Archive for the 'Festivals' Category

Service opportunity
28 December 2008

December 28 2008

Rasarani-priya and Tara

These bright young things are my daughter Rasarani-priya and her best friend, Tara. Two effulgent young sixteen years old devotees who are eager to take advantage of their fortunate births and increase their devotional service.  Rasarani is already initiated by HH Indradyumna Swami and currently doing the three month Bhakti Shastri course at the Mayapur Institute for Higher Education and Training (MIHET). She spent two months this year on the Polish Festival of India Tour and is planning to repeat the experience again next year.

Tara is Australian and has been living in Mayapur for the past  four years with her mother Siddhi dasi, and two brothers, Jahnu and Radha Raman. She is also an aspiring disciple of Indradyumna Maharaja and she would love to also go on the two month Polish tour next year with Rasarani.

This is where you dear reader, can help. Due to circumstances beyond her control Tara doesn’t have the funds to get to Poland and back.  If anyone has a desire to help and encourage this fine young lady to develop her devotional creeper, you can do no better than offering to partly or wholey sponsor her trip. Its a wonderful way to encourage our youth to become Krsna conscious and to give Krsna consciousness to others. Anyone who helps is sure to get the blessings of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya.

If anyone is interested, please contact myself anytime between now and April.

Ras Purnima -Bengal’s big festival
13 November 2008

November 13 2008


Today is the full moon night on which Lord Krishna holds His rasa dance with His dearest devotees, the gopis of Vrindavan.

 Rasa dance

rasa dance1

Rasa-purnima is a big festival in Bengal. At Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir we get at least 100,000 visitors throughout the day. They come to see Sri Sri Radha Madhava and the astasakhis,

Radha Madhava and asta-sakhis

chant in the packed temple rooms,

chanting crowd 

Read the rest of this entry »

Kartika vrata
10 November 2008

November 10 2008

Mother Yasoda and baby Damodara

kartika offerings

Its getting near the end of Kartika vrata and the Damodar prayers. This is always the best month of the year. I used to like observing it in Vrndavana. When we first opened the Krsna Balaram mandira in 1975 I had the pleasure of observing the first Kartika for the temple as the temple commander. And right after that I became Srila Prabhupada’s personal servant. In those days we didn’t really know much about observing the festivals and not so many people were coming. Now you can’t move, the temple is so packed up. So my allegiance has shifted to Mayapur.

Mayapur is also packed up but not to the degree Vrndavana is.


And the Bengali kirtaneers have a different style of singing the Damodara prayers which is very sweet. 


In 1976 also I was in Vrndavana with Srila Prabhupada.

Read the rest of this entry »

Srila Prabhupada’s Disappearance festival pics
2 November 2008

November 02 2008

Srila Prabhupada in the Puspa Samadhi

Here’s a few pics. from this evening’s festival in the puspa-samadhi. In keeping with tradition, devotees sung “Je anilo prema dhana…” at the exact time of Srila Prabhupada’s departure, which is recorded in TKG’s Diary as 7.25 PM. That was followed by offerings of garlands by senior devotees, an arati and another puspanjali, and then offering of lamps for Kartika-vrata.

Umapati Swami offers a garland

Umapati Swami offering garland

Bhakti Charu Swami offers his garland

Bhakti Charu Swami offering garland

A tray of ghee wicks for offering kartika-dipa

ghee wicks

The Mayapur ladies offer their lamps

ladies offering their lamps

Head Pujari Jananivas prabhu

Jananivasa prabh

kirtana lead by Bhakti Charu Swami

kirtan for Srila Prabhupada

Srila Prabhupada’s Tirobhava-tithi Maha-mahotsava
2 November 2008

November 2 2008 – Mayapur

April 1972 Sydney

April 1972: Srila Prabhupada and Sydney temple president, Mohanananda dasa. Photo by Amogha dasa.

Today is Srila Prabhupada’s 31st Disappearance festival, which I am celebrating in Mayapur.  I decided to return here from Vrndavana and observe His Divine Grace’s departure pastime at  his puspasamadhi in the more intimate and peaceful atmosphere of Mayapur-dhama.

There are not so many crowds and the ceremony is more simply observed, but it has its own sweetness and style. The puspa-samadhi is a beautiful building, its only drawback being the terrible accoustics. The sound echoes around the dome and the smooth concrete walls and you have to sit in the right spot to hear properly. For this reason we will be hiring one of the top accoustic engineers in India so that we don’t have the same problem in the TOVP.

