Welcome to Shri Banke Bihari Temple, Vrindavan
Divine Glimpses - Witness
Vrindavan is abound with tales of Lord Krishna descending into physical form to help out his beloved devotees. Some of the most famous ones are as follows:
Not so long ago, on outskirts of Vrindavan lived an elderly woman. Those who used to go around on the parikrama of Vrindavan would invariably see her sitting in the small hut, humming some sweet melodies in the praise of lord and engaged in some sort of sewa – devotional act – like making a garland of flowers collected from nearby gardens, or rolling out cotton wicks for aarti or some other similar duties. She had almost nothing in the name of material belonging in the hut other than a few essential utensils, minimal of linen and clothes. In spite of her advanced age she always displayed a childlike smile and innocence, a look of contentment and a divine glow played at her face. She always offered cold sweet water to the travelers and it used to be surprisingly refreshing and rejuvenating. Her daily routine included a visit to Shri Bankey Bihari temple where she would sing, dance or simply sit in a corner with eyes closed and tears rolling down her cheeks. Nobody knew who she was, who were her parents or where from had she come to Vrindavan and how she developed that great sense of devotion.
On a scorching summer afternoon, one of our elder Goswamis who was passing through that path stayed at her hut to quench his thirst. Having quenched his thirst with cold sweet water, Goswamiji just insisted her to relate her story as to who she was, who were her parents or where from had she come to Vrindavan and how she developed that great sense of devotion. What follows is a brief account of the story related by the lady in first person and scripted by our elder.
I originally belonged to Aligarh, the district town in Uttaar Pradesh, around seventy kilometers from Mathura. I am daughter of a simple school teacher by name of Gopal Das. I was the eldest child in the family and had two younger brothers. We were a small, contended and happy family. Though we had limited means, we never felt deprived as my father was a devoted person and sincerely believed that only God’s desire prevails. After schooling, as I grew up my parents started to looking up for a suitable match for me. By the grace of God, they soon came in contact with a reputed and educated family in a nearby place and liked the boy of the family very much and the relationship was finalized. From this moment onwards my father got disturbed as he did not know from where and how to arrange money for solemnizing my marriage.
At last my father naturally went to his friends and acquaintances asking for loans. He was in for a rude shock as all his friends dismissed him outright saying how my father would ever return the money. The day of my marriage was fast approaching and there was no money to organize the wedding. Money is always needed for marriages - for feasts, ceremonies, and dowry and so on. My father became extremely tensed and disturbed. All throughout the day he would wander here and there trying to arrange funds for my marriage but he did not meet any luck. He would often skip his dinner after returning home and would sulk and go straight to sleep. He was also deeply hurt at the behavior of his friends.
Finally only 5 days remained for my marriage. I saw my father coming home with lots of marriage items like bed, clothes, utensils, sweets, jewellery and so on. Both I and my mother was extremely surprised as to how out of the blue my father could arrange all this when just a day before he had virtually no money at all. Upon asking my father replied with quiet confidence that he had mortgaged the house and borrowed money from Seth Lakshmi Chand, the money lender. On hearing this, all hell broke loose on my mother for she had heard several tales about Lakshmi Chand's dishonest ways. Any one who had mortgaged his house or land with Lakshmi Chand was doomed for he could be certain he would never get it back. Lakshmi Chand was a greedy cheat who was adept at juggling account records to dupe poor villagers of their property. He would keep duplicate records, one real and the other fake. He was also well versed in legal matters, had a good hold over hawkish lawyers and so would indulge in brazen manipulations to carry out his misdeeds. My mother rebuked my father sharply and tension prevailed in our home. My mother was certain that we were doomed but my father tried his best to calm my mother, saying her fears were unfounded and after the marriage he would surely pay back the money to Lakshmi Chand and get the house released. My mother doubted father's words for she thought that after my marriage, father would become more carefree and would not take much care to repay the loan.
However, my mother's doubt turned out to be unfounded as after my marriage my father toiled day and night to earn money to repay the loan. After four months of very hard work that took its toll on his health, my father was able to repay the loan. True to his extreme simplicity, my father did not insist for the receipt for payments, cancellation of mortgage deed and returning the papers of the house immediately on making the payment. Rather he took the words of money lender that the formalities would be completed in a couple of days.
