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By BB Govinda Swami
Dear Vaisnava Community,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Tamal Krishna Goswami joined us in kirtan every evening prior to his departure.
For many nights the kirtan had been conducted in his quarters. No invitation was required. When the doors opened, the room quickly filled to capacity with devotees, young and old, eager to enter into the nectarean chanting of the Lord's holy names.
This was really the spiritual highlight of each day. It was the event that gave meaning to being in Mayapur. We all sat together, with one of our most elder brothers, a loving family of devotees, singing the names of Sri Radha and Sri Krishna with deep feeling.
On the last few evenings of Tamal Krishna Goswami's presence the kirtan shifted to the Panca Tattva Temple. This was done due to the increasing size of the crowd.
On his last evening in Mayapur, he came from the main pandal program. Having finished speaking he joined the kirtan. After an hour of kirtan he reached over, held my hand, and thanked me for being in kirtan with him. Then he told me, "Tomorrow I will be leaving."
I asked him where he was going and he said, " Back to home ... ," and after a pause he said "Back to the UK."
I thanked him for his association and told him I would try to see him off the next morning.
Tamal Krishna Goswami left for Kolkatta at 4:15. He was accompanied by Vrindavanesvari and Kalasambara of Auckland, New Zealand, and his disciple Aghavit.
I sang mangala arati that morning for the pleasure of Radha Madhava.
During the Tulasi puja, I sat next to Sivaram Swami to begin chanting my japa. I looked up and saw Tamal Krishna Maharaja's cook, Gopal Raja, quickly walking by. I reached out and took his hand and asked him if Maharaja had departed on time.
Gopal Raja responded by saying a phone call had just come that there had been a serious accident and Tamal Krishna Maharaja was unconscious.
This was around 5:15 AM. So it appears that the accident occurred during Brahma Muhurta at the conclusion of Mangala Arati.
I related this news to Sivaram Maharaja. We both jumped up, and Sivaram Maharaja ran to Jayapataka Swami. Immediately we went outside and began to arrange vehicles.
The morning festival announcements had begun. I returned to the temple, took the microphone, and informed the devotees of the tragic news we had just received.
I requested the devotees to silently pray to the feet of Lord Narasingha and Radha Madhava for the safety of Goswami Maharaja and the members of his party. After a minute of silent prayer, I ran from the temple room.
Vehicles were organized. In our car there were Jayapataka Swami, Sivaram Swami, Niranjana Swami, Jayadvaita Swami, I, and a few Bengali devotees. We immediately left for the site.
The place of the accident is a village on the main highway called Phulia.
This is the holy site where Namacarya Haridasa Thakur lived in a crocodile hole on the banks of the Ganga. Here he chanted three hundred thousand holy names a day, was beaten in twenty two market places, and was tempted by Mayadevi personified and ultimately initiated her.
We came off the Santipur bypass and proceeded for some time. Two cars from the opposite direction stopped us to inform us that there had been a terrible accident on the highway.
As we approached we saw the car sitting upright, but sideways, on the highway. All of the windows were smashed and the left top side of the vehicle was somewhat collapsed.
There was a large crowd at the site. As we reached the spot we found devotees in hysteria. They informed us that the all of the wounded had been taken to Ranaghat Hospital. They also informed us that Goswami Maharaja was unconscious.
We reached the hospital. We again found hysterical grieving Vaisnavas. We were taken immediately to the room where Goswami Maharaja's body was lying. At one glance I could see that he had left his body. I mentioned this to Niranjana Swami, and in shock we offered our obeisances to Maharaja.
We touched our heads to the feet of that great servant of Srila Prabhupada and prayed that Prabhupada's and Krishna's mercy be fully with him.
From the report of Kalasamvara prabhu, the accident took place on a very straight stretch of road. There were no obstructions on the highway and no traffic from the opposite direction.
It appears that the driver of Tamal Krishna Goswami's Tata Sumo fell asleep at the wheel. At high speed the Sumo sideswiped a very large tree on the left side of the road. The vehicle lost balance and began rolling. The front left side of the cabin caved in.