After the regular morning program we gathered in the samadhi and had three hours of Srila Prabhupada katha interspersed with bhajans lead by our expert Bengali kirtaneers. We are blessed with the presence of several very senior devotees, particularly HH Umapati Swami who joined in 1966, Madhusudana and Kancanabala prabhus and their daughter who both joined in 1967, Bhakti Charu Swami, Hanumat-presaka Swami, Jananivas and Pankajanghri prabhus, Bhavananda prabhu, Sri Raga, Grahila, Suresvara, Ragatmika and others.

 The main theme seemed to be “How I joined Krsna consciousness by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada.” It was engaging hearing, each story a moving testiment to the great compassion and mercy Srila Prabhupada extended to the most fallen souls of Kali-yuga.

For my part, I had skipped the regular Deity greeting and guru-puja so that I could do my own daily puja to Prabhupada before the festival program began.

Hsd Deity of Prabhupada 

As I bathed and dressed him, I listened to the first ever recording of Srila Prabhupada, made by himself in February 1966 as he sat in his windowless, furnitureless room at 100W 72nd Street. It is his Introduction to the Geetopanisad, or Bhagavadgita.

As I absorbed myself in his resonant, careful dictation, I envisioned him sitting, alone and penniless, in the New York winter in what could only be described as a materially destitute condition. Yet with unlimited enthusiasm to execute his spiritual master’s instructions to preach Krsna consciousness to the English speaking people of the world.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had told him that even if noone else is there, you can still preach to the walls. And that is precisely what Srila Prabhupada did. When he spoke the Gita Introduction there was noone there to hear him. He was speaking to a machine. He had no idea whether anyone would hear what he had to say, but he had confidence that it was worth saying, and that if Krsna desired it would eventually be heard.

Then in my mind I fast-forwarded to Sydney, circa January 1972. I had met the devotees the year before on the streets of the same city, the second day I arrived there as a new immigrant from England. I bought a BTG, #37 with the rasalila dance pictured on the front. After six months working in the far north-west of the Australian outback, I had traveled back to Sydney to find the devotees.

I was materially burnt out, desperate to find some meaning to my life, seriously questioning my own sanity and looking for answers to questions that noone seemed to even understand what to speak of answer. I found the devotees and bought a Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the blue Collier MacMillan edition with a black sillouette of Lord Visnu on the front.

Collier MacMillan Gita 1968

Read the rest of this entry »

Kartika begins
15 October 2008

October 14 2008

I came to Chowpatti temple early in the morning and will be spending the next week or so here. If Juhu beach temple is Heaven on Earth this place is Vaikuntha. Although small in comparison to the opulent Juhu beach temple, it is like a precious jewelbox, filled with gems and gold.

 gorgeous temple

The Deities of Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha, Gaura Nitai and Nathaji are beautifully decorated and lovingly cared for. They attract many thousands of people every week. On Sundays an attendance of several thousand is standard.


Chowpatti is famous for its Vaisnava culture and etiquette. The devotees are humble, enthusiastic and elevated, following in the footsteps of their leader, HH Radhanatha Swami. Chowpatti has a resident population of over 100 brahmacaris, and many thousands of regular congregational members as well as hundreds of initated householders.

Maharaja is here and today begins the observance of Kartika. After greeting the Deities and gurupuja we sat down to sing the glories of Lord Damodara. Maharaja led us in the chanting of the Damodarastaka, one of my favorite bhajanas.

Radhanatha Maharaja and chanters 

Throughout the month devotees offer lighted ghee lamps to the Lord and by doing so gain benedictions beyond our scope of appreciation:

ghee lamp

 Sri Hari-bhakti-vilasa
Sixteenth Vilasa, Volume One
Text 99-168

Please hear the glories of offering a lamp during the month of Karttika, an
offering that is very pleasing to Lord Kesava. O king of brahmanas, a person
who offers a lamp in this way will not take birth again in this world.

Read the rest of this entry »

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Appearance day & World Hari-nama week
13 September 2008

September 13, 2008

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura  bhaktivinoda-thakur2.jpg

Saturday is my usual day for giving the Bhagavatam class here in Mayapur. So it was my fortunate lot to get to speak about Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. It is also the first day of our ISKCON World Hari-nama week and the devotees here have planned a whole week of activities centered around the chanting of the holy names in the local area.

