Just a little history

On September 11th, 2001 my family and I watched the World Trade Center in New York collapse live on TV. While thousands of people lost their lives and our nation was changed forever before our eyes, an incredibly selfish thought came to my mind; I just know that my plans to visit Nepal are ruined.

You see, I had been hoping to go to Nepal for several years but it never worked out. Although I visit India every year and have even been 12,500 ft. up in the Himalayas, I still have never been to the holy land of Nepal. In 1996, my brother-in-law returned home from Vrindabana with a copy of Sri Padmanabha Goswami's terrific book, Sri Salagrama Sila, and I immediately knew that one day I would make a pilgrimage to the Kali Gandaki river.

Sure enough, KLM cancelled my flight scheduled for Oct. 12th. Confident that Krishna would protect me (or maybe just a bit stupid) I wasn't scared to travel in these difficult times, but my family is quite paranoid and refused to let me leave. After hearing that my Grandfather (by marriage) was ill, we had no choice but to go. He is almost 90 and was in a nursing home so we really had no alternative. [Note: He left his body two weeks after we returned to the US. Good thing we went when we did.] Unfortunately, at exactly the same time Nepal began to experience troubles of its own.

My family's house is located in the holy city of Calcutta. Yes, it is a holy place. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami appeared there, so what else could it be but holy? Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami performed his disappearance pastimes there and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura also called Calcutta his home for some time. Moreover, now that the city has grown so much, Panihati Dhama is within the extended city limits, as is Varahanagar, where Lord Caitanya, the Supreme Personality of Godhead sanctified that place by dancing to the recitation of the Srimad Bhagatam by his disciple, the Bhagavatacarya. Of course, the Ganga continually flows directly through Calcutta, purifying it perpetually.

I have heard some devotees heckle the city of Calcutta due to its over-population and pollution, but I say that they have no transcendental vision. A true devotee of the Lord should be capable of seeing past such mundane defects, annoying as they may be.

An auspicious beginning

My trip began on Dec.3, 2001 quite auspiciously as I met with four initiated devotees who all work at the airport before boarding the plane. We flew Lufthansa [Srila Prabhupada referred to himself as, "Paramahamsa on Lufthansa" ] as that was the only ticket we could get. I will never fly them again if I can avoid it as the Frankfurt airport is a dive. I've visited better airports in third world countries. Security was non-existent except for a few machine-gun toting soldiers milling about. After 6 hours or so I was waiting at the gate when I noticed a few Indian men with beards using a small camcorder to videotape out the window overlooking the hangers. I immediately assumed that they were Muslim terrorists and very possibly Osama bin Laden's illegitimate spawn - statistically speaking - so I was getting ready to alert the Gestapo when I was informed that they were talking in Gurumukhi. So they were Sikhs and not Muslims! I would have felt pretty stupid ratting them out and having them get the third degree for a week before being released, so it's a good thing I didn't.

The flight was miserable, turbulent, and tiring. I can't sleep on flights so I just sat in the dark chanting for some time. At some point they showed a really boss Woody Allen movie, but ¾ of the way through some old Indian lady who unfortunately knew English sat next to me and started talking my ear off. I missed the end of the movie and 20 minutes later she was still rattling on about her son's MBA and her daughter's kidney operation. I really wasn't in the mood if I'd had a parachute I would've jumped.

Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come. Shortly before landing I experienced the most horrible pain in the area of my right eye. It felt as if somebody (probably a girl I used to date in college) had a voodoo-doll in my effigy and was sticking a needle (or maybe even a ten-penny nail) in its eye. It was so painful that it took great effort not to scream. My Ma brought me a barf-bag full of ice but it didn't help much. I figured that I had to have broken a blood vessel, so I offered my eye for examination and asked,"What do you see? Can you see anything?"

"You have green eyes."

Laughter didn't help and I felt a similar pain on all three descents during the journey to Calcutta.

The Ramayana specifically says that if a man experiences a twitch in the right eye then that is a very auspicious sign. By the intensity of this "twitch," I figured that I would be a jivan-mukta by the end of this trip.

Upon reaching our apartment in Calcutta the first order of business was to get the place cleaned up. Time and the West Bengal climate had not been kind to it. It took weeks of  working with a small army of hired help to get it in order. I had a cough from all of the dust and the cockroaches and hairy wolf-spiders living in my bathroom really gave me the willies. One night I saw a giant albino cockroach crawling in the drain that gave me nightmares. The mosquitoes - West Bengal's state bird - were really annoying as well. I try to tolerate them as a vaishnava should, but when the pterodactyl-sized nosforatu get too pesky, the carnage begins.

