It was my last week in Sri Vrindavan Dhama. I wanted to take advantage of my final precious days in the holy dhama, so I took a small group of devotees to Radha Kunda for parikrama. During our circumambulation of the sacred lake, a Vrajavasi man invited us into his home for fresh, hot chapattis which his wife and daughter served us with yogurt.
“Please take darshan of our deity,” the man said, seeing we had finished our meal.
We followed him into a small temple room and were stunned to see a large, very old deity of Sri Nathji.
“My great-grandparents discovered Him underneath the ground when they built this house,” said the man. “Our family has worshipped Him ever since.”
As we took darshan of their ancient lord, I noticed two marble feet embedded in the altar. It looked like another deity had once stood alongside Sri Nathji.
“What are those feet?” I asked.
“They belonged to a deity of Yamuna-devi who was found at the same time as Sri Nathji,” the daughter of the family said. “My father’s great-grandparents had her painted very nicely and our family always worshipped her with all our love and devotion. But then three years ago some thieves broke into our home and tried to steal her. We managed to stop them from taking her, but they broke her trying.”
“Where is she now?” I asked.
“We kept her in a cupboard for a long time, but recently we put the broken murti in the refuse heap behind our house,” she replied. “The cleaners are coming next week to clear the area out and they’ll probably throw her in the Yamuna River.”
“Can we see her?” I asked.
“You want to see her?” the man asked. “She’s broken, like my daughter said. She’s missing an arm and one hand is broken off. When the deity is broken, the personality leaves that form. Why do you want to see a broken murti?”
“Sometimes in our line our acharyas have repaired broken deities and continued to worship them,” I said. “Our understanding is that the deity can remain in that form.”
The man looked skeptical, but led us through his house to their back courtyard. Laying on top of a pile of garden waste and discarded refuse was an exquisitely beautiful female deity about three feet in length.
I glanced at the devotees. The shocked expression on their faces reflected my own feelings. I decided to take a chance.
“Instead of throwing your deity away, would you give her to us?” I asked.
“Yes, if you like you can take the broken murti,” the wife said without any hesitation.
“We’d be happy to get a new deity of Yamuna-devi made for your family in exchange,” I said.
Her face broke into a big smile. “Oh thank you! Thank you!” she said.
Half an hour later we were driving back to Vrindavan with a most beautiful deity of Yamuna devi in the back seat of our jeep.
“They just don’t make deities like this anymore,” I said.
“But how do you think she ended up underneath the ground?” one devotee asked.
“Hard to say,” I replied. “But it may be that the deity was hidden during one of the times India was conquered by foreigners. Deities were often hidden underground or in lakes or forests, especially during the Muslim invasions.”
We drove in silence for the rest of the journey, spellbound by the beauty of the deity. As we entered Vrindavan I said to the devotees, “That was the most amazing Radha Kunda parikrama I’ve ever done.”
“Us too!” the devotees said unanimously.
Arriving at my house we carefully carried Yamuna-devi, the daughter of the sun god, inside.
“O handsome, fragrant tamala desire tree blooming in Vrindavan forest and embraced by the madhavi vine of the goddess ruling this forest, O tree the shade of whose glory protects the world from a host of burning sufferings, what wonderful fruits do the people find at your feet?”
[Srila Rupa Goswami, Utkalika-vallari, Text 66]