By Madhavendu Dasa on 2 Apr 2010
ISKCON’s Krishna-Balarama temple in Vrindavana, India—the holy village where Krishna is said to have appeared 5,000 years ago—celebrated its 35th anniversary with a two-day festival this March 23rd and 24th.
Events began at 4:30pm on the first day, when deity forms of Krishna Balarama, Radha Shyamasundara, Gaura-Nitai and ISKCON’s founder Srila Prabhupada were carried on palanquins in a Sobha Yatra, or festival procession, around the ISKCON Vrindavana complex.
Accompanied by devotees chanting enthusiastically and showering them with rose petals, they proceeded first to the Bhaktivedanta Gurukula and International School. There, in front of the exquisitely decorated Gurukula gate, they received a food and arati offering as Gurukula students led by Janardana Dasa led the chanting.
Next the procession of hundreds of devotees moved on to Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi, or mausoleum, where his female disciples, headed by Parvati Dasi, offered food and arati to their guru.
The procession then went on through ISKCON Vrindavana’s information center, congregational development department, guesthouse, Govinda’s Restaurant, accounts office, bakery and book distribution department, before reaching the gardens of the MVT apartment complex at 6:45pm. There, the deities were once again offered delicious dishes and an arati ceremony, during which temple president Pancha Gauda Dasa led an energetic kirtan.
Finally, the deities and Srila Prabhupada were returned to their respective altars, while the devotees enjoyed delicious sanctified prasadam food in a pandal, or tent, specially erected for the occasion.
The next day—the appearance day of Lord Rama, God’s form as the ideal king—devotees packed into the temple room at 4:30am for the daily Mangal Arati ceremony.
“The melodious singing, along with the deities’ sweet smiles, affected all of our hearts deeply,” commented one devotee. “While chanting, dancing, and meditating on Lord Rama, we were also remembering Srila Prabhupada’s unique mercy in giving the world the wonderful gift of Krishna Balarama Mandir.”
The next arati ceremony, at 7:15am, saw the deities dressed in beautiful new outfits created specially for the occasion, and the three altars as well as the entire temple artistically decorated with fruits and flowers.
At 8:00am, videos documenting the history of the Krishna Balarama temple were screened, taking the audience back thirty-five years. Speeches from various senior devotees followed, with Lokanatha Swami, Daivi Shakti Dasi, Smarahari Dasa, Ananda Dasi, Apurva Dasa and Prithu Dasa all sharing their memories of the official Sri Sri Krishna Balarama Temple opening back in 1975.
Later in the morning a ceremonial bathing of the deities known as abhisekha was conducted simultaneously at all three altars, with Aindra Dasa of the world famous 24 Hour Kirtan leading the chanting.
In the evening, after a talk about Lord Rama by Prabodhananda Saraswati Goswami, the festival concluded with a cultural program at the MVT gardens featuring traditional Bharat Natyam dance and Hare Krishna rock music, which took festival-goers all the way until 10:00pm.