Our Grandfather was quite weak when we arrived, but quickly gained strength and was happy to see us. It was encouraging to see his spirits lifted. As we visited, his 3 year old great-grandson  narrated Krishna's pastime of subduing Kaliya and he showed me his matchbox car named "Gopal Krishna Thakur." Indian kids are so lucky; I had many matchbox cars as a kid, but not a single one named "Gopal Krishna."

First darshan

Sunday was the first day that I could really get out and do something. We stopped off at the local temple which is next to the bridge where the buses, rickshaws, etc. run. This bridge is way too small for all the traffic it gets these days and if always full of auto rickshaws spewing black, toxic exhaust into the air. Traffic is backed up by just one car traveling in each direction and it quickly escalates to mayhem. The footpath on either side is barely big enough for one person to stand on and yet a young man balances on his toes to urinate over the railing, so everyone has to squeeze by him to make any progress. Plastic bags and assorted trash lay in heaps on the bank of the river and rats the size of house-cats scurry about looking for an easy meal. My olfactory senses are immediately assaulted by an odor so severe that I am left gagging. The river there is so foul smelling from the sewage and trash flowing into it that there are no words in proper English to describe the stench adequately. If you opened a septic tank back home in the US and took a big whiff it wouldn't even come close. Maybe it's all the spices people eat over here, I don't know.

The river is called the "Adi Ganga" as it is actually a small tributary of her, but I think that Gangadevi probably abandoned this particular spot as soon as the sewage started seeping in. Srila Rupa Goswami's description of "bubbles and mud" doesn't apply here. I once saw a similar tributary near Diamond Harbor that looked the way this place must have 60 years ago and I thought that it was one of the most beautiful sites I had ever seen in my entire life. This place is an abomination. I've seen the bodies of dogs and pigs floating in this river and had to wonder if they were dead before they hit the water or if it was the river itself that did them in. There is a local story that once the body of a young boy was found in the river and that so many people piled onto the little bridge that it collapsed and they all fell in the drink.

The temple here is situates directly on this small river and is a simple affair with beautiful Radha-Govinda and Gaura-Nitai deities. They also have a 11 Salagram Silas and I was very pleased to have Their darshana. They were sitting on what appeared to be gobor - cow dung - beneath which was a gumcha, probably kept moist so that the gobor didn't totally dry out. Our Grandmother was an active part of this temple since it's beginning 50 years ago. She always called "Hari sabha," meaning that Lord Krishna was glorified here. She'd kill me for saying so, but it just doesn't seem to have the life it used to before she left her body. I noticed a nice painting of Lord Caitanya chanting japa that she'd donated to the temple. I remembered it hanging on her bedroom wall and simultaneously felt both happy and sad to see it again.

We asked the old pujari if they had any extra Salagrams which we could worship. He started asking questions about our caste, gotra, and such, which seemed foolish to me as this temple sponsors a yearly festival in honor of Srila Haridasa Thakur, who was born into a family of Muslims. We didn't pursue it any further and went on our way.

Hope I die before I get old

We visited the family house of my Baba to see his elderly mother. I was shocked to see her. She is now totally bed-ridden and in a pathetic condition. She appeared to have shrunk and the high cheek-bones which once added to her beauty simply added to the skeleton-like appearance. I could practically see death personified sitting on her nose. She was conscious but not really aware of what was going on. When asked where her son was, she replied, "In my heart." Seeing me however, she said "Param Seva" and offered her hand for me to hold.

Old age is really miserable. Laying in bed all day and praying not to get bedsores doesn't constitute a life worth living. That cannot be called living, it's just not dying. All you have to look forward to is a good bowel movement and maybe a nap; hoping against hope that every time you close your eyes will be for the last time and if God has any mercy for your pitiable condition it will happen quickly and peacefully so finally you can "wake up dead".

