The all-attractive beauty of Sri Madana Mohana has won the hearts of the people in this remote desert town.

KAROLI, A SMALL TOWN in the harsh, hilly desert of eastern Rajasthan, is the home of Sri Madana Mohana, the Deity of Krsna worshiped by Srila Sanatana Gosvami, one of the chief disciples of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu (Krsna appearing as His own devotee five hundred years ago). Lord Caitanya sent Sanatana to Vrndavana to find the places of Krsna's pastimes, which had been lost in the nearly fifty centuries since Krsna had appeared and sported there. About 150 years after Sanatana discovered and worshiped Madana Mohana in Vrndavana, the Deity was brought to Karoli. [See "How Madana Mohana Came to Karoli," page 44]

Like the original Madana Mohana temple in Vrndavana, the temple in Karoli is high on a hill and is built of red sandstone. During our visit I could see that much devotion goes into maintaining the temple, which has a big courtyard and three silver doors for the three altars. On the central altar is Madana Mohana, with His chief consort, Radharani, to His left and Lalita Devi, one of Radharani's chief associates, to His right. On the altar to Madana Mohana's right stands Gopalaji (Krsna) with Radha and Lalita. The kings of Karoli worshiped these Deities about a hundred years before Madana Mohana came here.

Many of the residents of Karoli come daily to see their beloved Madana Mohana. The Deities are dressed with special beauty in the evening, when the Lord wears magnificent turbans typical of the Rajasthani people.

The atmosphere of the town is devotional and happy. The people here don't seem to have big material ambitions. They live simply and come to the temple morning and evening to have the blessed audience of Madana Mohana, whose name means "one whose beauty attracts even Cupid" who attracts everyone else.

As the curtains open to reveal the Deities, Their devotees glorify Them by calling out Their names. The ceremonies of worship take place, and then the water offered to the Deities is thrown toward the audience. An old woman in front of me calls out "Jaya!" ("All glories!") as she captures some of the water in her upraised hand and puts it on her head. After the arati, tulasi leaves from the Lord's garland are distributed. Because more than a hundred people are crowding about, the leaves are given to a few, who then pass them out to everyone else. Most of the regular visitors to the temple are from Karoli, so they know one another, and the mood is like that of a family gathering.

Each day the Deities receive eight food offerings and eight aratis. The priests worship the Deities by following the rituals set by Sanatana Gosvami in his Hari Bhakti Vilasa. At midday the priests offer the Lord fifty-four dishes.

At stalls, pilgrims can buy maha-prasadam, food that has been offered to the Deities. You'll find varieties of sweets, including malpura, kaja, and delicious sweet samosas. Most of the items offered to the Deities are sweet. In the town also, as in Vrndavana, you'll find many sweet shops. It seems the people here like sweets a lot. (I guess this could be due to the scarcity of vegetables so hard to grow in this rugged terrain.)

You can see in Karoli that the touch of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's movement makes everything joyful and happy. The devotion of the people is quite spontaneous, open-hearted, and hearty. About three hundred people attend the mangala-arati, at 4:30 A.M. During the arati, two priests play gongs while visitors sing or recite prayers. After the mangala-arati, the curtains in front of the Deities remain open for some time while two large groups stand and sing devotional songs the men in front of Madana Mohana, the women in front of Gopala. After mangala-arati some delicious malpura is handed to a few people, and everyone else mobs them to get a little.

Unlike Vrndavana, Karoli has only one main temple of Krsna. (There's another, much less prominent temple of Gopala.) This seems to unite the people. Even a visitor feels he has become part of a big family.

Karoli is within the greater Vraja-mandala, or the greater Vrndavana area described in scripture. Observing the people of Karoli, I'm reminded of a statement in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta: "The ideal place to execute Krsna consciousness is Vrajabhumi, or Vrndavana, where the people are naturally inclined to love Krsna and Krsna is naturally inclined to love them."

Bhakti Vikasa Swami comes from England but has lived in India for many years. He now teaches Krsna consciousness at the ISKCON center in Vallabh Vidyanagar, Gujarat.

