Devotees at ISKCON Juhu, Mumbai celebrated the 32nd anniversary of their Sri Sri Radha- Rasabihari temple this January 14th, on the festive occasion of Makar Sankranti.
Makar Sankranti, which falls on the same date every year, marks the arrival of the sun-god in the Northern Hemisphere and is celebrated throughout India with much gaiety and pomp. The festival is especially revered by devotees at ISKCON Juhu since it marks the anniversary of the Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari Temple, which is not only one of the most notable landmarks in Juhu but also a spiritual oasis for thousands of visitors every day. It was on Makar Sankranti in 1978 that disciples of ISKCON founder A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, along with devotees and well-wishers, inaugurated the temple.
Special events were organized to mark the anniversary celebrations of Sri Sri Radha Rasabihari this year. While a team of fifty devotees prepared and cooked prasadam at the break of dawn, more than one hundred began their day coordinating distribution of hot meals consisting of rice, dahl, subji, pickle and halava to more than 75,000 of Mumbai’s underprivileged citizens. More than thirty vans were dispatched from the temple in the morning to various parts of Mumbai to distribute the prasadam meals.
The evening saw donors, well-wishers and congregational devotees assemble to participate in an array of events to mark the celebrations, beginning with an auspiciousness-invoking fire sacrifice.
The special highlight of the program, however, was the Dhwaja Aarohan ceremony—in which three auspicious red flags bearing the symbol of Krishna’s bird carrier Garuda were hoisted over ISKCON Juhu’s three temple domes. The dhwaja (flags) symbolize the honor and glory of the temple and invoke respect for the three sets of deities beneath the domes—Sri Sri Gaur Nitai, Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari and Sri Sri Sita Rama Lakshman Hanuman.
“As suggested by His Holiness Giriraja Swami, we have now installed twenty-foot gold-leafed staffs over the domes with flags above them,” said temple Vice President Mukunda Madhava Dasa. “Lord Narayan is known as ‘Garuda-Dhwaja’ and thus the dhwaja bears the symbol of Sri Garuda, Lord Narayan’s carrier.”
The Dhwaja Aarohan was followed by the traditional Abhishekha, or bathing, of the three sets of deities. Thousands of devotees and well-wishers who had congregated to witness the event cheered, and the entire temple room reverberated with chants of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.
As part of the celebrations, His Holiness Gopal Krishna Goswami enlightened all present about the history of Juhu’s “Hare Krishna Land” and Srila Prabhupada’s hard struggle to acquire it and build upon it a temple for Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari.
Next, Kavichandra Swami spoke about Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s taking sannyasa, the renounced order of life. Following this, Akhildhara Dasa told stories of Srila Prabhupada at Hare Krishna Land, while Devakinandan Dasa and Surdas shared their vision for the future of ISKCON Juhu.
“Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari are the beloved Deities of Srila Prabhupada, and he struggled extensively to build a temple for Their pleasure,” said temple president Braja Hari Dasa, who coordinated the anniversary festival. “Every year, we have celebrated Jagannatha Ratha Yatra on Makar Sankranti. However, from this year onwards, Rath Yatra will be rescheduled for later in the year, and we shall strive to celebrate Radha-Rasabihari’s anniversary on as grand a scale as other key Vaishnava festivals.”