ISKCON Mayapur, 19 March 2001

I made friends with Gulap Kali today.  Gulap is a female elephant, and her stable is near Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi.  Gulap was orphaned when the Ganga flooded, and adopted by the devotees of ISKCON Mayapur.  She has been engaged in the service of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava ever since.  She has the good fortune of carrying Radha-Madhava on her head during the Elephant Procession around the Temple Compound every Saturday night.  I have been told that she was once in a kirtan procession at the Yoga Pitha (next door to ISKCON Mayapur) and tears were streaming down her eyes as she danced with the devotees in ecstasy.  I called out to her – ‘Gulap’ – but she was a little shy.  Her minder allowed me to stroke the top of  her trunk.  And she acceded.

I bathed in Ganga around noon.  I visited the Jagannath Temple down the road from our Temple.  I took darsan of Jagannath-Baladeva-Subhadra and bought some maha-prasada at the little gift shop next to the Temple.  I also purchased a hand-woven dhoti at the hand-loom behind the Temple.

We took the ferry to Navadvipa.  By Krishna’s grace we met our brahmacari host Advaita Acarya prabhu.  Looking at the majestic white dome of Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi Mandir, Advaita Acarya remarked, ‘It is getting late.  Srila Prabhupada instructed his disciples to build the Mayapur Temple, but most of them are sick now.’  He mentioned how Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja had brought up this point in a lecture in Mayapur.  The ferry chugged along with its cargo of bicycles, women in colourful saris and men in gamchas and dirty shirts.  When will the Temple be built?

We just managed to get a train from Navadvipa to Howrah.  I decided not to go to Jagannath Puri, as it was outside of the authorized programme my Temple President, Sikhi Mahiti prabhu, had prescribed for me.  The beautiful green rice paddy fields of Gauradesa almost took my breath away.  Sadly, we were going back into the city.  Gaurakishore Babaji Maharaja – the Spiritual Master of Srila Prabhuapada’s guru, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur – told Bhaktisiddhanta that Calcutta was hell.  ‘Never leave Vrindavan’, he instructed him.  Why, then, did Bhaktisiddhanta make Calcutta the headquarters of the Gaudiya Matha?  And why did he leave his body in Calcutta?  Did he disobey his guru?  Vrindavan is a state of consciousness.  Lord Chaitanya, for example, danced ecstatically before Lord Jagannath at the Ratha Yatra Festival singing, ‘Mora mana Vrindavan! Mora mana Vrindavan!’ (‘My mind is Vrindavan!  My mind is Vrindavan!).  Similarly, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was always in Vrindavan consciousness and, therefore, never left Vrindavan – even when he was physically in Calcutta.

Calcutta was like a black-and-white ink sketch:  sooty, full of crows, full of dust and noisy.  We spent three hours at the station trying to buy tickets.  To no avail.  We crossed the Ganga, and tried to get ‘Tourist Quota’ tickets (tickets reserved for tourists) at Fairlie Place.  No luck there. I informed Padmanabha prabhu that the clerk had recommended we return tomorrow.  Padmanabha prabhu said, ‘No problem’.

20 March 2001 – Taking the train from Navadvipa Station to Howrah Station

My train to Howrah Station was delayed by 3 hours at Navadvipa Station.  Padmanabh and I visited the ISKCON Preaching Centre at Lake Avenue, Calcutta.  We were directed to an ISKCON Guest House called Geeta Bhavan (‘Gita House’).  Geeta Bhavan had been donated to ISKCON by a wealthy Calcutta businessman.  We were hungry so we left our bags in the room, hailed a cab and combed the streets of Calcutta looking for the Govinda’s Restaurant.