By the Kumbha Mela Distribution Team from Ananda Dhama Gaudiya Ashram, Vrndavana
Kumbha Mela is acknowledged worldwide as one of the largest spiritual pilgrimages on the planet. Wikipedia refers to it as the biggest gathering on Earth. In this modern age of internet networks, smartphones and cyber gadget technologies, the facebook generation is readily turning its spotlight to such spiritual events. The Kumbha Mela is no longer thought of as an exclusive “Hindu only” festival but as a universal gathering of faith, mysticism, and spirituality. This gathering is open for everyone to participate in and take advantage of.
Kumbha Mela means “pitcher festival”. For the numerous pilgrims participating in the event, its significance is quite diverse. From the naked naga-babas, to mystic acrobats, pot-smoking ‘avadhutas’ brahmavadi yogis, munis meditating in silence, pilgrims singing the chants of their particular faith, simple devotees of various types or curious tourists in their thousands, all have their individual conceptions about the significance of this festival. Most, however, share the common goal of desiring to attain the nectar of immortality that the duration of Kumbha makes available.
The Kumbha Mela takes place in one of four locations: (1) the confluence (sangam) of the Yamuna, Ganga and Saraswati Rivers in Prayag, (2) the Ganges at Haridwar, (3) the river Godavari at Nasik, and (4) the river Shipra at Ujjain. Each of these rivers becomes a reservoir of nectar during this sacred time.
For there to be a Kumbha Mela, there needs to be a particular alignment of the sun, moon and Jupiter, the planet of guru. The type of Kumba Mela accords with an exact astrological convergence of these planets. The regular Kumbha Mela happens every three years and is held alternatively at one of these four different places. Every six years there is an ardha (half) Kumbha Mela, held only in Haridwar and Prayag (now known as Allahabad). Every twelve years a purna (full) Kumbha Mela takes place. This happens only in Prayag. And every 144 years a Maha (great) Kumbha Mela is held. This, also, only takes place in Prayag.
This year’s Kumbha Mela in Prayag, which started on January 14 and will continue for fifty-five days, is a Maha-Kumbha Festival. The last Maha Kumbha was in 1869 and the next one will be in 2157. It is for this reason that this year, Kumbha Mela is expected to be the largest gathering of people on the planet for the century.
Yet how significant is Kumbha Mela to the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, the followers of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu? Sriman Mahaprabhu taught us to only desire suddha-bhakti, pure devotion to Sri Krsna which is free from the desire for sense gratification and liberation. Many people go to the Kumbha Mela with the desire for purification and liberation, or with a desire to attain some material or mystic perfection to be used for their own pleasure. We find, however, that Gaudiya Vaisnavas have a different conception of Kumbha Mela.
As Gaudiyas, we acknowledge that Prayag is indeed a place where ambrosia is distributed, but that nectar is greater than the ambrosia that emerged from churning the milk ocean. When the most merciful Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu, who is Sri Krsna Himself in the mood of Sri Radha, came to this Prayag, he met with Srila Rupa Gosvami and and at dasa-asvamedha ghat instructed him on abhidheya-tattva, the conclusive truths about the process or means to achieve the highest goal of human life—krsna prema along with the highest nectar –the transcendental rasa between Radha and Krsna. This was recorded in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta (Madhya-lila Chapter 19) and is known as “Rupa-siksa”.
In this way, here in Prayag, Sriman Mahaprabhu made Srila Rupa Gosvami taste a drop of the ocean of bhakti-rasa, the nectarean mellows of devotional service. Being a recipient of the potency transmitted by Mahaprabhu, Srila Rupa Gosvami established and distributed the greatest nectar that has ever manifested in this world. Our Srila Rupa Gosvami gifted the world with this very nectar in the form of Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (an ocean of the nectar of bhakti-rasa), Ujjvala-nilamani and many other unparalleled literatures on the science of devotion. These books have not only become the fundamental guiding principle for all of the followers of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu but also a source of nourishment for their devotional moods. For this reason Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasavati Thakura Prabhupada established Sri Rupa Gaudiya Math in Prayag
In modern times, our Srila Gurudeva, nitya-lila pravista om visnupada Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayan Gosvami Maharaja, is the foremost follower of Srila Rupa Gosvami and the foremost distributor of this nectar, also. He has traveled the world more than thirty times, primarily to distribute the ambrosial teachings that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu manifested through Srila Rupa Gosvami. Our Srila Gurudeva has written hundreds books that have been translated into the major languages of the world, all containing the highest nectar of our rupanuga guruvarga, the disciplic succession in the line of Srila Rupa Gosvami.
