This November 28, ISKCON temples around the world celebrated Gita Jayanti— commemorating the day when Bhagavad-gita, one of the world’s most famous spiritual texts, was spoken by Lord Krishna to the warrior Arjuna.
One of the largest events was held at ISKCON’s headquarters in Mayapur, India. Starting at 9am, over one thousand people gathered in the famous Panca-Tattva temple hall to recite Bhagavad-gita together.
An incredible 700 of these were students who had completed both grades one and two of Mayapur’s Bhagavad-gita correspondence course, run for people outside of the ISKCON community by Lakshmi Govinda Dasa. Over 8,000 students have registered for Grade 1—a six month program—since the course began in 1994, while over 800 have registered for Grade 2, a 1 year program.
The 700 students present included people from all walks of life—there were teachers, doctors, engineers, housewives and more. Yet they all shared the common experience of having become devotees of Krishna by studying Bhagavad-gita.
After the assembled devotees had recited the first seventeen chapters of Bhagavad-gita, the Gita Jayanti event continued with the performance of a fire sacrifice. As each verse in the eighteenth chapter was sung, head priest Devarishi Dasa tossed a handful of grains into the fire as an offering to Lord Krishna.
The recitation, known as Bhagavad-gita parayana, continued until 1:00pm, after which devotees headed to the holy Ganges river to bathe. The festival ended with glorifications of the Bhagavad-gita by different speakers and a delicious prasadam feast.
At the ISKCON temple in Punjabi Bagh, one of the most upmarket areas of New Delhi, another Gita Jayanti event was inaugurated by an unlikely pairing—ISKCON guru Sachinandana Swami and Miss India 2009, who has spent much of her time since her win promoting ISKCON’s activities.
Sacinandana Swami distributed Bhagavad-gita to the general public in large amounts, while Miss India Ekta Chowdhury signed copies, utilizing her celebrity to encourage more people to purchase the sacred text.
Students of the Punjabi Bhag temple’s Prahlad Primary School also organized a cultural program in honor of the Bhagavad-gita, with children participating in a recitation of the scripture. Sacinandana Swami then gave a short lecture on the advent of Bhagavad-gita, after which prasadam food was distributed to all.
Gita Jayanti was also celebrated by many other ISKCON temples around the world, usually featuring full recitations of the Bhagavad-gita, some in Sanskrit and some in English, distribution of the holy book, and prasadam feasts.
Gita Jayanti is also notable for marking the beginning of ISKCON’s traditional Prabhupada Marathon, during which devotees all over the world put in extra effort to distribute as many copies of Bhagavad-gita and other books by Srila Prabhupada as they can.