When I joined the Hare Krishna Movement in early June 1973, in Paris, France, for some unknown reason, I clearly remember that the every morning Srimad-Bhagavatam class was on Canto 1, Chapter 10, called “Departure of Lord Krishna for Dvaraka.” Perhaps it is all about separation and the accompanying sadness, such a deeply moving emotion. The whole episode of Rathayatra is based on this mood: separation and meeting again with Krishna, the supreme focus of all affection. It is the second volume of the whole collection of something thirty volumes, as on the picture above. I particularly remember the ladies on the roof showering flowers in honor of the departure of Lord Krishna. That must be verse SB 1.10.16. At the time, the ISKCON temple was at Fontenay aux Roses, with HG Hari Vilas Prabhu at the helm, who was also manufacturing incense. After a short time, the temple moved then to Rue Le Sueur in the 16th arrondissement, a prestigious location and a stone throw away from the famous Paris Triumph Arch. Perhaps the number was four, four Rue Le Sueur then. It is a two or three-story building, V-shaped, forming the conjunction with rue Chalgrin. Later on, HH Indradyumna Swami, at the time HG Indradyumna Das Adhikary who was based there at the time with others such as HG Locanananda Prabhu, a very sweet singer, commented that we should have never left / sold that building. Sri Bhagavan Das was the leader. During the inside designing of the building, he made me carry upstairs buckets of concrete. I distinctly remember walking up the revolving stairs with relatively heavy buckets of concrete. It was one of these spiraling stairs cases. There was also Bhava Sindhu Pota, who stole my best pants from my locker and ruined them while executing concrete work. At the time, Bhava Sindhu Pota was under the impression that newcomers can be exploited anyway useful to the so-called “older members”. HH Indradyumna Swami acted responsibly as peacekeeper between the two of us. I also remember my old Italian friend and Godbrother Dvijavara Prabhu.
I had spent the whole of the month of May in India, focusing on Vrndavan, where I had been searching for Srila Prabhupada. But I missed him. The French Back to Godhead magazine listed His address as Radha Damodara temple, which was and still is correct. And I must have asked to riskhaw driver to take me to Radha Damodara temple, but I do not really remember wich temple (s) I visited. All I remember is that the temple attendant was after a donation. That was my first contact with the Indian world and I got sick very soon, probably from ingesting contaminated water. I fled the heat to Srinagar, Kasmir, where I progressively got better. And I finally returned to Paris at the scheduled date. I also remember that when I went to Air France’s office and asked to fly to Vrndavan, the staff were quite puzzled. Where in India is Vrndavan? Perhaps, due to the influence of Srila Prabhupada Himself, times have changed now and the world has become more educated about the birth and activities (divya janma & divya karma BGAII V1, V2 & V3 4.9: “One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities, does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” ) of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. Only a few weeks later, Srila Prabhupada, visited 4 Rue Le Sueur and there were the usual last moments of febrile rush to get everything ready for the arrival of His Divine Grace. There is a nice picture of Srila Prabhupada offering aratik to the Deities, Radha Parisisvara, and perhaps a video as well. The dominant color is yellow, Lord Krishna’s favorite color.
Please find Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.10.16:
vavrsuh kusumaih krsnam
prasada — palace; sikhara — the roof; arudhah — ascending; kuru-naryah — the ladies of the Kuru royalty; didrksaya — seeing; vavrsuh — showered; kusumaih — by flowers; krsnam — upon Lord Krsna; prema — out of affection and love; vrida-smita-iksanah — glancing with shy smiles.
Out of a loving desire to see the Lord, the royal ladies of the Kurus got up on top of the palace, and smiling with affection and shyness, they showered flowers upon the Lord.
Shyness is a particular extra-natural beauty of the fair sex, and it commands respect from the opposite sex. The custom of separating females from males was observed even during the days of the Mahabharata, i.e., more than five thousand years ago. It is only the less intelligent persons not well versed in the history of the world who say that observance of separation of female from male is an introduction of the Mohammedan period in India. This incident from the Mahabharata period proves definitely that the ladies of the palace observed strict parda (restricted association with men), and instead of coming down in the open air where Lord Krsna and others were assembled, the ladies of the palace went up on the top of the palace and from there paid their respects to Lord Krsna by showers of flowers. It is definitely stated here that the ladies were smiling there on the top of the palace, checked by shyness. This shyness is a gift of nature to the fair sex, and it enhances their beauty and prestige, even if they are of a less important family, or even if they are less attractive. We have practical experience of this fact. A sweeper woman commanded the respect of many respectable gentlemen simply by manifesting a lady’s shyness. Half-naked ladies in the street do not command any respect, but a shy sweeper’s wife commands respect from all.
Human civilization, as conceived of by the sages of India, is to help one free himself from the clutches of illusion. The material beauty of a woman is an illusion because actually the body is made of earth, water, fire, air, etc. But because there is the association of the living spark with matter, it appears to be beautiful. No one is attracted by an earthen doll, even if it is most perfectly prepared to attract the attention of others. The dead body has no beauty because no one will accept the dead body of a so-called beautiful woman. Therefore, the conclusion is that the spirit spark is beautiful, and because of the soul’s beauty one is attracted by the beauty of the outward body. The Vedic wisdom, therefore, forbids us to be attracted by false beauty. But because we are now in the darkness of ignorance, the Vedic civilization allows very restricted mixing of woman and man. They say that the woman is considered to be the fire, and the man is considered to be the butter. The butter must melt in association with fire, and therefore they may be brought together only when it is necessary. And shyness is a check to the unrestricted mixing. It is nature’s gift, and it must be utilized.
From this passage we may conclude that Srila Prabhupada’s over all designation for the dress style of some women of our times is “semi-nudity”, the opposite of “parda” also spelled “purdah.” “Half-naked ladies in the street do not command any respect,”