Janmastami, the occasion of Lord Krishna’s appearance in Vrindavana, India, some 5,000 years ago, is celebrated with great fervor and pomp by ISKCON devotees all over the world.
The following day heralds the Vyasa Puja, or birthday of Srila Prabhupada, a spiritual emissary who brought the worship of Lord Krishna to the Western World in the 1960s and founded ISKCON.
The double festival is a chance for devotees to showcase their devotion to their beloved Lord Krishna in creative ways, as well as the chance to let large numbers of people know about Krishna and Srila Prabhupada.
In Baroda, Gujarat, for example, Janmastami celebrations attracted an unbelievable 200,000 people. A constant stream of people poured into the temple from morning until 2:00am, paying their respects to the Deities of Sri Sri Radha Shyamasundar, Gaura Nitai, and Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra.
ISKCON Baroda on Janmasthami day
“ISKCON Baroda was easily the most visited temple in Baroda, and there are many, temples of Lord Krishna here,” says president Basu Ghosh Das. “Lord Krishna has been worshipped in Gujarat for thousands of years, ever since the Lord came here from Mathura while displaying His transcendental pastimes on Earth, five thousand years ago!”
Elsewhere in Juhu, Mumbai, the center of Bollywod’s film business, film personalities such as actor Vivek Oberoi and director Ekta Kapoor visited ISKCON’s Hare Krishna Land property for Janmastami and had a chance to bathe Deities of Radha and Krishna.
1108 preparations have been offered to Krishna in ISKCON Juhu, Mumbai
On Srila Prabhupada’s 117th Vyasa Puja, meanwhile, an amazing 1008 food preparations were offered to the ISKCON founder.
Elsewhere, in the UK, 30,000 people flocked to Bhaktivedanta Manor to celebrate Janmastami. This year’s festival there was bigger than ever, also commemorating forty years since Beatle George Harrison donated the mock Tudor mansion to Srila Prabhupada.
More than 15,000 cars lined up to enter the site, causing traffic jams, while a team of 1,200 volunteers worked for weeks before the festival to ensure the best possible experience for guests.
The atmosphere was that of a spiritual carnival, as youth ran about painted with blue faces like Krishna, balloons filled the air, and the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra echoed everywhere as people lined up for hours to pay their respects to the Deities.
Lit up decoration at the Bhaktivedanta Manor on Janmasthami night
A second Janmastami festival will be held at the Manor this weekend, with another 30,000 expected again.
In the USA, meanwhile, one of the biggest Janmastami festivals was held in Mormon country, Utah, with events held simultaneously at the huge temple in rural Spanish Fork and at the smaller center in Salt Lake City.
Devotees in Salt Lake City were excited to offer Lord Krishna 125 food preparations, up from just 30 to 40 in previous years. Another highlight was Dahi Handi, a fun and lively event in which guests formed a human pyramid and one climbed it to break a suspended pot filled with sweets, recreating mischievous Krishna’s childhood pastime in which he climbed on the shoulders of his friends to reach earthen pots of butter or yogurt.
In Alachua, Florida, another creative method was used to absorb visitors in Lord Krishna’s pastimes. Members of ISKCON’s second generation created an entire “Village of Vrindavana,” a glowing recreation of the original Vrindavana surrounded by tiki torches that came alive at night.
Creating large facades to look like temples and attaching them to the front of tents, the young devotees created the seven main temples of Vrindavana: Radha-Madan Mohan, Radha Damodar, Radha Shyamasundar, Radha Gokulananda, Radha Ramana, Radha Gopinath, and Radha Govinda.
The highlight of ISKCON Moscow's Janmasthami celebration were plays with actors wearing glowing costumes
Within each temple, beautiful Deities from different devotees’ homes were worshipped.
In addition, other holy places of Vrindavana such as Imli Tala and Seva Kunj were recreated, and scholarly senior devotees took visitors on story tours to each holy place, rounding out the experience.
The next day, as usual, devotees celebrated Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa Puja by decorating the ISKCON founder’s Vyasasana, or seat, in a very wonderful way.
Previous years have seen the Vyasasana transformed into a swan carrier, or a banyan tree with a photograph and offering of each devotee in the community on every leaf.
Slovak devotees celebrate with big harinama
This year, Srila Prabhupada’s seat floated upon an “ocean of mercy,” while behind him stood a beautiful collage of photos showing his different moods -- grave, smiling, humorous, and ecstatic.
Other ISKCON temples around the world celebrated Janmastami and Vyasa Puja in other creative ways. In Abranovce, Slovakia, for example, devotees took to the streest in a joyful Harinama. And in Moscow, Russia, they gathered in a huge tent, with live bands, kirtan, abhisekha and dramas featuring actors in lit-up costumes immersing everyone in thoughts of the Lord.
And of course, in hundreds of other ISKCON temples around the world, devotees offered service to Lord Krishna in their own unique and creative ways -- service, no doubt, that He will accept with deep, reciprocative love.[ janmasthami ] [ vyasa-puja ]