Vrindavan, 2017.09.15 (VT): Braj-Vrindavan celebrated Janmashtami a month ago, but the Rangaji temple in Vrindavan follows the South Indian festival calendar, and this year, Janmashtami came a month later.
As usual, the temple celebrated Krishna’s appearance at 12 o’clock in the middle of the night with great fanfare. Lord Shri Godarangamannar was worshiped in the form of Balkrishna by bathing him in a Maha Abhishek of panch gavya, as well as turmeric, basil, milk, curd, honey, grass, cow urine and water.
Thousands of people were present in the complex to enjoy the celebrations. During the Mahabhishek devotees celebrated by singing birth congratulations (badhai). The abhishek was followed by arati and the offering of kheer bhog.
In conversation with Vrindavan Today, Rajkumar Sood, the managing director of the Rangji temple, said that after the Mahabhishek, the special festival form of the Lord is given a special fancy dress (shringar). Then special South Indian dishes are offered in bhog. The kheer prepared by South Indian cooks in the temple kitchen is not the same as North Indian kheer. In the tempal the kheeran bhog offered on Janmashtami consists of the usual milk and rice, but with all kinds of dried fruit and nuts added to it. Needless to say, the devotees lined up till late in the night to get a taste of the prasad.
Nandotsava and the Lattha Mela
On the following day, the Lattha festival, one of the annual favorites in Rangaji, took place to celebrate Nandotsava.
Nandotsav is celebrated at the Sri Rangji temple by distributing toys, dresses, fruit and nut prasad and other gifts to local children. But the big popular attraction, as every year, is the Lattha Mela. In the Lattha Mela, wrestlers from different akharas in the district come to compete for prizes by climbing a pole greased with ghee and oil to get a flag and urn placed at the top. While they attempt to climb the pole, they are showered with water and oil from above.
This year, for the record fifth time, wrestler Keshav Singh was the one who made it to the top first.The Nandotsava program starts in the temple, where Sri Godaranganammar is placed on his chariot and taken on parikrama around the temple, then brought to the front gate where he watches the competition. Without the Lord watching, the competition cannot start. Each time the wrestlers fall from the column, they go to the main temple entrance gate to bow to God who is watching from the verandah. The idea is that they are engaged in the competition for his pleasure and their success or failure is entirely dependent on him.
The word lattha (लट्ठा) means stick, but in this case it means the forty-foot greased metal pole the wrestlers have to climb. The team that gets to the top wins the prize of a clay pot full of butter and other prizes. As usual it takes hours before anyone can get there. When Godaranganammar finally gives his blessings, one of the contestants finally makes it to the top.
The devotees and devotees shouted sang the familiar “To Nanda’s great joy, a son has been born! Jai Kanhaiya Lal!” and gave blessings to all the participating wrestlers for their efforts.