Visiting Karoli

Bhakti Vikasa Swami

Bhakti Vikasa Swami

KAROLI IS NOT ON the regular tourist circuit. Usually only people from the town and surrounding areas go there. So getting to Karoli and staying in Karoli are both a little difficult. If you plan to visit, be prepared for plenty of basic living.

A convenient way to get to Karoli is to catch a train that runs from Bombay to Mathura or Delhi. If you get a train that stops at Gangapur City early in the morning, you can visit Karoli and in the afternoon go on to Mathura from Hindal, the next major station north. From the east, you can get to Karoli by taking a train from Mathura to Hindal, about a three-hour journey.

Catch a bus from the train station in Hindal or Gangapur to the Karoli bus stand, at the edge of the city, about two kilometers from the temple. There are no rikshas in Karoli, so you'll have to walk to the temple.

Next to the temple are two dharmashalas, hostels for pilgrims. One has no water; the other has water and that's about it. I don't recommended them for families or for people who can't tolerate no-frills living. There are other dharmashalas a little farther from the temple, but their facilities are only a little better.

There are no hotels in Karoli, and the only guest house is on the grounds of the king's palace, a two-kilometer walk from the temple.

How Madana Mohana Came to Karoli

SANATANA GOSVAMI knew that Lord Krsna's great-grandson, King Vajranabha, had installed many Deities of Krsna in Vrndavana, including one named Madana Mohana ("the enchanter of Cupid"). Sanatana was eager to find this Deity, and after he had looked for the Deity for a long time without success, his mind was disturbed.

Being a highly advanced devotee of Krsna, Sanatana did not like to sleep. He would chant Hare Krsna day and night. Sometimes he would doze a little while chanting. Once, in a dream, he saw sitting next to him a beautiful effulgent child with a peacock feather on His head and a flute in His hand. The child said, "O Baba, I am staying in the house of Damodara Chobe in Mathura. He calls Me Madanya. Come to his house and meet Me there."

The next day, Sanatana went to the house of Damodara Chobe and asked for alms. When Damodara's wife went away from the door, Sanatana sneaked into the courtyard, and there he saw the Deity. He called out, "I've gotten the Lord of my life," and he wept with great happiness. After receiving alms, he left, intent on getting Madana Mohana from the house.

A Local Devotee Studying Scripture in the Temple

Krsna appeared to Sanatana and advised him to return to the house of Damodara Chobe and his wife to give medical treatment to their sixth child. "And when they offer you a gift in exchange for your services," the Lord said, "you should accept nothing but Me, Damodara's Deity."

That night, while Damodara was away, his sixth son fell seriously ill. Damodara's wife was anxious for her child, and for some reason unknown to her she was also anxious for the Deity. She passed the night without sleep.

In the morning she found Sanatana Gosvami chanting outside her door. Since it was common in those days for saintly persons to know about curing diseases, she happily brought him inside and asked him to help her son. Sanatana agreed, and after a few days of treatment, the boy recovered.

Damodara's wife offered Sanatana a gift. "I only want your Deity," he said.

She was surprised at his request and didn't want to give the Krsna Deity, especially when her husband was away from home. Looking at the old, thin body of Sanatana Gosvami, she thought, "Anyway, he could never lift the Deity."

She said, "All right, if you can carry away the Deity, you can take Him."

Sanatana joyfully lifted the Deity as if He were a small child. Sanatana felt the heavy stone Deity to be almost weightless.

The surprised woman thought, "Oh, now Krsna is going away with the right person to worship Him with full love and devotion."

Sanatana Gosvami brought Madana Mohana to Vrndavana. Sanatana had no temple, however, so he was a little worried about where to keep the Deity. He would ask Madana Mohana, "Where would You like live?" He decided to place Madana Mohana on the bank of the Yamuna River at Praskandana Ghata, on a hill known as Dvadasaditya-tila, near the place where Krsna had subdued the serpent Kaliya.

Sanatana built a small hut on the hill, and after making a throne out of earth, he established Madana Mohana there.

When Damodara Chobe returned home, he was furious at his wife. He rushed to Vrndavana in search of Sanatana. Damodara found Sanatana and demanded, "Give me my Madanya."

