Nari Shakti Kumbh and How Sri Krishna Celebrates the Feminine Spirit

The wintry days of December saw thousands of women coming to Vrindavan, and this time the reasons were beyond religious. Vrindavan celebrated Nari Shakti Kumbh, a women-only Kumbh organised jointly by the Government of Uttar Pradesh and Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Agra. It was a celebration of women power with discussions on various topics relevant to women in the present-day.

Women in Vedas

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Hinduism offers women a special place of reverence. It celebrates womanhood as the cosmic divine power that runs throughout the universe. As a mother, she is Adi Shakti or Adi Parashakti; as a mysterious force of psycho-spiritual nature, she is Kundalini Shakti. Various ancient Hindu texts celebrate the feminine power. In Chapter 10 of the Rigveda, the feminine power is eulogised as Devi Shukta, the ultimate power behind all of cosmos:

“I am the Queen, the gatherer-up of treasures, most thoughtful, first of those who merit worship.
Thus Gods have established me in many places with many homes to enter and abide in.
Through me alone all eat the food that feeds them,-each man who sees, breathes, hears the word outspoken
They know it not, yet I reside in the essence of the Universe. Hear, one and all, the truth as I declare it.

I, verily, myself announce and utter the word that gods and men alike shall welcome.
I make the man I love exceeding mighty, make him nourished, a sage, and one who knows Brahman.
I bend the bow for Rudra that his arrow may strike and slay the hater of devotion.
I rouse and order battle for the people, I created Earth and Heaven and reside as their inner controller.

On the world’s summit I bring forth the Father: my home is in the waters, in the ocean.
Thence I prevade all existing creatures, as their Inner Supreme Self, and manifest them with my body.
I created all worlds at my will, without any higher being, and permeate and dwell within them.
The eternal and infinite consciousness is I, it is my greatness dwelling in everything.

— Rigveda 10.125.3 – 10.125.8

Nari Shakti Kumbh is, in a way, a celebration of that power.

 

Sri Krishna and the feminine form

Many stories about Sri Krishna narrate how He dressed up as a woman. Some even believe that Sri Krishna wore a woman’s attire during His Raas-leelas. There are various other episodes or leelas in Sri Krishna’s life where the Lord either dresses up as a woman or takes a feminine form.

Lilahava (When Sri Krishna and Radharani exchanged their clothes)

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In his book The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Rupa Goswami writes, “Krishna once dressed Himself up exactly like Srimati Radharani, just to create fun among His friends. By seeing this dress, Krishna’s friend Subala became very astonished.”

Sri Krishna as Shyam Sakhi

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Once, in order to win over Radha who was upset with Krishna, He dressed up as a heavenly Kinnari goddess. The gopis were mesmerised by ‘her’ beauty and asked if ‘she’ could sing a song to uplift the spirits of Srimati Radhika. The beautiful woman said that her name was Shyam Sakhi (because of her dark complexion) and sang an enthralling song for the gopis. Pleased with the song, Sri Radhika wanted to gift Shyam Sakhi her own pendant. However, Lalita noticed that Shyam Sakhi was bent in three ways. Radha understood that Shyam Sakhi was actually Shyam Himself.

Sri Krishna as Mohini

In one of the folklores surrounding the Mahabharata, Aravan (the Tamil god Kuttantavar) was to offer himself as a sacrifice for Kalappali (sacrifice to the battlefield). He agreed to do this to ensure the victory of the Pandavas, his father, and his uncles. In return for this ultimate sacrifice, he asked for three boons from Sri Krishna, who guided the Pandavas in the battle of Kurukshetra. The third boon was the marriage of Aravan before he sacrificed his life. In the ancient times, bachelors were buried and were not cremated. According to the Kuttantavar cult myth, Krishna took the form of Mohini and married Aravan. Mohini spent the night with Aravan and when he died, Mohini lamented his death, discarded all her bridal finery, and then came back to the original form of Krishna. This story forms the crux of the eighteen-day annual festival at Koovagam in Tamil Nadu.

