Chapter 25 – The Kumbha-Mela

…You have got all the blessings of Krsna. You are so nice faithful servant of Krsna, surely you will be successful…
—Letter from AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

A letter also arrived from Srila Prabhupada inviting Gour Govinda Swami to the Kumbha-Mela:

6th January 1977

My dear Gaura Govinda

Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated 2/1/77 and have noted the contents carefully.

We shall arrange for one man to oversee the construction. That will be supplied. You have got all the blessings of Krsna. You are so nice faithful servant of Krsna, surely you will be successful.

Come to the Kumbha-Mela where I am going on the 11th instant and we shall talk in detail. Then with you I shall return to Bhubaneswar and start immediately the work. You can stay with us for four or five days at Kumbha mela, then we shall go with you. Arrange for that. You can book one compartment for four of us from Allahabad to Bhubaneswar for the 17th or 18th.

Before coming to Allahabad you can go to see one professor. His name is Dr. Bansidhar Mohanty. He is in the department of Oriya at Utkal University in Bhubaneswar. He has got one manuscript of Srimad-Bhagavatam that he wants to show me. You can see him and see also this manuscript. You can inform him of my coming there and ask him to come to see me at that time. When you come to Allahabad you can inform me about the manuscript.

Hoping this will meet you in good health.

Your ever well-wisher,

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

The kumbha mela is held in Allahabad. The Magha-mela occurred every year, but according to astrological calculations, a more auspicious occasion came every twelve years; and every twelfth Kumbha-Mela (an event that occurred every 144 years) was especially auspicious. The mela happens at the Triveni, which is the name given to the place where three holy rivers of India meet: The Sarasvati, the Ganges and the Yamuna.

This year was one of the great melas and the government of India was predicting an attendance of twelve million people at the confluence of the holy rivers near Allahabad. Srila Prabhupada had told Gour Govinda Swami that he should go and that he would meet him there.

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: Prabhupada said, “I am going to the Kumbha-Mela; from there I will go to Orissa. Are you coming to the Kumbha-Mela?” I said, “Yes; definitely I must go, because I will bring you to Orissa.” So I went to the Kumbha-Mela. Such biting cold, yes, the winter season. I went there. All were sleeping on some sand and some straw, spreading more straw mat to sleep on; so biting cold, very cold.

That was how Gour Govinda Maharaja went to the Kumbha-Mela at Allahabad to see Srila Prabhupada. He was a great scholar, yet in spite of this and of the fact that he had great intelligence, he came before his Guru Maharaja very humbly to submit the translation he was doing to ask questions about whether the translation was correct or not. He explained to Srila Prabhupada how, when he was doing his translation work from English into Oriya, some of the English words had no direct translation into Oriya. He explained how he looked at the words in English and tried to explain them in his own words, but because he was not sure if there might be some mistake in doing that, he wanted Srila Prabhupada’s instruction on this point.

Srila Prabhupada said to him, “Yes, I do it like that. Sometimes I can’t find the exact word from Sanskrit into English so I just try to understand the meaning of the acaryas and explain it in my own words. As long as you get the message across then that is parampara—own words. You are doing as I am doing. That is the right thing.”

Even though he was so learned and in fact was doing the ‘right thing’ according to his guru, he still asked for permission from his guru. That was his humility. He never thought himself too intelligent; he would always ask the permission of his spiritual master—he was very humble. Even though at school and college he had majored in English and Sanskrit, and knew many languages, he submitted himself very humble before his spiritual master.

At the Kumbha-Mela, the weather was bitterly cold, and for the people who slept in the open, it was impossible to keep warm.

Devotee: The devotees got very sick this time.

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: Yes, there was only a nice tent for Prabhupada; some heater was there, otherwise no heat at all, so cold!

Whilst at the Kumbha-Mela, Srila Prabhupada instructed his secretary to make arrangements to go to Calcutta and then on to Bhubaneswar. The secretary and asked him for the money for the train fares for Srila Prabhupada, his servant, his secretary—Ramesvara Swami—and some sannyasis.

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: I had no money, but somehow or other I had collected one thousand rupees. That was my asset. I took it to him. He can go there. Then Prabhupada said, “All right, we’ll go to Orissa. Yes, we will go to Orissa.” Ramesvara was the secretary at that time.

Srila Prabhupada said to Ramesvara, “We are going to Orissa. We will have to go to Calcutta first by train, and from Calcutta to Bhubaneswar. Book the tickets, we will go!” Ramesvara went to Gour Govinda Swami and said, “Have you got any money? If you are going to take Prabhupada to Orissa, you will have to give me some money. We have to book the tickets.”

Gour Govinda Swami’s reply was, “I am a beggar, baba, I have no money!”

And Ramesvara answered, “How then will you take Prabhupada? I will go now and tell him, no, we have no money, so I can’t book the tickets!”

Gour Govinda Swami thought, “What is he saying?”

He had managed to svae one thousand rupees; he immediately handed this money over and said, “Please take it and do whatever you need to with it.”

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: So I had no money—I had nothing at that time; I gave one thousand rupees to him—whatever I had—alright, please take everything. It is guru’s money, all right, take it. He booked the tickets, first class, Prabhupada traveled first class. Prabhupada’s secretary, his servant, some one or two sannyasis and myself, we had first class tickets. Others—second-class tickets; Pradyumna dasa had a second-class ticket. So we all came to Calcutta by train, got down in Calcutta and went to the temple.

The next day I and another devotee came with Prabhupada’s car and two other devotees came in the car also. All night we were driving, driving, driving, from Calcutta to Bhubaneswar. We arrived here in Bhubaneswar, and the day after, Prabhupada came in the train. We went to the railway station, then to here, (Bhubaneswar land). This room was prepared for Prabhupada here.

Devadharma dasa: We soon heard that Srila Prabhupada was going to come and stay for two weeks after the Kumbha-Mela. This was quite a challenge; how could we properly accommodate such an exalted personality? We knew that quite a few devotees would also be coming so we hired some large army style tents and awaited Srila Prabhupada’s arrival.

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