In India, Hindus consider it a sacred duty to take a holy dip in the Ganges after one has married off his daughter. Just a few days after my father had repaid the loan, my mother started insisting my father for the Ganges pilgrimage. My father did not have money then so he asked mother to wait a little. But my mother insisted and only God knows from where, she arranged some money to finance the trip. My parents then went on the Ganges pilgrimage. The day they returned, a registered postal letter awaited my father. When he read the letter he collapsed in disbelief! The document was a court notice sent by none other than the wicked Lakshmi Chand. It stated that if by a certain date my father did not repay the loan with interest, the house would be confiscated and my father thrown out.
Upon reading that notice all life seemed to have left my father. He had honestly repaid the loan with full interest so why this notice? He was a simple man who had never been to the court. The court for him seemed to be a dreadful place where the rich and the powerful openly manipulated legalities to twist cases in their favour to cheat the poor and the helpless. The court was a place where truth and honesty was butchered every day and every minute and falsehood reigned supreme. Every brick of the court building was like a snake's bloody fangs ready to strike the helpless and the meek at the slightest chance. My father nevertheless gathered courage to seek the help of his friends. Once again they all cold shouldered him. They refused to help my father saying that as my father had not returned the money to Lakshmi Chand in their presence, how any of them could become a witness to the case. Besides, Lakshmi Chand was a powerful and influential man so nobody wanted to pick up enmity with him.
Once again my father was plunged in gloom. He despaired and seemed to lose his balance completely. He wondered at the ways of the world. How strange this world is. Even after one has repaid the loan with interest he is served a court notice. He shuddered to think what would happen to him if he did not vacate the house. He would be dragged to court; humiliated; made to beg and grovel before the judge, lawyer and Lakshmi Chand; his family honour would bite dust and what not. My mother kept her hand over my father's forehead. My father was burning with high fever.
The next morning my father woke up in the same condition. He decided to visit Lakshmi Chand and ask him why he was doing all this. My mother sensing an altercation decided to accompany my father. When my father reached Lakshmi Chand's house, he was warmly greeted by the latter and was served tea and snacks. Lakshmi Chand even touched my father's feet (as a sign of respect) and enquired after his well being. Upon being asked by my father, Lakshmi Chand admitted that my father had repaid the loan in full along with interest. He said he was primarily interested in my father's house and wanted that house at any cost. He even offered my father all the money my father had repaid him as a price for the house. He said if my father did not accept the offer he would have to face harassment in the court.
My father begged Lakshmi Chand not to do this and said that if he were to vacate the house where he would live with his wife and two sons. Besides, the house was his ancestral property and he could not abandon something so precious. This was of no use as Lakshmi Chand refused to melt. He warned my father not to teach him what was right and what was wrong. He insisted that he had kept a proposal before my father. If my father agreed he would get the money from Lakshmi Chand for his house or else he would have to run from pillar to post to settle the matter in court, where also he would lose the case and finally evicted. At this my mother lost control and warned Lakshmi Chand that it was not proper to harass someone like this and there was a court higher than all the courts in the world and that was God' court and God would surely take Lakshmi Chand to task.
Acutely disappointed, my parents returned home. My father was already disgusted at his friends' indifference and so did not bother to consult anyone. Everyone was your friend as long as you had money. The moment you were penniless and needed help, you were abandoned. My mother kept insisting my father to seek help. Finally he got fed up and left home. Coincidentally that day was 'Hariyali Teej (the swing festival in the month of Shravan, in rainy season) and a bus of devotees was going to Vrindavan from Aligarh. My father lost in thought, absentmindedly boarded the bus. He had no idea where the bus was going, so mired he was in his mental agony. It so happened that the conductor of the bus turned out to be one of father's old students. He offered my father a seat beside his great respect. During their talk, father came to know that on special occasions the bus goes from Aligarh to Vrindavan with devotees of Lord Krishna. Today was one of such days. My father had heard of "Banke Bihari" before also. It was only today that he came to know that several devotees go to Vrindavan just to visit the "Banke Bihari" temple. So endearing was He to his devotees. My father's soul too now yearned for a darshan (devout glimpse) of "Banke Bihari" - the one and only Lord Krishna. The bus conductor narrated several miraculous stories about Lord Krishna to my awe struck father. He had heard several tales from bus passengers. Besides, his own life had been blessed by Krishna. He narrated his own story to my father - how many years ago he had arrived in Vrindavan as a penniless, hungry youth with no dwelling whatsoever; how he had cried and prayed to Krishna and how miraculously he was spotted by his long distant aunt - a rich lady, who adopted him and put him in service in her little transport business. That bus was one of the many buses she owned.