Vrindavan’s Nari Shakti Kumbh is a reminder of the power of the feminine and what can be done to help women realise their potential. Set in the leela-kshetra of Sri Krishna, it is also a beautiful way to remind one of the many ways in which the Lord Himself upheld the spirit of womanhood. Come, be a part of Vrindavan, and live surrounded by Sri Krishna’s love every day of your life.

Jagadhatri Puja: Origin and Significance

Jagadhatri puja is a celebration of the ‘Mother’ who holds the world together. The three-eyed goddess stands majestically on an elephant that symbolises the dead demon Karindrasura. She rides a lion and holds a conch, a bow, an arrow, and a chakra in her four hands. Being a form of Goddess Durga, Jagadhatri too is a manifestation of Shakti.

Mythical origin of Goddess Jagadhatri

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Legend has it that after the defeat of Mahisasura, all the devatas became egoistic. They thought that Goddess Durga could only defeat the demon because of the weapons the devatas gave Her. They failed to understand the role of the primordial power in the victory. Brahma, with the intention of making the devas understand their mistake, appeared in front of them in the form of Yaksha. He invited the gods to move a blade of glass. Vayu, the god of wind, claimed that He could uproot mighty mountains and trees and would surely be able to move a tiny blade of glass. But despite all His attempts he failed. The same fate awaited Agni, the god of fire, whose power to devour almost anything had no effect on the small blade of grass. One by one all the other gods followed suit. Soon they realised that their power alone was nothing. Their power was derived from the power of the Supreme Mother who holds the entire creation, Maa Jagadhatri.

As this ultimate realisation dawned upon them, their ego became an elephant. Mother Adi Shakti appeared in front of them in the form of Jagadhatri.

The True Essence of Jagadhatri

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Sri Ramakrishna said, “Jagaddhatri arises in the heart of a person who can control the frantic elephant called mind.” It is believed that anybody who worships Maa Jagadhatri with devotion becomes devoid of his sense of ego. He then becomes a servant of Brahman that manifests itself in the entire Brahmanda or the Creation.

In Chapter 5, Verse 13 of the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna says,

sarva-karmāi manasā sannyasyāste sukha vaśhī
nava-dvāre pure dehī naiva kurvan na kārayan

This means, “The embodied beings who are self-controlled and detached reside happily in the city of nine gates, free from thinking they are the doers or the cause of anything”.

 A person can become self-controlled and detached only when he can control his mind or ego, the ‘elephant’ on which Maa Jagadhatri proudly stands.

 

Jagadhatri Puja is celebrated with much pomp and show in Chandannagar, West Bengal. However, the celebration was started by Maharaja Krishna Chandra in Krishnanagar in 1754. It is said that the goddess appeared in the Maharaja’s dream as a little girl and asked him to worship Her in the form in which She chose to appear before him. Then She transformed into a deity, filling the world with light, sitting on a lion and holding a conch, chakra, and bow and arrow in Her hands. ISKCON Vrindavan celebrates Jagadhatri puja in the holy Braj.

Come, be a part of the many celebrations in the holiest 84 kos on earth. Have a beautiful home in Krishna Bhumi, Vrindavan and stay close to Sri Krishna. You can also become a Krishnabhumi Holydays member and come back to Sri Krishna’s Leela-kshetra again and again.

Radhe Radhe!

NAVRATRI: SIGNIFICANCE OF ALL NINE DAYS

Navratri marks the beginning of nine holy days, the worship of Goddess Durga, celebrating the victory of good over evil, Ma Durga’s victory over Mahishasura. Navratri means nine nights because in Sanskrit ‘Nav’ signifies nine and ‘Ratri’ means night. The festival is celebrated across India with great show and fervour, including Vrindavan. The nine-day festival commenced October 10 and will end on October 18 this year, and is dedicated to Parvati in all her nine avatars. Symbolising the triumph of dharma over adharma, Navratri holds a special significance in India.

Significance of All Nine Days

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Day 1: Devi Shailaputri

On the first day of Navratri, Parvati’s incarnation, Shailaputri is worshipped. And this avatar of Durga signifies the concerted power of Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwar. The devotees worship her as the consort of Mahadev. On this day, Durga’s embodiment signifies nature and purity.

