A Day Serving Krishna’s Cows in Vraja
Posted June 24, 2011
Some of the beautiful calves and cows of Vrindavan.
Padma dasi, a very dear friend of mine and a sincere devotee for many years, visited Sri Vrindavan Dham during Kartik last year. She arrived a day after the much-celebrated Gopastami festival.
As we made our way to the ISKCON goshala that afternoon, I described to her our Gopastami festival, where our Srimati Radharani is dressed as the cowherd boy Subal, and how at this time Her devotees relish the sweet darshan of Her lotus feet — the only time in the year except at Radhastami.
On this wonderful day, also, Their Lordships Krsna and Balaram visit Their cows at the goshala, riding on a palanquin, led by the vibrant chanting and dancing of the devotees. You can't help noticing Their appreciative smiles as They examine Their calves, bulls and cows. The whole day devotees are plunged into an ecstasy of dramas, lectures, exotic prasadam and go-seva.
Padma prabhu was really sorry for having missed the festival. I asked her what she thought about the Supreme Personality of Godhead appearing as a cowherd boy in Vraja.
Nursing calves in the goshala need milk too.
"Come to think about it, it never struck me as something important; I just took it for granted, you know. It's in all of Prabhupada's lectures, books and purports. It's there, and it's something I accepted without much thought."
What she said next shocked me. "What to speak of realizing Krsna as a cowherd boy, I have never touched a cow in my life. I have been to Vrindavan a few times, but between my kids, the husband, their getting sick, the morning program, parikramas, Loi Bazaar and the MVT restaurant, there was no time for the cows. We often saw the stray cows, but my kids were too scared to go anywhere near them.
"I know I should have spared some time to visit the goshala, for them to get used to the cows, but we never had enough time. Today will be my first visit, and without my family I should feel guilty, but somehow I don't. My mom is taking good care of them. Thank you very much for bringing me," she said.
"It's only fair, then, that I should introduce you to the bliss of serving Krsna's cows, and you'll have an inkling of why the Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared as a cowherd boy."
"I am the humble servant of Krsna's cows; please lead the way!" Padma said laughingly.
A hoof will do for scratching an itch.
As we entered our ISKCON goshala, the smell of cow dung, cow urine and freshly cropped grass filled the air. A few cowherd women were busy picking up cow dung in a metal pan; a few young boys were washing the cowsheds with buckets of water, and elsewhere the cowherd men were leading the bulls out of the sheds into the sunshine. Over the loudspeakers, Prabhupada's sweet bhajans played in the background.
I watched the happy look on my friend's face and gave her the first assignment: "Please take that pan from this woman, and go to that part of the barn and fill it up with cow dung."
With an amazed look on her face, she turned to me. "You can't be serious!" she said. After I had given her a practical demonstration, though, she went down on her knees and picked up her first handful of cow dung. And in no time she had the pan filled up; she then carried it on her head and took it to the area where it would be made into cow-dung cakes. She was having so much fun. Sitting among the ladies who were already making them, she made over a dozen cow-dung cakes.
Next we got buckets and filled them with fresh, sweet water, and she carried them to every cow in the shed. It was tiring, for she was not one to do menial labour. "Keeping a maid has made me lazy," she quipped, as she placed the bucket next to Jamuna, a beautiful white cow who had giveb birth a week ago. Her udders full, Jamuna drank up all the water and mooed for more.
Giving her back a massage, she panted, "Could I take a break now?"
"Sure," I replied. We went over to where the baby calves were kept. There were about five of them huddled together enjoying the sunshine. That did it; she crouched down, picked up Jamuna's calf, placed him on her lap and began caressing and kissing him. Every time he jolted back, she held him tighter.
"You are soooo beautiful, eh, sooo beautiful!" And beautiful he was, white as snow except for his forehead and the tip of his tail, which has a sprinkling of brown. She looked at me, "He is mine! I want to take him home, my boys will love him."
"Of course you can take him home — in your heart. And photos should suffice for your boys, till you bring them to Vrindavan," I said.
"Can't believe the fun I am having. It's like another world."
"It is another world," I said.
After much hesitation, she put the calf down. "Give him a name," I said. She looked up at me, surprised. "Gosh! I can name him, too! Okay, I will call him Jamuna Priya. I will never forget him."
