Chapter 31 – Srila Gour Govinda Swami A Special Personality

Lagudi Dasa Arrives in Bhubaneswar

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: Myself and Bhagavata dasa were still collecting donations. Then I translated ‘Krsna Consciousness, the Topmost Yoga System’, that is the first book that I published and that book was printed in Calcutta. At that time we had no press and we were distributing the book in Bhubaneswar, Puri, wherever. Myself and Bhagavata selling the book. Then also Lagudi came; he was there whilst bhagavata was there.

Lagudi dasa arrived in Bhubaneswar in august 1977. He came because an Australian devotee named Sanjayata dasa sent him a letter telling him to leave the place where he was and come to Bhubaneswar. Lagudi said, “He wrote me a nice letter and introduced me to Gour Govinda Swami. He wrote, ‘He is a nice Swami. Here it is completely different; if you come here you will never go back to Australia.’ I believed him, and I came. There was bhagavata dasa, an American devotee, he was the president. I had heard about Gour Govinda Swami in Mayapura.” Lagudi dasa was intending to join Lokanatha Swami on the bullock cart, but he had missed him. Then Sanjayata called him to Bhubaneswar.

Lagudi said of His Divine Grace Gour Govinda Swami, “My first impression was that I knew he was a special personality. I accepted him the same as I accepted Srila Prabhupada.”

On his arrival in Bhubaneswar the President said to him, “Lagudi, we do not have anyone collecting donations. Devotees come and go, so you should go to Forest Park where the bank s are and chant and collect donations.”

Lagudi dasa: There are many banks there, all the India banks are in one road. We had books, and recordings of Srila Prabhupada; we would go door to door, to the ministers, secretaries, banks—every day we would collect 100 rupees.

Lagudi would stand from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 before a big nine-storey building, with a pair of karatalas, stand in the hot sun chanting Hare Krsna; or he would go to the market or other places and collect donations. When he returned to the ISKCON land he would offer everything he had collected to Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja.

Lagudi dasa would sell books, he sold to anyone and everyone. One person he sold books to was the governor, a Mr. Sharma. Mr. Sharma liked Srila Prabhupada, he liked Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja and he liked Lagudi dasa. And he also promised to donate land.

Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja and bhagavata dasa went to see the land, which was in Dhenkanal. It was not really what they were looking for; in fact, Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja said, “Mr. Sharma said, ‘There is land at Dhenkanal; if you want to take it, I will give it to you.’ We went there, Bhagavata and myself, and all we saw was mountains. Mountains and desert, an out-of-the-way place where only ghosts are staying; we said that we would not take it.”

Lagudi dasa: Gour Govinda Maharaja would eat only plain food, once or twice a day, very simple prasada, khicari once or twice a day. He never asked for sweets, he never demanded anything. I could stand it, but others could not live like this. The western devotees would come, sannyasis would come and ask for milk and halava, ‘Where is it?’ they would ask. We had no money—how could we live like in the west? How could we prepare feasts? The western devotees could not keep up with Maharaja’s austerities; they just came to enjoy.

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: Sometimes when it was too hot Lagudi would sleep outside, but the noise of the trucks from the highway was too loud for him, so he would warp a piece of cloth around his head and then put a pot over his head to keep out the noise of the trucks, and in this way he would sleep.

Lagudi dasa: I was in Bhubaneswar for 18 months. There was Gour Govinda Maharaja, bhagavata and myself, and there were many others, but they would come and go, a month here, a month there—like that. They did not stay. We also made some Indian bhaktas, maybe a dozen. They were preaching and selling books.

Preaching in the Villages

Then a van was given to the Bhubaneswar project, for preaching. According to Lagudi Prabhu, that was Gour Govinda Maharaja’s most cherished desire, to go out to the villages—far remote places—and preach. Classes were held at night, at Dhenkanal, for two months. At least one thousand people would come every time to the lectures.

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: From Dhenkanal we went to Sambalpur. For two months we went traveling in the van: myself, Lagudi, bhagavata and an American devotee from Gurukrpa Swami’s party. The van was given by Yasodananda Swami; it was a blue van; I do not know the year and make.

Lagudi dasa: There were eight of us, and every evening we would have a programme. The local people would give a garland to each devotee. They were unbelievable programmers. I could not believe them. Whole villages were coming—2,000 – 3,000 people every night, at every village. During the day we would go around the area with the microphone, announcing that Gour Govinda Maharaja would be speaking. I have never seen anywhere, that so many people were interested in Krsna Consciousness, and waiting to hear—amazing! They would sit 2,000 – 3,000 of them, and no one would speak; they would just listen to Gour Govinda Maharaja speak. Also, during the day, we would sell books and magazines. Then we would have the programme and Maharaja would speak from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. and I would sleep in the van. I have never seen so many people attracted to hearing Krsna Consciousness. I could not understand the lecture as it was in Oriya. But I knew that it was nectar. These times were most beneficial for me. No one would speak; you could hear a pin drop.

