Vrindavan, 2017.12.29: Today is the auspicious day of ‘Vaikunthotsav’, which is celebrated by thousands of devotees who queue up to pass through Rangji temple‘s Vaikuntha gate. Participating in the Vaikunthotsav festival is said to assure passage through the actual Vaikuntha gate, the entrance to the abode of Sri Vishnu and Sri Krishna. The ceremony is part of the month long Danurmas festivities at Vrindavan’s Sri Ranganath temple, popularly known as Rangji temple.
Rang ji temple, which was build in 1851, is one of the main centers for worship for Vrindavan’s South Indian community. Many participate in the ritual of chanting the Thiruppavai every day for the duration of the festival. The Thiruppavai consists of 30 devotional songs in the Tamil language. It is said that anyone who sings the Thiruppavai with understanding and devotion during the month of Margasheera, will attain the lotus feet of Lord Krishna.
While singing verses in Tamil may be beyond most foreigners and North Indians, everyone is excited about today’s passing through the Vaikuntha gate festival, which is accessible for everyone. Every year, thousands of pilgrims flock to Rangji temple for the festival. Devotees only get one chance per year to pass through the gate, which opens on Vaikuntha Ekadasi after Mangal Aarti and for the next 9 days in the evening, from 5-7pm, but remains closed for the rest of the year.
Rangji’s presiding deity, Sri Ranganathji, is first taken through the gate; then, thousands of devotees follow in His wake. The history of the festival goes back over 4500 years, when Sant Alwar Shathkop Suri Maharaj (संत आल्वार शठकोप सूरी महाराज) asked the Lord to let him hear Ram and Krishna lila once more before entering Vaikuntha. The Lord was pleased with his devotion and granted him 10 days more before he entered the eternal lila in Vaikuntha.
Suri Maharaj’s devotion benefits all the devotees who attend the 10 day festival held his honour and humbly ask to be forgiven for all wrongdoings and be given passage through the Gate of Vaikuntha.