for ISKCON News on Jan. 29, 2011
Please scroll to the bottom of this article for a full schedule of the Mayapur and Vrindavana festivals.
Springtime is approaching soon, and for Vaishnavas that means the world famous annual Vrindavana and Mayapur festivals, in the sacred birthplaces of Lord Krishna and Gaudiya Vaishnavism founder Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu respectively. It also means one of the biggest festivals on the Vaishnava calendar—Gaura Purnima, the appearance day of Sri Chaitanya.
Plans are still being laid in place for this year’s Mayapur and Vrindavana festivals, which ISKCON devotees often travel to India to attend, but ISKCON News has gotten the latest updates for your convenience.
If you’re planning a trip to India this year, you may want to make Vrindavana your first stop. To celebrate the auspicious 8th anniversary of ISKCON’s Vrinda Kunda temple opening, devotees there are organizing special parikramas (pilgrimages) and festivals from February 15th through 27th.
The main parikrama days will be from February 19th to 26th, during which buses will leave every morning from ISKCON’s Krishna Balarama Mandir for different sites of Krishna’s pastimes in Braja. There will be lively narrations, often by celebrated spiritual tour guide Deena Bandhu Dasa, of the pastimes that happened in each place. The buses will return to the temple in time for lunch prasadam.
On Sunday February 27th, the famous Kalash Yatra will be held, a jubilant traditional procession of ladies carrying water pots adorned with coconuts on their heads, accompanied by the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra.
“The procession will go around Nandagram—where Krishna lived from ages 8 to 16 with his father Nanda Maharaja—and the Brijbasi ladies will train our foreign lady devotees in how to carry the 108 water pots filled from the sacred Pavana Sarovara,” says Deena Bandhu. “The Brijbasinis are so expert that they can even dance with no hands, with the pots on their heads! Many ISKCON devotees who have participated told me it was the highlight of their Vrindavana experience.”
When the procession reaches Vrinda Kunda, Krishna pastimes will be told, along with a butter churning festival, artika ceremony and finally a feast for one and all. Next, everyone can help feed all the Nandagram Brijbasis.
After the Vrinda Kunda festival, many devotees will go on to Mayapur for the famous Mayapur festival, first held in 1972 when ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada was still present.
While the official meetings of ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission (GBC) will run in Mayapur from February 20th to March 3rd, most of the 10,000 devotees expected to attend will arrive on March 4th.
On March 5th, the festival inauguration will take place, followed by various festivities as well as Navadwipa Mandala Parikrama—visiting the holy places of Sri Chaitanya’s pastimes—and finally the grand celebration of Gaura Purnima.
“Devotees can engage in Krishna conscious activities 24/7, with so many different festivities planned,” says Gopijana Vallabha Dasa of the Mayapur Tourism Department. “There will be cultural evenings of devotional entertainment showcasing the best of Vaishnava talent, free Satsanga Seminars seminars on various topics by senior leaders and sannyasis, and from March 5th to 7th Pancha-Tattva Abhishekha of the Holy Name as well as Congregational preaching Night and Book Distribution Awards.”
From March 8th to 14th, around 4,000 devotees are expected to attend Navadvipa Mandala Parikrama. A special separate pilgrimage for Hindi-speaking devotees will be offered for the first time ever, headed by Radharaman Swami and Lokanath Swami.
Meanwhile, Jayapataka Swami, Gopala Krishna Goswami, Bhakti Purusottama Swami, Gauranga Prem Swami, Bhakti Siddhanta Swami and other senior devotees will lead the English-speaking pilgrimage. Devotees will visit the nine islands of Navadvipa and hear about Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s wonderful pastimes in the very places where they were performed.
“You’ll visit Harihara Ksetra, Narasimhapally, Bhaktivinode Thakur’s house, Yogapith—the very site of Mahaprabhu’s appearance—Dhameswar Mahaprabhu temple, Hamsa Vahan, Mamagachi, and many more,” Gopijana Vallabha says. “You can also book special tours to Ekachakra Dhama, the birthplace of Chaitanya’s eternal associate Nityananda Prabhu, on arrival in the temple courtyard.”
Festivals and cultural programs will dominate the second half of the Mayapur festival, including Ganga Puja, Immersion of the ashes of departed souls in the Ganga, the Sri-Sri Radha-Madhava Boat Festival, and the Shantipur festival, during which devotees visit the saint Advaita Acharya’s residence and serve prasadam to thousands of Shantipur residents.
