Residing on the weapons of Lord Vishnu, Orissa is the home to the Lord of the Universe, Sri Jagannath and his elder brother Sri Baldev and Sister Sri Subhadra Devi. It is mentioned in the Skanda-Purana that it is the holiest place on planet. How blessed were the souls who received the priceless blessings of Lord Sri Krishna, to visit the Sri Dham with HH Kratu Das ji Maharaj and his wife, HG Amrita Keli Devi Dasi Mataji. The journey began on 25th December from New Delhi and despite of the cold chills of weather, devotees were all fired up to reach the Nilachal Dham and witness the sacred abode of Sri Jagannath Swami. The two-days train journey filled with ecstatic kirtans by young kirtaniyas moved the spirits of all the passengers and invited them to join the Harinam throughout. The train journey ended with reaching the much awaited destination of the holy land of Sri Dham Puri, the Shankh Shetra, which resides on the Shankha of Lord Vishnu. First day of pilgrimage was dedicated to Sri Jagannath Temple where the struggle to get a glimpse of Lord’s face was unbeatable, but the plea and prayers of true devotees heart didn’t get unheard by the merciful Lord and everyone fulfilled the deepest desire to feel the attestation of his power. The next place to visit was the only Krishna deity in sitting down position known as “Tota Gopinath” where HH Kratu Das Ji Maharaj performed blissful kirtan for over an hour and the disciples couldn’t stop their feet from dancing on such pure prayers for Lord’s pleasure. Devotees also visited the sacred Samadhi of Haridas Thakur and the day was completed with the blessings of Sri Sri Radha Giridhari at ISKCON Puri Temple.

Every day at Sri Dham began with soothing Mangla arti’s, followed by japa sessions and morning lectures by Srila Gurudev. On the second day, devotees went to Siddha Bakul, the daily bhajana venue of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu where the young and devoted kirtaniyas of IYF-C2C followed the footsteps and performed some soul stirring melodies in remembrance of the Lord. Located near Siddha Bakul, the residing place of Mahaprabhu in Puri, called “Gambhira” was one of the places where the devotees were enlightened about the pastimes of the Lord by HG Sachi Devi Mataji.  Moving ahead in the land of parama vaishnav’s was the beautiful and pious Sweta Ganga, where the devotees took bath and prayed to the holy water.  They also took the opportunity to damp their chanting beads in the Ganges water as a symbol of devotion. In the evening everyone went to the most amazing scenery of the city, the open ended corners of the place over flowing with blue waters, unknowing of its beauty. As far as the eyes could see, it was nothing but uncontrolled waves of water, crashing into each other making the sky sink into it, marking the horizon. As the waves went high and hit the shores of beach, it drenched the visitors with its excessive water. Just like this ocean, the merciful Lord of the Universe, Sri Jagannath, residing at this holy place, has always blessed the devotees, the fallen souls who come to him. The evening at beach filled the devotees with refreshed energy and rejuvenating enthusiasm.

The next day devotees headed towards the largest temple of the city of Bhubaneshwar, Lingraj, which amazed them with its historical profile and ancient architectural statements. The kirtaniyas of IYF along with the melodious chant of HH Kratu Das ji Maharaj’s harinam filled the environment of wide temple complex with euphoric energy and attracted the visitors to be a part of it. Not so far from Lingraj was another ancient abode of Ananta Vasudeva where the devotees spend whole afternoon listening to the tales of the Lord by the temple priest and had blessed prasadam straight from lord’s kitchen. This was the luckiest afternoon as the young devotees from team IYF hopped on to Maharaj’s feet for seva and Maharaj accepted it with whole heart. Moving forward the devotees headed to ISKCON Bhubaneshwar where HG Shyamanand Prabhu signified about the next destination which was the well-known temple of “Sakshi Gopal”. Throughout the journey from one holy abode of Lord to the other, devotees kept chanting prayers and the smiles of their faces never dimmed. After the blissful darshan of the deity of witness, the pilgrimage moved forward to the last destination for the day, perhaps the most beautiful and spell bounding deities of Sri Sri Radha Krishna residing in the bewilderment of Chandanpur. Simulating as a miniature of Sri Vrindavan dham in itself, ISKCON Chandanpur holds the exact depiction of Lord Sri Krishna and Srimati Radha Rani’s physical appearance. “tapta kanchana gaurangi” Srimati Radha stands elegantly as her body appears to be made from melted gold, and beside her stands with his flute, the  blue coloured, lotus eyed, Saanwale Krishna, enraptured the souls as always.

In the room next to them resided the Lord with big eyes and open arms, for whom the kirtaniya performed heart-warming melodies of harinam sankirtan, which made many eyes get moist with love and wrench of separation for lord.

The next morning started with travelling to Brahma Gaudiya Math & Lord Alarnath’s temple. Established by Srila Bhakti Siddhantha Saraswati Thakur himself, Brahma Gaudiya Math serves the deities of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Sri Radha Krishna. The Alarnath Temple surprised the devotees with the evidences of pastimes of Lord’s like the burnt marks from the hot offerings and the body imprints of Sri Mahaprabhu. In the event, the devotees watched the setting sun at The Sun temple, Konark itself. Holding the passionate crafting of ancient infrastructure, Sun temple stands as a benchmark of Indian royalty.

And the last day of the pilgrimage, also of year 2015 marked its arrival, the devotees went for mangal arti darshans of Sri Jagannatha at Sri Mandir followed by chanting with HH Kratu Das Maharaj in the temple complex. Afterwards they went to Sri Jagganath Vallabh Garden followed by the Harinama through the blushful gardens behind. Later they went to Gundicha temple, Sri Narsimha Dev temple and Narendra Sarovar, performing sankirtan and dancing for the pleasure of the Lord at every step.

In the evening, by the mercy of Guru and Gaurang, an open harinam sankirtan was organised just outside the entrance of Sri Mandir where the Kirtaniyas of IYF along with a team of devotees from overseas performed some enchanting kirtan melodies and dance. The localities of Puri Dham gathered and joined the Harinama in huge numbers till sunset. At night, to mark the beginning of a New Krishna Conscious Year for all the souls, a straight 4 hour night kirtan was organised on the roof top of the residence where the devotees, despite of the chilled weather, enjoyed the last few hours of their stay at Sri Dham Puri to the fullest and celebrated New Year with Sri Krishna and his servants.

Every pilgrimage stands for not just the desire that a devotee’s heart carry throughout the journey that one sets and covers, but in actual, it’s based on the emotions one goes through when the eyes of the Lord looks into his own eyes. When those eyes crack open the materialistic covering of one’s outside and reaches directly into his soul. When one doesn’t even need to mumble a word and the Lord understands everything. This is the whole hearted aim of one’s devotion. This is the aim of a pilgrimage. With the limitless mercy of Gurudev, HH Kratu Das Ji Maharaj, the trip to Sri Puri Dham concluded on the happiest note of smiles and tears, of soul stirring kirtans and foot tappings on the way back home, and not to forget, of hearts filled with prayers: “Jagannath Swami Nayan Path Gami, Nayan Path Gami Bhave Tumi!”

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