Vrindavan, April 30, 2017 (VT): Vrindavan filled with visitors from far and wide yesterday on the occasion of Akshay Tritya. Throughout India, Akshay Tritiya is celebrated as a day of new beginnings. But in Vrindavan, the festival has a unique significance. It is a festival of relief from the summer’s heat for Vrindavan’s beloved Shri Radha and Krishna.
Preparations began weeks in advance with the grinding of sandalwood on stone slabs to create huge amounts of sandalwood paste. On Akshay Tritiya morning, the Lord’s servants cover his entire body with sandalwood paste from head to toe. Because this type of shringar or dressing takes time, the chandan darshan generally occurs in the afternoon.
The heat at this time of year is exteme, and sandalwood has cooling properties. Devotees often mix camphor with the sandalwood to make it even more soothing. Sweet-smelling jasmine garlands add to the cooling effect, and Shri Radha and Krishna are offered sheetal bhog or cooling foods like cucumber, watermelon, mung bean sprouts, and sweets made with sattu (a fine powder made of roasted grain). These types of cooling foods will continue to be offered until the jal-yatra or water festival next month.
At the Shri Radharaman Temple, Radharaman Lal appeared in a dress made entirely from chandan. A huge crowd patiently awaited his first darshan in his chandan dress, which occurred around one thirty in the afternoon. Aagain, around six p.m., Radharamanji gave a very close-up darshan from his jagmohan (the outer part of the altar) in a phool bangla (flower palace). He was wearing the same chandan dress, but the effect was completely new as he was wearing a different array of jewelery. In the night time, after the chandan dress was removed, Radharamranji looked dazzling in a beautiful black skirt accented with flowers, and an intricately folded chandan-coloured turban.
Chandan yatra is celebrated in all the main temples in Vrindavan such as Shri Radha-Gokulananda, Radha-Shyamsundar, Radha-Damodar, Radha Vallabh and Krishna-Balaram Temple. Banke Bihari also gives a special darshan of his lotus feet on this day.
Devotees who went for darshan could be seen with Shri Radha and Krishna’s prasadi chandan on their foreheads. Sometimes the chandan was smeared on their cheeks as well, and sometimes it even looked as if the devotees had played Holi, with chandan splattered all over their clothes, faces, and hair.