Chakra Living

Aradhya devi dasi: A Cowherd Girl for Krishna's Cows

by Hare Krsna dasi

Posted November 11, 2004

I was broken hearted to read the recent article about the passing of Her Grace Aradhya devi dasi. The article written by Madan Mohan Mohini dasi was quite moving and beautiful, and I'm so grateful to her for the great effort it must have taken to write it. I was encouraged to hear from Karnamrta that his wife Arcana will be writing an article for BTG as well.

Still, I would like to add something from my perspective, because I'm afraid people are not aware of what a great loss we suffer with Aradhya prabhu's passing. I met Aradhya and her husband Pitavasa at Gita-nagari on Lord Nrsimhadeva's appearance day in 1989. At Gita-nagari, Nrsimha's Appearance was a special festival, because whenever possible, that was the day we let the cows out on fresh pasture for the first time -- so it was extra festive. Anyway, after I read Chakra article, I was surprised to realize that this was the only occasion on which we had actually met face-to-face or even spoken with each other, because over the years we had so many exchanges, all centered around Krsna's cows.

At that time she and her husband were living at New Mayapura in France, and taking care of the cows there. They put me in contact with the famous French ox power equipment inventor, Jean Nolle. In this rustic genius inventor, they had found a kindred soul. "Do in this life all that God wants. You may not know why, but God knows," he said.

Pitavas and Aradhya lamented how Bhagavan Swami had squandered the best chance to develop cow protection and ox power at New Mayapur. "His followers were giving him gold watches and expensive sweaters. They would have done anything for him. If he had said, 'I have no use for gold watches -- the most precious luxury that I desire is to see that Radha-Paris Isvara eat only grains produced by protected bulls,'-- then they would have provided that, but he wasted the chance." The vision and intelligence behind such a critique impressed me.

Later, when Vyapaka prabhu and I started producing Hare Krsna Rural Life, we were able to persuade Aradhya to contribute several articles. ISKCON has had a number of good writers on rural topics, but I think that Aradhya was the very best. I regret that ISKCON has not seen more of her writing. Her works were full of sparkling insights and sensitive observations and charming farm humor. By reading them, you could really see why Krsna loves to take care of cows. She brought the whole scene to life. She revealed the fun and wonder of it all.

I've taken the time to re-type 3 articles which appeared in Hare Krsna Rural Life, and I'm hoping that Chakra can reprint them in the days ahead. Each article has a different mood. They seem especially appropriate as we approach Govardhana Puja and Go Puja and celebrate Krsna's pastimes with the cows.

In her life, Aradhya undertook one of the most difficult services: supportive wife of one of Krsna's cowherds. Along with Balabhadra and Chaya, and Satyabhama and Paramananda, Pitavasa and Aradhya provide one of those rare examples in ISKCON of a husband and wife team who worked incredibly hard to promote cow protection -- especially in its most thankless aspect: working the oxen.

Due to various circumstances, New Mayapura owed back taxes to the French government. The government thought that the best way to get the money would be simply to confiscate New Mayapura's cows and sell them to slaughter. So Pitavas and Aradhya had to make arrangements to hide them and care for them on various other farms until the whole situation could be worked out. This was a very difficult endeavor, but finally in 1994 they were able to bring the cows back to New Mayapur. Aradhya relates the joyous event in one of the HKRL articles.

Still, taking care of the cows was difficult work, and many devotees had a hard time understanding the relationship between cows and Krsna consciousness. They didn't realize that it was an intimate form of bhakti, and they certainly couldn't see it as a form of preaching. In one letter Aradhya related how mystified they were that she would want to be involved in such activity, "People asked me, 'why is a nice girl like you cleaning out cow barns? Wouldn't you rather be doing puja or preaching?'"

Finally, in 1997, after a winter of many trials, their house at New Mayapur burnt down. Aradhya's family was from the U.S. and eventually, they moved to North Carolina, so they could send their daughter to be educated in Urmila prabhu's gurukula. But even then, Pitavas continued to work to send money to the cows in France, and fought the GBC when they tried to the sell land out from under the cows.

Not every wife would have allowed her husband to spend the family's meager income this way, but Aradhya dasi had no separate agenda from her husband. She was fully engaged in supporting the service that he felt called to do, even though it involved so many great sacrifices. After receiving one account of a particularly devastating chain of events they had just suffered in their efforts to protect the cows, I replied to her, "Anyway, regardless of the great trials you are being put through, you can be sure that Prabhupada and Krsna appreciate your sacrifice -- and in the end you will obtain the greatest Reward."

I just wish it hadn't come so soon.


Photo: Aradhya dasi's beloved Sri Sri Radha-Paris Isvara deities.
Credit: Back to Godhead magazine 1982.