Mayapur 8/27/2009-8/31/2009

Sri-Sri Radha-Madhava on Radhastami 8/27/09- photo courtesy of

By the end of the trip, I was tired of all the traveling we had done. I was hopeful that Mayapur would be a sweet relief, everything that it has been hyped up to be. From the first day I was pessimistic. Probably because the trip to Mayapur had gotten off to a bad start. Our train in Varanasi was seven hours late due to a terrorist attack or something. The train station in Varanasi was absolutely filthy- filled with giant rats the size of cats- I wish I were exaggerating. I had a fever of 104 degrees at the time and I was so sick and tired that I just lay a gamcha on the floor and tried to sleep. By the time our train arrived we were cutting it close to being able to celebrate Radhastami in Mayapur. When we boarded the train it had German roaches- what German roaches are doing in India Im not sure but by then I was so tired and irritated all I could think of was reaching the magical paradise that was Sri Mayapur Dham and hopefully in time for Radhastami.

We made it just in time for the last five minutes of mangal-arati. It was completely packed with people and I felt overwhelmed with all of them pushing and shoving- I felt invisible. I had been separated from my husband during the program to our respective sides and I hadn’t seen him since- there were so many people.

After mangal-arati I left the temple and sat on a bench, waiting to hopefully see my husband leave the temple. I chanted quietly and looked around. Through association with my husband I had learned a lot about Mayapur. I prayed and dreamt about being here, and now my dream had been fulfilled. Behind me was the beautiful lotus fountain and in front of me was the infamous Long Building. Everything was so big. I didn’t know anyone here. Suddenly, I felt like the smallest person in the world. My husband has daydreamt about living here but I wasn’t sure that I could. Its just too big. There are too many people here, there’s probably no service for me to do. I remembered all the villagers, pushing and shoving for the last bit of mangal-arati darshan of Radha-Madhava. Its too much.

“Prema-Rupa! Why are you just sitting there?”
“Oh!…I couldn’t remember how to get back to our room. This place is so…big…” I said sheepishly.
“You are so so silly. How long have you been sitting there?”
“Oh, umm, since after mangal-arati.”
“Dear! That was almost an hour ago!”
“I couldn’t find you.” I muttered, sad and embarrassed. Somehow Mayapur wasn’t what I expected.

The Deity Darshan in the morning was nice, but again it was packed and people were still coming in. I tried to take Darshan, tried to absorb the mood of devotion and ignore the pushing and chattering of the visitors around me but its practically impossible. I had never experienced such a packed room in my life, and everyone was just pushing and shoving, one lady hit me in the back of the head and I was so crabby I probably could have knocked her out.

When I was able to attain some peace at one side of the room, a female security guard approached me, “go there!” she instructed. I shrugged and complied, figuring that I was somehow in the way of the festivities and made my way a few feet ahead and to the left. After a few minutes I was approached by a male security guard, “move there!” he said, pointing to the spot I was originally standing in. Why can’t I just stand somewhere and take darshan on Radhastami in peace? I moved back to my original spot. This was not going well for me. I thought I would fall in love with Mayapur but so far all I’ve seen is a big place, with big buildings, and big Deities, and big noisy crowds.

“I told you to stand there!” I turned and saw the female security guard, angry that I had returned to my original spot. Unable to catch a break, I squished myself through the crowd and I left the temple room frustrated.

The security guards were driving me crazy. No cell-phones, no cameras, they kept giving my father a hard time for wearing short pants in the temple. I know they’re just doing their job, I saw the lack of temple etiquette guests have, but cant they tell the difference between a regular polite person and a person who is unaware of temple behavior? It was miserable.

While I was being miserable, my husband was having a blast. He was visiting with old friends and family, chit-chatting with bramhachari’s, and working on securing our property in Gaur-Nagar. He would often promise to be back in a moment but wouldn’t return for hours and I would be left alone in our room. It bothered me at first but its not like I wanted to go anywhere so why should I stop him from his good time? I was so startled by the amount and behavior of the visitors here that I wouldn’t go anywhere, no matter how much my husband tried to encourage me, I wouldn’t even attend any of the daily temple programs. I was perfectly content hanging around our room in the Gada Building all day being discontented and miserable.

I did try a couple times to leave my room and go for a walk, hopefully get caught up in some kind of adventure or rekindle my love for the Dham. But I would just walk around the campus and come back to my room after about 20 minutes. One day I decided to chant my rounds in the temple room. I sat in Sri Panca-tattva’s side of the temple room, in the back, near a pillar. I crossed my legs, closed my eyes and tried to focus on the Holy Name. After a few moments, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I opened my eyes to see a female security guard,

“No ghum!”
“Ghum? Sleep? No ghum. Japa.” I replied, pointing to my beadbag. She walked away and I resumed my japa. After a few minutes I got a tap on my shoulder again, I once again opened my eyes to see the same security guard, “No ghum!” she instructed sternly. I pulled together the best Bengali that I could, “Amar ghum na! Ami jap korchi!” Do I have to be one of those newbie devotees having a japa seizure for people to think Im having a focused, meditative japa? Frustrated again, I left the temple.

As I walked back to my room I could hear the Nagar Sankirtan team in the distance. It was made-up of mostly international devotees and when I heard them singing, the tunes and styles, hearing the accordion and watching devotees of all colors and backgrounds dance and glorify Krishna together, it reminded me of America. It made me homesick. I had been in India almost two months, and this was the first time I wanted to go back.