My 16 year old cousin, Babai, came home and asked if I had brought my tattoo equipment from America. Of course I have better things to do in this holy land than tattoo people, so I hadn't. He was wearing a T- shirt with a picture of an American pro-wrestler named "The Rock." He also had posters on his wall of him and requested a tattoo similar to his. I grabbed a felt-tip pen and drew a bull's head on his arm just like he wanted, much to his amazement. As the expression goes, "If he'd had a tail, he would've wagged it." Little did he know that I have tattooed dozens of such images in my career.  All I could think was, "What a difference between the Rock he worships and the Rock I worship."

The next day was Monday so we decided to go out that afternoon to find out if I could get to Nepal. I know one shop which sells items from there, so we decide to stop in. The Tibetan lady there looks like the Dalai Lama in drag and I always think of her as the "Dalai Lama Mamma," but I don't have the guts to call her that to her face. We ask the Mamma if she knows what the situation is in Kathmandu these days. She says that they have lost all contact and cannot import anything from there at the moment. The last person she knew to go there never came back and they haven't even heard a word from her. Depressed, I have to drown my sorrows in some Kulfi. I also see a vendor selling calendars with nice devotional paintings and find a nice one of Gaura-Nitai, so I have to buy it.

That night my aunt, Mamee, mentioned that she had seen some rock at a store in Kalighat and was told that it was a Narayana Sila, as Salagramas are known here. I figured that I'd stop off there and see what was around - who knows, maybe Lord Krishna in His beautiful form of the Salagram would appear to me right here in Calcutta?

The search begins

We had to start working the next day and started by shopping for some jewels in Boro Bazaar to have some jewelry made for a client of my Baba. We caught a ride with our friend Govinda Pal, whom I have nick-named Govinda-Gopal. Boro Bazaar, where Srila Prabhupada appeared and where his family lived for generations is an astounding place. A sea of humanity floods these small streets, as well as cows, goats and other animals, some on four legs and some in terry-cotton slacks. It is the wholesale district for much of Eastern India and anything that can be bought, bartered, or stolen is found here. Walking down Mahatma Gandhi Road (formerly Harrison Road, where Srila Prabhupada's house was) we are nearly knocked down at every step by coolies moving gigantic amounts of goods. Buses, trams, cars, auto-rickshaws, hand-pulled rickshaws, bicycles, and various animals vie for room on these small streets.

The air quality is so poor and full of smoke that one has to wonder why anyone would bother buying cigarettes here. But then again, it's a universal truth that wherever there are gatherings of worthless human flotsam and jetsam hanging out on a street corner, there must be cigarette smoking. Non-smokers have better things to do, such as work.

Businessmen get Burma-shaves on a street where a mirror hung on an old brick wall and a wooden chair have turned the sidewalk into a barber-shop. Vendors have also set up on the sidewalk (sorry, it is called a "footpath" here) to sell dried dates, popular for breaking fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. A stream of water runs down the edge of the street as people bathe, brush teeth, and wash cloths in an open tap. One date-vendor upsets the sewer cover on which she has been squating and a few gallons of stool mix with the stream and cascade down the street. Seeing the look of horror and disgust on our faces she appears quite embarrassed, as if she had personally contributed to the mess.

After a considerable walk, we reach the gem wholesaler. Removing our shoes we sit on a cushion and spend a considerable amount of time looking through rubies and cultured pearls. Several Hindustani gentleman sit behind the low counter with red tikis on their foreheads that have grains of rice stuck on them. Somehow I am reminded of Vrindaban. Afterwards we visited one of Calcutta's best gold shops to order some 22-carat jewelry. I previously avoided these shops as I could feel my consciousness palpably change by being surrounded by crores of diamonds and gold. Now, however, I see it all as scarcely more attractive than the stool I had seen flowing down the road a few moments before. Finished, we ask Govinda if he can drive us to Kalighat to see if any Silas are really there. He agrees and now I am excited! What value do rubies and diamonds have in comparison with the beautiful form of the Lord?

Kalighat is a fascinating place. If you have never been there, you can think of it as Calcutta's Loi bazaar. But it is much more than that. It also has the largest Kali temple in the city and is home to the cremation ground. Despite the mandira and the burning-ghat, it also hoses the red-light district. Just across the street there are many pharmacies and doctors advertising cures for sexually transmitted diseases. [On this trip I even noticed one such shop I may not soon forget; the painting on the façade of this shop simply stated: "Gas and Sex."] I suppose some men are just too lusty to see the "writing on the wall."

