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A Report for Janmashtami and Nandotsava

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gokul-temple.jpgMathura: August 19-20, 2003
Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaj

Janmashtami Eve Procession

For several days leading up to the Appearance Day of Bhagavan Shri Krishna, thousands of sadhus and pilgrims were finding their way to Mathura Dhama to observe the Janmashtami-vrata (vow), to have darsan of Kamsa's Dungeon where Vasudeva Krishna appeared 5000 years ago, to bathe in the sacred Yamuna, and to perform parikrama of the many significant tirthas in and around Mathura. By the causeless mercy of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, all such pilgrims, along with the local residents of Mathura Dhama, had the immensely good fortune to take part in a unique maha nagara-sankirtan festival organised by Shri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha, under the affectionate guidance of Shri Shrimad Tridandisvami Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaj.

On Adivasa, the day prior to Shri Krishna Janmashtami, hundreds of faithful Vaisnavas assembled at 5.00 p.m on the main street in front of Shri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha. This extraordinary parade immediately began to attract thousands of joyful onlookers, curious to observe such a formidable sankirtana party. Spearheading the procession was a huge elephant, brightly painted with the holy names and driven by Shripad Bhaktivedanta Mangala Maharaj. The elephant was closely followed many standard bearers and a camel, and equipped on either side of his humps with thundering kettledrums. Then came a traditional marching brass band, playing Vraja songs in glorification of the Divine Couple. Behind the band, two young boys, exquisitely dressed as Shri Krishna and Shri Balarama, were gracefully parading on two splendid horses. Then came the first kirtana party comprising the international wing of Shri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti, with devotees from England, U.S.A., South America, Australia, France, Holland, Philippines, Fiji, New Zealand, and other countries. Behind the foreign affairs department came a float that was elaborately decorated to resemble a beautiful Vrindavan Kunja. Within that kunja some local children, dressed up as Shri Shri Radha-Krishna, were seated upon a jewelled throne in the midst of their beloved sakhis.

As if this were not enough, a team of local Vrajavasi young men, and further down the line a group of local Vrajavasi ladies, were singing songs about Vrajendranandana Shri Krishna and dancing with the rhythmic striking of batons as per the traditional customs. Then came a float upon which Parama-pujyapada Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaj was regally ensconced among some of the prominent sannyasis of Shri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti such as Pujyapada Bhaktivedanta Madhusudana Maharaj and Pujyapada Bhaktivedanta Madhava Maharaj. This float was closely followed by a kirtana party comprising sannyasis and brahmacaris from Mathura, Vrindavan and Navadvipa Dhama. This, the third kirtana party, sang melodious and love-laden kirtanas for the pleasure of Shri Gaurasundara and Shri Shri Radha-Vinodabihari, who were accepting the service of the devotees from their simhasana on the next float. Furthermore, there were many other attractive floats in honor of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Shri Shri Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra, and other worshipful manifestations of Shri Krishnacandra.

Flanked on both sides by volunteers carrying lights and a large military escort, the entire pageant set off with a flourish of trumpets and began to wind its way around downtown Mathura. Thus, for the next four and a half hours the streets were filled with the auspicious uproar of harinama sankirtana, as practiced and preached by the Great Master Himself, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Such a kaleidoscopic furore amidst such a plethora of musical accompaniments is rarely seen on this side of the Viraja River.

At approximately 9.30 p.m. the various kirtana parties reached a crescendo as they arrived once again outside the gate of Shri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha. After giving Jaya Dhvani to our Shri Guru Parampara, apart from being both exhausted and happy, all the Vaisnavas were left with a very distinct and magical impression that…"Tomorrow must be the birthday of the all-merciful ocean of rasa, Syamasundara Shri Krishna!"

We pray that the Supreme Personality of Godhead may be satisfied by our insignificant endeavors to please Him.

Janmashtami Day

At 6.30 a.m. on the auspicious morning of Janmashtami day, Shrila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaj went to have darsana of the sacred appearance place of Bhagavan Shri Krishna, and then promptly returned to Shri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha to give a class. First of all, Shrila Maharaj requested the devotees to sing Shri Mangal Gitam, and then he commented as follows:

"Once a devi-dasi was singing this song nearby the Shri Mandir in Puri. Upon hearing it Shri Jagannatha became so overwhelmed with bhava that He immediately ran out of the temple. His ornaments were scattered here and there and His cloth was torn as He rushed through thorny undergrowth. Similarly, when Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu heard this song He became mad and ran to embrace the songstress. Why? What is in this kirtana that excites such intense emotion?

