Retreat & Tours

 

Every year Gopinatha travels to Govardhana to participate in the VIHE's Govardhan retreat. He's also present at the Melbourne yearly retreat, with art work and seminars. The Christchurch devotees also began a yearly retreat in 2005.

Another future objective of our project is to share with others the opportunity for visiting the holy Vaisnava Dhams by arranging small guided tours to India. We began in 2004 with a trip to Mayapura Puri and Vrindavana in conjunction with Keshava Prabhu and Veda Priya, who both live in Melbourne. PLEASE see the colorful description of Gopinatha's first small tour under TOURS below.

 

 

 

Retreats

 

GOVARDHANA RETREAT - 2002


 

His Holiness Sacinandana Swami had a very good idea. His suggestion was a retreat at Govardhana, with devotees who were seriously interested in hearing and chanting in a concentated manner. Sacinandana Swami, BHurijana Prabhu and Jagattarini Mataji, were the speakers during the first VIHE Govardhana retreat in 2001.

O f course Gopinatha came with us to Govardhana. [In fact this website was the inspiration of Ekendra Prabhu after reading Gopinatha's story a "scrapbook" prepared to intoduce Gopinatha to the devotees who were present there.

The following year 2002 Gopinatha again seemed eager to attend. This time we brought with us a small portable altar with various pastime settings.

 

Devotees from around the world attended. We all spent many hours sitting, chanting and hearing Srimad Bhagavatam by the side of Govardhana Hill.

 

Sacinandana Swami Bhurijana prabhu

We also went on parikrama to different places around Govardhana

 

 

Raghava Pandit's cave

Surabhi Kunda
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The last day of the retreat was very special.
Everyone received an oportunity to bathe and worship Giriraja personally.
Here Gopinatha also participates in the offerings of flowers and lamps.
The retreat proves to be increasingly popular each following year

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GOVARDHANA RETREAT 2003

 

GOVARDHANA RETREAT - 2003

This year, for devotees living at Gopinatha Dham the retreat at Govardhana seemed an impossibility.  Sucirani's health was our main concern.

 

GOVARDHANA RETREAT 2004

 

GOVARDHANA RETREAT- 2004

 

 
This year when I arrived in Vrindavana, my husband mentioned that sn old trunk full of musty puppets had been discovered. He wanted to know if they should be thrown out.
 
Eighteen years before I made these puppets for the first Vraja Mandala Parikrama. We constructed a stage on a bullock cart and I travelled from place to place performing the shows to a tape in Hindi.
 
The first perfomance of the Story of Madhavendra Puri , when he discovering the Gopal deity at Govardhana, was performed  by the side of Govardahna Hill at Govinda Kund -  right in the very spot where this pastime took place.It was incredibly significant at the time.
 
Thereafter the puppets eventually disappeared and we left Vrindavan to live in Australia.
 
Now, suddenly we've all returned 
 
An idea came.
Why not do it again.
Why not perform that same puppet show at Govinda Kunda when we take the devotees there?
I devised a plan. 
 
There is a famous place in Gujarat called Nathdwar.The deity  there is named Sri Nathji.
Previously he was known as Gopal 
 
 

GOVARDHANA RETREAT 2005

 

Govardhana Retreat - 2005

Last year the puppet  were enlivening to the devotees  so this year I decided to bring something new.Two new little puppet shows. Plus my theme this year was the Trees of Vrindavan soI wanted to go to Ter Kadamaba for this parikram.

 

Tours

 

2004- Keshava's Annual Kartika tour:

 

In 2004 we joined Keshava Prabhu from Melbourne, and his wife Veda priya, to participate in their annual Kartik tour of the three sacred places - Mayapura, Jagannath puri and Sri Vrindavana dham.

The tour was very enlivening for all.Here are some photos from these places.

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Mayapura:

Our tour begins in Mayapura.

Fifteen devotees came on our small tour. We met together and went to the temple for Damodastakam.