We pull up and ask where we can get a Narayana Sila and are directed to one shop up the road. I stay in the van as they will undoubtedly charge 4 times too much seeing a Westerner. I offer prayers to the Lord, "Dheya sada savitri mandala madhya varti..." Then Govinda comes and simply says "Achee." They have Them.

I get out of the van and walk inside the small shop and see my family looking at a brass plate full of stones. At first glance I can see that they are all bogus and not one of them is a real Salagrama sila. They are nothing more than polished stones with some holes punched in them. You can even still see the emery-paper marks. They picked the wrong guy to try and 'sell' a fugazi, so we walk out laughing at their audaciousness. Lord Caitanya had one associate who was so powerful that if he offered his obeisances to any stone other than a true Sila, it would immediately crack. Now I understood why, there are people cheating.

My days pass happily in Calcutta. I always feel more energy here and my digestion improves in India. It's definitely easier for me to hear and chant here as the atmosphere is so peaceful. I also have time to delve into some real nectar books in my library, most of which were brought by my brother-in-law: the one-volume Caitanya Caritamrita, Sri Gaudiya Kanthahara, Sri Kirtana Manjusha, I am in bliss. While cleaning out on cabinet I also discover a video cassette that is titled, "Acharyapada performs Saligram/Tulasi wedding 11/95." I have no idea where that came from but I will find some way to view it when I get home.

I also enjoy chanting japa in my room which overlooks our small lake. It's not so clean anymore as locals have a habit of throwing there trash anywhere, but there are some large banana trees outside my window and the bucolic site puts me at ease. However, as the weather got colder I began migrating from room to room following the sun like the reptile I am. One night 5 Hanuman monkeys showed up in our mango tree, which is unusual. Recently they came one afternoon and a little baby one squeezed through the grating of our downstairs neighbor. He was attracted by a green papaya in their kitchen, but before he reached there he saw his reflection in a mirror and was so caught up in playing with his reflection that he forgot the papaya.  The neighbors got his attention with the fruit, lured him to the window, and gave him the papaya so he'd leave.

The plot thickens

One day while taking a rickshaw my eagle-eye I notices that there was a nice collection of Salagram Silas at the local Kali temple, so we stop off and speak to the pujari. He says that he would see what he could dig up and after consulting his panjika suggests that we return Friday at 2:41 PM. It turns out that Friday is amavasya, the dark moon night, which I guess is auspicious if you happen to be a Kali bhakta. We show up a few minutes early and wait in his courtyard. His house and temple are just next to the Radha-Govinda temple on the local river, so I have trouble breathing but dealt with it the best I could. The pujari shows up a bit late and is dressed up like a Hindi cinema actor: mustache, stylish hair, colorful windbreaker, and slacks. Seeing his appearance, I don't feel too hopeful. He immediately declares, "I know someone who has two pieces. They want 6,000 rupees for each." I don't know whether it was more astounding that this pujari would be brazen enough to try and sell a sila or that he would ask for so much! This guy looks as if he'd sell his mother's remains for Rs.6,000.

You see, these little temples sometimes accept silas from families who can no longer care for Them and they in turn receive a monthly donation for Their maintenance. I had visited one temple of Lord Balaram in North Calcutta last year that had very many Silas like that. It seems to be a bit of a business for them. Indeed the very reason why these people have a temple in front of their house is because this property really wasn't theirs at all; by establishing a deity here they wouldn't get kicked off the land. By the deities presence the land becomes Devata sampatti, God's property. It becomes difficult to remove the deity from such land according to local law and custom. I am somewhat disappointed, but I really couldn't expect much from a pujari who dresses like Amitabha Bacchan and kills goats in front of his temple. While taking darshan I even notice some mice running around the alter.

We also stopped at the Radha Govinda temple next door and asked for the temple council members. It turns out that one was in the lot next door playing poker with a group of cigarette smoking men. We asked him if they have a spare Sila that we could  worship (who would blame Him for wanting to leave this foul-smelling place where they slaughter chickens on the road in front of the temple and where they offer goats to Kali down the street!) and he suggested asking another council member who lives down the road.

It turned out that the other member isn't home so his daughter invited us into their simple house and called him on the telephone for us. I was a bit surprised that they have a phone. When we finally reached him he didn't say no, but would talk to us when he arrived in a few days. At this point mosquitoes were attacking my exposed skin with the precision of stealth bombers and my patience was wearing thin. The lady of the house motioned to a photo hanging directly behind my head I hadn't seen and said, "My Mother." I notice that next to that photo was a beautiful painting of Mahaprabhu, so I motioned to Him and said, "My father." She was so pleased by my comment that I felt confident that she would put in a good word for us.