The two events are natural companions. The Krsna consciousness movement as we know really stems from the efforts of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. His highly organized Nama-hatta groups had over 500 branches and he traveled extensively to chant and speak about the glories of the Nama. He also wrote an amazing amount of stuff about the Nama and Krsna consciousness-over 100 books. He provided the proto-type for the Gaudiya Matha, and later, ISKCON.

For my class I consulted with ‘The Seventh Goswami’ by my godbrother Rupa Vilasa prabhu.


A wonderful book describing the life of Srila Bhaktivinoda.

After giving a brief overview of the birth and early days of the Thakura’s life. I picked out two chapters which I read to the devotees: “Preaching the Holy Name” and “A Mighty Pen” because both of these focus on the description of the glories of the holy name and the Thakura’s attempts to spread it.

These describe his activities from 1889-1893, a period immediately following his discovery of the true birth place of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in 1888. It was one of intensive spiritual endeavor when he would travel from village to village and chant and speak to crowds of thousands. He went to Vrindavana and he also wrote ten books, including the Jaiva Dharma. I won’t repeat it all here but here’s Bhaktivinoda’s own description of his preaching programs [from Seventh Goswami]:

Read the rest of this entry »

Vamana-dvadasi 2008
12 September 2008

Here’s a few pictures from today’s celebration of Lord Vamanadeva’s appearance.

The curtains were opened to reveal ‘Vamanadeva’ (sorry I don’t know the boy’s name):

Lord Vamana appears

The ‘Lord’ is invited to take his seat:


Then offered arati by Umapati Swami:

arati to Lord Vamanadeva

then offered a drink

offering a drink

and fed sumptuously

and prasadam

Lord Vamanadeva’s Appearance
12 September 2008

September 12 2008

Here in Mayapur Lord Vamanadeva’s appearance is celebrated in a fashion unique in ISKCON.  Every year a young boy is selected from the community to play the part of Lord Vamana. He is brought before the devotees and feted as if he is the Lord Himself. Arati is offered and the boy is fed sumptuous prasadam.

Here’s a couple of photos from last year’s celebration with Radha Raman dasa brahmacari from Australia playing the part:

Radha Raman das brahmacari as Vamanadeva


distributing prasadam

September 8 2008 Radhastami at home
8 September 2008

September 8 2008


We don’t do much at home on festivals. We have our own Deities, Radha Madhava, Gaura Nitai, Srila Prabhupada, Bal Krsna and Balarama but we observe the festivities in the temple.

On days like Radhastami though, Rasarani-priya bathes her Deities and today she was able to offer Them beautiful new dresses which Sitala brought back from her trip to Vrndavan.

Sitala has worked with Ashok the jariwala for over 30 years, he’s like family. Ashok makes deity clothes for many temples in ISKCON as well as the Birlas etc. His men are expert and one of the side-benefits is that Sitala can occasionally get outfits made for our Deities.

Here’s the Radhastami outfit for Radha Madhava:

 Radha Madhava’s new outfit

new outfit

September 8 2008 – the better half…
8 September 2008

September 8 2008 – Radharani is the better half…

Radha Krsna are One

[TD 4] October 5, 1976 – Vrndavana

 Prabhupada pointed out that the wife is also considered to be not different from the husband. “Again the wife is considered ardhangini. I think in English also it is said, ‘better half.’ Wife is considered half the body, the left-hand side half. Perhaps you have seen the picture that Krsna and Radharani, one body. The left-hand side is Radharani, right-hand side is Krsna. Srila Jiva Gosvami has explained this, radha krsna-pranaya-vikrtir hladini-saktir asmad ekatmanav api. Radha and Krsna, They are one, but for pastimes they have become two.”

September 8 2008 – Radhastami ki Jaya!
7 September 2008

September 8 2008 – Mayapur

 May Srimati Radharani bless all the readers of this blog on this auspicious day

 Srimati Radharani

I was with Srila Prabhupada on two Radhastami celebrations. The first time was 1975 in the newly-opened Krishna-Balaram Mandir in Vrndavan. I was the new temple commander and the only thing I can remember about the festival was that Srila Prabhupada unveiled a marble memorial plaque and corner stone for the Vrndavana Gurukula. There was no fanfare or large crowds, just a few of us that happened to be around:

Radhastami 1975

 Gopal Krishna dasa (GBC), Srila Prabhupada, architect Saurabha dasa, Kishori dasi

The next year, I was fortunate enough to be on Srila Prabhupada’s party when he celebrated Radhastami in New Delhi. I have a lot more recollections from that year because I was keeping a daily diary;

Here are a few of the important incidences from that festival:

Read the rest of this entry »

August 24 2008 -Mayapur- a few pics from Janmastami
27 August 2008

Janmastami evening we had one of those Mayapur abhisekas of chota Radha Madhava. I doubt any temple in the world does them as well.

