Welcome to Shri Banke Bihari Temple, Vrindavan
Divine Glimpses - He was hungry that night.
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:
The tradition of regular bhogs
How many times in a day a child should eat? or, more correctly, how many times and how much each time a child should be fed? The essence of the question lies in the fact children generally do not eat, they are required to be fed. Then it obviously becomes the duty of parents to provide the child with the right amount of nutritious and delicious food at regular intervals round the clock so that the child remains well fed and does not create troubles. What type of troubles a child would create if he is hungry? Well, it depends on age. Infants cry when hungry, toddlers will reach out to kitchen and lay their hands on any eatables they can within the home, children will explore a little more in the house and reach over to fridge and other places, still elder child, particularly boys may move out to market also and buy something of their choice to eat. This is a very normal thing to happen. Nobody takes note of any of such things that keep on happening all around us all the time. Around eighty years back (in 1920's), an ordinary incident of this nature occurred in Vrindavan and it became a memorable tale as the boy involved in the incident was extraordinary, yes, Bihariji Himself came out of the sanctum sanctorum and went to the nearby market to buy something to feed Himself.
Before the referred incident happened, the tradition was to offer six meals in a day to Shri Banke Bihariji Maharaj. That continues to date. Accordingly, in the morning at the time of awakening drinks according to season, fruits and little snacks are offered. At the end of morning rituals and just before the opening of darshan, a sumptuous meal called Balbhog consisting of makhan mishri, variety of sweets and namkeens is offered. Rajbhog time is the time of main meal, the menu for which consists of roti, variety of dals and vegetables, curd, raita, karhi, rice- plain, sweet and namkeen, kheer, doodhbhat, adhota milk, papar, chuteny , pickles other sweets and assorted items. After Rajbhog arti, before putting Him to rest for the afternoon some snacks are offered. Similarly in the evening snacks, fruits and seasonal drinks are offered at the time of awakening while Balbhog is offered before opening the darshan. The menu of main evening meal, shayanbhog, consists of puris, stuffed puris, kachoris, seasonal vegetables, curd, raita, assorted sweets and namkeens, doodhbhat, papar, chuteny etc. After the shayan arti, before retiring for the day warm milk is also offered.
It was considered to be enough and nobody had even wildest imagination that something may be required during the long unattended period of night also, that a child may feel hungry over this time interval of about 9-10 hours. After all, incidents of infants and children getting up during dead of night and asking to be fed are not uncommon, instead a child sleeping for 10 hours without requiring an intermediate feed would be unusual. Now listen to that miraculous incident that happened on that night when Bihariji felt hungry. We are presenting a first person account of the incident from the shopkeeper from whom Bihariji shopped sweets.
I own a sweet shop in the street leading to the famous Shri Banke Bihari Mandir in Vrindavan. I am talking of a time when the city was not so well developed and crowded. There were no concrete structures though we had certain two storied houses but most of the houses were single storied. Electricity was yet to become popular in the city. Most places in the market were lit up using kerosene lamps, the humble goosenecks or kuppis. Petromax were used in some big shops and also in temple courtyards and other public places. Influx of tirth yatris(religious tourists) was low and those who came generally stayed for 4-5 days in Vrindavan unlike today's touch and go tourists. The markets of Vrindavan were timed to darshan timings of Bihariji, i.e. markets opened in the morning at the time of opening of darshan and closed in the night (late evening) at the time of shayan arti. Just within a few minutes of shayan arti all the shops were closed and only living beings to be seen in the streets were stray dogs and the night watchman. Locals preferred to go to bed early and would not come out of their houses unless it was very urgent. People, local as well as tourists would get up early in the morning, go for a holy dip in Yamuna and go for Vrindavan Parikrama (circumambulation) or simply go around the temples that open early in the morning for mangla arti. Bihariji has always been a late riser as Mangla Arti is not performed here so the shopkeepers also had lot much of time to complete their morning rounds and open up their shops well in time. That was the simple routine we used to follow.
