Vrindavan, 2017.08.30 (VT): All of Braj resounded with shouts of “Jai Jai Shri Radhe!” as devotees celebrated the birthday of Krishna’s beloved Shri Radha yesterday.
Radhashtami celebrations in Barsana
Crowds of devotees at Shriji Mandir, Barsana (P.C. Hindustan Samwad)
In Radharani’s home town of Barsana, devotees climbed the 250-odd stairs to the top of Brahmachal Parvat where the temple of Shri Radha lies. They stayed awake all night singing kirtan, and waiting for the first glimpse of Her beautiful lotus face.
The entire parikrama marg was decorated with pink “Christmas lights”, giving the night a special, feminine glow. Bhajan Sandhyas featuring famous local singers like Chitra-Vichitra were a huge draw. Prasad distribution remained active throughout the night, offering nourishment to the devotees in the form of puri-sabji, halua, kadhi-chawal, and khichdi, not to mention the special prasad of arvee pakodas.
Abhishek was held at mangla aarti time. After having darshan of Shri Radharani, many devotees formed kirtan parties and went out on procession through the streets. From Daan Garh to Gahvar Ban, through Chiksauli and Sankari Khor, Barsana’s parikrama marg was filled with devotees singing the holy name.
In the evening after 5pm, Shri Radharani came out of the temple with Shri Lalju (Krishna) on a palanquin. Upon arriving in the temple courtyard they took their seats in a beautiful marble chhatri (gazebo) in the centre. Devotees in vatsalya bhav felt as if Kirtida maiya had come out to receive her guests, and to give them a glimpse of her newborn baby girl. Prasad was distributed and the Divine Couple returned back to the temple.
Radhashtami celebrations in Raval
Abhishek at Shri Radha-Damodar Mandir in Vrindavan (P.C. Radha Raman Arora)
The tiny village of Raval near Gokul is known as Radha Janmabhumi, the birthplace of Shri Radharani. The festivities began early in the morning with mangla aarti at 5am and abhishek at 5:30. Kirtan continued throughout the day as devotees from all over Braj and neighboring states flocked to the temple for darshan. Devotees from as far away as Maharashtra and Punjab attended the festival. Guru Sharananand Ji Maharaj and other prominent saints were also present. The festival continues today with badhaai gaayan (hymns of congratulations on baby Radha’s birth.)
In nearby Mathura, Shri Keshav Dev Ju wore Radharani vesh. In the morning abhishek was offered followed by a special aarti, badhaai gaayan and prasad distribution. Bhuteshwar Mahadev also wore a special gopi vesh and chappan bhog was offered.
Radhashtami celebrations in Radhakund
In Radhakund, Shri Radha-Gopinath Ju were offered panchamrit abhishek in the presence of Radhakund’s spiritual dignitaries like Shri Vaishnav Pad Das Babaji and others. Abhishek was also offered at Shri Radha-Govind Dev Temple, Shri Radha-Damodar Temple, and many other temples in Radhakund, both ancient and new. After the abhishek, the Lord and Lady of Radhakund enjoyed phool banglas, chhapan bhog and badhai gaayan.
Radhashtami celebrations in Vrindavan
Dadhi-kada celebration in Radhavallabh Mandir, Vrindavan (P.C. Shri Radhavallabh Mandir)
Every one of the thousands of temples in Vrindavan celebrated Radhashtami in its own unique way. Throughout the morning, abhishek was offered, badhaai was sung, and prasad distributed. At the Shri Radhavallabh Temple and other temples, the dadhi-kada celebration or “yoghurt fight” was held in the afternoon.
Abhishek was held at different times at the various temples from manglaa aarti time in the early morning until after 12 noon. Devotees blissfully went from temple to temple like eager bees to attend the different functions. In some temples, Radharani’s abhishek was done behind a curtain, while in others like the ancient Radha-Damodar, Radha-Madanmohan and Radha-Shyamsundar temples, Radharani was bathed in view of the devotees.
At Tatiya Sthan, the festivities continued all day long with a special emphasis on samaj gayan, an ancient, sacred vocal tradition of Braj. Processions went out from Radhavallabh Temple and Banke Bihari Temple, while special programs at Nidhivan continued into the night.
Shayan Aarti on Radhashtami at Shri Radharaman Temple, Vrindavan