By Aseem Krishna Das
Pandharpur Sadhu Sanga 2018 with HH Subhag Swami
This year’s annual Sadhu Sanga program with HH Subhag Swami was held in Pandharpur Dham from 26thNovember to 1st December 2018. Around 200 devotees from all over India participated in the program. Every year devotees wait with anticipation for this program where they get a chance to associate with like minded devotees and glorify lord Krishna in a holy Dham. Such programs provide a nice opportunity to enhance our devotion to Lord Krishna through lots of sravanam and kirtanam. Although the preparation for the Sadhu Sanga program is a year long process but the actual feild work started a few days before. A small report is as follows.
Brahmacharis and few local devotees started arriving on 24th and 25th December to arrange for the program. A local Dharamshala with a spacious hall was booked as the venue for the Sadhu Sanga program. Cooks were assigned their kitchen and different groups of devotees got ready for their respective services.
The organizing team had arranged a very busy schedule for the four-day event with a special focus on ‘sravanam’.
Srila Prabhupad says:
“So at the present moment we are sleeping, sleeping in the darkness. Therefore to get knowledge we have to use our ears. Śravaṇam. Therefore to enter into the devotional service one has to use this ear, śravaṇam.” – Transcripts, SB 5.5.19, Nov. 7, 1976 Vrindavan
The program hall was beautified with banners of Srila Prabhupada quotes regarding the importance of devotee association. A very big background flex had the pictures of Lord Vitthal and Srila Prabhupada with the backdrop of the Chandrabhaga river. For the first two days His Holiness Subhag delivered morning Bhagvatam classes. He stressed the importance of following Srila Prabhupada as it is. A disciple must hear from his Spiritual master with rapt attention and maharaj stressed that the key for spiritual advancement lies in satisfying Srila Prabhupada and the previous acharyas.
Srila Prabhupad said very strongly,
“My Guru Mahārāja used to say… One who was not interested in hearing, he used to call him a daṇḍavat-class, daṇḍavat-class of men. Anyone who will come to him, he would see whether he is a daṇḍavat-class of man or hearing class of man. So daṇḍavat is nice, but by offering daṇḍavat, if one does not develop the intent of hearing, śravaṇam, then he is not making very much progress.” – Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.8 lecture transcript, Oct. 19, 1972, Vṛndāvana.
Three more seminars were arranged each day. In the evening devotees danced in an uproarious Gaur arti kirtan.
Some of the seminars were, “How to avoid Naam Aparadh by His Grace Shyamsunderanand Das Brahmachari; Srila Prabhupada, the centre of our lives by His Grace Vishnucharan das; Vaishnava Etiquette by His Holiness Bhakti Anand Haridas Swami; Devotional Life in Grhasta Ashram by his Grace Satyaraj Das Adhikari; How to serve the Spiritual Master by His Grace Neelkamal Das Brahmachari. A Couple of Brahmachari classes by His Holiness Bhakti Anand Haridas Swami and His Grace Shyamsunderanand Das Brahmachari were enjoyed and cherished by the Brahmacharis.
On the third day the devotees went for the Pandharpur Dham Darshan. We first visited Gopalpur, located at the confluence of Bhima and Pushpavati rivers. According to the second chapter of Skandh Purana, this is the place where Lord Krishna manifested his Vrindavan pastimes. It is written that river Pushpavati is non-different from River Yamuna. The small hill, on which the temple is present in Gopalpur is Govardhan itself. Here the Lord arrived with cows and cowheard boyfriends in search of upset mother Rukmini. From Gopalpur we visited Vishnupad. Here the lord is engaged in his past time of eating with cowheard boyfriends. The stone there bears the footmarks of the Lord and Cows hoofprints, which are faithfully worshipped. After Vishnupads darshan all the devotees reached the Rukmani Vitthal Temple. We all waited in a two-hour long queue for the Darshan but the wait was worth it. The devotees sang and danced all along the queue singing the names of Vitthal and Panduranga.
Lords Vitthal’s darshan was amazing, the atmosphere in the main sanctum of the temple was surcharged with waves of devotion. We touched the Lord’s feet and then took the darshan of Rukmini Devi. After coming out of the temple the devotees enjoyed the ladoo prasadam and moved towards the Pundalik temple on the banks of the river Chandrabhaga.