Sanatana agreed to give back the Deity on the same condition that he'd been allowed to take Him: "If you can lift Him, you can take Him."

Damodara Chobe tried with all his might, but couldn't lift the Deity even slightly. Then, although he had to leave the Deity, he felt happy knowing that Sanatana must be very dear to the Lord.

Sanatana told him, "Your family can be the priests from generation to generation in the service of Madana Mohana."

Because Sanatana was a mendicant, he couldn't offer opulent food to the Deity. He would get wheat flour by begging and prepare bati balls of wheat flour and water cooked by setting them next to an open fire. Sanatana was offering them to the Lord without salt.

Madana Mohana suggested to Sanatana in a dream, "I'm a little tired of just taking this bati. Can't you at least give Me some salt?"

"You have already given me my service." Sanatana replied. "Now You want me to get salt. Next You'll want many more things. How can I prepare all these dishes for You? I'm just an old man."

(In explaining this elevated loving exchange between the Lord and His devotee, Srila Prabhupada says that Sanatana was reminding Madana Mohana that as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu He had ordered Sanatana to write many books and recover the holy places in Vrndavana.)

The next day a ship full of salt ran aground in the Yamuna River near the place where Sanatana was worshiping Madana Mohana. Sanatana advised the owner of the salt to pray to Madana Mohana for help. After the merchant did so, a voice from the sky declared, "Go and see that your ship is again floating."

The merchant made a good profit selling the salt, and in 1580-81 he built a beautiful temple for Madana Mohana.

For more than 150 years Madana Mohana was worshiped in Vrndavana until Aurangzeb began destroying temples there. In 1748, on the request of King Jai Singh of Jaipur, the Deities of Madana Mohana, Govindadeva, and Gopinatha were brought from Vrndavana to Jaipur for Their safety.

Later, Madana Mohana wanted to return to Vraja (the greater Vrndavana area). So He appeared in a dream to the king of Karoli, Maharaja Gopal Singh (Jai Singh's brother-in-law). "Take Me to Karoli," Madana Mohana ordered. The king had already been desiring to worship Madana Mohana, and after getting the order from the Lord, he became determined to do so. But to take Madana Mohana from Jai Singh wouldn't be easy; Jai Singh was also very much attached to the Deity.

Maharaja Gopal Singh traveled from Karoli to Jaipur and asked Jai Singh to part with Madana Mohana. But Jai Singh was doubtful about Gopal Singh's story. So Jai Singh gave a condition, "You can take Madana Mohana if you can choose Him: I'll put you in a room with the three Deities Govinda, Gopinatha, and Madana Mohana, and you will be blindfolded. If you can tell which Deity is Madana Mohana, you can take Him."

At night, his eyes covered, Gopal Singh was brought to the room where the Deities were kept. He walked straight to Madana Mohana and grasped His lotus feet.

With all honor and affection, King Jai Singh then offered Madana Mohana to Gopala Singh, who brought the Deity to Karoli on an ornate palanquin and installed Him in a temple on a prominent hill in the center of town.

The Result of Worshiping Madana Mohana

GAUDIYA VAISNAVAS, the followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, divide the path of progress in spiritual life into three broad categories: sambandha, abhidheya, and prayojana. Sambandha means to reestablish one's relationship with Krsna,abhidheya means to act in that relationship, and prayojana means to attain full realization of that relationship and taste the fruits of love of Godhead.

In the stage of sambandha, Gaudiya Vaisnavas worship Madana Mohana. He helps us reestablish our long-lost and dearly desired relationship with Krsna by drawing our attraction to Him and away from the allurements of this material world. The name "Madana Mohana" means "one who enchants even Cupid." Cupid is the demigod of lust, or material desire, especially sexual desire, which enchants everyone in the material world. To fix up our relationship with Krsna, we must rid ourselves of lust. Madana Mohana helps us overcome our hankering for temporary bodily relationships by enticing us to His own beauty and charm.

Pastimes of Madana Mohana

AS WITH MOST MAJOR temples in India, the temple of Madana Mohana in Karoli has a tradition of stories connected with the Deity. You'll find Madana Mohana's lilas (pastimes) in local guidebooks, and the residents of Karoli know them well. Though the stories are not mentioned in scripture, they form an important part of the culture that surrounds the temple, and are often the basis for practices in the worship of the Deity.

