Remembering Madhuvana

by mrupa

Madhuvana-smokey, cold, crazy, and dirty.

Madhuvana-one of the 12 forests of Vrndavana where Dhruva performed austerities and met both Narada and Lord Visnu face to face.

Madhuvana-an extension of the Lord Caitanya half of Golaka Vrndavana where Lord Caitanya and His associates reside eternally. Where ISKCON along with Srila Prabhupada are and where Lord Jagannatha must be the predominating Deity, as He is in Jagannatha Puri.

Madhuvana-Where Srila Prabhupada and His servants would sometimes reside when He visited New Vrndavana.

Madhuvana–now torn down and “gone”. For a time it was cultivated by Vidya and Madhava Ghosh when they lived there. Now there are only two engraved stone markers remembering Hladini and her dear Godsister Kunti Devi at the base of the tree that used to stand at the back of the tin shed.

Madhuvana-Big Lord Jagannatha was installed there on Gaura Purnima long long ago, after returning from Pittsburgh. (I’m not sure of the year anymore)

MADHUVANA-The chicken coop where the devotee family lived, ( I used to know their name, the husband worked for Spiritual Sky and I think later on Prabhupada’s books after they moved to LA). The fields on each side (one of these was home to Resham the highly territorial ox),the tin shed next to the temple housing the bucksaw for cutting firewood, as well as Cakradhari and his wife for one summer.

It was very crudely subdivided into about 10ft squares; storage or housing made no difference. There was a rickety wooden frame of sorts ‘built’ as an extension from the back wall of the shed that had black plastic stapled around it-the shower facility for everyone. (quite literally a real scream in the winter time).

There was an outhouse across the often shoulder high grassy field. The drain water dump, the water tank, the kids, the Prabhupada houses, the Dhruva ghat-now obliterated, the grazing area (all downhill), Jarasandhadhama, the haunted furnace room, the truning milk can covering the hole in the floor by the stove in the kitchen, the ‘walker’ upstairs, reflexive chanting while falling asleep (standard operating procedure to keep ghosts from attacking you),

The dirt and stone wall basement, the sewing room with a hole completely through one wall and no window in the other. (great cross ventilation especially about January or February). The asrama room, the rats in the walls (excellent maha thieves), the crazy people, crazy teacher, and crazy kids, also the simple sincere sweet people like Candraraikekha and others, the crazy husbands.

We’d heard that among the devtoees in ISKCON New Vrindavana was called ISKCON’s ‘Funny Farm’ because Kirtanananda would not turn anyone away who wanted to serve Krsna. One old timer (not here anymore) was even brought to Bahulavan by his parents in a straight jacket hoping the combination of chanting Hare Krsna and the varieties of service available in a spiritual farm commune would be able to help him.

And that combined with his own incredibly deep sincerity and determined struggles (talk about a ‘beautiful mind’) as well as with the sustained constant surrendered assistance of the family and friends he was blessed with here, did help him very very much.

Anyway, the concensus was that if New Vrindavana was the Funny Farm of ISKCON, then Madhuvana was the Funny Farm of ISKCON’s ‘Funny Farm’. It became the place where the ‘pace’ was calmer, and the standard of doing what you could while cultivating the desire to more and more fully was possible. So anyone who landed in Bahulavana who was just weary, or challenged would be sent up to Madhuvana the place permeated by the devotion and devotional relationship between Hladini and Big Lord Jagannatha.

There were tours for the little Deities while They rode on Their palanquin carried between Hladini and me as They surveyed Their Madhuvana. The talk with Hladini down the hill where she would have liked to build a ‘solar’ powered temple for Lord Jagannatha. The outside light over the driveway of Jarasandhadhama coming on just before Hladini would come over to wake the Deities and having everything ready for her to make her offering.

Being roomies and sisters in the closet-sized asrama room upstairs before Vahna. Hladini rose at 2:30am in the morning. To do that on a daily basis with the more than full day’s service she carried, she kept two alarm clocks. One clock was near her bed and one set for a few minutes later was set across the room-so she would have to get up and walk to it to turn it off. She’s the only person who never mentioned anything about how badly I snored because I think she fell asleep so quickly and so fully she was the only person who never heard it.