Goswami Maharaja was sitting in the front left passenger seat with his seat belt fastened. Vrindavanesvari was sitting directly behind him. These two took the full brunt of the high-speed collision and roll.
Kalasambara was able to free himself from the car. He first tried to remove Goswami Maharaja but soon realized that his body was lifeless. Kalasamvara Prabhu is quite certain that Goswami Maharaja left his body immediately upon impact.
He then removed Vrindavanesvari and Aghavit from the car and placed all the injured into the second car that had been following them. They proceeded to the Ranaghat Hospital.
Kalasamvara's perception was confirmed at the hospital. Goswami Maharaja had immediately given up his body during the accident.
Vrindavanesvari suffered severe head damage and was given minimal chance of survival. Although an arrangement had been made to transfer her to Kolkatta, she gave up her body minutes later on the floor of the women's ward. When she passed away Sivaram Swami and Niranjana Swami were softly singing the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.
Jayapataka Swami diligently walked through the situation with the police investigators and doctors. He was trying very tactfully to get immediate release of the bodies, but it was not allowed. According to Indian law, all accidental deaths require a postmortem.
We tried to explain that Goswami Maharaja was an acarya. There was an agreement that the postmortem doctor would make the smallest minimal incisions on the bodies of Goswami Maharaja and Vrindavanesvari.
Around 11 AM we carried his body to the morgue. After 12 PM the postmortem doctor came and performed his work.
Jayapataka Maharaja succeeded in having all papers signed by 3 PM. We placed the bodies of Goswami Maharaja and Vrindavanesvari inside of the sankirtan bus and were ready to leave for Mayapur.
Then another problem arose. There were at least 200 local people that refused to allow our bus to roll until they had darshan of Maharaja's face. We said that they should take darshan of his feet but they insisted that as he was a mahatma they had to see his face.
We were hesitant, but the crowd became unruly. As soon as we showed them Maharaja's face they all began to chant the Maha Mantra and offer pranam. Then they allowed us to leave.
Even though Santipur is traditionally a place of Vaisnava offenders, as the bus passed through the streets, the people chanted Hare Krishna and showed respect by folding their palms.
We reached Mayapur around 4:30 PM. There was an ocean of grieving Vaisnavas waiting at the gate. The bus moved slowly down the main drive to the main guesthouse building and turned right.
Kirtan was being led by Lokanath Maharaja.
The bodies were removed from the bus and taken to different rooms at the rear of the guesthouse. There, they were prepared for the respective funeral ceremonies.
The ladies who were preparing the body of HG Vrindavanesvari noted that all of her limbs were still soft and supple. Only her right hand, which was formed in the position of a person holding japa beads, was erect and immovable.
After her remains were cleansed, she was carried to the shores of Mother Ganga and cremated.
It was the actual birthday of Vrindavanesvari. She wanted the special privilege and birthday gift of riding in the car to Kolkatta with Goswami Maharaja. But She actually received the priceless gift of riding back to Godhead with her beloved friend and siksa guru, Tamal Krishna Goswami.
Goswami Maharaja's body was bathed and then massaged in ghee, mantras were written in sandal paste upon his body, he was dressed in new cloth, and he was profusely covered with garlands. His body was then placed upon a stretcher and carried on procession around the Deities.
For nearly forty-five minutes His remains rested on the platform in front of Sri Sri Radha Madhava for final darshan. The assembled Vaisnavas filed by and had their final darshan of Goswami Maharaja. During this darshan the kirtan was sweetly sung by Niranjana Swami.
Then the procession left for the samadhi of Srila Prabhupada. His remains were shown to Prabhupada in the samadhi and there was circumambulation of Srila Prabhupada.
The procession left the samadhi and proceeded to the selected site of Maharaja's samadhi.
He was slowly lowered into the samadhi pit.
Puja was conducted, and his feet were washed. He was offered bhoga, and arati was performed.