On the occasion of this Maha-kumbha, people from around the world have come to India to attend one of the largest gatherings of faith in the past 144 years. With a desire to please Srila Gurudeva, in his mission of distributing the greatest nectar, the nectar of devotion, at Prayag, where it was originally bestowed upon Srila Rupa Gosvami, a group of devotees have made a humble attempt to distribute Srila Gurudeva’s books.
Therefore, the real pot (kumbha) of nectar is Srila Gurudeva’s books, which contain the highest nectar in the form of the essence of the teachings of Srila Rupa Gosvami. At this holy gathering, bathing in nectar (kumbha) actually means to submerge in the nectarean river of the transcendental message of these books. No invitations are required to be sent out to attend this event, nor advertisements posted about it. People attend of their own accord, and on the day of mauni-amavasya, the appearance day of Srila Gurudeva, thirty million people are expected to take bath in Prayag, making it the greatest gathering of the festival. Why, therefore, should they not bathe in the nectarean teachings of Srila Gurudeva on his appearance day?
This is a great opportunity for all of us who are connected with Srila Gurudeva to render some service to his unprecedented mission by participating somehow or another in this event. We can become a medium to carry out our Srila Gurudeva’s desire by distributing his books and the greatest of nectar, the holy name and the message of our rupanuga guru-varga. We can directly participate by distributing books, or if that is not possible, we can engage some of our energy in contributing in different ways towards the distribution. We especially appeal to any of the sanga leaders and sannyasis who may be in India and not overly engaged to please come to Kumbha Mela if possible and increase the enthusiasm of the young devotees doing this service. If this is not possible, we humbly request that they at least give them some words of encouragement. In this way we can all become instruments in spreading the message of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu, which is a far greater nectar than the nectar many hope to attain by participating in Kumbha Mela.
It is Srila Gurudeva who has inspired the effort to distribute his books at Kumbha Mela. Up until two weeks before the event started, we had no tangible plan how to proceed, but then, as if from nowhere, a plan suddenly manifested. We were awestruck to witness Srila Gurudeva’s expert arrangements, and by his mercy and blessings, everything was arranged very smoothly.
Accommodation at the Mela is expensive and it was only in the final hour that our devotees were able to find an affordable dharmasala. It was connected with the Madhva-sampradaya and had rooms to rent at a reasonable price. It was as if these rooms were saved just for us. They serve as our home base as well as a place to prepare prasadam and store our stocks of books.
Another thing that happened in the final hour is that due to shortage of stalls they were being auctioned, yet our devotees got a stall in the main market near the Kumbha Mela site, at a fixed government rate. This stall serves as the main store for Srila Gurudeva’s books at Kumbha Mela. All these occurrences indicate the success of the devotees involved to dovetail their desire with that of Srila Gurudeva to spread his mission.
Our special gratitude extends to pujyapada Premananda Prabhuji for blessing this endeavour and sending some brahmacaris to help with the distribution. We would also like to thank Sripad Rohininandana Prabhu and his team in Delhi for offering the use of two much needed vans for the Mela. We would also like to express our deep appreciation to the GVP book sponsorship program headed by respected Syamarani Mataji, along with Vasanti didi and Anita didi, for their support in various ways and to Govinda Madhava Prabhu, who has endeavoured to collect funds for sponsoring some books for free distribution and also prepare and distribute excellent prasadam.
