Monday, November 7, 2016

Sri Ramanuja Anu Yatra 2016 - As it happened

 Sri Ramanuja Anu Yatra 2016, conducted by Kinchitkaram trust, under the guidance of Velkudi Krishnan Swami started on 14th October 2016 at Ujjain and ended on 26th October in Vrundavan. After starting from Ujjain, moved on to Dakor,Somnath, Dwarakapuri(Gomathi & Bet Dwaraka), Nathdwara, Pushkar, Kurukshetra, Haridwar, Brindavan, Mathura, Gokul, Nandagram & Govardhan. This yatra is to visit the Krishna temples  and the places where Krishna leela's took place. I already shared my experiences during the yatra, in this article we will see about the different places where Swamiji took us. All yatrikas had to come to Ujjain on their own. From here, the yatra starts.


Why is this called Ramanuja Anu Yatra ?
  • In May 2017, Sri Ramanujacharya's 1000th birth anniversary will be celebrated. This yatra is to mark the occasion.
  • At every place, Velkudi Swami co-related Krishna's life with that of Sri Ramanujacharya's(who himself is an avatar of Lord Krishna) and explained the similarities in them.  For example, in Sandipani Ashram in Ujjain, this is the place where Lord Krishna had his formal education. Swamiji said: Though Krishna knew everything and there is nothing he needs to know more, still he went and had formal education from a guruji. This is to tell the world that we cannot learn everything by ourselves. However knowedgeable we are, we still need a guru to teach us. Similarly, Sri Ramanujarcharya, though he knew everything, he still went and studied under a guru.
Discourse:
  • In every kshetra, Velkudi Swami conducted a discourse to tell the importance of the Kshetra and all the related things to it.
  • Additionally, Velkudi Swami had a team of swami's along with him: Aravindalochanar, Thiurupullani Sundarrajan Swamy and Bhaktavatchalam Swamy who also conducted discourse at different places. 
  • Aravindalochanar swamy spoke all along about the 74 simhasanAdhipathis, disciples of Sri Ramanujar. This is a very good topic and invoked huge interest. He also randomly got into some buses during the journey and discussed spiritual topics and answered the yatrikas questions around spirituality. Aravindalochana swamy is known for his discourse on Srimath Bhagavatham in Jaya TV at 7:30AM.