Going to Nepal is out of the question at this point. A terrorist attack on the parliament building in New Delhi made matters only worse. I had come all the way from America and had really wanted to find a small Salagram sila to worship, so I figured that asking around was all I could do. I had worshipped Giriraja faithfully for sometime as He appeared to me first, but all I ever really wanted to worship was one small Salagram.

The day we left we accidentally lost the address and phone number of a friend in Calcutta who has been known to be very generous with salagram silas. Somehow it was lost while packing. I know of devotees in Mayapura I could maybe coerce to "donate" one (the old Chinese water-torture might do the trick) but there is no time to get to the Dhama on this short trip.

I was also really hoping to find and photograph the Kurma sila that was found while Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Bhakti Bhavan was being excavated. I found in The Seventh Goswami that the Bhakti Bhavan was on Ramesh Dutt Street, but is it still there? Where is the deity now? Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur - then Bimala Prasad - asked his glorious father if he could worship Kuramji and he was given permission to do so as well as the appropriate mantras, etc. He was only about ten years old at the time. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur also worshipped a Goverdhan Sila given to him by Srila Jagannatha das Babji at that spot. There is a black and white photo of that alter in the book, but you can't make much out of it. I really want to have their sacred darshan, but my contact, a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati who has an asrama not far from our house was wintering in Puri, so I will be unable to visit him. I guess that it's popular for elderly Gaudiya vaishnavas to migrate to Puri in the cold winter weather.

I had an old newspaper clipping from 6 or 7 years ago about a place just outside of Calcutta where a Damodar Sila has been worshipped for almost 500 years. Well, He was lost for about 200 years, but he was found and the puja was resumed. The temple there is known as the Path Bari and I figured that I could get there with out too much trouble. If I find it and photograph Him for the Sri Salagram Tirtha Pradarshini site, then maybe I could hit up Jaya Tirtha Carana Prabhu for a promotion and finally get that reserved parking spot he's been promising me. (Note: Hahaha You got it !!! JTCd =>:-))

Last night I dreamt of Salagrams...

One morning my Ma told me that she'd had a dream about a Salagram sila. I guess I had everyone in such a "Sila consciousness" they were seeing Them in their dreams. Appearantly she saw a Narasingadeva sila with golden ears. I told everybody that pyrite, fool's gold, on a salagram usually represents Laxmidevi and that it would be auspicious to find such a sila. A devotee I knew had gone to Muktinatha the previous Kartika and found a beautiful Varahadeva, a deity of whom I am very fond, as well as a small sila with a single footprint on it. Several devotees I know have silas like that and I always wanted to worship one. What was waiting for me that day was beyond my wildest expectations.

Many ISKCON members are devotees of Narasingadeva but for some reason I always liked Varaha. Why, I can't say. When I heard the story of the powerful sila of Varahadeva in Nabadwip. He demands sweet rice each and every day, and if He doesn't get it He gets very angry. And when Varahadeva gets angry, people get hurt. I just had to have His darshan so I contacted  the Sri Caitanya Sarasvat Math and made plans to visit there. While in Mayapura I had an unusual apprehension about going to Nabadwip. Although I have friends from that Math and I have always enjoyed Srila Sridhara Swami's transcendental books, I was feeling really weird about going to his temple. Maybe it was all the bad-mouthing I had heard about devotees "going across the river," as it is called in these parts, I don't know. It was totally subconscious - what could be wrong with having the darshan of a Salagram sila? Finally, the night before I was to go I had a beautiful dream. I saw that I took the launch from Mayapura to Nabadwip, but instead I arrived in Vrindabana! An effulgent young Brahmacari was waiting for me while sitting on a ghat (like at Kusum Sarovara) while chanting japa. As he saw me he stood and raised his arms in the air, saying, "Haribolo! Where have you been for so long? We have been waiting for you!"  I felt much better after that and we had a great time visiting Varahadeva's mandir the next day.

