Vrindavan, 2016.04.19 (VT): The heat is rising and we are almost at summer temperatures in the high 40’s. With news that this year is setting out to be the hottest in history at a rate of increase as yet unseen, it is hard not to feel a bit intimidated.
With the coming of summer people do many things to get a bit of relief from the heat. So in the bhakti path, it is natural to think of the Lord as a dearly beloved member of the family, and so the devotees also worry about his comfort in the hot season. In the summer, it can be experienced that the seasonal flowers, mostly white in color and extremely fragrant, have a cooling and calming effect. So the custom developed in Vrindavan to fill the temples with flower decorations, so that it became a palace of flowers (“ful bungalow”)
Note: The English word bungalow, meaning a particular kind of house, comes from bangala, meaning “Bengali.” So it would seem that this style of decoration originated in that part of India.
In Braj, Kamada Ekadashi is known as Fuldol (“flower swing”) Ekadashi. It falls on the bright fortnight of Chaitra month, but the “flower palaces” will go on being built throughout the hot season until Shravan Amavasya, also known as Hariyali Amavasya, which this year falls on August 2. The Utsav is thus celebrated for exactly 108 days.
Sunday was Kamada Ekadasi, and the courtyard of the Banke Bihari temple was filled with exotic flower decorations and the fragrance of raybel, rajni gandha, roses, and orchids.
Crowds of devotees had already gathered in the narrow alleyways surrounding the temple, cheering and calling out Bihariji ki jai! The expectant crowd was already thick an hour before the opening of the doors at 4. The atmosphere was electric with their eagerness to see Bankebihari in the first flower dress and decoration of the year.
There was no beating the crowds on this day, for this is one of the most coveted darshans of the year. When the doors finally opened, the people rushed in and the temple became packed so quickly that it was just as difficult to get out as it had been to get in.
Starting from this day, Brajvasis give the adorable Thakurji some relief from the heat by seating him in surroundings made of cooling flowers. Even his clothes are made of flowers. During this festival the Lord of Vrindavan Banke Bihari ji enjoys the fragrance and the ambience created by spring and summer flowers. Thakurji is adorned with leaves and flowers, and especially banyan leaves are included in the garlands and other types of flower ornaments.
Most of the temples in Vrindavan observe the same tradition, so you can see elaborate flower decorations – redone every day – at Radha Ballabha, Radharaman, Radha Damodar, Radha Shyamsunder, Govinda Dev, Gopinath, as well as in most of the other maths and ashrams, wherever the devotees have the means.
Those who celebrate this day in a special way start by doing the Panchkosi Parikrama around the holy city and then go for darshan to the different temples. But to finally fulfill their heart’s desire and get darshan of Bihariji seated on a flowered throne, they have to wait until evening time.
Phool Bangla is the decorated home to seat Lord Bihariji. Phool Bangla is a very beautiful festive occasion as every devotee wants to see at least once in a lifetime. For more information, see the Bihariji website.