February 8, 2018

Govardhan: Where Lord Krishna played

The 21km parikrama of the hill is both spiritual and a test of fitness.

After a month of climbing hills and walking a lot in the Northeast, I was quite confident of acing the parikrama with flying colours. The locals, however, were not too sure of us city-dwelling folks aiming at completing the whole round in one go.
So, as a few of them advised to perform the parikrama in two parts, self-doubt set in. The smaller part of the parikrama is 9 km (popularly called choti parikrama); the husband and I decided to accomplish it first. A km into the trail, we could make out that all the people performing the parikrama were barefoot. Quite a dilemma for us that was. Carrying a bit of guilt in our hearts we asked an elderly gentleman if it was okay to wear shoes. “Beta, bas bhaav hona chahiye mann mein, kaise bhi laga lo (your heart should have the feelings for the Lord, that is all that matters),” he said. And, isn’t that is all that should really matter?
As we traversed through various settings, from the woods on one side of the path and open lands on another, to houses lining both sides of narrow lanes, the colours and confluence of so many believers just amazed us. The bright red of vermillion being sold on the carts, multi-hued dresses for ladoo-gopalji in every other shop, the ramshackle buildings still hinting at that lost glory and architecture or the big and small temples all through, it is a treasure trove for curious minds and excited hands at the camera.
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu temple, Uddhav Kund, Radha Kund, Mansi Ganga and Kusum Sarovar are must-visit. Built in red sandstone, the temple has wonderful carving and reflects the life of the spiritual leader who not only popularised chanting of Hare Krishna but also located the lost holy places associated with Lord Krishna.
While quite a many stoppages meant a little delay, still we could finish the 9km goal in 3.5 hours. Feeling glad, we then treated ourselves to a round of chaat, crispy golgappas and the husband’s favourite kulhad chai and hot dry-fruit milk. We were more than excited to take on the bigger (badi parikrama) the next morning.
An early and quick breakfast (make sure never to fill up your tummy too much as you might feel sluggish) coupled with lovely sun made sure we were in the best of spirits to tread the spiritual path and even check on our fitness level. Unlike the choti parikrama, this one is not so full of wonderful distractions and has a broad road and a walkway on the side all along to aid your speed.
The Govardhan Hill, though not very high and at some spots quite low in height, however, is visible only in this part of the full parikrama. The legend has it once Pulastya Muni came upon Govardhan Hill in the Himalayas. He requested Giriraj’s father Dronachala to let him carry the beautiful mountain to Varanasi. While Dronachala gave his permission with a heavy heart, Govardhan made a condition that, “I will go with you, but wherever you place me to the ground, I will not move from there.” As Pulastya Muni was passing by Braj Bhumi, he got an urge to respond to the call of nature. Thus he had to place Govardhan down. He tried with all his strength, but Govardhan would not move. He became very upset and he cursed Govardhan that, “Everyday you will reduce in size equal to that of a mustard seed”.
Hence, the hill that was miles and miles high, reduced to a size where Lord Krishna was able to perform his pastimes easily. He even famously lifted Govardhan once for days at end to protect his fellow villagers from the wrath of Indra. Now its highest point is just about 80 feet.
A tale of two states, as the bigger parikrama goes from Uttar Pradesh to Rajasthan and back, its main attraction is Poochri Ka Lautha and Daan Ghaati Temple at the end where you can thank the Lord for giving you a chance to be at this holy place and offer prasad
When the saints told us the day happened to be amavasya, considered auspicious to perform parikrama, it felt as if the things were meant to be in a divine way. And when we saw a lot of people performing the tough dandavat, we promised ourselves that next time we could at least try to walk barefoot. Dandavat parikrama, which can take days, weeks or even months, is performed by standing in one spot, offering prayers by lying flat on the ground. One then places a stone where the fingertips touched the ground in order to mark the spot, the routine repeated for every stone, the number of which can go up to 108. Standing up, one moves to the stone marker and again offers the prayers. When it’s time to call it a day, one has to retreat to a place to rest and start from the same spot the next day. Sounds like an unachievable feat, but as they say, if you have faith, the will surely finds a way to your heart. And, we saw many examples right there.

Travel Diaries editor Garima Verma was hosted by Shri Radha Brij Vasundhara Resort & Spa.
Located within the first two km of the bigger (12-km) parikrama, the property is spread in an area of 26 acres. Boasting of a wonderful location with landscaped gardens and cottages, it indeed has the potential to become the top option for stay in the region. It is, however, issues like cleanliness and service that leave a lot to be desired.

As understood, the resort is quite a hit for weddings and family functions. For those visiting for complete relaxation and calm, that could be a problem since wandering guests in such functions tend to forget their room number a bit too often. And, waking up in the middle of night to see confused faces would not be anyone’s idea of vacation.
The food is always worth the wait and would make you come back for more. Almost every preparation on the menu (even if you sometimes may not find everything available), be it the delectable paneer tikka masala that goes so well with the khasta roti, Gujarati poha in the breakfast or dum aloo, are soul-satisfying.

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