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Day 2: Devi Brahmacharini

The second avatar of Parvati, Brahmacharini, is worshipped on day two of Navratri. On this auspicious day, Ma Durga looks blissful, blessing all her devotees with happiness, peace, refinement, and prosperity.

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Day 3: Devi Chandraghanta

On day three of this festival, Ma Chandraghanta is worshipped, signifying courage and bravery. This incarnation of Parvati rides a tigress, representing beauty and grace. Ma Durga bhakts worship her for peace and prosperity in life.

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Day 4: Devi Kushmanda

The fourth day of Navratri is celebrated in honour of goddess Kushmanda, an embodiment of Parvati and perceived as the creator of our universe.

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Day 5: Devi Skand Mata

Goddess Skand Mata is worshiped on the fifth day of Navratri. According to Hindu mythology, Skanda is the mother of Karthikeya. The gods chose Devi Skanda to become the chief warrior to fight the demons. The goddess signifies the courage and valour of a mother, who can fight any evil when it comes to the protection and safety of her child.

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Day 6: Devi Katyayani

The sixth day of Navratri is celebrated in the honour of Mata Katyayani, who took on Mahishasura. She appears as a warrior on this auspicious day, symbolising courage.

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Day 7: Devi Kalratri

Goddess Kalratri is worshipped on the seventh day of Navratri. Ma Durga appears in her fiercest form with a dark complexion and disheveled hair. As the incarnation of Durga, Devi Kalratri defeated many demons in a battle against Mahishasura.

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Day 8: Devi Maha Gauri

On this day, goddess Maha Gauri is worshipped in her eighth avatar, representing peace, intelligence, and prosperity.

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Day 9: Devi Siddhidatri

The final day of Navratri is celebrated in the honour of Siddhidatri, who is believed to have healing powers. On this day, the goddess appears in an idyllic state of mind, just as the blue sky on a clear, bright day. On this day, Devi Siddhidatri sits on a beautiful lotus flower and rides a lion.

People celebrate Navratri in the holy Braj and other parts of India by observing fasts and dressing up beautifully in bright colours. The festival is celebrated in the holy town with much grandeur and fanfare. Durga bhakts offer pujas and prayers to please the nine forms of the goddess. You can be a part of Navratri celebrations through a Krishna Bhumi Holydays membership and spend seven days every year in Vrindavan.

Radhe Radhe!

NAVRATRI: SIGNIFICANCE AND CELEBRATIONS IN VRINDAVAN

Every festival has its significance in Vrindavan, and Navratri is no exception. Every Navratri, nine nights are spent worshipping Goddess Durga, the female deity representing Shakti or divine energy. This year the festival starts from October 10 and ends on October 18. During the festival, crowds assemble at the Katyayani Temple in Vrindavan to worship Devi Durga, where the cow-herding maidens or gopis prayed to Ma Durga to get Shri Krishna as their husband. Read this blog to learn more about Navratri, its significance, and celebrations in Vrindavan:

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Significance

Srimad Bhagavatam 10th Canto, Chapter 22, beautifully describes how the gopis of the holy Braj worshipped Katyayani. The classic describing the life and times of Devakinandan also includes the gopis’ prayers:

Katyayani Mahamaye Mahayoginyadhishwari

Nanda Gopa Sutam Devi Patim Me Kuru Te Nama.”

O Katyayani! Hey! Hey Mahayogini! Oh, all-powerful goddess! We bow down to you and beg you to make the son of Nand our husband.”

According to Hindu mythology, Ma Durga is believed to be a Brajwasi too because she was born in Gokul as the twin sister of Lord Krishna. Though there are numerous Shakti temples in the holy town of Vrindavan, the Katyayani Temple has a special connection with Devakinandan’s pastimes in Vrindavan, where thousands of worshippers offer their prayers and light lamps for the Goddess of Shakti during Navratri.