In the meantime the bus arrived at Vrindavan. The passengers alighted from the bus which was supposed to stay in Vrindavan for two hours after which it would go back to Aligarh. The passengers had two hours to stay in Vrindavan. The conductor took my father to the famous "Banke Bihari" temple. My father devoutly offered his soul to Shri Bankey Bihari ji and in a spirit of true devotion, surrendered completely to the Lord. It seemed that the grace of Krishna was beginning to touch my father. His entire mental agony seemed to flow down in the river of his true surrender.
At midnight my father returned home - a different man. He walked with a confident and steady gait. It seemed now, he had no worries; he needed no one's help; he depended on no one; he had no fear whatsoever. He had obtained His assurance - He who was the greatest of all helpers.
The very next day my father confidently sent a bold reply to Lakshmi Chand's lawyer stating clearly that as he had already repaid the loan with interest in full he would not under any circumstances vacate the house. Infuriated at this, Lakshmi Chand filed a legal suit against my father in the local court. The court issued summons to my father asking him to appear in the court on a specified date. The court summon which would ordinarily terrify my father beyond any limits, was today received like a royal invitation by my father.
He did not feel the slightest fear upon receiving the court summons. How could he feel fear when the Lord was with him? On the specified day, my father alone went to the court. There he was asked by the judge about the whereabouts of the payment receipt which Lakshmi Chand must have handed over to my father upon receiving the full payment. Upon this question my father innocently replied that he was not given any receipt nor had he insisted Lakshmi Chand to give him a receipt. There dealings were of mutual faith and trust and a receipt was unnecessary. The judge further asked my father whether he could tell him as to on what dates he had repaid the loan installments and also the amount he had repaid in every installment. My father looked up his diary and readily told everything. Lakshmi Chand kept duplicate records and presented the false records at the court. The false records, quite obviously did not have any trace of the transactions. My father kept insisting that he had seen Lakshmi Chand enter the amounts in his records but today there was no trace of the payments in Lakshmi Chand's records. Lakshmi Chand's lawyer started accusing my father of being a liar. Lakshmi Chand's lawyer further asked my father to present any witness in whose presence my father had given the payment. My father kept quiet as he had no witness- there was in fact no witness. Hope seemed to dim, he could seek help from no one but suddenly he remembered "Banke Bihari" - the saviour behind all saviours. The glorious form of the Lord stood there in my father's vision, with his flute playfully at his beautiful lips, smiling a very familiar and charming smile at my father. Father prayed deeply to Krishna - that ocean of mercy. My father blurted out to the judge,"Banke Bihari,………Banke Bihari .. is my witness. He was there with me every time I went to make a payment".
At this, the lawyer again asked my father to tell the name of the witness. My father said that "Banke Bihari" was the name of the witness. The lawyer growled at my father and asked him the witness's address. My father replied "Vrindavan, district Mathura, Uttar Pradesh". Upon being asked the name of the father of the witness. My father replied after some hesitation "Swami Haridas". (Swami Haridas was a great saint who lived in the sixteenth century, in Vrindavan. It was he to whom Lord appeared in person with His celestial consort and then they left behind the idol of Shri Banke Bihariji which till this day is worshipped in that famous temple of Vrindavan).
Anyway, the court attendent reached Vrindavan to present the court summon to the "witness" Banke Bihari. On reaching there he was accosted by a young beautiful dark skinned lad who offered to take him to Banke Bihari.
Before the attendant could answer, the lad took him by his hand and brought him to the Banke Bihari temple. It was afternoon and the temple was closed. The lad requested the attendant to stick the summons document on the temple door and said Banke Bihari would read it when he returned. He assured the attendant that on the day of the court proceedings, Banke Bihari would surely be present to give witness. Satisfied, the attendant returned to Aligarh.