Varahadeva appears... and a legal dislaimer

That evening we had go to Kalighat to exchange a chaddar we'd bought for our maid; she didn't like the color. Picky, picky. While there we decided to ask around in a few shops if they had any salagrams. Sure enough, we were shown the usual assortment of bogus rocks. We really didn't think that we'd find anything here and weren't enthusiastic about "salagraming" like this, but we were here and thought it might be fun to see what turned up. Finally, at one large shop we decided to sit and smilingly demand to see a salagram sila. First they showed us the bogus ones - in several varieties - and then some rocks used for checking gold. We could even see some gold that had been rubbed off on them.

"We want real salagrams, with chakras on Them," we cheerfully demanded. Finally the owner pulled out a bag and withdrew a good sized stone, broken in two. As he opened it up, I could see a beautiful chakra inside. Finally, a real salagram sila! We saw many other silas there but They were all similarly broken. A sila that has been broken like that - to expose a hidden chakra -  is not forbidden to be worshipped, although it isn't the first choice. In some cases, if He is too broken then it is not recommended to worship Him. Virtually all of these had lost a bit too much of Their mojo to risk "buying," an idea that doesn't sit well with me in the first place. Nonetheless, I am happy to have had Their darshan.

We stopped by another decent-sized shop on the way back to main avenue, where we could find a taxi. We asked if they had any real Narayana silas and we were whisked in the shop to see another collection. The store owner brought out a plastic box and began to pull out a variety of silas. He claimed that they were from Damodar Kund in Nepal. They were obviously real silas, but many were also cracked open roughly. Some were still whole but had little in the way of markings and were too large to bring back.  Again, we were happy to have had Their darshan, but desisted from "buying" any.

As I exited the shop, from the corner of my eye I noticed several small silas in a glass case on the side walk. I asked to see them and the employee who sits out there showed me four very small silas. Three were without any marking whatsoever and really tiny. One, however, was slightly larger and something  interesting about Him. I couldn't make anything out at the time, but I just felt that He had to come with me. The employee said that He was 35 rupees, but the shopkeeper was demanding 300! This put me in a bind as one should never "buy" a sila. What to do? I had just spent $1,500.00 on a plane ticket, I had no way to get to Nepal, and no real prospects of fulfilling my desire to worship a salagram sila. For some reason, I just knew that this little sila had to come home with me. How could I leave Him behind?

Finally, I gave a donation somewhere in between the two figures they were asking. I put the money on the counter and fervently prayed to the Lord not to take any offense. Unfortunately these shop keepers are not so pious as to donate anything, nor would they agree to barter; they only know cash. In Kathmandu, where I hear that super-markets even have gum-ball machines full of Salagrams, one might get away with something like that, but not here. I prayed to Krishna not to see any fault in my actions with my head to the floor a dozen times that day. The "donation" I gave was just for the service of bringing Him all the way from Nepal. If He had been sent by DHL, do you think that they would've delivered Him for free? If I flew to Nepal would I not have to pay for a plane ticket?

One cannot purchase the Lord for any price. He appears by His own sweet will. Calcutta has always been an important place in my life - it was the first city I had visited in India, I was married there (unfortunately divorced there as well), and I can't seem to keep away from it - so it seemed somehow appropriate to have found this beautiful sila here. I do not recommend trying to obtain a sila by the method I just described. I am already going to hell for far worse offenses, so I am not that worried for myself. If I go to hell, so be it, but I could not leave that sila there in a glass case on nasty Kali Ghat Temple road.

When I got home and bathed Him I then saw a little - and I mean tiny - footprint on His underside. He also had a sloping face with a snout underneath, He was Varahadeva! My deity had appeared to me! He is only 7/8 of an inch tall and absolutely beautiful. I truly feel that He kept me from getting to Nepal as it was His plan for me to find Him there and take Him home. Sort of a spine-tingling, Twilight Zone kind of feeling ran through me as I realized the implications of that.

If any cynics out there disagree with how Varahadeva came to me, I have a suggestion for you: don't follow in my footsteps (and if you did follow them to Kalighat, be especially careful what you step on). Also, don't break a fingernail typing any hate-mail to this website as we are well familiar with the Skanda Puranas warning against trying to purchase a sila. Better you spend your time more productively by chanting your rounds. People who waste time writing mean letters on the internet obviously don't chant sixteen rounds a day. The Skanda Purana warning is to protect us from affecting a mundane, fault-finding attitude towards the Lord. It is hard enough to have faith that a small fossil-like stone is directly the body of God, examining Him for faults and putting a price on Him would only exacerbate such a faulty mentality. It is a matter of consciousness, and I never felt that my sila was only worth whatever I gave for Him. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead incarnate (in'stone'ate!) and the cause of all causes. He seems to be pleased with me and accepts my humble worship. I really don't think that He minded a small donation to get Him out of that glass case so that I can bath Him, decorate Him, offer scents, flowers, Tulasi, etc. everyday.  I honestly believe that He wanted me to come by and pick Him up, otherwise how could I have found the exact sila I had hoped for here in Calcutta, of all places, and out of such a small selection? I didn't even know that there was such a thing as a tiny Varaha sila with a foorprint on His pith.