Flowers were then tossed upon his remains, and some were collected to be used in the Puspasamadhi that will be erected at ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Ashrama in Govardhan.
The body of HH Tamal Krishna Goswami was first covered with salt and then earth.
The site of Goswami Maharaja's samadhi is on the left side of the parikrama path around Srila Prabhupada's samadhi. It is just near the point where the path turns left to proceed to the grhasta living area. It is an area that has been designated in the Mayapur City master plan for samadhis.
On Saturday there was a remembrance ceremony for HH Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaja and HG Vrindavanesvari Devi Dasi. The ceremony was overseen by HH Sivaram Maharaja.
Many senior devotees spoke of their deep appreciation, affection, and love for both of these unique and wonderful souls.
Tamal Krishna Maharaja was recognized as a dedicated servant of Srila Prabhupada. The quantity, quality, and varieties of services he performed for Srila Prabhupada's pleasure were amazing.
Many devotees acknowledged that he was a strict disciplinarian, sharp and demanding.
But all who spoke shared a vision of a Goswami Maharaja who was not simply the stereotypical demanding controller but of a gentle and extremely softhearted Vaisnava who relished sharing love with all.
A charming and eloquent person that had an enormous capacity to give shelter, guidance, care, instruction, and affectionate love to many many people.
A master of wit and cleverness. A connoisseur of fine prasadam.
An enigma. A misunderstood person. A person who was like chutney— unbearably hot and irresistably sweet simultaneously.
A person whom Prabhupada could always depend upon.
A person who could rise to overcome any challenge for the service of Srila Prabhupada.
A person whom Prabhupada would always call to for help in times of need.
A person who served Prabhupada with deep unflinching love during the final days of His Divine Grace.
A person who was a general in Srila Prabhupada's Sankirtan Army.
A person who courted controversy.
A person who made mistakes but never gave up his determination to serve the feet of Srila Prabhupada.
A person who inspired thousands of devotees with his wonderful classes.
A self-denigrating and humble person.
A person whom peace craftily eluded.
As Srila Prabhupada said, a man desperate to do anything for the service of Guru and Gauranga.
Her Grace Vrindavanesvari was remembered as a great sankirtan devotee, a massive collector who was always short of funds because she never kept for herself, a caring wife, a wonderful mother, an amazingly talented cook, a kind person who never ran short on big smiles, and most profoundly, a lover of the holy names of the Lord. She could chant japa and kirtan endlessly with great taste and devotion.
After many hours of loving remembrances there was the pushpanjali ceremony followed by arati to the photo of Goswami Maharaja. The kirtan was led by one of his dearest and closest friends, Kesava Bharati prabhu.
After which there was a wonderful feast offered to Radha Madhava in remembrance of HH Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaja.
All of the disciples of Srila Prabhupada honored prasadam on the veranda where the GBC have prasad.
At the head of the line of all of the Vaisnavas was a table of Radha Madhava's Mahaprasadam, and seated in front of that table was an asana with the picture of Goswami Maharaja.
After relishing the feast we all partook of his prasadam.
The passing of His Divine Grace Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaja and Vrindavanesvari Mataji has filled our hearts with devastation and sadness. For many of us they were close friends, a brother, a sister, a sincere well-wisher.
Their departure marks a great loss for our International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Such wonderful and glorious Vaisnavas possessed with the ceaseless determination to preach are so rare and hard to find.
But we are happy for them and are perfectly assured that they have both gone back home to serve in the realm beyond tears.
We are especially happy that Goswami Maharaja has now captured the peace that so long eluded him by again attaining the association of His Beloved Spiritual Master Srila Prabhupada and Their Divine Lordships Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar.
Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaja Ki Jai !! Srimati Vrindavanesvari devi dasi Ki Jai !! Srila Prabhupada Ki Jai !! Giriraja Govardhan Ki Jai !! Gaura Premanande !! Hari Bol !!
With affectionate regards,
© CHAKRA 26 March 2002
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