Just a few days after Srila Gurudeva’s viraha-tithi, our team of devotees left Vrndavana in two vans with about sixty boxes of books to setup our book stall. By the start of the Maha Kumbha Mela on Makara-sakaranti, January 14, everything was nicely prepared. We are constantly meeting lots of interested people, from both local areas and abroad. Every day an opportunity arises to meet new people and introduce the specialties of Srila Gurudeva’s books to them.
At present we have eight devotees on the distribution team. On a daily basis, two devotees take turn to watch over the main book stall, two devotees take charge of preparing and distributing prasadam, and the other four go in pairs around the town and campsites to distribute books. Although we only have two, or four devotees at the most, to do harinäma-sankirtana, it is still enough to draw a large enthusiastic crowd to chant and dance with us and inquire about or purchase the books we set up on a table (or mat) or speak to a distributor who is showing the books from person to person. So far we have shipped about hundred boxes of books for the distribution in kumbha mela and we are expecting more books to be shipped during the peak time of mauni amavasya.
Often, our devotees were interviewed by televison and internet media, mostly for international news and documentaries. Indeed it is a great venue to reach out to the world and promote the nectarean gifts Srila Gurudeva has offered to the world.
We visited the rainbow camp where many hippies and yogis from all over the world are staying. They are estimating their contingent membership to reach more than five hundred by Mauni Amavasya 10 February. We had a lovely discussion with their main spokesperson and leader from Panama, who has formerly spend some of his time in gaudiya maths studying the philosophy of gaudiya vaisnavism. He knows many gaudiya vaisnavas including Srila Gurudeva. He was extremely delighted to hear from us the teachings of our Srila Gurudeva, explaining that the true nectar in Prayag is not the so-called nectar the demigods are distributing but the nectar that our Gauranga Mahaprabhu gave to Srila Rupa Gosvami in this very place and which Srila Rupa Gosvami manifested through his writings. He expressed so much affection and appreciation to us for this wonderful insight, saying that his camp has found a much higher purpose for being at the festival. He said that he has studied some of Srila Gurudeva’s books and so it was with much affection that he welcomed our suggestion to set up a mini library of Srila Gurudeva’s books in his camp. In this way, anyone can come at their own convenience and peacefully absorb themselves in Srila Gurudeva’s books. Many of their people are very grateful for this. Being inspired by our devotees their whole group observed this ekadashi vrata(on 6th Feb) and did kirtan with our devotees for more than three hours. Furthermore, his people became quite excited at the idea of having a kirtana and prasadam festival on Vasanta-pancami. They are all looking forward to this day and enthusiastically inviting their friends to come.
One month of festivities is almost complete with nearly another month left with to take advantage of the opportunity to help in the nectar of book distribution. We humbly invite the devotees in Gurudeva’s sanga to support this program by whatever means you can – by coming to help distribute books, by participating in harinäma-sankirtana, or by helping to sponsor the books (the real pot of nectar) for free distribution. Even just some words of encouragement to the devotees here or an attempt to help spread this invitation would be greatly appreciated. If any of our sannyasis or preachers are able to come to the Mela, we would be more than happy to arrange a good venue for them to give harikatha.
Although Prayag is described as the king of all pilgrimage places, its spiritual glory is not even a fraction of the glory of Vrndavana or Navadvipa. For this reason many devotees consider it foolish to leave Vrndavana only to bathe in Prayag during Kumbha Mela. They question why our Gaudiya devotees need to go there at all. A similar question has been asked previously. Why did Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja go to the West when he was already in Vrndavana relishing love of God? Why did Srila Gurudeva leave and visit Western countries when he was already situated in the holy dhama of Vrndavana. We know the answer. As manifestations of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu’s mercy, it is their desire that everyone can realize where the greatest nectar can be found. We may not be like them, who eternally reside in Vrndavana even when they are physically somewhere else, but it is our humble service to try and become their instruments in bringing everyone to Vrindavana. That is the mood of the Gaudiyas, the followers of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu.
Srila Gurudeva ki jaya! Rupanuga-guruvarga ki jaya!
Transcendental book distribution ki jaya!
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