the dandavat she would lean over and take the dust from his feet on her head, and then she would bow down. They were accompanied by relatives, servants and a car to carry their gear, foodstuffs, water, bedding, fresh clothing, and other needed articles. At one point they took a break and although they had passed me by, I again caught up and they invited me to sit a moment with them. As it happened, their reasons for performing the parikrama were somewhat different from mine, as they were performing this sacrifice in order to get the benediction of a son! In India if one is in need of something, the population still knows how to approach the Supreme Lord as one of the 4 types of people who come to Him. All glories to the Vedic culture! And higher still, all glories to Srila Prabhupada who taught us the secret of escaping birth and death in the material world!

    This couple with their entourage was soon outpacing me and I happily continued on alone, free of the chatter of family and relatives and all it implied; the beauty and sweetness of a morning filled with the cries of peacocks and other birds in Vraj once again embraced me.
    At noon Kannheya came pedaling by to bring subji/roti once again and to share a few minutes with me by the side of the path. He was 9 or 10 at this time and a thin, cheeky and bright-eyed, mischievous boy who loved to play with and tease me.
    I did my first walking parikrama of Govardhan Hill with Kannheya and his family, when I first moved to Kusum Sarovara . It was mostly due to his efforts and the plucky little Mohan who was 5 or 6, that I made it all the way around the Hill. As I began to tire a little over midway through that first parikrama, Uddhava found just the right stick to make a good 5 ft. danda and Kannheya and Mohan would take the lead holding one end of the danda. Pulling the danda with me holding on to the other end, they dragged me the last one third of the way around the Hill! Fourteen miles is a long way to walk the first time you do this parikrama!

    In this lighthearted way, we finished my lunch and Kannheya pedaled on to Radha Kund to retrieve the blanket his family had loaned me for the night. I continued on rising and falling, rising and falling, rising and falling, anticipating shelter and a bath just a short way away at beautiful Kusum Sarovara, the deep and ancient lake of Kusum flowers.
    Vraj is unique in the universe as the place of pastimes of Lord Krsna with His beloved cowherd damsels, the Gopis. And Vraj is also special in another way. It is home to the direct descendants of Mother Yasoda and Nanda Maharaja, the Gopis and Gopas and the cowherd men and their wives, the Vrajvasis. It is the Vrajvasis that to this day, by their presence maintain the ambience of the Dhama with their simple lifestyle, their customs, and their dress. Vraj is their life with its fields and cows, it’s small villages, it’s Pastime Places (Lila Sthalis) and it’s lovely temples; Radha and Krishna are the Lord and Lady of their lives. The Sadhus who also live here make it a place of Bhajana and Sadhana, but they too, live here by the hospitality of the Vrajvasis.

    My first ‘bhajan kutir’ when I moved from Krishna-Balarama Mandir was at Kusum Sarovara where I was sheltered and protected by the Sharmas, the Brahmin family who are the caretakers. I was just a naïve, green devotee only very dimly aware of the wonderland I had wandered into and the glories that surrounded me on every side. I did not know that great Munis such as Ashtavakra Muni had lived on the banks of Kusum Sarovara in deep meditation awaiting the appearance on this planet of Radha and Krishna 5,000 years ago. Or that Narada Muni had temporarily obtained the body of a Gopi by bathing here many eons prior to the advent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu! And so also it was, that here I learned to live in complete simplicity and began to love Vraj as my heart and soul.
    Beyond Srila Prabhupada’s books, which I had brought with me, I had no guides. For Gaudiya siddhanta I needed nothing more, but according to the writings of the Six Goswamis, there are other guides and other means to deepen and open one’s heart to what my beloved Spiritual Master was teaching me. And these I found in the eternal living Vraj whose atmosphere is ever-fresh and purifying as are the waters of her Kundas, the hearts of her residents, the gentle sadhus worshipping there and the very dust we walk upon and so casually take for granted. The Holy Dhama is ever available to teach and purify us from whatever stage we find ourselves arriving at Her door. What I mean and try to convey by this is that one of the 5 goals of spiritual life is to live in Vraj Mandal. And I had arrived, and continue to celebrate that arrival to this day as I near the age of 72 years far away in Kali Yuga America.

    • Riktananda das Adhikari says:

      Dear Nandalal-devi-dasi Prabhu
      PAMHO. AGTSP. After a hiatus of many years, within the past two months you contacted me via my email address, whereupon we chatted briefly over the space of several exchanges. And then quite abruptly you said, “I am feeling very tired and must take a long rest.” Then your communiques ceased. I take it that you were being given your “notice,” as Srila Prabhupada has remarked. As the 17th-century poet John Donne said, “Rest of their bones and souls’ delivery.” I wish you well, dear Godsister. Jai. Hoping that this meets you enjoying Vrindavana sports with the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His divine associates, I remain, Your servant, Riktananda dasa

  2. Annabelle Anavadyangi dasi Younger says:

    Dandavats Dear Devotees

    All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    I remember Her Grace Srimati Nandalal Devi dasi in New Dwarka where I joined in early 1973. I was 27 then and a single mom with children aged 6, 8 and 10 who were sent to Dallas Gurukula. My sons later went to India and Vrindavan Gurukula.

    Thanks to the internet and Facebook we were able to meet up again. We’ve had many email and messaging exchanges as well as phone calls.

    Is the above Riktananda Dasa aka Richard Arthur who worked at BBT in LA who I last saw in Lawrence KS? I’d last contact info with you…so many computer crashes and many changes in my life! So appreciate your contact again. Please feel free to email me.

    Your lowly servant, Anavadyangi dasi

  3. Pranav says:

    I was in touch with Nandlal Dasi Mataji on Facebook. She was so active and passionate about Vedic villages. Deeply mourn her leaving for Goloka.
    Your servant,

  4. Kathy Hughes says:

    Haribol Riktananda das,

    Love to reconnect as well.
    We gave shelter to Govardhana, the young heifer rescued from Altadena dairy for Govardhana Puja in
    1980 and brought her to our farm.

    Your ever well wisher,
    Kathy Hughes

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