Shrita kamala kuca mandala dhrta kundala! e
kalita lalita vana mala! Jaya jaya deva hare

"Jayadeva Gosvami is the author of this song and he is glorifying his istadeva Shri Shri Radha-Madhava. Here Kamala refers to Shrimati Radhika. Vana mala means 'a garland of forest flowers.' Who will wear simple forest flowers? Ramacandra? No. Vana mala is worn only by vanacari, Lord Krishna. Kalita lalita means that Lord Krishna's garland reaches from His neck to His knees or feet. It is made of flowers of five or seven colors and many pendants of fragrant tulsi manjaris. Bees are hovering around it, attracted by the makaranda (honey) oozing from the flowers. His kundala, earrings, are His acute curiosity to hear about the qualities of Shrimatiji. May that Gopinath be victorious!

dina mani mandala mandana! Bhava khandana e
muni jana manasa hamsa jaya jaya deva hare

"Dina mani is the Supreme Sun, Shri Krishna. Shrimati Radhika is the mandana, ornament, of His rasa-mandala. Shri Krishna is the swan who sports in the lake of the pure hearts of the munis. Here munis refers to the four Kumaras, Shrila Vyasadeva and Sukadeva Gosvami; moreover it refers to Shri Rupa and Shri Sanatana Gosvami etc.

kaliya visadhara ganjana! Jana ranjana! e
yadukula nalina dinesa! Jaya jaya deva hare

"Jana ranjana means He is trying to please the Vrajavasis. When Kaliya encircled Shri Krishna in his coils, the Vrajavasis became immersed in thoughts of Him. They wanted to enter the poisonous lake, but Shri Baladeva checked them. Thus their meditation deepened even more. Then, when Shri Krishna broke free and began to dance on the hoods of Kaliya, all the Vrajavasis became so pleased. What was Krishna's inner intention? He wanted to show His heroism to please the gopis. Here the Shri Krishna of the Yadu dynasty is not Dvarakadhisa Krishna, but Shri Krishna of Vrndavans. How? Devamidha Maharaj was a king in the dynasty of Yadu. From the womb of one wife, who was from a ksatriya dynasty, he begot a son named Surasena. From the womb of another wife, who was from a vaisya family, he begot a son named Parjanya. Vasudeva, the father of Dvarakadhisa Krishna is the son of Surasena, and Nanda Maharaj, the father of Vraja Shri Krishna, is the son of Parjanya Maharaj. Thus Lord Krishna in Vraja is also in the Yadu vamsa (dynasty).

janaka-suta-krta bhusana! Jita dusana! e
samara samita dasakantha! Jaya jaya deva hare

"Rama-lila is one of Shri Krishna's lilas. In the form of Lord Rama, Shri Krishna has established maryada, the codes of righteous conduct, and by doing so He has made a platform from which one can practice bhakti to Shri Shri Radha-Krishna. Here Shri Jayadeva Gosvami remembers how Shrimati Sitaji is doing srngara (decoration) of Lord Ramacandra, but this was only on two occasions: Sita gave a garland to Rama at Her svayamvara and also on their return to Ayodhya.

abhinava-jaladhara sundara! Dhrta mandara! e
Shri mukha candra cakora! Jaya jaya deva hare

"Here dhrta mandara refers to Shri Krishna lifting Govardhana. Why did He lift Giriraja? To cut the pride of Indra? To protect the Vrajavasis? All these reasons are secondary. Shri Jayadeva Gosvami gives the answer: Shri mukha candra cakora. Krishna and the gopis were always surrounded by their elders. There was very little chance to meet or even see each other. Therefore, because Shri Krishna is like a thirsty cakora bird, eager to relish the nectar of the moonlike face of Shrimati Radharani, He lifted Govardhana to create the first opportunity to meet closely and see Her beauty without any break of disruption.