 Here’s a few photos taken by my daughter Rasarani-priya from the middle of the audience in the temple room:

Chota Radha Madhava awaiting Their bath:

janmastami 1

Waiting in line for the privilege:


Sannyasis first- Umapati Swami and Gauranga Prem Maharaja:


Finally its my turn:


Transcendental twins Jananivasa and Pankajanghri:


The best part of the abhisheka:



The other best part of the abhisheka. Radha Madhava upto Their necks in flower petals:



For the nectar hunters there are many more photos on

August 25 2008 – Mayapur – Sri Vyasapuja
27 August 2008

August 25 2008 – Mayapur – Sri Vyasapuja of Srila Prabhupada

Sri Vyasapuja

[Pls note: most of the photos in this blog entry have been nicked from the site; pls. go there to see more]  

My offering to His Divine Grace this year is the launch of this website. I hope that he is pleased with this humble attempt to glorify him, and I hope the readers are pleased with it also. Every year I think about the irony of how hard it is to execute Srila Prabhupada’s most essential instruction to us on his appearance day. Read the rest of this entry »

August 24 2008 – Sri Krishna Janmastami utsava
24 August 2008

August 24 2008

Sri Krsna Janmastami

I was up at 12.45 AM, for some reason I couldn’t sleep. So I chanted a few rounds, read about Lord Krsna’s appearance from 10th Canto Part 1, and then went to Mangala arati. The place was totally packed with villagers lining up at 4.00 AM to get in. Mayapur is catching up with Vrndavana now at Janmastami with the scale of their attendence. Inside, it was like a sauna, you got dripping wet just standing still.

I was asked to give the English Bhagavatam class at 6.30 AM until the main darsana of the Deities of Sri Sri Radha Madhava at 8.30 AM. I was wondering how I would keep talking for so long without boring everyone. But as it turned out, it went quite well. I read particularly from the 10 canto, purport to chapter 2, verse 20:

“As clearly stated in Bhagavad-gita (dehino ‘smin yatha dehe [Bg. 2.13]), within the body is the body’s proprietor, the living force, which is more important. But human society has become so fallen that instead of understanding the living force within the body, people have become busy with external things. This is a discrepancy in human duties. Therefore Krsna has taken birth or taken shelter within the womb of the Krsna consciousness movement. Men of Kamsa’s class, therefore, are very much afraid and are busy trying to stop this movement, especially in the Western countries. One politician has remarked that the Krsna consciousness movement is spreading like an epidemic and that if not checked immediately, within ten years it may capture governmental power. There is, of course, such potency in the Krsna consciousness movement.

As stated by authorities (Cc. Adi 17.22), kali-kale nama-rupe krsna-avatara: in this age, Krsna has appeared in the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. The Krsna consciousness movement is spreading like wildfire all over the world, and it will go on doing so. Men who are like Kamsa are very much afraid of the movement’s progress and acceptance by the younger generation, but as Krsna could not be killed by Kamsa, this movement cannot be checked by men of Kamsa’s class. The movement will go on increasing more and more, provided the leaders of the movement remain firmly Krsna conscious by following the regulative principles and the primary activities of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra regularly.”

The reference to the politician who compared the spread of the Movement to an epidemic caught my eye. I was with Srila Prabhupada when this report came in:

[TD 4] October 4, 1976 – Vrndavana

“Prabhupada received a double report from Balavanta prabhu, which he answered during his massage. Balavanta said that a Houston newspaper recently reported a debate on “cults” and what to do about them, and quoted a member of the State legislature who made the statement that “The Hare Krishnas are spreading like an epidemic. They are a great danger. They are spreading like wildfire and if they are not stopped, they will take over the government eventually.”