The evening arotika was candlelit and very exquisite..

Sri Radha Madhava looked beautiful.

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The PancaTattva were also illuminated only with large candles

Every evening thousands of pilgrims took darsan of the deities.
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Navadwipa Dham

During our short stay we visited some special places within Navadwip dham,

Yoga Pita

This is the birth place of Lord Caitanya.

He appeared under a nim tree. Devotees worship this neem tree which reminds us of that sacred advent.

 

Nim tree Birth place Saci, Nimai, Jagannatha Misra

 

Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura first discovered this sacred spot.

The wonderful temple here was later constructed by one of his son,

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura's disciple

Relief paintings glorify this happy event

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Srivas Angan and Gadadhara bhavan

Srivas Angan is the residence of Srivas pandit. This was the place where Lord Caitanya and His devotees held kirtan every evening. When envious people complained, the Kasi sent his men who broke a mrdunga drum and threatened to stop the kirtan .

 

 

Next to Srivas Angan is Gadadhara Bhavan, the residence of Gadadhara Pandit who always accompanied Lord Caitanya.

From here we walk to the Sri Caitanya Math where Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura was placed in Samadhi.This was also the headquarters for his preaching work. Srila Prabhupada recalled having taken his darsan here during Srila Prabhupada's household years.

We also took darsana of Srila Gaur Kishore dasa Babaji in his Samadhi.

Thus first we visited the main temples in Sri Mayapura.

The next day we went to Godrumadwip to visit Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura's house.

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Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura

Without doubt there is a special connection between Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura. It was Srila Prabhupada, who amongst all the exalted disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, was destined to bring the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu out of India and spread them all around the world.

Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura predicted this happening.

For me personally Svananda Sukada Kunja the house and place of bhajan of Bhaktivinode Thakura is one of my favorite and most inspiring places.

His Gaura Gadadhara deities are here, and also his samadhi

 

Sri Sri Gaura Gadadhara

Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura's bed

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Modadruma dwip by boat on the Ganga

One day we travelled about one hour by boat from Mayapura to see the temples of this area of Navadwipa.

everyone enjoyed this outing

We chanted all the way to the temples there.

Srila Vrindavana das Thakura was born here.

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Nrsimhapalli

There is a temple beside a large lake. This deity of Lord Nsimhadeva in this temple is very ancient. We took darsana of Lord Nsrimhadeva there, and bathed in the refreshingly cool waters of that lake.

When we returned to Mayapura we were fortunate to attend arotika and take darsan of Lord Nsrimhadeva in our temple.

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Koladwipa

Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja

On our last day we visited the samadhi of Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja in Koladwipa.

We met an old babaji there who was well over 100 years old. He spoke to us about the wonderful qualities of Jagannatha dasa Babaji

The next day we left Mayapura for Calcutta and took the overnight train to Jagannatha Puri

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Jagannatha Puri

 

JAGANNATHA PURI - BY THE SEA

When we arrived in Puri we went to the guest house Keshava had arranged and to our dismay we found the whole building engulfed in renovation work. Finding accomodation wasnt easy as this is peak holiday season in Puri.

Finally we found a place just on the seabeach,with a wonderful view of the Indian Ocean.

 

 

Puri is an odd mixture of tourism and ancient Hindu piety. It is one of the four most well-known holy places in India for pious Hindus who are fortunate to visit at least once in their lifetime.

 

The centre of Puri is the large Jagannatha Temple

 

 

Unfortunately for hundreds of years it has been the rule that non-Hindus cannot enter this temple.

 

 

Their only chance to see Lord Jagannatha is on the Rathayatra day, when He and His brother Balarama and Subhadra His sister are brought out of the temple and placed upon brightly coloured decorated carts, which are pulled in procession to Gundica.

 

 

 

Many hundreds of years ago,Lord Caitanya also chanted and danced before the cart of Lord Jagannatha.

 

 

 

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JAGANNATHA MAHA PRASAD

 

Jagannatha Puri is also famous because this temple can provide a meal for more than 1000 people [without prior notice] any day of the year.