The places we went:
  • Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh  14-Oct
    • Kshipra River  - This is one of the famous rivers in India where the recent Kumbh Mela took place in Apr-May this year. All yatrikas had bath here in Ram Ghat.
    • Sandipani Ashram - Visit to this ashram. This is the place where  Lord Krishna had studied along with Balarama and  Sudhama.
  • Dakor, Gujarat  15-Oct
    • Ranchhodraiji Temple - Darshan at Ranchodraiji temple. Lord Krishna is referred to as Ranchhodraiji here. Ran+chod+rai => In sanskrit, "ran" means Yudha bhoomi, "chod" is leaving, "rai" is prince, which means the prince who ran away from the Yudha Bhoomi. Jarasandha, father in law of Kamsa, wanted to take revenge on Krishna for killing Kamsa. Jarasandha attacked Krishna 17 times, and every time Krishna won. Finally, he took the help of Kalayavanan who had a huge army. When Kalayavanan tried to attack Krishna in Mathura, Krishna ran away and started fleeing towards Dwaraka. Krishna further enticed Kalayavanan into a cave where Kalayavanan mistakenly wakes up Muchukunda and gets burnt into ashes the moment Muchukunda looks at him. Since Krishna pretended to run away from the battle field when Kalayavanan chased him, he is referred here as Ranchodrai. A bhakt named  Bodana brought the idol of Krishna from Dwaraka to Dakor. 
  • Somnath, Gujarat 16-Oct
    • Prabhasa Kshetra - This is the place where Krishna left this world when killed by a hunter. History : Krishna felt the purpose of his avatar is fulfilled and hence he want to go back to vaikuntam. Also, Krishna felt the yadavas have become arrogant and hence  did a sankalpa to wipe out the entire yadava clan. Yadava  kids, while playing, tied a rice-beater(ural) on to the stomach of a girl, made it look like a pregnant and went to a sage. The kids asked the sage to predict whether a boy or a girl will be born for the pregnant women. The sage got angry on this act of him being tested and told the kids: whatever is inside, the same thing will be born.  As the sage predicted, the same ural was born. When they took it to the king, the king had asked it to be broken into pieces and thrown into the sea. An iron piece among the broken pieces got consumed by a fish. This fish went into the hands of a hunter, Jara, who used the iron piece in his arrow. When Krishna was relaxing under a tree in Prabhasa Kshetra, Jara mistook Krishna for a deer and shot an arrow at him. This hit Krishna's leg and led to the demise of Krishna. 
    • Yadava Sthali - This is the place where the entire Yadava clan killed each other. This is just near the sea shore. One day, when the yadavas were on a high, they started fighting with each other. As they ran towards sea, they picked the pieces of ural and started killing each other, and with this, the entire yadava clan got killed.
    • Balram Gufa  -  This is the place where Balarama did tapasa and gave up his human form.
  • Dwaraka, Gujarat 17-Oct
    • Gomathi Dwaraka  -  The Krishna temple present here is the one  which is commonly referred to as Dwaraka. Krishna is referred here as Dwarakadish. There is a temple for Devaki which is right opposite to Krishna, same in Bet Dwaraka as well. Devaki asked Krishna why Yashoda enjoyed all the joy of bringing up Krishna whereas she got only to give birth to him. Krishna said to Devaki that from now on every day Devaki gets to see Krishna and all the pooja done to him, and hence her temple right infront of Krishna's. History of this temple: As said earlier, Jarasandha vowed to take revenge on Krishna. After getting defeated 17 times, he took the help of Kalayavanan who had 3 crore soldiers with him. Krishna got to know of Kalayavanan wanting to kill him and hence devised a plan. Krishna thought that if he fights with Kalayavanan, Jarsandha in the meanwhile will start killing the yadavas and in turn will wipe out the entire yadava clan. Hence, Krishna devised an idea where in the entire people of Vrundanvan are to be shifted to a island where no human can easily enter. And hence, Krishna moved the entire yadava clan to Dwaraka.
    • Bhet Dwaraka - This is a small island which is around 20 miles from Gomathi Dwaraka. The Krishna idol here looks very similar to Gomathi Dwaraka. It is believed to be the place where Sudhama came to meet Krishna with avalakki. When Krishna moved his kingdom to Dwaraka from Vrundavan, Bet Dwaraka is considered as Krishna's residence, whereas the Gomathi Dwaraka is the place from where he ran his kingdom.  Gomathi and Bhet Dwaraka is collectively referred to as Dwarakapuri.
    • Rukmini Temple - Rukmini does not have temple alongside Krishna's, it is in a separate place in Dwaraka. This is what the Pandit of Rukmini temple said about the history of this place: "Once Krishna and Rukmini invited sage Durvasa for dinner and they themselves pulled the chariot of Durvasa. On the way, Rukmini felt thirsty and asked for water. Krishna drew the Ganga water from earth with the help of his toe and gave it to Rukmini who happily drank it. Sage Durvasa felt insulted since he thought Rukmini did not have the courtesy to offer the water to him first and hence cursed her. The curse was :  Rukmini will never be together with her husband and sweet water will never be available in Dwaraka. It will always be salty". As a practice, even today in Rukmini temple, all pilgrims are given water to drink as a mark of Rukmini devi showing her courtesy to her guests. 
  • Nathadwara, Rajasthan 19-Oct
    • Shri Nath Dwaraka - The name "Nath Dwara" means the gate which will take you to the Lord. The Krishna idol present in this temple was from Vrundavan, Uttar Pradesh. In order to protect the Lord from Aurangazeb's invasion, a person named Goswami Dawoji put the Krishna idol in a bullock cart and came to this place. On reaching this place, the bullock cart got stuck in mud, and could not move further. Goswami Dawoji felt that the Lord does not want to move out of here, and hence he did pratishtapan of the Krishna idol here, and hence the temple Shri Nath Dwaraka. In this temple, Krishna is still considered as a 7 year old child who cannot keep standing for a long time.  Due to this, there is no continuous darshan for pilgrims. After every few minutes, the darshan stops so that the Lord can take rest. During the first darshan of the day, the Lord is completely wrapped up in a cloth with only the face visible. It is because they feel the child cannot withstand the early morning cold and hence the seva with only face visible. So many nice things in Nath Dwaraka you will experience.
    • Kangroli Dwaraka - No information on this. When asked the local people, they said the same history associated with Shri Nath Dwaraka for this temple as well.
  • Pushkar, Rajasthan 20-Oct
    • Pushkar Sarovar - It is considered that the Lord Vishnu himself is present in the form of water. Before the start of evolution, Lord Brahma chose this place to perform a yagna. At that time, there was a daemon Vajranaban who used to kill little children. To protect the people and to save the children, Lord Brahma threw the lotus  present in his hand on the daemon, and he got killed. This Pushkar Sarovar is the place where exactly the daemon was killed.
    • Brahma Temple - This is the only place where you will find a temple for Lord Brahma. After killing the Vajranaban daemon, Brahma wanted to start the yagna. But Brhama's wife Saraswati has not reached Pushkar yet, and one cannot perform a yagna without the better half.  Since Brahma could not wait for long, he married a girl, Gayatri, and started the yagna with her immediately. Saraswati devi arrived in the meantime. On seeing another girl performing yagna alongside Brahma,  she cursed Brahma stating : "Barring this Pushkar, no where else in the world  will people build a temple for you". 
    • Old Ranganthji Mandir 
    • New Ranganathji Mandir
  • Kurukshetra, Haryana 21-Oct
    • Brahma Sarovar - This is a punya teertha, All yatrikas had bath here. 
    • Jyotisar -  This is the place where Lord Krishna did Gita Upadesha to Arjuna. Swamiji stressed the fact that this place is called Punya bhoomi, and not yudha bhoomi. Swamiji and his team did the complete Bhagavad Gita parayana of all 18 adhyayas which went for 2 hours. 
    • Bhishma Kund - This is the place where Arjuna shot an arrow to quench Bhishma's thirst. This is the same place where Bhishma recited the Vishnu Sahasranama lying in a bed of arrows. During the yatra, along with Swamiji, all the yatrikas got a chance to do parayana of Vishnu Sahasranama here.
  • Haridwar, Uttarkhand 22-Oct
    • Ganga river - Haridwar is at the base of the Himalayas. Since it is like an entrance to all kshetras in Himalayas, this place is called Haridwar(Hari -> Lord Vishnu,  Dwar -> way). Having bath here is considered to be very sacred. All yatrikas took Ganga snan 
    • Saptarishi Ashram
    • Ganga Aarti at Hari Ki Paidi- Almost everybody would have experienced this. As swamiji said, once we are there during Ganga aarti, we never feel like going back.
Vraj Bhoomi:  The places Mathura, Gokul, Nandagaon, Vrundavan and Govardhan are collectively known as Vraj Bhoomi. All these are part of Uttar Pradesh(UP) itself. The scenario now completely changes, where from having visited Krishna temples, it is all going to be the places where Krishna Leela has happened. One start difference between Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh:  In all the cities of Krishna temples in Gujarat, everybody says "Jai Shri Krishna". Every conversation starts and ends with "Jai Shri Krishna".  Come to UP, it is all "Radhey Radhey", "Radhey Radhey". It is to such an extent when I said "thanks" to a person who helped me, he said "no thankyou, only radhey radhey ". You see the posters or banners around you, its all radhey, there is no krishna. You ask anybody why, this is what they say: "Radhey ke bina krishna kahan (there is no Krishna without Radhey)". So beautiful it as to hear!
        Once we entered UP, we were stay put in Vrundavan for the next 3 days. 