Vrndavana

Many devotees said, “We will never get those days back—the days in 1977 in Sri Vrndavana Dhama when Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja came to see Srila Prabhupada.” When Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja came to see Srila Prabhupada, Srila Prabhupada would speak to him for a long time, very intimately.

Many saw him as a very brilliant-looking sannyasi. Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja was so humble. At the end of one of his visits to Srila Prabhupada in Vrndavana, he was intending to go to Mathura by bus—and then catch a train to Calcutta and then on to Bhubaneswar, but some-how Prabhupada could foresee that, and he sent a devotee to find out from Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja how he would go to Mathura. When the devotee reported back to Srila Prabhupada that he was planning to travel by bus, Srila Prabhupada said, “No, no, no, no! Arrange a car for him”. And he then arranged that some devotees would take Gour Govinda Maharaja in his personal car to the railway station in Mathura.

In 1977 Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja saw Srila Prabhupada twice, and in Vrndavana in November, he saw him for the last time, just before his disappearance.

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: I saw him twice there, and just four days before his disappearance I saw him again in Vrndavana. In Vrndavana, until his last days, he was thinking of Bhubaneswar. Yes, he asked me, ‘Gour Govind, what is going on in Bhubaneswar?’ he was just asking about Bhubaneswar, he was very feeble, very weak. I laid my ear to his lips and in a feeble voice, he said, ‘Gour Govind, what is going on in Bhubaneswar? How is the climate?’ I answered, ‘Very nice, Srila Prabhupada.’ Then he said, ‘I want to go to Bhubaneswar.’ Srila Prabhupada said this before he disappeared and I said, ‘Whatever you desire, that should be done.’ But the leaders would not allow me to do so, and they said, ‘Gour Govinda, do not take Srila Prabhupada to Bhubaneswar. No! No! No! We will not allow it.’

But Srila Prabhupada wanted to go Bhubaneswar, and I was making the arrangements. They committed a great offence, stopping Srila Prabhupada from going to Bhubaneswar.

On Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja’s return from visiting Srila Prabhupada in Vrndavana, bhagavata dasa went to visit Srila Prabhupada. When bhagavata dasa reached Vrndavana, that very night Srila Prabhupada left this world. The date was 14 November 1977.

Lagudi dasa: I was most upset when Srila Prabhupada left us; we all went into the room and heard the telephone and heard the news that Srila Prabhupada had left. It was a great shock for me. Then Gour Govinda Maharaja said, ‘Lagudi we need not too much lament, we have to follow Srila Prabhupada’s instructions. Do not be despondent now. Go on sankirtana, go and preach, do not be despondent now.’ He encouraged me. I was in maya, I would have left the movement if I had not had Gour Govinda Maharaja’s association.

When he was asked whether things changed after the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada from this world, His Divine Grace Srila Gour Govinda Swami replied, “There was a very noticeable change after Srila Prabhupada left this world. Everything was different. When the acarya leaves—the acarya is like the sun, do you understand—and when he leaves, the darkness comes. Then this world is in a very dark period. And one must wait for that sun to arise again, wait for the acarya to come again and then that dark period will be no more.”

Anasuya devi dasi: Nine months after my initiation from Srila Prabhupada, His Holiness Gour Govinda Swami came to inform us around the evening hour about the sad departure of Srila Prabhupada. We felt as if our very kith and kin had passed away. Then next day we went and sat in the meeting. When the meeting took place, presided over by His Holiness Gour Govinda Swami, all of us said to him, ‘Srila Prabhupada left all of us. He will not come in the same form.’ Then Gurudeva said, “No, no, no, he will come here; do not worry. He will come in his own form. Don’t worry.”*

After the departure of Srila Prabhupada from this planet, Srila Gour Govinda Swami became more regular and felt more and more responsible for the cause of Srila Prabhupada—more and more. His routine changed; the Srimad-Bhagavatam class was more regular. He would give the Srimad-Bhagavatam class in the morning, and in the evening he would give the Bhagavad-gita class. He was still translating up to twelve o’clock (midnight) and sometimes up to 1:00 a.m. before he would rest. He would rest very little, and then would rise between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. He would also attend the full morning programme. During the day also he would translate for about two to three hours. In the night there was no specific time; he would translate for three, four or five hours. He would give Srimad-Bhagavatam class for one and a half hours in a sitting position with a straight back. Many people could not sit for more than fifteen minutes in that position.

Sruthi Das: One thing also, Srila Gurudeva (Gour Govinda Swami) had such a surrendered mood towards Srila Prabhupada always and still does (1991). After Srila Prabhupada left the Bhubaneswar land, I could notice how redoubled was the spirit of Srila Gurudeva. He had become more energetic to continue the work of Srila Prabhupada.

* See volume four when it is printed for Srila Prabhupada in Bhubaneswar in this same form.

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