“There is also the Swing Festival, Jagannath Ratha Yatra, the wonderful Elephant Procession, and of course Gaura Purnima itself on March 19th,” says Gopijana Vallabha. “Devotees can experience all these Mayapur Festivals which are celebrated with great pomp and splendor.”
To ensure devotee’s safety during the festival, Gopijana also offers some advice. “We suggest devotees not carry very valuable items or keep valuables in their rooms,” he says. “Separate lockers are available in the guest house for this purpose. It is also not adviseable to go swimming alone in the Ganga.”
He also offers some tips for good deals: “Devotees should register for the festival on arrival to get free prasada coupons,” he says. “They will also get a Free Festival Information Booklet with all-important instructions.”
After the Mayapur festival, it’s customary for ISKCON devotees to continue their Indian pilgrimage with another visit to Vrindavana for another run of wonderful parikramas, from March 24th to 31st.
Although plans are still being finalized, Braja Darshan director Krishna Balarama Dasa expects the event to include parikramas of Krishna Balarama Mandir, Varshana, Nandagaon, Gokula, and Govardhana Hill. Possible speakers include Deena Bandhu Dasa, Mahanidhi Swami, and Radha Raman Swami.
There will also be a host of festivals, including the Jagannath Mishra festival and the famous boat festival, wherein the Deities of Sri-Sri Radha-Shyamasundara are taken on a swan boat ride at a sacred lake. Devotees can then choose to stay on for festivals in Karouli and Jaipur, which ISKCON Vrindavana will provide transport to.
Around 1,000 devotees are expected to attend the post-Gaura Purnima festival in Vrindavana, with 300 to 400 expected on well-attended parikrama days.
Temple president Pancha Gauda Dasa hopes people have a wonderful spiritual time, and offers some advice for a safe trip: “Ladies should be alert and not wander around alone at night. It is also adviseable to eat simply, drink plenty of water, and take enough rest.”
Devotees not able to attend the festivals in India can log onto www.iskconvrindavan.com and mayapur.tv to watch the celebration on live webcams.
For more information about visiting Vrindavana, contact ISKCON.Vrindavan@pamho.net or phone Sanjay at +91 9997770061 for assistance with travel and accommodation needs. To book rooms at the Krishna Balaram Guesthouse, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call +91 565 2540021. To book accommodation at MVT, email MVT@pamho.net or call +91 565 3207578.
Booking for accommodation at the Mayapur Guest House is currently closed. To book transport from Kolkata to Mayapur in Mayapur Tourism’s new 20-seater air-conditioned coach, devotees can contact Mayapur Tourism at email@example.com. Mayapur festival announcements and information will be regularly updated at www.mayapur.com.
The Mayapur Festival has been supported for the past 15 years by the generous contributions of the devotees, and management requests worldwide devotees to come forward to make Mayapur Gaura Purnima Festival 2011 a grand success. To donate for the festival or to find out more about the various sponsorship options you can choose, please visit http://mayapur.com/node/1202.
Vrinda Kunda Festival 2011, Vrindavana
19th to 26th Feb: Parikramas
27th Feb: Kalash Yatra
Mayapur Festival 2011 Schedule
20th Feb: GBC meeting starts
3rd March: GBC meeting ends
4th March: Arrival of Devotees
5th March: Festival Inauguration; Tamal Krishna Goswami’s Disappearance
5th to 7th March: Panca-tattva Abhisheka of the Holy Name, Cultural programs, Sponsored Satsang
Seminars, Congregational preaching Night, and Book Distribution Awards
7th March: Parikrama adhivasa
8th March: Navadvip mandala Parikrama begins
14th March: Navadvip mandala parikrama party returns to Mayapur
14th to 9th March: Festivities and Cultural programs
15th March: Ganga Puja; Elephant Procession; Immersion of Ashes of departed souls
16th March: Sri Sri Radha-Madhava Boat Festival
17th March: Shantipur festival
18th March: Ratha Yatra
19th March: Gaura Purnima Festival
20th March: Jagannath Mishra’s Feast
21st March: Devotees Depart
Vrindavana Festival 2011 Schedule
(NOT confirmed. Changes may still be made. Please visit iskconvrindavana.com for updates)
19th March: Gaura Purnima festival
20th March: Jagannath Mishra festival
22nd March: Devotees arrive in Vrindavana
23rd March: Vrindavana temple parikrama (7am to 12am)
24th March: Parikramas begin: Varshana
25th March: Nandagaon
26th March: Gokul - Rawal
27th March: Govardhan Parikrama
28th March: Boat Festival (Starts at 4:30 pm)
29th to 31st March: Karouli and Jaipur yatra
1st April: Devotees depart