I don’t know what the old name of Gandhi Marg was, I seem to recall it being known as Kathia Baba Ashram Road. That is because Kathia Baba was the first to build an ashram here, and now there are so many, mostly built after 1900. There is of course a lot of new stuff being built along here, especially the closer you get to Bihariji and Vidyapeeth Chauraha.
I was just cycling along, looking for billboards to photograph, when I noticed this building and the sign on the outside.
This is the International Panchadash Nami Juna Akhada. I had never seen this before. The building is obviously much older, so I was curious and went in.
Don’t much care for the sign, though. In the past one made the main entry nondescript, the inside would be much more delightful. The new sign on the outside serves a purpose no doubt, but not an aesthetic one.
On the outside is a plaque which says in Hindi and Urdu “This dharma shala and garden were built by Bibi Daiyan in Samvat 1962, i.e., 1905. On the other side a newer plaque says the place is now the Gopal Nishkam Seva Samsthan (“Gopal Charitable Service Organization”) founded by Nagaji Devananda Saraswati, who was the adopted son of Dilliwali Bibi Daiyan. His disciple was Mangalananda Saraswati. This plaque indicates also that the place was known as Dilliwali Bagicha.
This is what it looks like coming in. Unfortunately the bagicha is not in such good shape.
I met with Swami Rudra Giri, who gave me a nice lecture on brahmacharya, the wonders of jnana and verses from the Gita. I asked about his tilak, which he said was his Naga sampradaya. I told him that I had recently met Pilot Baba, who is in the Juna Akhada and so we had a nice conversation. He says he can also go into samadhi for 24 hours buried alive. I asked him about his bhajan. He said he used to go into the jungle, such as in UP, far from human habitation. I asked him about food and he said he could live for up to a year without food. He has been a phalahari for the last 12 years.
I asked him what brought him here. Apparently Mangalananda Saraswati was a Mahamandaleshwar of the Juna Akhada. Since he had no one to take over after his death, he left it in his will to the Akhada. This happened six months ago. Rudra Giri was dispatched here by the Akhada to act as Mahant. According to Giri Maharaj, there are about 15 ashrams, etc., in Vrindavan that are directly or indirectly related to Juna. Giri Maharaj told me he is originally from MP, left home at the age of 9 to join a Swami’s ashram. He came to Vrindavan for the first time when very young, and many times since. So he enjoys the assignment and has no plans to move out.
After talking with Giri Maharaj, I came out to see this colorful bunch of young Juna sadhus doing a bit of tirth visiting. I asked them how they liked Vrindavan, one of them started dancing and said, “I am Bihariji’s nagari!” They are headed back to Haridwar tonight.
The original building is very pretty.
Sri Mangalananda Saraswati.
Paramahamsa Ashram. The building is undergoing refurbishment. This belongs to the Udasin Sampradaya, i.e., is related to the Karshni Udasin sect in Gokul, Raman Reti.
Guests hanging out waiting for lunch.
This is some of the marble work going on on the outside street side.
This is the unimposing entrance to the famous Bihariji Bagicha. I have never wandered around in here. They don’t let people in very much.
This is a view from the entryway.
Another view. But the area is quite large. This does not give a good idea.
This is the guy who wouldn’t let me in.
Next door to the Bagicha is a small Nimbarki ashram. This is the Mahant, Sri Krishna Sharan Devacharya. He is also involved with the Nimbark Sanskrit Vidyalaya across the street.
Nimbark Sanskrit Vidyalaya.
This is Pracharya Kanhailal Jha. I was interested because Jha is a name associated with Mithila and the previous Pracharyas here have all been from Mithila. Dr. Jha schooled me a bit on the Nimbarka sampradaya. Shriji Maharaj of Salemabad is only the acharya of one of twelve “dwar peeths” descending from the 12 disciples of Harivyas Devacharya.
I asked him about the strength of the Nimbark Sampradaya in Mithila. He said it used to be mostly Gaudiya, but Radhe Shyam Dasji, who is also the founder of the Maithili Kunj on the Parikrama Marg, made a big impact in the last century.
Dear sadhus on the Parikrama Marg.
More photos can be found here.