“I request…that everything in the Temple should be kept nice and clean… We should always remember that Krishna is the purest & similarly only the pure can associate with Him. Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
– Letter to: Nandarani, Krsna Devi, Subala and Uddhava, Delhi, 3 October, 1967
Srila Prabhupada always emphasised the importance of cleanliness, and said that cleanliness is essential for making advancement in spiritual life: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” In Sridhama Mayapur, the entire Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir is cleaned twice a day – once in the early morning at around 2a.m., and once in the afternoon at around 2p.m.
This service to Their Lordships and Their devotees is performed daily without fail by a group of seven brahmacharis. They clean harder to reach places first, such as the lights, fans, and jafri (decorative cut-out designs in the walls that provide ventilation), and then move to the raised platforms in front of the altars and the floors. Using a generous amount of water and large squeegees, the brahmacharis spotlessly clean the temple for the pleasure and comfort of the Lord and His devotees.
By cleaning the temple and the Lord’s paraphernalia with love and devotion, one also begins the process of purification in one’s own heart, thereby purifying oneself and becoming eligible to associate with Krishna, the purest of the pure. In the purport of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya-lila 12.135, Srila Prabhupada explains how Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught us all be His own example how to keep the temple of the heart clean. Srila Prabhupada quotes his own Guru Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who commented on the cleaning of the Gundica temple in Puri by the Lord and His associates. He states that as the world leader, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally gave instructions on how to receive the Lord in one’s cleaned and purified heart.
Gundica Mandir is located approximately three kilometers away from Srimandir, which is the main temple of Lord Jagannatha in Sri Ksetra Puri Dhama, Odisha. Every year, Lord Jagannatha goes out on a grand chariot procession from His palatial home to His childhood home Vrindavana. Gundica Mandir represents Vrindavana, and to prepare for the Lord’s arrival back home, the day before Ratha-yatra Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu cleansed the temple along with hundreds of devotees. Following in the footsteps of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, this cleaning of Gundica temple the day before Ratha-yatra has continued for over 500 years. This practice is known as Gundica Marjana, or the cleansing of Gundica temple.
The cleansing of Gundica temple is compared to the cleansing of the heart. This process is calle danartha-nivritti – cleansing oneself from unwanted desires within the heart. The dust, sticks and stones the Lord and His associates cleaned out from the temple represent the various anarthas, or unwanted desires within the heart. Some of these anarthas include offenses to the holy names, vaisnava aparadha, and the desire to enjoy separately from the Lord, amongst other things. By the continuous and determined effort to chant the Lord’s holy names without offenses, the dirt from within the heart can be cleaned.
Even seemingly menial work that is done for the Lord’s pleasure helps to remove anarthas from the heart. For example, cleaning the Lord’s paraphernalia, whether it be His dishes, cloth, temple floors, etc. helps to cleanse the heart. Because the Lord’s paraphernalia is connected to Him and is non-different from Him, when one treats the belongings of the Lord with care and devotion and attention to detail – just as Lord Caitanya demonstrated when he cleaned the Gundica temple – one automatically pleases the Lord.
In the Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir on the day before Ratha-yatra, around 150 of the Mayapur community devotees gather and perform a large scale cleaning of the temple. Attempting to follow in the footsteps of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the devotees clean the temple inside and out and from top to bottom.
As the cleaning takes place kirtan is performed, and everyone present is blissfully engaged in chanting. Sometimes, the devotees dance while they clean. Thus they wash the temple of their hearts as well as the Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir, getting both the external and internal temples ready for the arrival of the Lord of the Universe. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates were cleaning the Gundica temple, they were all engaged in chanting Krishna’s names. In fact, Krishna’s name was the only means of communication. If one devotee wanted a pot of water, he would exclaim to another devotee “Krishna! Krishna!” Understanding that this meant that he needed a pot of water, the other devotee would communicate that another pot of water would be brought by chanting “Krishna! Krishna!” And so in this way, only Krishna’s names were uttered throughout the entire cleaning process.
In Sridhama Mayapur, devotees of all ages work together to cleanse the temple. Upon entering the temple during the Gundica Marjana festival, one will see the older devotees working to the best of their ability, while the young children are slipping and sliding around the temple, ecstatically drenched in water and dirt. All of them are engaged in chanting the holy names of the Lord as they work. Indeed, it is sweet to see and a pleasure to hear. Using plenty of water and cleaning materials supplied by the temple commander, the pujaris and other devotees also do an in-depth cleaning of the altars of Sri Sri Radha Madhava, Sri Ugra Nrsimadeva and Sri Sri Panca-tattva. Extensive cleaning also takes place in Rajapur Jagannatha Mandir, Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi Mandir, Srila Prabhupada’s Bhajan Kutir, and the ISKCON Mayapur Goshala, each headed by their respective pujaris and departments.
Srila Prabhupada further writes in the purport to Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya-lila 12.135, “If one wants to see Krishna seated in his heart, he must first cleanse the heart, as prescribed by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His Siksastaka: ceto-darpana-Marjana. In this age, everyone’s heart is especially unclean, as confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam: hrdy antah-stho hy abhadrani. To wash away all dirty things accumulated within the heart, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised everyone to chant the Hare Krishna mantra. The first result will be that the heart is cleansed (ceto-darpana-Marjana). Similarly, Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.17) confirms this statement:
srnvatam sva-kathahkrsnah punya-sravana-kirtanah
hrdy antah-stho hy abhadrani vidhunoti suhrt satam
“’Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who relishes His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.’”
Srila Prabhupada goes on to explain how Sri Krishna Himself also helps to clean the heart of the jiva, as He is already seated there and wants to continue residing within. One must, however, make an effort to clean one’s own heart, just like Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu cleaned the Gundica temple.
Everything belongs to Krishna, and therefore by cleaning His temple and other paraphernalia one automatically begins cleaning his or her heart, which ultimately belongs to Krishna too. Krishna wants to reside in our hearts and therefore assists us in cleansing our hearts when we demonstrate through genuine chanting that this is what we desire. Once the heart is pure and clean, the Lord resides there and directs the jiva back home to finally be in His pure association
“In this way all the quarters of the Gundica temple were completely cleansed and cleared. All quarters were cool and spotless, like one’s cleansed and pacified mind.”
Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya-lila, 12.133