November 1997, Varsana, India Kartik was drawing to a close.  I had only a few more days left in Vrindavan.  Even though I had gotten over my dysentry, I was eager to leave the Holy Dhama.  I had started off with ideas of performing austerities like Rupa Goswami.  Rupa was a contemporary of Lord Chaitanya who had resided on the banks of Radha Kunda, which are as hot as a desert – chanting for hours and hours, sleeping under a different tree every night, eating very little, writing devotional poetry and scripture and offering respects to devotees of Krishna. My neophyte level was exposed to me within days of arriving in Vrindavan – I just couldn’t stop thinking about eating pizza and custard.  Now, one month later, I felt as if I had been marooned on a desert island.  If my ship didn’t come soon, I might die.  There was one place I had to see before I left.  Varsana. Varsana is the ‘place of rains’, named after the gopis (the young cow-herd girls who sported with Krishna) tears of separation from Krishna.  It is the place of Sri Radha, one of the most sacred places in all of Vraja.  My travelling companions – Nicholas and Ivor – had other plans, so I ventured out on my own.  The autoricksa only arrived in Varsana in the afternoon, leaving only one or two hours of daylight within which to safely pay homage to this holy place.   A beautiful Temple loomed in the distance on the sacred hill which was once the site of Maharaja Vrishabanu’s palace.  I was excited.  I gulped back my Limka and focussed all my efforts on making my way for the sacred Hill and the Sriji Temple on its peak.  The first thing that struck me about Varsana was the beauty of the residents.  Had this something to do with their lineal relation to Krishna’s consort Sri Radha?  A winding cobblestone path drew me into the town.  After some time, the narrow path opened into a square where I walked into a gentleman sitting on a raised platform.  He wore black trousers and a white collared shirt.  He sat, like a yogi, beckoning to me with his right hand. He had a moustache and his hair was bryl-creamed.   Being a crime-conscious South African, and heeding the cautions of experienced devotees, I approached the man with due care.  He patted the sandstone dais and said to me, ‘You, sit here!  Sit here!’   I thought that it would be good manners if I sat with him for a while (Indians are very particular about hospitality).  The gentleman introduced himself in broken English, ‘I am Braja Mohan.  I live here.  We are all Radharani’s family here’.  He explained to me how the people of the village were mostly Goswamis and were all relatives of Sri Radha.  He explained to me that the place where he was sitting was a Temple of Sudhama, Lord Krishna’s Brahmana friend.  He then commenced with a fragmentary narration of the pastime of Krishna and Sudhama Brahmana.  Somewhat wary, I avoided discussing my purpose or plans in the village of Varsana with Braja Mohan.

Sudama Brahmana and Lord Krishna had been close friends at Sandipani Muni’s gurukula, in the town of Ujjain. After their education, they went their separate ways. Krishna was the son of Nanda Maharaja, a wealthy vaisya or business man; and Sudama was a poor and simple brahmana (priest or intellectual). One day, Sudama’s wife said to him, ‘My dear husband, we are very poor. There is hardly any food on our table. See how thin you are! Remember your old friend Krishna. Go to him and ask Him to assist us.’  Sudama Brahmana had only a handful of flat rice to offer the Lord when he met him in Mathura. Krishna was so pleased with Sudama’s simple devotion that when he returned to his wife, he found her in a beautiful gem-laden palace, resembling the opulences of Vaikuntha (‘place of no anxiety’) or the Kingdom of God.  

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