Hundreds of wood stoves prepare food for Lord Jagannatha, which is regularly offered many times throughout the day. When in Puri we try to take as much maha prasadam as possible.

 

                        

 

 

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GAMBHIRA

 

Gambhira also known as the Radha Kanta Matha.

This is where Lord Caitanya lived.

There is a scripture called Sri Caitanya Caritamrita which documents His moods and pastimes when in Puri.

Lord Caitanya lived in a small solitary room. Now this temple marks that place.

 

 
 
                                         
 

[L] - Behind the wooden box just beneath the paintings on the wall, there is a window.

[R] - If one peeps inside there is a painting of Lord Caitanya.This room is where the Lord welcomed devotees when they visited Him from Mayapura,every year to attend the Rathayatra festival.

 

Lord Caitanya displayed moods of extreme separation from Krishna [Jagannatha] just like Srimati Radharani exhibited when Krishna left Vrindavana.

This is a very esoteric subject matter, therefore the name of this place is Gambhira, which means "deep" and very "grave".

Just before entering the Gambhira is the small temple of Sri Radha Kanta. These deities were previosly worshiped in South India. They were brought to Puri by King Purushottam Jana not less than 500 years ago.

 

 

Here also is the deity of Sri Gopala Guru Goswami, a contemporary of
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

 

 

Gopal Guru received the responsibility for the worship of Sri Radha Kanta from his guru Vrkesvara Pandit.

Even today [more than 400 years later] for every daily offering to Sri Radha Kanta, the deity of Gopala Guru is carefully placed within the deity room and returned to his sitting place when the offering has been made.

Thus still today he remains the faithful servant of both Sri Radha Kanta and Lord Caitanya.

 

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TOTA GOPINATHA MANDIRA

 

In a solitary place amidst the sand dunes is the Tota Gopinatha Temple.

 

 

Here the deity of Tota Gopinatha is worshiped on the middle altar. THis is a favorite spot for devotees visiting Puri.

There is a large enclosed area suitable for Kirtan and taking prasadam.

 

 

This beautiful Gopinatha deity was found by Lord Caitanya under the sand in the gardens[tota] here. Thus He is called TOTA Gopinatha.

Lord Caitanya gave this Tota Gopinatha deity to Gadadhara pandit to worship. He ordered him never to leave Puri but to remain here and serve Gopinatha.

When Lord Caitanya Himself left Puri to visit Vrindavana, Gadadhara pandit followed Him, and disregarded the order to return. Outwardly Lord Caitanya became very angry with him.

Inwardly He was very pleased.

 

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SARVABHAUMA BHATTACARYA'S HOUSE

 

 

It was here that Sarvabauma Bhattacarya brought Lord Caitanya when He first arrived in Puri then went to see Lord Jagannatha and fainted.

Being a greatly respected impersonalist, Sarvabauma wanted to teach Lord Caitanya the Vedanta.

Lord Caitanya showed him a six - handed form and converted the Acharya to Vaisnavism.

 

                  

 

 

 

 

We sit together at the house of Sarvabauma, which is now very rundown, and hear these pastimes together.There is great potency in hearing these pastime stories in the actual location where they took place.

 

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SIDDHA BAKULA

 

Under this same Bakula tree - which was planted here by Lord Caitanya when He pressed Lord Jagannatha's neem-twig toothbrush into the ground -  Haridasa Thakura would sit and chant.

He chanted 300,000 Names of God every day - practically,he was chanting both day and night!!

Since he was born a Muslim, he could not enter the Temple, so Lord Caitanya Himself,out of love for him, would bring his meals of Lord Jagannatha's Mahaprasadam every day.

 

 

Many years later this tree split at the base, when the King at that time decided to chop the tree down to use the wood for the wheels of the Rathayatra cart.

To this day this Siddha Bakula tree continues to grow and is worshiped as the place of Haridasa Thakura.