  • Vrundavan, Uttar Pradesh 23-Oct - The place where Krishna used to come everyday with his friends for cattle rearing. 
    • Keshi Ghat - This is the place where Krishna killed the daemon Keshi who came in the form of a horse.
    • Kaliya Daman - This is the place where Lord Krishna subdued the serpent Kaliya. There is a tree in this place which they say is the one from which Krishna jumped on to the serpent Kaliya.
    • Madan Mohan Mandir - A beautiful temple of Krishna with Radha to his left and Lalita to his right.
    • Banke Bihari Temple - This is the most famous temple of Vrundavan. 
    • Seva Kunj - This is the place where rasalila took place. Even today Radha and Krishna grace this place and no one is allowed after evening. The interesting part here is one can see the place full of monkeys the entire day. However, once it is around 5 in the evening, all the monkeys vacate the place and are back only the next morning.
    • Nidhuvan - Same like Seva Kunj. There is a pond here called Vishaka Kund. It is from this place where Swami Haridas found the deity of Banke Bihari Mandir.
    • Imlitala - Imlitala means tamarind tree. At this temple, there is a tamarind tree under which Krishna sits and gets himself absorbed thinking about Radha.
    • Dvadasitya Tila - After subduing Kaliya, this is the place where Krishna sat and basked in the heat of sun to alleviate himself from shivering. 
    • Sri Rangji Mandir - This is a temple dedicated to Andal and Lord Sri Rangamannar.
  • Mathura, Uttar Pradesh 24-Oct
    • Krishna Janma Bhoomi - The jail where Lord Krishna was born. This is the same jail where Kamsa had kept Vasudeva and Devaki and Krishna was born as their 8th son.
  • Gokul, Uttar Pradesh 24-Oct   This is the place where Vasudeva brought Lord Krishna once he was born. Krishna lived in this place till he was 5 years old.
    • Nanda Bhavan - This is the palace where Krishna was brought up, the same place where Nandgopala received Krishna from Vasudeva. A very unique place where the Pandit asks the yathris to cradle and come to see Krishna and they let the yathris to rock the cradle.
    • Putana Vadha - This is where Krishna killed Putana and liberated her.
    • Brahmanda Ghat - This is the place where Krishna ate sand, and when Yashoda asked Krishna to open his mouth, she saw the entire universe. 
    • Raman Reti - This is the place where Krishna crawled and walked as a balaka, hence this place is covered with full of sand today. Yathris are encouraged to roll about in this sand.
  • Nangagaon, Uttar Pradesh 25-Oct - The place where Nandgopal moved to due to constant troubles created by Kamsa.
    • Nand Bhaitak - The place where Nandgopala used to sit with his family members to discuss the well being of Krishna.
    • Dadhi Manthan Sthal - The place where Yashodha churns yoghurt.
    • Nanda Bhavan - Nandgopala built this house at the top of a hill to protect Krishna from the daemons sent by Kamsa.
    • Narasimha Temple - The temple where Yashoda prays to Narasimha for Krishna's well being. 
  • Govardhan, Uttar Pradesh 25-Oct
    • Govardhan Parikrama  - This is the place where the Govardhan mountain is, the mountain which Krishna lifted in his little finger to protect the people from the fury of Lord Indra's continuous rain. During yatra, yatrikas did a parikarama of Govardhan for around 4 kms, not the entire stretch. The parikrma was reminiscent of the way in which Krishna and the people of Gokul went to Govardhan singing bhajans and dancing all the way till we reached. Melkote Jeer swamiji accompanying the yatrikas along with our Velkudi swamiji made it even more special. Once we reached Govardhan, Anna koota utsavam and Thirumanjanam was conducted at the base of the mountain itself.
Food and accommodation during the yatra:
  • Accomodation is on shared basis. Mostly, it was 4 persons sharing a room. In some places, accomodation was provided in dharmashalas, and in some other cases it was in a hotel.
  • Food - As far as food is concerned, one will feel completely at home. Swami brought with him a 100 member cook team. The food quality is such that I did not come across any person during the yatra with food related health issues. Swamiji always emphasizes the need to have saatvik food habits, and more so when you are in a yatra of such kind. He definitely made sure it is being taken care of.

