Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Vraja Left Us

Picture: Vraja this summer


Dear Vaninatha prabhu,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

It was a pleasure to read your letters, your history, and realizations. We were so happy to have Vraja adopted by you. But, there is some very sad news to tell you.

Yes, Vraja is the same ox you saw at the Washington DC Rathayatra in 1992. He and his brother Gita led many Rathayatra parades across the country. The potency of their preaching was beyond the preaching most of us devotees are able to offer to Srila Prabhupada. Vraja was so extremely handsome and noble that he attracted so many people to him.

If you look at our blog you will read how Vraja had arthritis for the last 2 years. Being old for an ox, they rarely live to 16 years, the arthritis was not a surprise. We treated it with some alternative medicines, as allopathic medicines really had nothing to offer. However, in the last month he was struggling to overcome it and was becoming weaker. We hoped he would make a comeback like he had so many times in the last 2 years.

We kept him separate from the herd because he had fallen and was having trouble keeping up with them. He was in the loafing shed (geriatric barn) with the gate open and could roam the adjacent lawn. Radharani was also there with him as company. She is an old cow, 22 to 25 years old, but she is in good shape. The way the barns are laid out, Vraja had daily association with the rest of the herd.

A week ago, he lost his footing and fell flat on his side. Chaitanya Bhagavat, trained by Balabhadra, is taking care of the cows in Balabhadra's absence. (Since we do not take funds from ISCOWP for our personal income, Balabhadra is in a mall for the winter season generating funds for ourselves. We do not collect enough to cover the cow projects
and pay ourselves.) Chaitanya Bhagavat found him. Chaitanya talked to him and soon Vraja got up. However, Chaitanya noticed that he was walking less steadily than before.

When Vraja fell, all the cows came down the hill to see if he was okay. Ujala was moaning. Vraja got up and Ujala stopped moaning. The next day when Chaitanya went to feed Vraja, the herd came down the hill at a trot to see how he was feeling. They were stretching their necks over the fence to talk to him. He seemed to be assuring them that he was okay. Shelda Bloomingdale, a volunteer, was there and wrote about it in the blog. Please read that to know more. It is entitled “Cows Love one Another.”

At this time, the weather was glorious, some cold nights but also some warm days. There were no flies or bugs, etc. Vraja was enjoying himself. He loved to be near the apple tree that was close to the house and ate almost all the apples. The night before last, Vraja must have fallen and could not get up. When we woke up in the morning, Chaitanya heard Ujala moaning and quickly got out of his cabin and ran in the direction of the moaning. Vraja was down near the apple tree. He was by the fence line and all the cows were around him. He had struggled in the night to get up, but could not. His face was looking up at the herd. He was very weak. Chaitanya chanted the Maha Mantra and two names of Krsna (Govinda, Gopala) in his ear. He then told Vraja he would be right back. Then he left to get me to see if there was something we could do. When we got back to him, he had left his body. The herd was still there.

We are very much missing him. He was such a noble soul. To the last days he remained majestic and noble and we are happy that he did not have to linger in the barn for a long time. We are thankful that his last days were spent pasturing with the herd nearby. We are thankful that he heard the names of Krishna right before his death. We are also thankful that he obtained you as his adopter in his last days, that he wasn't forgotten by his admiring public while in his retirement.

We are most sorry to give you this news, as we have been to experience it. We will eventually have a memorial to him on the ISCOWP web page, blog, and newsletter.

Today we buried Vraja in the field. Ray tried to do it while the herd wasn’t looking, but near the end when Vraja was being covered with dirt, they figured it out and ran over to the spot bellowing. That bright moon evening they returned to the spot where he was buried. Bhima, Nanda, Gita, Surabhi, Vishaka, and Kalki sat in a circle around the spot where Vraja was buried. They were mooing and crying in memory of Vraja. It was if they were holding a memorial service. Chaitanya Bhagavat joined them and the memorial service went on for several hours. The next morning Ujala was bellowing and Chaitanya Bhagavat found her kicking the dirt at the highest point of Vraja’s mound and rubbing her face in the dirt. Then she looked up and joined the herd moving past Vraja’s burial place and onto the barn.

Vraja was their lead cow. He was like their father or grandfather. Since they were babies, he was the big protector and decided where the herd would go and who could do what. When anyone would come into the field, Vraja would approach first and analyze whether they were friend or foe. If a stranger came into the field not accompanied by one of us, he would chase them out of the field. When another cow went down, he would be right there supervising our rescue efforts. He would stand over all of us (he was 7 feet to the tip of his horns), watching.

Now Gita has taken up the position as King of the Herd. In fact, he had already taken up this responsibility when Vraja was not with the herd. However, Vraja still had the respect of the herd. He was sure to maintain a proud and noble stance, holding his head up high even when arthritic and at the time of death.

The pain of his separation will take awhile to pass after having protected and loved him for the last 16 years. We welcome any remembrance writings about Vraja to include in his memorial tribute.

Your servant,

ISCOWP Website
Life With the Cows and Land

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