„Wow! What a mystical place!“ is what I thought when I arrived at the Temple of Gopaljiu at Gadeigiri, somewhere in the rural areas of Odisha, India (1). It was already dark and the huge temple in the midst of this small village looked to me like a transcendental spaceship in the starry sky. The many glowworms buzzing around the large palm trees enchanted the atmosphere even more. It was January 2002, and I knew this would be my new home for the next 12 months. It turned out to be the best year of my life, and Gadeigiri has remained my spiritual home until today. Why has this place become so dear to me? Here are three reasons: The powerful presence of Sadhus, the focus on Bhagavat-Katha and the loving worship of Gopaljiu.
Sadhu Sanga: I was a young devotee, not yet initiated and still doubtful about accepting a spiritual master. I was not sure as to why I should accept someone as my authority. This changed once I stayed in Gadeigiri. After only about two weeks, it was clear to me that there was nothing else that I needed more than to accept a guru. Srila Gour Govinda Swami's presence is very strong in this place. There is the room where Maharaja used to stay, and there is a daily guru puja dedicated to him and guru tattva is discussed at every lecture. When I asked Caitanya Candra Prabhu, the Temple President of Gadeigiri, whether he thinks I am ready for disksa, he looked at me with compassion and said: „Only one who is very fortunate, after travelling through many species of life on the wheel of samsara is coming in contact with a sadhu. Certainly, you should not wait any longer. If you get a chance to surrender your life to a true sadhu, you should do it immediately, without hesitation“ I understood it and soon after that took shelter at the lotus feet of my spiritual master. (2)
Bhagavata-Katha: The central activity in Gadeigiri is sravanam, hearing Srimad Bhagavatam. Following his Gurudeva, H.G. Caitanya Chandra Prabhu speaks Krishna-Katha for 2-3 hours daily. His speech is very potent, full of wisdom and realizations. He himself had listened directly from the lips of his Gurudev for a long time. For the last 25 years, he has simply repeated the words of his spiritual master. Here are some of the jewels that I gathered from his katha during my last visit during the winter of 2022:
„Nothing in this material world can give me happiness - Sadhus know this mantra. If someone is connected to the Supreme Truth, he will not desire any sense-gratification. Sadhu means giving all enjoyment to Krishna! He always thinks: ‚how can I give pleasure to Krishna?’“
„The real meaning of sadhu-sanga is developing love for sadhu! guhyam ākhyāti pṛcchati. Confidential things we cannot tell to everyone. We speak to our wife, and to our friends about confidential things. Why? Because we have love for them. But how much can they help us? Why are we not able to open our hearts to sadhu? Because we have never developed love for sadhu! We are keeping distant from sadhu. But only sadhu can help us! Unless our heart is not completely open, we cannot serve Krishna!“
„If we go away from Guru's lotus feet for a moment, forgetfulness will be there, and we will sleep in the lap of maya! (..) Maya will come in many ways, but one will not become weak if one is surrendered! The merciful hands are over his head. Sadhu kripa, guru kripa. No one can change him because he has merciful hands on his head!“
„We should put a strong sadhu in our heart! If you invite a sadhu to take place in your heart, he will not allow you to give up seva for Krishna. We need a strong personality to guide us. By the sadhu's mercy we will know that Krishna is to be served!“
This brings us the third reason why Gadeigiri is such a special place. The Worship of Gopal: Gopaljiu was the ista-deva murti of Srila Gour Govinda Swami and is known for being very active. When I had my first darshan, I looked at the beautiful form of Gopal and was struck with wonder, thinking, „Oh my God! He is alive! This murti is not just an idol; He is really present!“ The beauty of this place is that all the devotees really have devotion to the Lord. Everyone is truly Gopal Conscious. Everyone knows that Gopaljiu is the supreme controller in this place, and nothing happens without His sanction. Many amazing festivals are celebrated for the pleasure of Gopal and He is truly the central point of attraction. To be part of such a community where everything is centered around giving pleasure to Krishna was an amazing experience. It's not surprising that Srila Gour Govinda Swami called this place Gupta-Vrindavan, the hidden Vrindavana, as Vrindavana is the place where everyone loves Krishna.
It was more than 20 years ago that I had stayed in Gadeigiri. Originally I wanted to return and spend at least 5-10 years in Gadeigiri, but my Gurudev called me back to Zurich. Before I left, Caitanya Candra Prabhu, who to this day still serves as the Temple President and has been one of my main siksa gurus for all these years, told me „You should spread the Glories of Gopaljiu; that will be pleasing to Gurudev!“ I guess this blog is a humble attempt to do so.
Check out the video and pictures attached to this text, and next time you are in Odisha, do not forget to visit Gopal, you will not regret it, I guarantee you! Sri Sri Radha Gopaljiu ki jaya!
1 — Gadeigiri is a small village surrounded by rice fields and palm trees where you can still find mud huts with thatched roofs, traditional paintings on the walls and Tulasi plants in front of every home. The residents live a very simple life and have been devotees of the local deity Sri Sri Radha Gopalju for many generations. Gopal was originally worshipped in Vrindavana till he appeared in a dream and told his pujari to bring him to Orissa. For more than 250 years, Gopal has been worshipped here by the local devotees with love and devotion. One of Gopal's devotees was Braja-Bandhu Manik, who served Him from early childhood. By age eight, he had already read the entire Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita and Caitanya Caritamrita, and the local villagers would come in the evenings to hear Krishna Katha from the small boy. This boy would later become known as Srila Gour Govinda Swami, a pure devotee and disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Attracted by Srila Goura Govinda Swami's teachings, I came here to get Sadhu Sanga and hear Krishna Katha. Although Srila Gour Govinda Swami left this world in 1998 ( I did not meet Maharaja personally), I still got the association of H.G. Caitanya Chandra Prabhu, a very intimate disciple of Srila Gour Govinda Swami, who serves today as an initiation Guru in ISKCON himself.
2 — I received initiation in December 2002 from H.H. Bhakti Svarupa Damodar Swami.