for ISKCON News on July 29, 2010
Every day in the Holy land of Vrindavana thousands of pilgrims flock to visit the sacred spots where Lord Krsna performed His earthly pastimes. Vrindavana is considered to be the most sacred of Holy Places for most vaisnavas. As such, Vrindavana Praikrama, or the circumambulation of Vrindavana, is considered not just a form of worship and respect but also a powerful process of purification and understanding of the spiritual realm. The Parikrama paths, chalked out by saints over hundreds of years, weave their way in and out of the many significant and special places in the Holy Land.
For those around the world who cannot travel regularly to Vrindavana, ISKCON temples and communities provide spiritual shelter from regular material society. Some communities however, such as New Vrindavana in America, and New Vraja Dhama in Hungary, not only recreate the intense spiritual mood of Vrindavana, but also physically replicate the sacred spots that attract so many pilgrims on a daily basis. Govindadvipa in Ireland is another community that has modelled its rural surroundings on the original Vrindavana geography.
The temple situated on a 22 square acre island in the Fermanagh Lake lands is surrounded by forest. Each of the twelve forests of Vrndavana are represented and the spots of Krsna's different pastimes are indicated with sign posts and colourful dioramas and displays. Peacocks and deer roam through the forests and the morning kirtanas can be heard coming from the main temple situated in the centre of the island. As the parikrama path weaves its way through the fields and forests of Govindadvipa, you are taken on a whirlwind tour of the original Vrindavana.
This year Dina Bhandu Prabhu took local residents and guests on a three day Parikrama journey of the island as part of the 24th anniversary festival of the presiding deities, Sri Sri Radha Govinda. In August 2003, Dina Bandhu officially opened the parikrama with sixty signposts and twenty-five four foot tall sets of figures under roofs. Famed throughout Iskcon for his deep explanations, brilliant local knowledge, and sweet kirtana, Dina Bhandu has been guiding pilgrims in Vrindavana for decades. Mahamantra Dasi, the temples head pujari, explained that the real wealth of Vrindavana are its saintly residents who can give us an insight into the spiritual world and thus a greater insight into Krsna in His most intimate and personal nature.
Pointing upward with his stick Dina Bhandu exclaims, "This is where Lord Krsna and Balarama killed the demon Dhenukasura and his associates by whirling them into the treetops!" As everyone looks upwards, sure enough in the branches are life sized demons! After telling the entire pastime the parikrama continues to the next spot accompanied by kirtana.
As part of the celebrations, local devotees also offered Srila Prabhupada a brand new Gold Leaf Vyasasana. Srila Prabhupada originally left Vrindavana to bring Krsna Consciousness to the Western world. Now almost half a century later, western devotees were coming together and worshipping the sacred land of Krsna's divine pastimes, both in Vrndavana itself and in temples thousands of miles away from the Indian sub continent.
Mahamantra Dasi explains that there is still a lot more to be done to maintain and improve on the Parikrama path. "In July 2005, our addition to the parikrama path was the Giriraja gazebo. This is a beautiful summer house which has information and pictures of Krsna's pastimes around Govardhana hill. There could be more of them around the parikrama path. For example, in the forest of Mahavan, we could have one which displays all of Krsna's baby pastimes that happen there." This year the new Vrnda Kunda and the temples brand new Tulasi garden were officially opened by Dina Bhandu. Temple President Manu dasa commented, "Devotees have worked hard fund raising, building and decorating to make this a great community festival. It is the very heart of Vrndavana culture to come together for spiritual festivities like this and as Srila Prabhupada has taught us, it is the life and soul of every devotee to share the mood and message of Vrindavana Dhama with others no matter where we are in the world."
For more information on festivities at Govindadvipa check out www.krishnaisland.com