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Krishna Fulfilled the Gopis’ Desires

When the Braj gopis lost their heart to Devakinandan, they prayed to Mata Katyayani. After they continued their worship for a month with great devotion and persistence, Shri Krishna fulfilled the maidens’ desires by stealing their outfits when the gopis were bathing in the holy Yamuna on the final day of that month. Shyamsundar made nectarine jokes about the gopis, all of which were related to their feelings for Krishna. Finally, the Supreme Godhead, pleased with the gopis, performed the Maharasa with them.

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Dandiya Ras

During Navratri, the dance of joy or Rasa of Shyamsundar and the gopis are performed. Though Navratri is associated with Ma Durga, Dandiya is actually related to Shri Krishna and His dance with the gopis, especially Radha. The dance represents realisation, signifying the joy and contentment of the mind that becomes purer and composed because of the greater understanding of the inner self.

Celebrations in Vrindavan

Navratri is celebrated in most of the households of the holy Braj. Every devotee prays to Mata Katyayani or Durga to achieve success before taking up any challenging task. During this festive occasion, Vrindavan becomes lively. In the mornings, the Brajwasis invite young girls to their abodes and honour them with beautiful gifts and specially-made food for the occasion. The streets of Vrindavan come alive with kirtans and processions.  Fairs are also held during the evenings for children outside Katyayani temple, at the showground. In all neighbourhoods of the holy Braj, Ma Durga is worshipped during Navratri. After the ninth day, the idols are dismantled, implying the transient nature of all things material.

Only words cannot describe the magic of Vrindavan during Navratri. You need to be present in the holy Braj to soak in the beauty that pervades the air. Opting for a Krishnabhumi Holydays membership will let you be a part of these festivals in Vrindavan and spend 7 days every year in the holy Braj. You can also own a home in Krishna Bhumi, providing world-class living spaces, just 20 minutes from Katyayani Temple and a couple of minutes from the Banke Bihari Temple.

Radhe Radhe!

RADHA’S SEPARATION FROM KRISHNA: THE LESSER KNOWN STORY

The eternal love story of Radha and Krishna is one of the most fascinating ones in Hindu mythology, symbolising the powerful bond between the divine couple. But what happened to Radha after Krishna left Vrindavan? Did the divine couple meet again? Was their separation the end of their sacred love and bonding or was it a new beginning? Let’s find out the answers.

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Radha and Krishna’s Last Moments Spent in Silence

When Shri Krishna travelled to Mathura to kill king Kamsa, it was a heartrending experience for Radha and the brajwasis to see the Lord going away. Thus, the news of Radha and Krishna’s separation hung as a dark cloud of sorrow and grief over entire Vrindavan.  Before moving to Mathura, Devakinandan spent His last moments with Radharani in absolute peace and silence because silence is often more powerful than words to understand the feelings between two lovers. Radharani and Shyamsundar were two bodies and one soul, they were indivisible even when the Lord was not present with her physically. Such was their love and dedication for each other.  Though the divine couple parted, they were never apart because Devakinandan lived in Radha’s heart and Radha in the Lord’s heart.

After Krishna became the king of Mathura after slaying Kamsa and Shishupala, Radharani spent her days with Devakinandan’s memories. However, she got married to Abhimanyu, a boy belonging to the Yadav clan.  It was the turning point in Radha’s life.

Radha’s Second Meeting with Krishna  

Many years later, when Radharani was weak and old, yet stunningly beautiful, she walked for many days and finally reached Dwarika just to see Lord Krishna once. By that time she was free from all domestic responsibilities. Entering Krishna’s palace, she caught a glimpse of Devakinandan and was awestruck by the Lord’s godly beauty.

Radha and Krishna’s Separation for the Second Time 

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Radharani joined Krishna’s service in His palace, as a maid with the Lord’s permission, only to catch a glimpse of Krishna every day. But she soon realised that her separation from Devakinandan increased her pain though being physically present near Shyamsundar. Therefore, Radha decided to leave the palace unnoticed. She kept walking on the roads without knowing where she was heading, unaware of her surroundings.