Some people later told me that Lakshmi Chand's wicked lawyer had gleefully remarked to his client that the latter need not worry as the case would surely be settled in his favour as God would not descend to give witness in favour of the poor Gopal Das (my father). They both had had a hearty laugh at my father.
The judge was in a dilemma. He knew not what to do. Deep down he knew my father was innocent and Lakshmi Chand was fleecing him but then what could he do. My father had no proof, no witness. He wondered at my father's devotion and innocence. This man, he mused, has named Banke Bihari as his witness. Banke Bihari is the judge of all judges, the ruler of all creation, lord of all that lives. Will He have the time to come to give witness in favour of this ordinary fellow?
Just a few days now remained for the court date. My father now decided to go to Vrindavan one more time. Everyone in the household made fun of my father and tried to dissuade him from going but my father did not listen and left for Vrindavan. On reaching the temple he once more prayed fervently for the Lord's help. His surrender was complete. In the afternoon he sat outside the temple and went to sleep. In the dream Lord Krishna appeared to him and promised him that he would come to give witness in his favour. In the evening my father took a dip in the holy Yamuna and returned home.
Except for my father everyone in the household felt sure that the case would be decided in Lakshmi Chand's favour. But my father was supremely confident that he would win the case. My father's faith was dismissed as eccentricity by everyone else.
On the day of the proceeding, the judge asked my father whether his witness was ready. My father said that the witness had indeed arrived. The court attendant shouted out "Banke Bihari, present yourself to the court". There was no response. He called out again “Banke Bihari, present yourself to the court ". No response. He called out the third time “Banke Bihari, present yourself to the court ". This time a voice spoke from outside the room "I am here". Just that instant a man wrapped in a black blanket entered the court room. Everywhere there was exclamation of utter surprise. "Who is this Banke Bihari?" "Are you Gopal Das's witness?” the judge asked the mysterious stranger. The figure nodded. The stranger's blanket covered face was irritating the judge. "Please show your face and reply clearly, what is your name?” asked the judge now getting stern.
The figure slightly removed the blanket from his face and replied to the judge "Banke Bihari". The moment the judge looked at the stranger's face, he was completely awe struck at the divine luster on the stranger's face. This face was unlike that of any other human being the judge had ever seen. It was no human face; it was the face of God himself. The pen dropped out of the judge's hand, his forehead began to sweat profusely and he forgot to ask anything else. The stranger spoke, "Gopal Das has returned each and every pie with interest to Lakshmi Chand. If you want proof of this then it is to be found in a yellow file kept in the topmost partition of the almirah which lies at the right of Lakshmi Chand's office seat. All of Gopal Das's transactions appear under the name of "Das" and are fully recorded in page 2 of the file. I will now even tell you the exact amount and the dates on which Gopal Das made the payments." The witness went on to narrate every detail about the transactions. Everyone in the court was dumbstruck. Lakshmi Chand stood there trembling. His lawyer stood there staring in blank space like an idiot.
After some minutes, the judge regained his composure and asked the witness, "Can you recognize the file?". "Absolutely", replied the witness. The judge adjourned the court and went to Lakshmi Chand's office (a part of his dwelling itself) along with the witness, Gopal Das, Lakshmi Chand, Lakshmi Chand's lawyer and two court attendants. There it turned out to be exactly what the witness had told him in court. Lakshmi Chand was caught red handed.
The judge turned around. The witness had vanished! My father after that day never returned home. He who obtains the Lord makes the whole world his friend. The very next day, the judge resigned from his job and became a renunciate and devoted his remaining life to Krishna.
Not only this. Everyone related to this incident in any way whatsoever soon abandoned their dwellings and vocations and got lost in the divine charm of Vrindavan for the rest of their lives -and why not? They had become useless to the world.
And so am I. I believe, it is me who caused Bihariji to undergo all this trouble as it was for my marriage that my father raised the loan and the entire episode followed. I really do not know how to express my deep regards to Him. I stay at this place always waiting for Him to come to me in the afternoon like this one, tired of chasing cows all day long, asking for water, may be in a disguise like He came to the court in Aligarh.