According to a story in Pandurang Mahatma in Padma Purana, the lord came to give Darshan to devotee Pundalik engaged in serving his parents. On being asked for a benediction by the Lord, Pundalik requested the lord to stay there and give Darshan to everyone. Such is the enormous magnanimity of the pure devotees!
The devotees then crossed the chandrabhaga on boat to arrive at Prabhpad ghat constructed and maintained by ISKCON Pandharpur and took bath in the purifying waters of the chandrabhaga.
The same afternoon Maharaj inspired everybody to visit the birthplace of Prahlad Maharaj which was nearby, so the organizing team quickly modified the program schedule for the final day.
The next morning Subhag Maharaj made everyone dance incessantly in his enthusiastic Tulsi Aarti Kirtan. After the morning program, the devotees got ready to visit Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Temple in Nira Narsingpur. A brahmachari from Iskcon Pandharpur also joined us to guide the trip. Anecdotes tell that Prahlad Maharaj was born here on the banks of river Neera. Young Prahlad Maharaj made a deity of Narasingha with sand and worshipped his venerable Lord. This deity is still being worshiped in the temple. The other deity of Lord Narasimha was made by Lord Brahma from stone. The devotees circumbulated the temple, dancing joyfully with harinam sankirtan. One of the young devotees transported khichri prasadam in an auto from Pandharpur which was served hot after listening to Lords pastimes. Devotees also enjoyed the famous but cheap pomegranates of Maharashtra. Maharaj spent a lot of time with the devotees, and answered their spiritual queries. Later, the drama team enacted a wonderful drama of Lord Narsingh and Hiranyakashipu.
Everyone enjoyed the spiritual picnic.
Srila Prabhupada says:
“The conclusion is that when one’s heart is purified by the association of devotees and by the avoidance of the offenses committed when chanting and worshiping the Lord, the transcendental name, form and activities of the Lord are revealed by the Lord.” ( SB 4.24.59 Purport)
The devotees got ready for the concluding ceremony after the feast. The organizing team and the volunteers were presented with a token of appreciation. Next was the time to hear the realizations from the devotees. All the devotees were very enthusiastic and encouraged after the four-day event. Lots of Kirtan, harikatha and Pilgrimage in association of devotees was very enlivening. Devotees were happy to spend time with their Spiritual master. One of the new Bhaktas from Punjab remarked that he was surprised to see more attendance of devotees during the Mangal Aarti then the Gaur arti, which reflected the importance given to the morning program. He listened to seminars attentively and got a nice chance to serve other vaishnavas. He said that he began serving prasadam before his taking it, when he saw Maharaj personally serving prasadam to the devotees.
Srila Prabhupada says:
I am very pleased to know that you are feeling happy in your execution of devotional service. Service of Krishna’s devotees is the highest stage of spiritual perfection, so your desire to render service to the other devotees is very nice. You keep this humble attitude always, and your example will be a source of spiritual inspiration for everyone. – Letter to: Anuttama, April 12, 1972, Sydney, Australia
Pandharpur is non-different from the spiritual world as is evident from numerous references in the Puranas. Lord Shiva describes the glories of Pandharpur Dham to mother Parvati in the Skanda purana, and to Narada Muni in the Padmapurana. At one instance Lord Shiva is telling Narada, “Shri Pandhari pilgrim is the most sacred among all, in all rivers the holiest river is the Chandrabhaga, in all Lords Shri Vitthal is the best and, in all devotees, Pundalik is the best.
Devotees felt highly fortunate to visit Pandharpur Dham. The presence of Lord Vitthal creates a divine atmosphere of happiness and satisfaction devoid of any anxiety. Lord Vitthal also hears our heartfelt prayers. Last but not the least the devotees will also not forget the taste of sweet sugarcanes which grew abound in Pandharpur Dham.
The Sadhu Sanga team heartfully appreciates the help and the assistance provided by ISKCON Pandharpur in arranging the program. We are highly greatful to His Holiness Subhag Swami who is the driving force behind this program. We are grateful for the time and energy he spared in giving us his vital association.
May Lord Vitthal bless us all.