 

                          base of tree

 

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HARIDASA THAKURA'S SAMADHI

 

 

Haridasa Thakura left this world gazing at the beautiful face of Lord Caitanya.

 

 

On the beachfront is the place where Lord Caitanya personally buried Haridasa Thakura's transcendental body in the sand .

 

                            

 

This [as well as Siddha Bakul] is another favorite place to have a hearty kirtan.

 

 

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Our parikrama is nearly over.We have heard so many nice stories, swum in the ocean, taken so much prasadam, and drunk so many coconuts.

 

 

We leave Puri tonight by train enroute to Vrindavana.

 

 

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JAGANNATHA PURI KI JAYA

 

 

GAUR BHAKTAVRINDA KI JAYA

 

 

Sri Vrindavana Dham

GOING TO VRINDAVANA

Yes, we are on the way to Vrindavana. Gopinatha is there in the middle on His makeshift altar.He's so small, but He is taking care of us all. We are trying to prepare for the next part of our tour.

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ENTERING VRINDAVANA

Our tour began on the first day of Kartika and now nearly two weeks of the Kartika month have passed. We will enter Vrindavana at the busiest time of the year, with Srila Prabhupada's Disappearance day as the climax.

First we will go and take darsana of Srila Prabhupada in his samadhi

Then we go quickly to see the beautiful dieties of

SRI GAURA NITAI

SRI KRISHNA BALARAMA

SRI RADHA SHYAMASUNDARA

  and sit for a while to listen to the kirtan going on in the temple 24 hours a day
 

These are the gifts of Srila Prabhupada

for which we are eternally indebted.

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We are going to take some parikramas during this time, but it is much harder here than in Puri or Mayapura.

Firstly, huge numbers of people throng to Vrindavan during this month.

Secondly, so many devotees are here from around the world who want to meet with us.

Thirdly, there are many scheduled events happening already.

And lastly, all the pastime places are much further away so more organization is required.

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VARSANA

This is my favorite spot in the whole world. I love to bring devotees here. The atmosphere is sweet despite the rowdy children. There is a circular walking path to follow right around Varsana which ends in the big fairylike temple on the peak of the largest hill.

Look, isnt this a beautiful sight?

Lets begin our walk through the village. Never mind the naughty children!

 

Varsana is the place where Srimati Radharani resides.  So many playful pastimes took place here. Srimati Radharani and her gopi girlfriends always look for ways to meet Krishna. 

This place is called SANKARI KOR. Here Krishna and His friends would block the way and demand taxes for the gopi's milk products. When the girls refused to pay, the boys would break their pots of yoghurt and milk. Then sweet but angry fights would break out.

High on the top of this hill is Mor Kutir where Krishna would perform His famous peacock dance.

In Gopinatha's art world you will see His small peacock dance diorama.

For hundreds of years artists have been painting this beautiful scene

 

Now we've reached the temple,but beware no cameras please.
Somehow we managed to take a few quick shots inside the temple

Leaving the temple means long flights of stairs, and playful local ladies "tattoo" us by force.

We return to Vrindavana

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VISITING GOVARDHANA HILL

Our parikrama to Govardhana is also very transcendentally pleasing

Sitting and hearing  pastimes in each place we visit

Then we return to worship Govardhana Hill in the temple.

and with the Gurukula devotees

in the home of Ananda Vrindavana Mataji, who manages the school.

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Srila Prabhupada 's Dissapearance day

Hundreds of devotees offer flower petals and bathe Srila Prabhupada

Homages are read or spoken, and then after the abhiseka,  prasadam is served in a very exemplary devotional manner by the devotees from Chowpatti, Mumbai.

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Our tour ends on a very internal note.We visit Srila Prabhupada's rooms at Radha Damodara Temple and sit quietly before him there.

It is time for offering prayers. Whatever we want to ask him for. Whatever we have gained on our tour can be understood as only due to his blessings.

Thank you Srila Prabhupada

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