Sixteen years after being carved as murtis in Jaipur, India, Sri Sri Maha Gaura Nitai are going to be worshiped in a small Northeastern Brazilian City, with 385,000 inhabitants, called Campina Grande. The Installation Festival will be held on October 31st, with a 24 Hour Kirtan, and the confirmed presence of many devotees from all over the world.
Sri Sri Maha Gaura Nitai are white marble Deities. They’re 5’8″, from the tip of their fingers to the base. Nityananda weighs 238 kg and Chaitanya 228 kg. Both Chaitanya and Nityananda are slender, graceful, strong and dancing. The expressions in Their lotus faces show the ecstasy of love of God, typical of the theology explained by Chaitanya, and are an invitation to contemplate Krishna’s pastimes. According to Dhanvantari Swami, spiritual leader of ISKCON Campina Grande and coordinator of the Seminary For Hare Krishna Theology, “to install Krishna’s Deity form and worship Him with love and devotion was Srila Prabhupada’s instructionn to his followers.”
Dhanvantari Swami also remembered that, in Brazil, before Prabhupada’s departure, only Sao Paulo’s Gaura Nitai and Rio de Janeiro’s Gaura Nitai Nataraj were installed. All other Deities were installed in accordance to his sacred order and following his footsteps. “It is very rare and auspicious to participate in the installation of Deities,” says Dhanvantari Swami. “Gaura Nitai Nataraj’s installation in Rio reveals the presence of Purushatraya Swami, who was there as a young visitor. Soon after, he joined ISKCON to serve the Deities.”
Sri Sri Maha Gaura Nitai took a long time to accept being transported from Argentina to Brazil. Actually, since the beginning of their conception by the scultpors from Jaipur, they have been showing their strong, controlling and mysterious personalities. There’s a real mystery involving those wonderful Deities.
Leaders from ISKCON Russia ordered their construction in those gigantic proportions, but, before the Deities were completed, they gave up.
After that, devotes from Rosario, Argentina, were charmed with their beauty, size and volume, and assumed the responsibility for the conclusion of the work. And from Jaipur they traveled to Argentina, waiting to be installed. Lady devotees started to sew clothes. One of them, Garga Samhita Dasi, did the painting of the faces, hands and feet, enhancing the contemplative and ecstatic countenance of the Deities.
But, somehow, Rosario’s Temple closed and the Deities were taken to Argentina’s Farm Community, a project that gathered efforts and hopes of simple living, food production and high thinking, including Deity worship. They planned on installing the Deities as soon as possible. However, the farm–known as Bhakti Lata Puri–never was stabilized enough to install Deities. Then, Sri Sri Maha Gaura Nitai were transferred to a small farm owned by Adbhuta Caitanya Prabhu’s family. “It was then that we appeared on the scene,” says Dhanvantari Swami.
“In 2006, I visited Bhakti Lata Puri while travelling with a group of Bhakti Sastris. While showing me the farm, they also showed me the room where the Deities where waiting to be installed. I saw them quickly, but enough to contemplate the details of Their transcendental beauty.”
Time passed, and the annual motto of Campina Grande’s congregation passed from “Prosperity” to “Mercy.” One year before, a land to built a condominium was acquired, and now, to accomplish the goal, a Temple was build to distribute Mahaprabhu’s mercy. But how about the altar’s architecture? What size should it be? In order to answer those questions, we had to know which Deities we wanted to install.
“While absorbing myself in these thoughts, the picture of Maha-Gaura-Nitai appeared in my mind, and I was able to “see” Them, as well as the whole altar of the temple we wanted to build,” says Dhanvantari Swami. “But my vision was quickly interrupted, for my intelligence announced what was actually happening with me. I contemplated what belonged to other people, and I should not desire those Deities. I gave some shoe strikes on my mind, as recommended by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja, and went to work on my daily mail.
Later Dhanvantari Swami got an email from Gunagrahi Goswami announcing the selling of Gaura Nitai murtis, including pictures. “I think by now you can already imagine they were exactly the same Deities I was contemplating in my greed… I had no doubt,” he says. “From that time until now, three years have passed. We fought against many obstacles. It was tough. Whenever everything seemed to be alright, everything went wrong.”
The Deities were confiscated by Argentina’s customs due to a mistake of the customhouse broker hired by Gunagrahi Goswami’s secretary, who was in charge of their transportation. To rescue them and avoid their imminent auction, Argentina’s temple had to lend us seven thousand dollars. Then we had another one and a half year of difficulties. Finally, they got here to Campina Grande.
The welcome party was simple, spontaneous and full of emotions. Would Their delicate bodies have resisted the shakes in the transportation from Buenos Aires to here, stopping for three days in Sao Paulo? The Deities came in a wooden box with iron frames. They were laid in foam mattresses and held by wooden bolts revested with foam. From Recife to Campina Grande, their boxes came by truck, tied with ropes to avoid sliding.
The devotees prepared a beautiful reception. There was a flower petal carpet from the gate till the temple, everything was clean, the sound of counchshells in the ether announced Their arrival to Their definitive home, and the devotees sang and danced. They arrived in the Temple, and Their boxes were opened.
“There was no indication of who should be in the first box to be opened,” Dhanvantari Swami says. “When we opened it, I announced, “Nityananda Prabhu ki jay!” Everyone came close to see Him laid down inside the box. We opened Chaitanya’s box. Taking Them out of the box, They were placed standing in the temple room, and we bathed the Deities with water from the sacred rivers stored in two big clay pots. We mixed water with soap to take out the dust from 16 years, and everyone was allowed to bathe them.”
Omkara dasi, disciple of Mukunda Goswami, is the seamstress for Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo’s Deities. She is very enthused, and has already made 15 outfits for Goura Nitai, and also finished some Indian clothes which were ordered by the Argentinian devotees but were not ready to be used.
“So, will you stay home and miss this festival? Of course not!” says Dhanvantari Swami. “Please come, you are going to love it. It will also be the closing festival of October’s Sankirtan Marathon, and we’ll also have a 24 Hour Kirtan with international celebrities.”
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