gopisvara mahadeva and the maha rasa lila
vamsivata is my favorite place in vraj. it is one of the farthest places from the Krishna Balaram temple - about a twenty minute rickshaw ride. it is important to me to visit there every time I am in vrindavan. I actually don't really go to see the Radha-Krishna deities - I mean, I offer my respects, but really, I just like the energy there. so it was natural that we make some plans of when to go take darshan of the place where Krishna personally danced with each of his gopi girlfriends.
the first time we went we picked the wrong time - mid-afternoon. for those non-devotees out there, mid-afternoon - from about 1-4:30 is Krishna's nap time. He eats a very big lunch and then takes a nap. so if you try to go see Him at a temple, chances are either the priest won't let you inside or you will find the doors to the altar closed. since I've been a Hare Krishna devotee for eleven or so years now, I know this bit of information. but something in me rationed that it was no big deal to go at 3pm because I wasn't really going there to see the Deities (this was my actual mistake), I just wanted to go inside the gates to soak up the energy of the space. alas, the gates to temple courtyard were closed. the pujari was sitting outside and looked at me like, "duh, lady, Krishna's sleeping!" we didn't have time to wait around, so our first ride out to vamsivat was a wash... except that our faithful rickshaw driver told us we could still catch a darshan of Radha-Govindaji. for some reason this form of Krishna parties all day long and wasn't going for His nap for a little while longer. so off we went.
now our experience at the Radha-Govindaji temple is a whole other story. so I'm going to hold that for another time. sorry...though it does lead to the next day. the pujari at Govindaji asks us to come back tomorrow for a special treat, so we also plan to go back to vamsivat the next day. perfect.
that night we do a little more reading about vamsivat and gopisvara mahadeva. gopisvara mahadeva is the form of lord siva that resides as a protector of vrindavan. he is most especially the protector of the rasa dance. there is a form of lord siva at vamsivat that I most especially love. lord siva stands in the corner of the courtyard dressed as a beautiful gopi - this is his form as gopisvara mahadeva. but wait - I'm jumping ahead. so anyway, I am enamored by this form of lord siva - but his form at vamsivat isn't the one that is actually worshipped. that form is at his lingam temple right around the corner from vamsivat. we agree that it is important to go to this temple first to get lord siva's blessings.
before we go inside we buy the gopisvara mahadeva siva lingam a garland from the wallah outside the temple doors. then we are given some maha candan. we approach the gate to the altar and motion to the pujari that we have a gift for the lord. as we go to hand it to her (yes, here it is a her - which is weird for india...) she motions for us to step around to the side and come onto the altar to offer it to gopisvara mahadeva ourselves. this is verrrrry very special. my husband and I look at each other with excitement and make our way down the steps and onto the altar. it's electric in there - seriously. most siva lingams aren't very attractive or personal looking - they're just like these black masses (I can't really describe it... check here for a visual). but this siva lingam has a face - and is dressed like a gopi. so there we are, literally face to face with gopisvara mahadeva. awesome. simply awesome.
but we don't linger because it just feels weird to be there - right there with him. so we pay our respects and go do a quick circumambulation of the altar. when we are finished I make a camera sign to the pujari and she nods her head yes. as I take out my camera she motions for me to come back onto the altar - you know, to get a proper shot. I come back around - just me this time - and get two really nice pictures of gopisvara mahadeva. the pujari asks me if I want to get a picture with him and my whole family. this is kind of funny, so I start laughing - I politely decline and she smiles. I ask her if I can take her picture. now she is laughing, but agrees. another gentleman starts to step into the doorway and onto the altar, perhaps thinking it's ok to be there - she frowns and shoo's him away. a man from behind the gates hands me his camera and asks me to take a picture of gopisvara. now I feel really special. I want this lady to be my best friend. she's awesome. but I don't stay. the energy is too intense.
I don't have time to finish the stories from this day now. more next time.