Radha’s Union with Krishna When He Played His Bansuri for the Last Time

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After Radharani left Krishna’s palace, He followed Radha. Being the supreme Godhead, He knew where Radha was going and met her when she needed Him the most. When Shri Krishna appeared before Radharani, the Lord’s godly touch brought her to consciousness. Krishna Priya smiled at Shyamsundar, and was enthralled by His divine form.

Both Devakinandan and Radha knew that their last moments had arrived, and realising this, Krishna wanted to give something to Radha. Though Radha denied taking anything from the Lord initially, later she agreed to listen to the flute played by Shyamsundar. Listening to the divine music played by Krishna, Radha finally merged in the Lord. Because Radha was extremely fond of Krishna’s bansuri, He dedicated the flute to her and promised to never play it again.

The love between Radha and Krishna is not just ordinary bonding between a man and a woman. Radharani was Krishna’s keen devotee.

What better way to feel Radha’s unconditional love for the Lord in the holy Braj where Devakinandan spent many special moments as a child, youth, and lover. Own a home in Krishna Bhumi and raise your family where it all began. You can also experience Vrindavan like never before and spend 7 days every year through a Krishnabhumi Holydays membership.

Radhe Radhe!

ESSENTIAL LIFE LESSONS TO LEARN FROM RADHA-KRISHNA LOVE STORY

The love story of Radha and Krishna is perpetual and awe-inspiring, a symbol of the divine union between Paratmatma and Jivatma, the universal self and the individual self. The tale of Shyamsundar and Radhika is a beautiful legend celebrated across thousands of years.  And Krishna devotees across many generations are still fascinated by Radha-Krishna romance. In fact, the names of Radha and Krishna are always spelt out in one breath, implying without Radha, Krishna is not complete and without Shyamsundar, Radha is incomplete. So, here are some life lessons to learn from the love story of this divine couple:

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Showing Unending Devotion

Radhika, Goddess Shakti’s avatar, was an ardent devotee of Devakinandan, and when the Lord played His flute in the beautiful forests of Vrindavan on a full moon night, the gopis listened to the tunes emanating from Krishna’s flute. Radhika, on the contrary, used to be so mesmerised that she would forget everything and start dancing around natkhat Krishna. So, if you truly love your partner, you will be completely devoted just as Krishna Priya (another name of Radha) was devoted to Devakinandan.

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Deriving Strength from Your True Love

Krishna was the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu and derived all His strength from Radhika. There were many cow-herding maidens in Vrindavan, who desired the love and company of Shri Krishna, but it was Radha to whom Shyamsundar lost His heart. Though Krishna never married Radhika, she was by the Lord’s side during His entire stay in the holy Braj. Thus, their love story remains eternal. It means that we must completely trust our partners through thick and thin, making them our strength and not weakness.

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Willing to Sacrifice

Pure love is one that is always unconditional. Love in the true sense of the word means sacrifice; it does not always mean not getting but also letting go. Radhika always knew in her heart that Krishna would never marry her. However, that did not make any difference to their undying love for each other. Their love was spiritual, on a sacred level, and beyond the understanding of the materialistic world and its limitations. True love is about sacrifice and Shyamsundar’s paramour relationships are of the highest spiritual excellence, and therefore Radha-Krishna’s love for each other should never be perceived from the physical parlance. Their love is indeed divine and supreme when construed as a form of sacrifice and dedication through which Radhika approached Shyamsundar, the universal self.

The Radha-Krishna romance can never be explained from any worldly or materialistic perspective. Radhika’s devotion for the Lord is unparalleled, proclaiming the ultimate union between the human soul and the Supreme Godhead. The eternal love between Krishna and Radha is beyond human cognizance.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in the place where Krishna spent the blissful years of His life with Radharani?  A home in Krishna Bhumi gives you just that. Live blessed surrounded by lush greenery and a beautiful environment where you can feel the Lord’s blessings each moment of your life. Alternatively, you could also visit Vrindavan whenever you wish to through a Krishnabhumi Holydays membership.

Radhe Radhe!