Devotees, congregation, wellwishers, and the general public filled Mumbai’s Jamnabai Narsee Ground to its 4,000-person capacity for a colorful glorification of Srila Prabhupada’s historic achievements this February 5th to 7th.
“Srila Prabhupada famously stated, ‘Bombay is my office,’” says Western India Communications Coordinator Parijata Dasi. “So we were happy to host one of the first major ISKCON 50 celebrations in 2016, our Golden Jubilee year.”
The event was organized by Sura Das, convenor of ISKCON 50 Mumbai, as well as all of ISKCON’s four temples in the city – Juhu, Chowpatty, Mira Road, and Kharghar.
Dignitaries on the stage
The outdoor venue featured a huge stage with a golden backdrop describing ISKCON as Srila Prabhupada’s Contribution to the World and highlighting the tag lines “Celebrating 50 Golden Years” and “The Joy of Devotion.” A giant photo of Srila Prabhupada in a beautiful flower frame graced stage left.
On the grounds, devotees had erected an elaborate walkthrough exhibit showing the entire history of Srila Prabhupada’s mission. Through 3D images, cardboard cut-outs and text, it depicted his writing at the Radha Damodara Mandir in Vrindavana, his journey to America on the ship Jaladuta, and his work establishing temples, writing books, and connecting thousands around the world to Lord Krishna.
There was also a globe showing the locations of all 650 of ISKCON’s temples in over 100 countries, and a temple-like structure housing Deities of Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra. Book and prasadam booths completed the presentation.
The celebrations began on the morning of February 5th with a Rathayatra parade starting from the Bhaktivedanta Swami Mission School near ISKCON Juhu.
The Rathayatra parade begins outside the Bhaktivedanta Swami Mission School
Srimati Pankaja Munde, the Maharashtra Government’s Minister for Rural Development, inaugurated the parade along with Member of Parliament Shri Gajanan Kirtikar. Both swept the road in front of Lord Jagannath’s chariot in the classic tradition set by the King of Puri.
The parade then made its way to the festival grounds eight kilometers away, with devotees pulling the three nearly forty-foot high chariots carrying Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra.
Devotees from ISKCON Juhu lead the ecstatic kirtan in front of Lord Jagannath’s chariot, devotees from Chowpatty the kirtan in front of Baladeva’s, and devotees from Mira Road the one in front of Subhadra’s.
Government Minister Srimati Pankaja Munde speaks before inagurating the Rathayatra parade
Many witnessed the parade and about 1,000 people participated in it, including Gopal Krishna Goswami, Radhanath Swami, Lokanath Swami, Indradyumna Swami, and Navayogendra Swami. There were also devotees from abroad, including many from Russia.
That evening, there was prasadam for everyone and a shadow dance called the “Srila Prabhupada Prana Dhan Shadow Show.”
“The next morning, the whole traditional temple morning program was held in a pandal [tent] on the grounds, along with a Bhagavatam class by Radhanath Swami and breakfast prasadam,” says Parijata Dasi. “Usually in Mumbai the weather is hot and humid, but at this time of year it’s very pleasant, so it was perfect for outdoor activities.”
The evening cultural program featured Nama Sankirtan rock by Titiksava Karunika Das on his guitar, and a contemporary style kirtan with well-known kirtan artists Gaura Vani and Vishvambhar, that had the audience joyfully singing and clapping along.
Gaura Vani, Visvambhara and Titiksava Karunika perform
Next was a 20-minute premiere of the new documentary film “ISKCON: 50 Years of Service and Joy,” showing the inspirational growth of ISKCON all over the world. The film is now available for every ISKCON center to screen, while a longer, full-length version will be released later in the year.
The premiere was followed by a whole host of speeches from different VIPs and dignitaries, all glorifying Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON.
Sri Padmanabh Acharya, the Governor of Nagaland and Assam, recalled Prabhupada’s struggle to construct the Juhu temple, and how he had stayed at his house in Mumbai for forty days. He also commended ISKCON for its “wonderful service in Vedic education” and said that “Due to Srila Prabhupada, so many people are getting benefitted.”
Governor Padmanabh Acharya inaugurates the celebrations by offering arati to Srila Prabhupada
Member of Parliament Anant Geete praised Prabhupada for translating the Bhagavad-gita and commenting on it in a simple and easy-to-understand way. Because it was in Sanskrit, he said, people were not reading the Gita, but today ISKCON has translated it into sixty languages worldwide and ten different Indian languages so that everyone can receive its knowledge.
Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh commented that the British had ruled India because its people were not united. But Prabhupada, he said, had united everyone and ruled their hearts with Vedic culture and Sanatan Dharma.
Ford heir Ambarisa Das (Alfred Ford) talked about Srila Prabhupada’s desire to build temples for people’s purification, and invited everyone to visit the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium Prabhupada had envisioned, currently being built in Mayapur, West Bengal.
Bollywood star and Mathura MP Hemamalini, Hinduja Group Chairman Ashok Hinduja, and Radhanath Swami and Gopal Krishna Goswami also spoke.
Hema Malini performs her Radha Krishna dance
The evening concluded with a spectacular dance drama by India’s Got Talent winners Prince Group entitled “Prabhupada Katha.”
The final day of the festival, February 7th, saw another morning program at the pandal with a class by Gopal Krishna Goswami, and another cultural program in the evening.
This began with two dances: “Guru Ashtakam,” by the Maitri Group, and “If Prabhupada Had Not Come,” by the Bhakti Deepa children.
The Temple of the Vedic Planetarium team then gave a presentation on the upcoming temple, inviting people to contribute to Prabhupada’s vision and showing a film of the construction progress so far.
Finally, Hemamalini performed a dance drama on the pastimes of Radha and Krishna. She also launched a new Krsna app for Android smartphones that will enable users to view darshans and listen to chants, music and chapters from the Bhagavad-gita.
Children during a fancy dress competition
“There was a real buzz around the event,” says Parijata. “There were lots of newspaper and TV reports, focusing on ISKCON’s completing 50 years, as well as its Food For Life projects and farm communities like the Govardhana Eco-Village near Mumbai.”
“What’s more,” she adds, “The general public got to learn more about Srila Prabhupada, and about ISKCON and its activites. They could see that Prabhupada’s disciples are continuing his legacy, and that the movement which started with 108 temples established by Prabhupada has now gone on to have 650 temples around the world.”[ Mumbai ]