Yatra preparation:

  • Though the yatra officially started on 14th October, it has actually begun on 12th October itself when we all boarded our trains for Ujjain. In order to make sure the yatrikas get into the mindset right from the beginning, Swami had arranged for distribution of booklets by volunteers in the train itself. This booklet contains information about the all the places which we were going to visit. It had content to last enough for the entire train journey of 36 hours. So, during swami's upanyasams at kshetras, we could understand it much better since we had read the history once. This looks a small thing, but made a huge difference.

Swamiji conducted an 90 minute introductory session prior to the yatra to brief all the yatriks about the yatra. One important thing he mentioned : "2500 people are going to be part of this.  You are going to be in shared accomodation, may not be as how you wanted, please adjust it. There will be certain things which may not be as per your expectation, please adjust it. There will be lot many things which does not fit your bill, please adjust it. Lets put it this way: Why cant you take this trip as an opportunity to understand how  tolerant you are? " For me, this is the most important message in the 90 minute speech which made the yatra a great one. If you take it seriously and be tolerant as swamiji asked for 13 days, you will feel at the end: "If I can do it for 13 days, why cannot I do it for a month? If I can do it for a month, why cannot I always keep doing it? " A beautiful  life  is awaiting you after the yatra!!!

   Hope you all enjoyed this yatra along with me while reading. This is just part 1 of the yatra. Part 2 is going to be next year. If you are curious and all set to register for the part 2 of this yatra, keep your fingers crossed! Swami will announce the dates sometime in February 2017. Lets pray the almighty to give more strength to our Velkudi Swamiji so that he can take many more people in his way!!!

P.S : All the sthalapuranam I have mentioned above are the information which I got from the booklet and some during swami's upanyasams. It is possible that I might not have captured it correctly. If I had mentioned anything incorrectly, please do mention in the comments section, I will correct it. Please do not get offended.
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3 comments:

bhat said...

Nice write up. Great Guru...i will use this info for my travel to Gujarat Thank you very much

swathy Dharma said...

Vanakam

Im Saraswathy Dharmalingam from Kuala Lumpur malaysia
Im in te transition period of accepting perumal as my path to vaikundam. Swamiji im watching your srimad bhagavatam on daily basis. I loved the way u explain n make us understand.

I am interested in the next yatra trip in sep/oct 2017 trip. Pls keep me updated n il register my self 4 tis trip.

Please include me s i feel tat its a calling of perumal

Saraswathy

Guru Prasad said...

@swathy Dharma.. This is not an official website of Swamiji. I am one of the yatriks of the last yatra and I just shared my experience. To reach out to the team of Swamiji, you can check the site www.kinchit.org