Vrindavan, 2017.09.12 (VT): Shri Rasbihari Das Kathiya Baba’s 84 Krosh Braj Mandal Parikrama party arrived in Kosi on Monday. The residents of Kosi welcomed the thousands of Sadhus at the Ramlila Maidan with a shower of flower petals. The sadhus were offered breakfast and the town’s merchants took the opportunity to honor them with gifts like gamchas, metal plates, and so forth.
Shri Rasbihari Das Kathiya Baba is the current Mahant of the Kathiya Baba sect, which is a branch of the Nimbark Sampraday, and the parikrama led by him is perhaps the oldest and most colourful of such events in Braj. Shri Rasbihari Dasji himself has been leading the yatra for more than thirty years.
An estimated 3,000 sadhus participate in the yearly pilgrimage, which begins on the ekadashi after Janmashtami and continues for 42 days, ending on Durga Puja.
Shri Nagaji Maharaj’s Dreadlocks and the History of Braj Mandal Parikrama
The Nimbarki tradition of 84-Krosh Braj Mandal Parikrama was initiated about 500 years ago by the 34th Acharya in the Kathiya Babas’ lineage, Shri Chatur Chintamani Devacharya, also known as Shri Nagaji Maharaj.
Shri Nagaji Maharaj lived in Vrindavan as a renounced sage, performing intense spiritual practice with the hope of attaining a divine vision of Shri Radha and Krishna. When he did not get the desired result after long and hard efforts, he decided to retire to the Himalayas.
But as Nagaji Maharaj was just beginning his journey, his jata (dreadlocks) became tangled in a thorny bush at Kadam Khandi near Barsana. He was unable to move.
Unwilling to wrangle with the thorn tree after already wrangling so much with his sadhana, Baba simply remained standing without any food and water for three days.
On the fourth day, Shri Krishna himself came and said, “Baba! Why are you just standing here like this?”
“Lala, can’t you see I am stuck?” said Nagaji Maharaj.
“Oh yes! You are really stuck! What a pity,” said Krishna with a grin. “But why don’t you untangle yourself?” Baba remained silent.
“Shall I help you?” asked Shri Krishna.
“No! Lala, don’t touch me!” said Nagaji Maharaj. “I know that only the One who has bound me can release me.”
“Baba, who has bound you?”
“Shri Krishna himself has bound me.”
“Well then Baba, you are in luck, for I am Shri Krishna!”
“I don’t believe you,” said Baba. “There are so many boys in Vrindavan with yellow clothes and peacock feathers who play flutes. How do I know you are the one and only Shri Krishna? I will only accept that you are Krishna when Radharani Herself comes here and bears witness.”
“Ok, Baba! So be it.”
Shri Krishna went and brought Radharani, and she bore witness saying, “Yes! He is my beloved Shri Krishna and no one else!” Then Nagaji Maharaj allowed Radha and Krishna to untangle his hair from the tree. Gazing upon the beauty of Shri Radha with Krishna at her side, Nagaji Maharaj was filled with love. Tears rolled from his eyes. With more affection than a million mothers, Radharani fed Baba and made him drink with her own lotus hands.
Shri Krishna made Nagaji Maharaj promise never to leave Vrindavan again, which he agreed to on the following conditions:
- Each family of Braj should give half their sons to the sadhus.
- Each family of Braj should give half the amount of milk it collects to the sadhus.
Shri Nagaji Maharaj later began a tradition of yearly Braj Mandal Parikrama. To this day, during the pilgrimage the sadhus engage in a mock fight with the Braj ladies to claim their share of the milk, in honor of Shri Krishna’s promise to Nagaji Maharaj.
The Bhakt Maal describes Shri Nagaji Maharaj as a devotee of the highest order. It is said that, although the 84-Krosh Parikrama takes a month and a half for normal devotees, Shri Nagaji was able to perform the whole parikrama in a single day due to his supernatural powers. He was also a wonderful singer, and used to give great joy to the Brajwasis with his songs full of devotion.
To this day the Braj Mandal Parikrama led by the Kathiya Baba sect is a source of great joy for the residents of Braj. The 54th Acharya of the Kathiya Baba lineage, Shri Ramdas Kathiya Baba, once said that “Anyone who participates in the 84-Braj Mandal Parikrama will be released from the cycle of birth and death.”
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