Bitten by the Krishna Bug: Honoring the Life of Palika Dasi
By Madri Dasi
A few days ago, I heard of Palika’s transitioning from this mortal world. I did not want to cry because her life was over, but I smiled.
Palika was always “on the go.” During recent calls with her illustrious children and other family and friends to offer my condolences, we exchanged our fondest memories of her, which endeared her more to us—which I thought was worth documenting and sharing.
In 1982, at a young age, Palika realized the trivial nature of material existence and was looking for something more substantial to do with her life. This prompted her to walk into the Hare Krishna Healing Center on Prince Edward Street, Durban. Feeling an attraction for the lifestyle dedicated to serving Sri Krishna, she decided to join as a full-time devotee. The healing center had no full-time devotees, and so, having heard of the Hare Krishna ashram in Cato Ridge, she decided to go there. In her research on how to reach the temple, she heard of a devotee living forty-five minutes away from the temple—Radha Raman Dasa—and one day she appeared at his home neatly dressed, with a suitcase and a request to be taken to the temple in Cato Ridge. Shortly after her arrival at Radha Ramana’s house, a sankirtana devotee, Tribhanga Sundara Dasa, also arrived at the house, and he was going to Cato Ridge. Thus, she was able to fulfill her desire.
At the temple, Palika (then Priscilla) became roommates with Divya Rupa and Vishnupriya (then Bhagavati), who were engaged in book distribution on the streets, and she joined them. On her second day out on books, she distributed three boxes of books herself and collected a huge amount of money. Her enthusiasm in voluntary service was indeed laudable. She continued this service for a little while and then was asked to sell BBT prints of the rasa-lila and other framed pictures of Krishna, going door to door in the Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas. She and her roommates embraced this new service with increased enthusiasm, selling many framed pictures and inviting everyone they met to visit the temple at Cato Ridge for the Sunday Love Feast.
Soon thereafter, Palika married Kishore Gopal Prabhu, a fellow devotee, and moved out of the temple to start a family. However, when she was heavily pregnant with her second child, she joined her old roommates back on sankirtana. The temple authorities then asked this team of young enthusiastic girls to do collections with money cans and stickers. They did this, meeting many people on the bridges and streets and inviting everyone back to the temple. Once, they went to the Royal Agricultural Show in Pietermaritzburg, and after a fruitful day of collecting donations, they were arrested. Palika was heavily pregnant, but the police were merciless, and the crowds started to hurl abuses at the devotees. This incident shows how brave and fixed she and her companions were in the service of the Lord. Indeed, what risks they voluntarily embraced in an undeterred spirit!
Palika was the mother of four very astute children—three sons, who are innovative businessmen, and one daughter, who is working in Australia for a prestigious media company in addition to being a competitive martial-arts practitioner and sword fighter. As a mother and wife of a husband in frail health, Palika turned into a very successful businesswoman, thus providing the best of everything for her family.
Her desire to serve the mission of Srila Prabhupada and his followers remained her passion. This desire fructified in her opening a florist business and regularly air freighting flowers to her beloved Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath. She also donated floral arrangements and flowers for garlands to Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurahari at ISKCON Lenasia weekly for a long time. Once, I met her when she was personally delivering the flowers, and I mentioned that I wished we could get small roses too, to offer to the little deities on the temple altar. The next week, she sent a hundred rose trees to the temple, which provided baby roses, and another hundred trees that provided medium-size roses. Such was her desire to facilitate others in service to Krishna. Palika was indeed very selfless in serving.
Her children unanimously declare that as their mother, she provided the best for them. Even though she was orthodox in her ways and could be perceived as running the house with an iron fist and ensuring that they maintained good discipline and spirituality, she showered them with undying love. They recount that she always encouraged them in their education and enrolled them in the best schools. For six months she enrolled the elder sons in the Vrindavan gurukula and her daughter in a day school in Vrindavan. Her children told me that this opportunity was a life-altering experience that afforded them a lasting impression of what a life of devotion means. The bliss of parikramas, Aindra Prabhu’s kirtans, sumptuous prasadam with fellow gurukulis, and learning to play mridanga and harmonium remain at the forefront of their consciousness even as adults. Palika also instilled in her children good business acumen and the art of cooking awesome meals, lessons that they acknowledge have formed a steady foundation in their lives.
Palika loved to serve devotees. She often said that since she could not personally cook for Prabhupada, she wanted to cook for those who served him and his mission. Hence, she would cook meals for Tamal Krishna Goswami, Giriraj Swami, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, Bhurijana Prabhu, and Deena Bandhu Prabhu while in Vrindavan. She also cooked in Delhi and Mumbai, always gravitating towards a kitchen to serve wherever she went. She was particularly sensitive to the nutritional needs of those she served and carried ingredients from South Africa for their protein needs. She formed close friendships with Arca Vigraha and Kirtida and Karta and many wonderful devotees in Vrindavan, where she would frequently visit her children. The association she received there made an indelible impression on her, and she could not stop speaking about it in separation when she was away. She spoke of her visits as if reliving her experiences there and was fixed in the idea that she wanted to return as soon as possible. She was very fond of Sri Sri Radha-Shyamasundar and took Them gifts too.
Back in South Africa, she had programs at her home, cooking feasts and inviting devotees and new people, whom she would always enthuse by sharing Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. She would also cook for the local senior devotees. Her cooking was legendary. Tribhanga Sundara Prabhu recently told me that she once cooked him a meal when he visited and that the potato curry was so relishable that he asked her to teach him the recipe, which she willingly did. He cooked her recipe for five thousand people for a function just after the grand opening of Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath temple in Durban. Bhagavan das, while passing through the kitchen, acknowledged that the preparation looked good, and many people complimented him on this prep whenever he made it—credit for which, he says, goes to dear Palika.
Palika had faith that Krishna would protect her. Her third pregnancy, with her lovely daughter, was a difficult one. Doctors advised her to abort the child because her life and that of the unborn child were at risk. She chose to not follow their advice, saying that Krishna would protect them. Both she and the child survived without impairment, and she later gave birth to a fourth child.
In 1988, while living close to the Yeoville Hare Krishna center, her second son sustained a leg injury, and the doctors advised amputation of his leg. She declined, saying that Krishna would protect him. He recovered and can now dance and jump with that foot.
In her later years, while going on japa walks, Palika would meet many people and talk to them about spirituality. She also created a preaching page on social media that garnered 13,700 followers. All glories to her wonderful services.
With fond memories of her, we pray for her continued spiritual success.