The kitchen-the hub of it all, where we spent hours and hours together talking Krsna Katha and discussing service or philosophy. Hladini reading Bhagavad-Gita to me while she made ghee wicks and I cleaned the kitchen after the lunch cooking and offering. The pitch black smoke encrusted ceiling. (once when one of my sisters visited, she’d said that as they drove up, they’d thought there had been a fire there and no one would be home because of the extensive smoke discolorations all around the windows and doors and along the eaves of the building).

The roaches, the roaches, the roaches. Urgh! Madhuvana had so many roaches it was like a science fiction horror movie. Around every picture framed or not, you could easily see a fringe of little waving antennas. They were even regulated to the temple schedule. Like Pavlov’s dogs, Lord Jagannatha’s roaches would come running when they heard the offering bell—ewww. One of their favorites was attacking the raw puri dough while it was being rolled out on the counter every evening for the Lord’s last offering. You would literally role one-handed while you shooed and brushed roaches away with the other.

Once when Hladini twisted off the lid of a bottle of bleach (we were always trying to clean things up) we even found several of them running around under the lid like they were racing each other for fun there. Kunti did a big research project on roaches trying to find out how to deal with them, and we learned a whole lot more about them than we’d really liked to.

Once Sucitra was doing up the Deity plates in the pujar room between the kitchen and the altar. There was never much in the way of hot water anywhere, but one sure source was the water used to wash the Lord’s plates after the plates were finished. There could often be some serious competitions for that water among the women trying to keep their long hair clean.

…As Sucitra calmly stood sunken into the floor, Madhava Ghosh took the hand ax for cutting kindling downstairs and began trying to chop her free from underneath. Gajendra, her husband stood in the pujari room doorway leaning on the lintel and everyone was making a lot of jokes about the whole scene.
All at once, Gajendra’s hand shoved the lintel aside and he was avalanched by a deluge of what must have been literally thousands of cockroaches.

Anyway, this particular time it was Sucitra’s turn. But while she was washing up, her foot suddenly went right through the pujari room floor. (we had a termite problem too) …As Sucitra calmly sat sunken into the floor, Madhava Ghosh took the hand ax for cutting kindling downstairs and began trying to chop her free from underneath. Gajendra, her husband stood in the pujari room doorway leaning on the lintel and everyone was making a lot of jokes about the whole scene.

All at once, Gajendra’s hand shoved the lintel aside and he was avalanched by a deluge of what must have been literally thousands of cockroaches.

(to be continued)

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Reader Comments

Is this the same Gajendra who was the temple mechanic and had a second wife, Radhabavani? Thank you kindly. Mallika


Thank you MG. Do you remember anything about my mother, Radhabavani, that you would be okay to share. Anything would be nice. Kindest Regards, Mallika

Not so much personally, as she was here during the time I was pretty scrupulously avoiding contact with women.

I do remember her living in the house where Rati Manjari lives now, though that reference wouldn’t be something you could relate to.

Let me try see if I can put a frame of reference on this you could relate to. She lived in the smaller of two houses that we bought from Whitey Smith, called Mahaban after we got it.

That would have been out the lane across the road from the house where Dharmatma ran the sankirtan parties.

IF you like, I could run an article on the Brijabasi Spirit asking if anyone remembers her while she was here.

I hope you are well.

Yes. That would be wonderful. Thank you. As I understand it, my mother and I were there before Bahulaban was around, 1971ish. I’m trying to understand where we lived (Madhuban, Vrindaban, Chakradari’s shack or somewhere else?) before I moved into the upstairs of the barn, which wasn’t until 1974. She left at that point (returned later) and I was raised in various ashrams/Dharmatma’s until 1985ish.Anyway, I’ve been enjoying reading Brijabasi Spirit. Thank you kindly. Mallika