Official announcement regarding the disappearance of Srimati Gauri dasi, Yamunangi dasi and Sri Hari dasa.
With great regret the Mayapur management wishes to inform the community of devotees about the disappearance of Srimati Gauri dasi, the granddaughter of Srila Prabhupada, her three years old daughter Yamunangi, and her brother-in-law, Sriman Sri Hari dasa.
Gauri dasi leaves behind her husband, Sriman Sujitendriya dasa, a Mayapur gurukula graduate who has lived in the ISKCON Mayapur community his whole life, and her youngest daughter, Bhagirathi aged ten months.
These three devotees were tragically drowned in a boating accident in Sri Mayapur dhama at sometime in the early afternoon on Wednesday 27 September, 2006.
The tragedy occurred on a flooded stretch of road on the way to the Yoga-pitha, nearby where Sujitendriya and his brother Sri Hari were building a house.
Because of the floods Gauri had rung her father Sriman Vrindavan Candra De, and he advised her to come to their family home in Kolkata until it receded. Thus, Sujitendriya, Gauri and their two daughters, Sri Hari and several others were waiting for a boat to leave Mayapur. Instead of the boat they expected, a smaller one came and offered to take them so everyone, about twelve or fourteen persons, agreed to use it.
Their route followed the flooded road leading to the Yoga-pitha. The current was running strong at ninety degrees to the road, so about six of the men got out to push and guide the boat along from the front and back. Gauri and the two children, along with their maid, were sitting in the boat with six others, plus the two boatmen.
Due to the powerful current somehow the boat got out of control and it sank into the water pitching the occupants into the flood. Gauri couldn’t swim and Sujitendriya grabbed her and their daughter Yamunangi, but both were going under. To save all of them from being swept away Sujitendriya grabbed hold of a banana tree with one hand. With the other he was hanging on to his wife Gauri in a desperate attempt to save her. But by this time she was fully submerged and unconscious.
They were pulled out onto the bank and an Australian devotee, Shanti Parayana prabhu, attempted to revive Gauri with CPR. After some time however it was clear the attempt was not successful. Yamunangi had also expired in the arms of her father.
Sri Hari prabhu went to save the youngest daughter Bhagirathi and the maid. He succeeded in doing this but in the attempt, although he was a good swimmer, he was also dragged under and drowned. He died a hero, saving others while giving his own life.
Out of all the passengers three died; Gauri, Yamunangi and Sri Hari–Sujitendriya prabhu’s wife, daughter and brother.
The bodies were taken in the afternoon to Krsnanagar and offically declared dead and laid in the morgue to await postmortem. Sujitendriya prabhu was brought back to Mayapur, almost dead himself from ceaseless lamentation. I cannot give the details here of the trauma Sujitendriya prabhu was suffering. It was a very heart rending experience. Every few moments he would break down and beat his head or chest with his hands and cry in anguish. Kurma Caitanya, one of our Mayapur pujaris, was a great help, staying with him the whole night to help comfort him.
The following day, Thursday 28 September, Dayaram prabhu, Naru-gopala prabhu, Ramadevi dasi, and a team of devotees went with Sujitendriya prabhu to Krsnanagar by large motorized boat along the Jalangi since it is the only way out of Mayapur at the moment. It took nearly 21/2 hours to get there.
Because of all the arrangements that needed to be made with the Krsnanagar morgue for the post-mortem and reception of the bodies for peforming the cremation, it was not possible to leave Mayapur until about 11 AM. We got there about 1.30 PM.
Gauri’s family, Vrindavan Candra De and his wife and son, had traveled late at night from Kolkata and reached Krsnanagar about midnight. They were hosted by a local devotee in Krsnanagar but were not informed of all the details when they arrived. At that point they had only heard that their daughter was in hospital. We wanted to be personally present when they heard the full details of the tragic event so that we could help them deal with the shock and grief.
Myself, Dayaram and Ramadevi had the task of informing Vrindavan Candra and his wife and son of what had happened. It is without a doubt one of the most difficult things one has to do in life. Vrindavan Candra was stunned almost speechless, his wife and son both broke down sobbing and crying. Meanwhile Sujitendriya had come to another room in the house and after some time Vrindavan Candra and the son met with him. Needless to say it was an inconsolable scene as Sujitendriya told them what had happened, in between repeatedly breaking down himself.
After some time we had to get to the practical business of viewing and receiving the bodies. It was getting late, the postmortem was only done in mid-afternoon and we were told we couldn’t get the bodies until 3.15 PM. This being India that meant sometime later.
Thus about 4.00 PM we had to go and pick up the bodies from the morgue. We only took Vrndavan Candra and family with us to view the bodies. Initially the mother didn’t want to see the bodies but finally decided to come along.
We thought the viewing of the bodies would be in a private room but it seems that in rural India, or at least Krsnanagar, such things are an unobtainable luxury. We had to stand around outside the broken down building that passes off as the morgue as three cheap wooden beds were set outside. About twenty people were milling around curious to see the event. Finally the bodies were brought out and placed on the beds. Thankfully they were at least wrapped nicely and kept in clean, white, fine muslin bags.
The pathos when Gauri and Yamunangi’s bodies were unwrapped for her parents to see, is undescribable. The mother was fully distraught. The body of Sujitendriya’s brother, Sri Hari prabhu was also lying there and his was identified by the devotees.
Vrindavan Candra and family then returned directly back to Kolkata. The thought of coming to Mayapur for the cremation was simply too much for them to bear.