Here are a few of Madana Mohana's lilas:

The Dry Well

Maha Prasadam of Sri Madana Mohana

When Madana Mohana was being carried from Jaipur to Karoli, He came to a village where the well had been dried up for a year. The villagers prayed to Madana Mohana, and the well started giving water. All the villagers became greatly devoted to Madana Mohana.

The village was in the territory of Rajasthan under Jai Singh. As news of this wonderful event spread, Jai Singh came to know of it, and he offered the area of the village to the service of Madana Mohana.

The Missing Dish

A Moslem devotee named Tazkan regularly came to the Madana Mohana temple to see the Deity, offer Him food, and take prasadam. When some Hindus came to know that a Moslem was going into their temple, they objected, and Tazkan was prohibited from entering. Feeling greatly disappointed, Tazkan stayed at home and stopped eating and drinking. Madana Mohana wasn't very happy with this. So, disguised as a guard, He went to Tazkan's house with a silver dish full of prasadam.

Seeing the "guard," Tazkan told Him "How can I take Madana Mohana's prasadam without first having taken His darsana (audience)?"

Madana Mohana replied, "Please get up, have darsana, and then take the prasadam."

When Tazkan realized that Madana Mohana Himself was standing before him, he asked for pardon. "My Lord, why are You taking so much trouble for me?"

The Lord disappeared, and Tazkan took prasadam.

That night, the chief priest of the temple had a dream in which Madana Mohana told him that Tazkan should be allowed into the temple to have darsana. The chief priest related the dream to other priests.

In the meantime the priest serving the Deity noticed that one of the Deity's silver dishes was missing. After much turmoil over the missing dish, Tazkan came with the dish and said that a guard from the temple had left it at his house. This convinced everyone that Madana Mohana had indeed spoken to the head priest in a dream, and from then on Tazkan was allowed to have darsana of his beloved Madana Mohana.

The Revived Son

A Moslem named Kalakund, a resident of Karoli, would come regularly to see Madana Mohana. In his old age he was blessed with a son, but one day the boy was bitten by a snake. Because no one knew how to treat him, the boy died. The grieving Kalakund brought his son to the door of Madana Mohana's temple and started singing songs in praise of the Lord.

In the meantime, Shri Hari Kishor Goswami, one of the servants of the Deity, felt from within his heart that Madana Mohana was telling him to give caranamrta (water from the Deity's bath) to Kalakund's son. So the Goswami came out of the temple and put caranamrta in the boy's mouth. The boy at once became alive and well.

The Milk Woman

This incident took place about 125 years ago. In the village of Bhugda, in the Karoli district, lived a family of gurjas (cowherds) who supplied milk for the service of Madana Mohana. One of the women of this family used to come to see Madana Mohana and honor His prasadam. Madana Mohana was pleased with her devotional attitude.

One day Madana Mohana went to the village of Bhugda. The gurjari woman was lying on her bed chanting Madana Mohana's name when suddenly she saw Madana Mohana Himself standing before her.

Surprised, she got up and touched His feet. She then spread a simple blue bedsheet on her cot and asked Madana Mohana to sit there. Madana Mohana took off His yellow outer dress, lay down on the cot, and went to sleep while the woman massaged His feet. Then she began fanning Him. But after some time she felt tired, and she also went to sleep.

When Madana Mohana awoke, He thought, "Oh, it's almost time for My mangala-arati. I'd better get back to the temple quickly." Because He was rushing, He took the blue cloth of the gurjari woman and left behind his yellow garment.

When the priests woke Madana Mohana for mangala-arati, they were surprised. "Where is His yellow cloth? Where has He gotten this simple blue cloth? We didn't put Him to sleep like that."

When the gurjari woman came for darsana that morning, she returned the Deity's yellow garment. She told the priests that Madana Mohana had gone to her house and left it there and had taken her blue cloth.

This pastime took place on the Amavasya, the new-moon day. Now on every Amavasya, Madana Mohana wears blue cloth in memory of this event.