One afternoon I received a tall order to prepare 40 Kgs of laddoos to be supplied in the next morning. The order was urgent as the laddoos were meant to be prasad of some ceremony to be performed in the morning. I accepted the order and immediately put my boys on the job. By evening we were still half way to complete our job. The work could not be completed even by the shayan arti but it seemed to be under control. Considering the fact that boys stayed at a distant place, while my house was nearby, I let the boys go and sat myself to finish the remaining part of the work.As the fellow shopkeepers closed down their shops, one of the friends joked, "It seems you have got a tall order from a very important customer and probably will be working through the whole night." I just smiled. Little did I realize at that moment what the friend of mine had unknowingly said. Yes it was a tall order but the real customer was not the person who placed the order. Actual customer of that night....well, I never knew Him.
I was working in the shop with my back to the front. My hands rolling out laddoos like a machine. My mind was completely immersed in the job at hand. I did not know whatever might have been going on around me. I was having only one goal - to finish the job as quickly as possible so that I can go home with minimum delay. At last I was able to complete the work and was about to get up when......
Suddenly I heard a sweet voice "Kaka". I turned around and was surprised to see a beautiful, young boy, around 9-10 years of age, standing in front of my shop. The boy was not local. His face was quite charming. Seeing a young boy and that too an outsider in the almost deserted street at that late hour was something unexpected. I was lost in the confusion who he was and forgot to ask him what he wanted. With a sweet smile the boy said," Kaka, I am hungry. Can you give me something to eat?" The hypnotic voice was as if coming from a far off place and so convincing and assuring, there was no question of saying No. As almost in a trance I got up, put four Laddoos in a dona (leaf bowl) and handed over to him.The child took a bangle out of his hand, stretched his hand to me saying,"Please take this bangle as the price of sweets." I was looking at the face of the child and wanted to say,"You please take the sweets, I do not want any price from you." But could not speak as if paralyzed. I do not know when I stretched my hand to the boy and accepted the bangle. The boy smiled at me, took the sweets, turned back and moved away in the street. I kept on watching till he disappeared at the end of the street. As soon as the child disappeared, I came back to my sense as if awaken from a dream. I looked at my stretched out hand - yes the gold bangle was there! So it was not a dream. Now I really started to worry - Who the child was? Where from did he get the gold bangle? If it is his own and his parents note that it is missing they will scold him badly.I may also be implicated in a forgery case, that of cheating a child. I was repenting to have that bangle and wanted to get rid of it as early as possible. But I did not have even slightest of clue where to search for him at that hour? I did not know even the name of child or had any other information to relate to him. Under great tension and worry, I finally decided to keep the bangle in the cash box for the night and resolved to look for the rightful owner of it in the morning and hand it over to him with my apologies. With these thoughts, I closed the shop and went home. I did not talk about the incident to anybody in the house. I was afraid they may label me as insane to have left the boy uncared for at that late hour, or to have taken such an expensive bangle for the price of four laddoos, or for thinking to return the bangle. Therefore I just kept quite about this incident while we talked about everything else.
Next morning, I got up a little early than usual. After completing the morning routine I headed for the shop as I was to give the delivery of laddoos as per the order. On my way to the shop, I went to Bihariji Mandir for dandvat (paying respects to God by prostrating) as a matter of daily practice. It seemed to me that some confusion was prevailing in the temple. The priests, Bhandari, manager and some other officials on duty were talking in a helpless manner. On inquiring about the matter I learnt that a bangle was missing from the jewelery box, though it was verified to be there at the shayan arti last night. The lock, latch etc of the room were untouched and a piece of jewelery was lost. Nobody knew what to do. I also had no clue so moved away chanting the holy names of the God. Whosoever heard about the incidence could only say,"It is all His leela." As I moved a few steps away, as a lightening strikes to me,"What about the bangle the unknown boy gave me last night?" I returned back to the manager, bhandari and priests and requested them to come to my shop. They wanted to know what the matter was , I said, "I do not know, but I have a bangle that I want to show you." Perplexed, as everybody was, they had no choice but to come with me to see and inspect the bangle. Within a few minutes I reached the shop, opened up the cash box, took out the bangle.... and everybody was astonished.........it was the missing bangle of Bihariji.
A New Tradition
Now that the Goswamis of the temple realized the need for feeding Lord during the hours of rest also, it was decided that a box containing four laddoos along with water and beeris (betel leaves) be kept on a side table during the night as well as afternoon when the temple is closed.