By this time it was about 4.45 PM and we still had to get the bodies back to Mayapur for cremation. The flood makes everything difficult. The Navadvipa crematoriom isn’t working right now, the Krsnanagar one is also temporarily out of service and we were unsure about where to do it on our land. We considered a spot near the Gauranga Setu, the big bridge running into Navadvip, but in the end it was settled by Sujitendriya prabhu informing us that his wife had once made him promise that she would be cremated in ISKCON Mayapur.
The devotees at the goshalla are expert with organizing this and they assured us that we could get in by boat from the Jalangi and do the burning on some higher ground there. From Krsnanagar we were able to drive to the house of Bhaktivinoda Thakur where there is a small ghat, not far upstream and opposite from our goshalla. The bodies were sent ahead by truck while we picked up Sujitendriya prabhu. Our boat was waiting at the ghat for us and the bodies were loaded onto the deck.
About 20 devotees were on board as we set off downstream in the failing light to find a suitable spot to breach the flooded banks of the Jalangi and sail into the goshalla. We achieved that within a few minutes and started chugging across fields towards the buildings in the near dark.
Suddenly some low-lying telegraph lines were upon us. We had to dive for cover on the deck as they scrapped over the boat. Devotees sitting on the roof of the cabin, including Dayaram and Naru-gopala prabhus, were almost swept off by the wires; one wire snagged across the deck cabin and snapped, the rest of the wires got caught on the wheel house and the whole lot ripped out of the pole. Luckily noone was hurt or electrocuted. Proceeding cautiously the devotees thence expertly brought the boat into the goshalla area, between the buildings, over fences and the road, to dock right at the main cow shelter.
Then over the next two hours the bodies were washed, clothed in new garments and all the Vaisnava pujas were done for the departed souls. They were then burnt.
Now we have the task to look after Sujitendriya prabhu and his remaining daughter, 10 months old Bhagirathi. Sujitendriya and Gauri were also looking after the widows and children of two other of his brothers who expired in the last couple of years. Now there are three with the widow of Sri Hari prabhu. It will take a while to help him and them sort their lives out but we are confident he will get all the support he needs from the families here in Sri Mayapur dhama. We ask all devotees to please pray for the well-being of these devotees.
Tragic as it is, at the same time these departed souls have to be seen as most fortunate. Gauri dasi was Srila Prabhupada’s granddaughter. That in itself would have been enough to gaurantee her liberated status. However, she was a devotee not just by birth, but by choice also. She was serious about her spiritual life and loved to live in Mayapur despite not having very opulent circumstances. She was well liked by all the devotees here. She was married to a young man who has practically lived his whole life in Mayapur, going through the whole gurukula and then running a business in conjunction with the Deity dept. selling beautiful photos and laminations of the Deities here.
Yamunangi took her birth in the most auspicious place, in the most auspicious family line, and she left her body in the same holy dhama. Srila Prabhupada once said that when a devotee child leaves early, it means that that soul was an advanced devotee in their last life who had some small residue of material desire or reaction to burn off by taking another birth, and having done so, they return back to Krsna.
Sri Hari prabhu was the President of ISKCON Chittagoan in Bangladesh. He joined ISKCON in 1978 and was the senior-most devotee in Bangladesh. He fully dedicated his life to Srila Prabhupada’s preaching mission. It is said that if one even thinks of living in the holy dhama, Krsna reserves a place for that person, so Sri Hari prabhu has now by the mercy of the Lord attained the supreme abode.
While we lament the loss of the association of these devotees, there can be no inauspiciousness for them. They fulfilled their life’s purpose and left their bodies in the heart of Sri Mayapur dhama in the bosom of Mother Ganges. Most certainly they all three went home back to Godhead. What more can one desire?
According to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Navadvipa-dhama Mahatmya:
“O brother! One who resides in the land of Navadvipa is greatly fortunate, for he obtains pure love for Krsna. Whosoever goes at any time to visit Navadvipa becomes freed from all offenses. Whatever a pilgrim obtains by wandering to all the holy places is obtained simply by remembering Sri Navadvipa. This all the scriptures sing.
“A person who simply sees Navadvipa gets the great fortune of love for Krnsa birth after birth. Even one who practices karma- or buddhi-yoga never again takes birth if he goes to Navadvipa.
“If a person wanders in Navadvipa, at every step he obtains the result of ten million horse sacrifices. That too is stated in all the scriptures.
“If anyone resides there and chants his given mantra, that mantra becomes Lord Caitanya, and so he is easily delivered.
“What yogis obtain in other holy places after ten years of practice is obtained in Navadvipa by practicing for only three nights.
“The liberation obtained in other holy places by knowledge of Brahman is obtained simply by bathing in the Bhagirathi in Sri dhama Navadvipa. The five types of liberation—achieving the same planet as the Lord, getting a form similar to that of the Lord, obtaining opulence equal to that of the Lord, getting direct association with the Lord, and merging into the Brahman effulgence—can be obtained in Navadvipa, even without one’s knowledge, by those who desire such liberation.”
We request all the devotees to give their blessings and prayers for the departed Vaisnavas, and also their support to Sujitendriya prabhu so that he can overcome his loss, raise his daughter Bhagirathi nicely in Krsna consciousness, and continue to progress in his devotional life as a resident of Sri-dhama Mayapur.
On behalf of ISKCON Mayapur,
Your humble servant,