ISKCON's 23rd annual Vraja Mandala Parikrama, coordinated by gurus Lokanath Swami and Radha Raman Swami, began this year on Sunday October 4th and will run until Monday November 2nd.
Devotees left from ISKCON’s Krishna Balarama Mandir at 5:00am on Sunday and will walk an average of fifteen kilometers a day on the parikrama, a tour of the holy places surrounding Vrindavana, India, where Krishna is said to have lived as a cowherd boy five thousand years ago.
Every night along the way, they will sleep in tents or locally available schools, community centers or temples, and travel with only the most basic bedding and personal items.
“The whole atmosphere here in Vraja is spiritually surcharged,” said parikrama participant Madhavendu Dasa, who will be visiting twenty-one holy places on the tour. “And especially since it is the sacred month of Kartika, and we have the famous Deena Bandhu Prabhu as our tour guide, we are fully absorbed in Krishna consciousness.”
Speaking on the third day of the tour, Madhavendu said, “Today over one hundred devotees went to Madhuvana, one of the twelve forests of Vraja. We then walked to Talavana, another forest, during which different internationally renowned kirtan singers chanted beautiful songs. When we got there, Deena Bandhu Prabhu told the stories of Krishna’s devotees Dhruva Maharaja and Ambarish Maharaja with his usual dramatic skill and devotion.”
Deena Bandhu also told many other stories: How Krishna killed the demons Lavanasura and Dhenukasura; how he created the lake Krishna Kunda with his flute to provide his calves with drinking water; how he danced with the gopi cowherd girls in Madhuvana; and how his avatar Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited all the same places thousands of years later in the fifteenth century. He also told of the many different activities of Krishna’s various avatars and devotees in Madhuvana and Talavana throughout the four ages of Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali.
“Afterwards, Deena Bandhu did Madhukari—the act of begging for food from the local residents—for all the devotees,” Madhavendu said. “Every Vrajavasi (resident of Vraja) knows him, and they enthusiastically gave their traditional chapattis and subji until we were all fed. Even little kids were running after him, waving the chapattis they wanted to give us!”
Before leaving Talavana, all the devotees swam in the waters of Balabhadra Kunda. When Sikhi Pincadhari Dasa began sporting in the water just as the cowherd boys of Krishna’s time had, everyone began to follow suite with joy, jumping into the lake and playing in its waters.
“And that was just one day on Vraja Mandala Parikrama,” said Madhavendu. “I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!”
For more information on Vraja Mandala Parikrama, please contact Premanjana Dasa at firstname.lastname@example.org .