And then there were three

On the way out of there I realized that I needed some eyes with which to decorate the sila. We found one store that had nice eyes and they also had some bogus silas in a basket in front of their shop. Upon asking they also produced a small cardboard bow and took out a lovely sila. He was also broken in two and held together with a rubber band. Inside was a nice chakra and I saw a few markings on His surface. The two pieces together somehow looked right together. Like in some movie where two pieces of some ancient artifact are joined together and they make a hieroglyphic that answers some riddle or something. Actually, they do - joined together one can see a flower garland that wraps around one end.

This store owner was a bit more understanding and although his price was very high, he agreed that the sila was "Bhagavaner jineesh" (literally "God's things." Although not exactly correct; He IS God - but close enough anyway) and accepted a donation. While looking at this sila, one other customer in this small store full of deity paraphernalia was amazed to see the chakra inside the sila. She said that her family had one sila that they had been worshipping for 40 years but had never seen a chakra on one. "Never in my life have I seen such a thing," was all she could keep saying. They were also surprised that a salagram could be found in Kalighat, so I explained that couldn't get to Nepal at the moment and everyone agreed  that it wouldn't be safe for me to go now. Before I left the US, the State Department issued a public warning against going to Nepal. I would still go in a minute, but my family would leave there bodies if they knew I was there.

Feeling quite content, we decide to throw caution to the wind and take a tram, an auto rickshaw, and a bicycle rickshaw home.

I was really amazed by how Krishna had appeared to me like that. Indeed, I felt his blessings all throughout my trip. We were able to visit the holy site of  the Path Bari, which happens to be located in a place historically known as "Varaha" nagar, although nowadays people usually just call it Boronagar. The sila there was just beautiful and knowing that He had been worshipped 500 years ago by a direct disciple of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was pretty cool. The deities there are also very historic and special, but the association of the nice devotees was really the best part.

We didn't bother asking the local temple for any silas as we figured that if They were happy there then better not to disturb. I have friends back home who were really anxious to receive some silas as well, but I didn't come across any more on this trip. I wouldn't give away Varahdeva for the world and Giriraj has been my Prananatha for some time so He stays with out question.

The Lord is so merciful to me

We had a really inconvenient flight schedule back to the US. We had to leave the house at 4:15 AM and fly to New Delhi and then spend the entire day there. Our flight out wasn't until 3:00 AM the next morning so it was going to be a long and difficult day in transit. We did some shopping there and spent time at the guest house of some friends of the family. While trying to get some sleep I kept hearing wedding parties go by. The sound of the instruments and revelry would echo into my room and was keeping me from getting any sleep. At one point I was particularly disturbed by  one party that just wouldn't stop. Finally, I noticed that they were chanting, "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna..." so I put my hat on and ran out the door. Two blocks away I found Lord Jaganatha sitting atop his chariot along with his brother, Baladeva, and sister Subhadra. Srila Prabhupada was riding along with them, too. I offered my obeisances in the dust and dirt, grabbed ahold of the rope, and jumped up and down to the kirtan. After a few minutes the carts stopped and aroti began, so I was able to have the Lord's darshan for some time before having to find my way back to the house.  I was so happy to have been blessed by the wonderful site of the Lord that all of the inconveniences of traveling just seemed to disappear.


While waiting at the airport I met many devotees, including one sannyasi who would be flying with us back to the west. We were given some fantastic prasad sweets from Vrindaban as well. The flight went smoothly with Giriraja and his New Friends along with me and I was so thankful that They had appeared to this fallen wretch. Oh, and on the grueling 10 our flight from Frankfurt to Atlanta I got to see the end of that Woody Allen movie. It was pretty good, too.

Adventures in Calutta 2001 - Pilrimage to Path Bari:
- Just some history:

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