Prison Preaching Expands to Gwalior
BY: DEENA BANDHU DASA
Jun 22, GWALIOR, MADHYA PRADESH (SUN) Our Vrinda Kunda Prison Preaching expanded to Gwalior Central Jail on Saturday, 17th June. Jankinatha Das, a disciple of Gopal Krishna Maharaja, who runs this program, contacted one of our life members in Gwalior, Dr. Suneet Misra to arrange a program in the Gwalior Central Jail. His relative, Sri Suneet Sharma is the Deputy Jailor there and he was very enthusiastic to have us come.
He talked to Sri Raja Ram Dangi, Head Jailor, and he was also very anxious for us to do our program in their jail. Actually some other group who believes that Gayatri is the mantra for the age of Kali had already done some programs there
and, seeing the result, they were happy to also have us come to enliven and enlighten the prisoners.
Even in temple and other religious gatherings I have seldom seen the type of
welcome we received. Sri Dangi himself entered our names and particulars in the
register, a formality that we always have to do before entering any jail. They
have these huge wooden doors and inside is like a vestibule with offices on
either side and then another set of huge wooden doors. They always lock the
first set behind us before opening the second set. When the second set swung
open, we were suprised to see a brass band in full uniform waiting to escort
The band broke into a famous Mira Bai song and we walked between neatly made
white chalk lines on the path for about 100 meters. Then for the next 200
meters to the door of the grand courtyard there were about 100 prisoners in
clean yellow uniforms with little yellow Nehru caps to match. They were raining
flower petals on us and chanting Veda Stutis, om indra devatah, om surya
devatah, om candrama devatah, om vayu devatah...
We were completely flabergasted. Sri Dangi, seeing my surprise, leaned over in
my ear and said that the other group had made some of the prisoners into
purohits. Then we entered the doors of the courtyard, where 3,000 prisoners
were all sitting in the shade of the trees there. They all stood up and
applauded as we entered. Then we were escorted on to a very large stage where
they had already placed a picture of Radha Krishna on a makeshift altar with a
large brass lamp next to Them. They even had a nice but simple Vyasasana set up
with cushions all around it.
I then lit the five wicks on the lamp and we garlanded Radha Krishna, and the
pictures of Radha Shyamsundar, Krishna Balaram, and Srila Prabhupad that we had
brought with us. We sat down and then the prisoners themselves had a bhajan
group with a very expert singer who played harmonium, while another prisoner
played tabla and they did two popular Hindi Krishna Bhajans. One of them was
all about Radha asking everyone if they have seen Shyam, that was pulling our
Then we taught the prisoners the mahamantra which most of them already knew
anyway and had kirtan with 3,000 prisoners enthusiastically responding. Braja
Bhumi, Temple President of Jhansi who had come to join us in the program, then
spoke explaining that not only the prisoners, but even the people outside were
also prisoners. Citing many verses he explained that real reform can only come
when we actually change our heart. The prisoners applauded many of his points.
Then before I spoke, I thanked the prison administration for organizing such
are reception that we have never seen in any other Jail. Picking up the que
from Braja Bhumi Prabhu, I began explaining how there was no difference between
us and them. We are all prisoners in this material world and offenders. I have
seen other groups come and talk down to them, like they are aparadhis and we
are pure. They immediately warmed up by this point. When I mentioned our four
regulative principles, to my surprise, they all applauded!
I finished with the dramatical rendition of Jagai and Madai showing how these
two aparadhis became saints by the mercy of Chaitanya and Nityananda Prabhus
simply by chanting the Holy Names. This emphasized the point that we are all
offenders in Kali yuga. I told them I used to do all the same things as Jagai
and Madai, but my spiritual Master His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami
Prabhupada had saved us all with the chanting of Hare Krishna. You too can make
your lives successful the same way and they all applauded enthusiastically.
Then Braja Bhumi finished off with an ecstatic kirtan. We invited all the
prisoners to stand up and dance. Soon 3,000 prisoners were dancing jumping up
and down ecstatically. It was really a sight to see! We had brought prasadam
for them, which is one of the benefits of our prison preaching in India, as
most countries won't allow you to bring prasad inside the jail. Sri Dangi
thanked us all and explained that the boxes of prasad, would be brought to each
barrack (the large number of prisoners would have made a difficult scene) and
they all cheered. He also made us promise to return on July 1st.
We had set up a book stall and sold many books and distributed quite a few japa
malas also. We give the malas free on the promise that they actually chant on
them. We usually go through about a hundred malas a month if anyone wants to
Actually Jankinatha Prabhu in his regular circle of Agra, Mathura, and
Bharatpur, has about a dozen prisoners who chant 64 rounds. There are dozens
who are doing sixteen rounds and a hundred or so who chant less than sixteen.
He has distributed many books and now the prisoners who are doing sixteen
rounds are asking about initiation. Anyone interested?
Jankinatha Prabhu is practically carrying on this preaching single handedly.
The Jailers are all very appreciative since they all say that since our
programs started, they have less fights and difficulties than before. Since
Vrindavan Temple is not interested, I have been subsidizing his program from
our Vrinda Kunda project. Actually Vrindavan temple always tries to discourage
him. The never let him use a temple car or if they do, at the last minute, they
cancel as it has to go to market. So he has to engage outside taxis at a large
expense in his budget. Still we are managing on a budget of just over $100
month. This is a selfless service, as neither we're going to get any daksina,
nor we're going to get nice prasad like when we do at house programs. Instead,
we have to bring the prasad! Anyone desiring to help out can contact me.
The next day we went to Jhansi, the city where Srila Prabhupada made his first
attempt with the League of Devotees. Just underneath the imposing Jhansi Fort,
of Rani Laxmi Bai, the famous Queen of Jhansi, we have a very nice property.
One Bengali gentleman, Sri Ram Mukharjee, father of the well-know Bollywood
startlet Rani Mukharjee, donated his ancestral house to ISKCON to make a temple
there. Under the able guidance of Braja Bhumi Prabhu, disciple of Lokanatha
Swami, the preaching is expanding in the old preaching grounds of Srila
Two Janmastami's ago, I was there and over 20,000 people attended the function.
Srila Prabhupad would be very pleased to see this. Then next day, I met Dr.
Suresh Chand Shastri with whom Prabhupada used to stay on his visits to Jhansi.
He'll be 80 in August but is still going strong and can talk endlessly about
his association with Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada Ki Jaya!!!
In service of Srimati Vrinda Devi,
Deena Bandhu dasa