Srila Prabhupada replied very positively to this report:

“Our ultimate aim is to take part in politics, because Krishna took part in politics, we have to follow—but if people do not become Krishna conscious it won’t be possible. Actually if we can take up the government, our movement will be very easily spread and beneficial to the people. We can make happy, peaceful men, God conscious—this is our aim. The main thing is to distribute books more and more. That remark by the man in Houston is to your credit, that this movement is becoming an epidemic. Actually, everywhere envious people are against this movement, especially communists, because this movement is a threat to them. The main thing is to distribute books—the communist idea is spread practically all over the world on account of distributing huge amounts of literature, but they have no substance. Introduce Rathayatra very nicely and distribute books.”

And he used this quote a lot in his preaching in late 1976: Read the rest of this entry »

August 16 2008 Skopje — Lord Balarama’s Appearance day
17 August 2008

Saturday August 16

Lord Balarama’s Appearance day. Half day fast.

An auspicious day which I hope reflects upon this blog, because this is the day I have chosen to beta-test my website. I sent out invitations to visit to maybe 50 + devotees and I hope they like it. The whole site was set up for me by a young brahmacari who is now in the Chowpatti temple. He doesn’t want me to mention him by name but at least I can say a very big “Thanks!” and “Hare Krishna” to him here for all his hard work and persistence in putting it all together.

For the Lord’s glorification we had special class this morning, not a reading about His pastimes but a compilation of things I heard Srila Prabhupada say about Lord Balarama. Here’s a couple I always like:

[TD 2] May 4, 1976 — Honolulu

 Balarama is so powerful

Tamal Krishna Goswami and Dhrstadyumna Swami are here. They came in from New York with a written report to give Srila Prabhupada on their China preaching endeavors. Since the Mayapur festival, when Srila Prabhupada ordered Tamal Krishna Maharaja to begin something in China, they have been very seriously studying books like The Religious Policy and Practice in Communist China, and investigating ways and means to establish links there. Srila Prabhupada spoke with them for almost an hour following his afternoon rest. He was eager to hear how things are going in New York under Madhudvisa Swami’s leadership. Hearing their favorable report, Prabhupada complimented Madhudvisa. “Yes, he is the right person.”

Tamal Krishna mentioned that even with no advertising their new restaurant attracts fifty people a day, each paying $2.50.

Prabhupada said it would be automatically advertised. People would hear ‘Oh there is a nice ISKCON restaurant’ and come. He compared it to the Krishna-Balaram Mandir he opened in Vrndavana; he had thought that it was so far away from the center of Vrndavana town that no one would come. But it has proved very popular. “People are coming by thousands. … ” He laughed. “Balarama is so powerful, He’s bringing: ‘Come out here!'”

   Balarama is powerful 

[TD 3] July 11, 1976 – New York

There was a letter from Bhagatji, Sri Visvambhar Dayal, bringing Srila Prabhupada up to date with the Vrndavana temple affairs. Srila Prabhupada is extremely pleased he has come forward to help us. Srila Prabhupada has gradually induced him to take a more active role in the temple affairs, telling him, “So kindly help the management as Krishna Balaram is your worshipable Deity.” He spoke very encouragingly to him, revealing a glimpse of his own intimate relationship with Sri Sri Krsna and Balarama. “Kindly guide our foreign disciples to manage nicely and increasingly you will be able to please Their Lordships Krishna and Balaram. Although I’ve established Their temple, Their Lordships want me to keep outside the temple for touring.”

 Krishna and Balarama, Vrndavana 

In the evening we had a full house, about 50 devotees packed into the tiny temple room to see two short dramas and then hear me continue with my Chanting seminar.

The first play was unusual, at least I found it so. In short: Lord Balarama begs a peacock feather from Krsna, and Krsna also gives Him His flute. Kamsa sends the Kesi demon to Vrndavana to find Krsna and kill Him. Kesi sees Balarama with peacock feather and flute and thinks He is Krsna. Kesi gives Balarama an almighty kick and knocks him flat. Kesi goes off thinking he has killed Krsna in one simple kick. Balarama meets up with Krsna again and gives back the flute and feather because they are attracting too much trouble from the demons. He tells Krsna all about Kesi. Krsna goes out looking for Kesi and this time the demon is finished.

I hadn’t seen this version before but the devotees assured me it was in the writings of Srila Visvanatha Chakrovarty Thakur. I guess I had better get reading.

I spoke till 9.30 PM and then there was a delicious feast, all cooked by Vaideha prabhu, who was my contact for coming here. The prep. I liked the best was a pizza-like dish, but made in strips about 6-8″ long x 1-2″ wide rather than the usual disk shape. Very tasty. I complimented Vaideha that he was the Kurma of Macedonia. He liked that.

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