"All right, it's time to feed laddus to the cows," I said.
"Oh, wonderful! Let's get those laddus."
After we got a basket full of laddus, she wanted to know what they were made of. "Jaggery and coarse wheat," I said.
"They smell yummy; are they good for human consumption?" she asked jokingly. She went around feeding the cows and big calves laddus, and at one time she let out a scream, "They have teeth! One just bit me!"
I examined her fingers, "You got the mercy," I said, "and millions of your sinful activities have been destroyed. You will be okay."
"Oh, really, and how does that work?" she questioned.
"You see, the 33 million demigods live in the bodies of these cows, especially these ones with the silky-soft skin folds at the neck, lotus eyes and the huge hump on the back. Also residing in their bodies are the nine planets. Remember that time when you sent me an e-mail saying me that your husband was in his 'Saturn period'?"
"Yes, I never knew this. So instead of doing this and all the other things — my mother-in-law insisted I do the Shiva puja, the Durga puja and read the Hanuman Chalisa — we could have just worshipped Go-mata. Why didn't you tell me?"
"At that time I was also not aware of the importance of worshipping Krsna's cows. It's only by their causeless mercy that I can render some service to them," I replied, then prompted: "It's getting closer to milking time. We have a few minutes left; let's go brush Luxman, my favorite bull. He sometimes brings Krsna-Balaram's milk to the temple."
We went over to Luxman, a huge copper-red bull lying with the other bulls under the pipal trees. As soon as he saw us he got up and held his head up high. I pulled out from my bag a special brush with firm bristles to brush Luxman. "Krishna! He is such a big bull. You sure he will not toss me back to my hellish country?" she joked, staying a little distance away.
"Not at all. He is the gentlest and sweetest of all the bulls in the goshala," I said, as I began brushing Luxman under the neck, on his back, the hump, between his horns, his head. He loved it.
Seeing how much he was enjoying the brushing, my friend grabbed the brush from my hands saying: "Come on, give me the brush. You are too slow. Luxman wants a full body brush. I am expert in these things, having a husband and two sons, you know."
I laughed as she got into the swing of brushing Luxman. The bull loved it so much that he practically fell asleep while standing up, and after some time he sat down and dozed off, though not before she put a couple of laddus in his enormous mouth.
Hugging me as we went to the milking pen, my friend, with tears in her eyes. said: "Thank you. I never knew cows could be such lovable, sweet and gentle animals. No wonder Krsna loved them so much. I cannot in my wildest dreams ever think I would ever feel so much happiness and be closer to Krsna."
"It's not over yet; you have to milk at least one cow, and then we will together relish the chanting of the Lord's holy name amongst the cows," I said. As we entered the milking pen, the cowherd men had the milking cows' back legs tied with ropes, and into a silver pail fell thick, creamy white milk. As they gently pressed the udders between their thumbs and forefingers, continuous streams of frothy milk fell into the pails.
My friend could contain herself no longer; she squatted besides Shyam, the cowherd boy. He gave her a crimson smile and taught her how to milk Kalindi. At first Kalindi protested a bit, but after repeated attempts my friend finally milked her first cow. It was a historic moment for her. She was jubilant; she danced, gave me repeated hugs, kissed Kalindi and hugged Shyam as well!
As the milking went on, we sat under the kadamba tree, surrounded by Krsna's beloved cows. With our minds fixed on the Lord's holy name, we chanted five rounds. "This is the best japa I ever did, and everything seems so mystical and pure. It seems as if I am in another time zone. Actually it seems as if I am closer to Krsna, a truly unbelievable experience, something to relish, cherish and keep locked away in the heart.
"We lead such hectic lives, 24-7. It's about work, money, keeping house, seeing to the kids, pleasing the in-laws. My husband just had a promotion, and we hardly see him. I make it to the temple on Sundays, but it's not enough. I want to do more. What can I do? Please tell me what I can do for the cows," she said, looking at me.
I smiled, gave her a hug and told her to share her experience with others. Just as the holy names are non-different from Krsna, He can never be separated from His beloved cows in Vraja. "Also promote go-seva amongst your friends and family members, and support this project according to your means."
"I will," she said. As we made our way back to the temple, she picked up a dried cow-dung patty and put it in her bag. Looking at me, she said: "For memories, and for purifying my home and heart."
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