All of Shri Vrindavan is rejoicing today, for this is the Appearance Day of our beloved Shri Radharaman Lal. On Vaishakh Purnima 476 years ago, Shri Radharaman manifested himself from a shaligram shila for the sake of Shri Gopal Bhatt Goswami’s love.
Shri Gopal Bhatt Goswami was the incarnation of Radharani’s maidservant named Gunamanjari. Born in a Vaishnav family in Shri Rangam in South India, Gopal Bhatt’s family were priests of the ancient temple of Shri Ranganath. Gopal Bhatt too would have become a high priest of Shri Rangam. But the course of his life changed when Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited his home while he was still a small child.
In the presence of the Master, Gopal Bhatt’s true self awakened, and the love of Eternal Vrindavan blossomed in his heart. By Mahaprabhu’s order, Gopal Bhatt remained at home for many years, studying and taking care of his elderly parents. Later he moved to Vrindavan where he performed intense bhajan and wrote books that would become part of the foundation of the Gaudiya Sampradaya.
After Mahaprabhu left this world, Gopal Bhatt journeyed to the Gandaki River in Nepal where he received twelve shaligram shilas. In a vision, Mahaprabhu had said that Gopal Bhatt would find him again in Nepal, but there was no sign of Mahaprabhu anywhere. Gopal Bhatt’s heart wept as he returned to Vrindavan without meeting his Master again. But, despite the pain in his heart, he continued to dedicate himself to his writing, and to the service of the shaligram shilas.
Gopal Bhatt also helped serve the Deities of other saints. He loved to dress and do the shringar of Shri Govind Dev, Gopinath and Madan Mohan, but in his heart he longed for a Deity of Shri Krishna to love and care for as his very own.
To fulfil all the pure longings of His devotee’s heart, Shri Radharaman Dev manifested from Gopal Bhatt’s Damodar Shaligram Shila in 1542AD. A wonderful festival was held to celebrate the miraculous appearance of Radharamanji in Vrindavan. The great saints and devotees of the day attended. They danced and sang in kirtan while the grand abhishek was offered to Radharaman. And every year, from then until today, the Appearance Day of Shri Radharaman is celebrated in the temple.
The festival begins in the morning when a team of Goswamis goes out with Kirtan to collect Yamuna water in huge silver pots. Then, around 9am, the abhishek begins. Thousands of litres of milk, yogurt, honey and so fourth are poured over Radharamanji’s divine form. All of the liquid is carefully collected and later distributed to devotees as charanamrit, as are the strips of the white cloth that Radharamanji wears during the abhishek.
In the evening, a framed piece of Mahaprabhu’s own clothing is displayed on the altar, alongside Mahaprabhu’s wooden gaddi (seat), both of which Mahaprabhu sent to Gopal Bhatt Goswami as a blessing.
Gopal Bhatt Goswami’s samadhi and Shri Radharaman Dev’s Appearance Place (prakatya sthali) can also be seen on the temple premises.