Meandering through Vrindavan is a frenetic thing (which is great for those with adventurous hearts). From dawn to dusk, the city is filled with nonstop energy! People worshipping deities, drinking chai, haggling with merchants, chanting mantras, dodging monkeys and cows, driving to who knows where in cars, bikes and rickety rickshaws. Everyday something new and exciting happens. That’s Vrindavan’s charm (and curse if you step in something mushy).
One of my favorite things to do was walk alongside Yamuna as the sun set and lanterns sailed across her violet waters, hearing the soothing chime of temple bells as swamis commenced their nightly puja.
As the Vrindavan Sky cried her summer tears, I visited the ISKCON Temple (Krishna Balaram Mandir) and got myself better acquainted with Srila Prabhupada’s message of Krsna Consciousness. Born and raised in India, His Grace was instructed to move to New York in 1965 to spread the word of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (founder of bhakti yoga), teaching sanskrit, Vedic principles, mantra chanting, sattvic cooking and other immersive lessons that would help spiritual seekers everywhere reconnect with their true nature.
At first, I couldn’t understand how simply chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare could reconnect us, but after reading how this present Age of Kali (a time of low ethics) has convoluted the heart with greed, deceit and jealousy, I realized that simplicity is what makes it so effective. Not only does the mantra’s vibration cleanse the heart, but it puts one in a spiritual place. And once there, you can begin to see how the material body isn’t truly you—
the soul that drives it is!
And it’s eternal!
So grab a harmonium, mridanga and karatalas and start chanting.
Warning: When visiting Vrindavan, one must be watchful of monkeys. They are known to snatch bags, food, cameras and other belongings right out of people’s hands. Driving in a tuk-tuk through downtown Vrindavan, one of those light-footed rascals snatched my new sunglasses right off my unsuspecting head. Hitting the brakes, the driver turned around and asked if I’d like to “re-purchase” them from the monkey’s owner. Refusing to be scammed (and feeling quite foolish about the whole thing), I shook my head and told him to proceed (the monkey waving a pair of knockoff Ray-Bans over an amused crowd).
After checking into Radha Palace, a simple and economical hotel near the main temples, I gathered my wits and walked to Prem Mandir, a beautiful white temple that narrates the glorious childhood of Vrindavan’s own, Lord Krsna.
Gaining a better understanding of Krsna and His many feats, I clutched my belongings and exited the temple gates, making sure a monkey didn’t catch me off-guard and snatch away my inner peace.
On my 3rd day in India, I stayed with my friend’s family in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of country life. During this precious occasion, Suresh introduced me to his wife and daughter, offered me homemade chai and curd, explained the difference between cows and oxen, gave me a tour of his wheat fields, and accompanied me to the local Shiva Temple (which is looked after by his older brother, Baba Ramdava). As the rooster’s call broke dawn, I watched attentively as Baba cleansed its sacred interior, performed morning puja and recited hymns from the Bhagavad Gita. These rituals would awaken my third eye and keep me in a calm, spiritual state throughout my trip. Hari Om!
One cannot rediscover the splendor of Ancient India without cruising through the National Museum of Delhi. Sad to say, all the Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa galleries were closed for renovation.
To my joyous surprise, the cutest paintings of Lord Krishna were displayed in the Medieval Gallery, so all wasn’t lost. Hari Om!
If ever there were a man that should not be forgotten, it’s Mahatma Gandhi. On my first day back to India, I visited his museum in Delhi and learned so much about the warrior behind the rounded spectacles.
It’s amazing how selfless he was for the good of others, placing morals before money, humanity before hunger, fortitude before fame.
Born with extraordinary talents, he could’ve been anything: a commanding lawyer, an astute politician, the prime minister of India…
Yet he chose to stand up for his beliefs and inspire others like Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and an army of other nonviolent warriors.
Dhanyavaad, Mahatma Gandhi
Namaste! This August, I’ll be making my second trip to India. My plan is to fly into Delhi, hire a driver and visit the following cities: Rishikesh, Haridwar, Mathura and Vrindavan. Since I’ll be staying for 2 weeks, I’ll have more time to relish the sights, sounds and kindred spirits. I’m in the process of devising an itinerary, so if anyone has any suggestions, feel free to share. Thanks to you, my enlightened friends of India, I had a memorable experience my first time around. Now I look forward to another.
Here’s what I have so far:
Delhi to Haridwar to Rishikesh to Mathura
to Vrindavan and back to Delhi