Shri jayadeva kaver idam kurute mudam
mangalam-ujjvala gitam jaya jaya deva hare

"This gita (song) is mangala (auspicious) because Shri Radha has been glorified. If anyone wants to enter bhajana-rajya, the realm of loving service, he should have very strong mamata (possessiveness) for Shri Shri Radha-Krishna. How will this mamata come? One must first perform visrambhena guru seva. One should serve Shri Gurudeva with intimacy and affection. Gurudeva gives us so much, so why not feel indebted and serve him with one's life and soul? If we cannot have mamata for the one who gives us Krishna-seva-vasana (the tendency to serve Shri Krishna) and who nourishes our bhakti-lata (creeper of devotion), then we will have to have mamata for the wealthy, powerful or attractive persons of this world. Thus, by asat-sanga (non-devotee association) we will be ruined.

[On the request of Shrila Maharaj the devotees sang Shri Dasavatara Stotram. He then commented as follows:]

"Why is Shri Jayadeva Gosvami, who is so rasika (absorbed in the rasas of Shri Vraja), beginning his Shri Gita-govinda with a description of the ten prominent avataras? If a person eats only rasamalaya (a tasty sweet) for breakfast, lunch and dinner, he will never appreciate it. If he takes something bitter, savoury, sour, and so many other preparations, then, when he tastes rasamalaya he thinks, "This is the king of all preparations!" Similarly, Shri Jayadeva Gosvami has glorified the astonishing pastimes of all the avataras to enhance our appreciation of Lord Krishna. Kesava dhrta dasa-vidha rupa. Shri Krishna Himself has appeared in these ten forms. If there are twenty mighty wrestlers assembled together in one place and they all fight each other, when all have been defeated and only one is left standing, then we will think that he is so powerful and expert. Otherwise, if we were to meet that same wrestler in a situation where there were no opponents, we would not be able to appreciate his marvelous prowess.

"In this song Shri Jayadeva Gosvami presents the gradual evolution of the theistic conception for the sake of attracting all jivas who are in different stages of their own spiritual evolution. Not everyone will be attracted to rasa-lila, but their first attraction may be to Shri Matsya, Shri Kurma or Shri Nrsimhadeva. Even Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu performed pastimes in many forms to attract and give mercy to all.

"When Jayadeva Gosvami was writing Shri Gita-govinda, he saw in his trance how Bhagavan Shri Krishna gave His vamsi (flute), mukut (crown), and even His head at the lotus feet of Shrimati Radhika in order to break Her maan. His hand began to tremble, his heart was also trembling, and he was unable to write about it. Why? This is because his mood was not suddha-madhurya (completely free from knowledge of the Lord's supremacy). He put down his pen and went to take bath in the river. In the meantime, Lord Krishna had to personally come in the form of Shri Jayadeva Gosvami and write the line, smara garala khandanam mama sirasi mandanam dehi pada-pallavam udaram. "O Shrimati Radhike! I am feeling the virulent affliction of Cupid. Please be merciful to Me by decorating My head with Your lotus feet." Shri Jayadeva Gosvami could not write this, but our Gaudiya guru-varga (disciplic succession) has written such things directly and elaborately because such verses are actually so pleasing to Shri Krishna.

yat kinkarisu bahusah khalu kaku-vani
nityam parasya purusasya sikhanda-mauleh
tasya kada rasa-nidher vrsabhanujayas
tat keli kunja bhavanangana-marjani syam

"The eternal Supreme Personality of Godhead, who wears a peacock feather in His hair, falls at the feet of Her maidservants and propitiates them with many humble and grief-stricken words to be allowed to enter Her kunja. Oh, how successful my life would be if I could become even one stick in the broom used by the sakhis to sweep that kunja where an endless ocean of rasa in the form of the daughter of Shri Vrsabhanu Maharaj engages in delightful amorous play."(Shri Radha-Rasa-Sudha-Nidhi 8)

"Krishna is not fully controlled by the recitation of the writings of Jayadeva Gosvami, but Shrila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami has described how Krishna personally decorates the feet of Kisoriji and writes His name there. Moreover, he has even described how Shrimati Radharani makes Her stamp of ownership on the head of Krishna with the alta (red paint) from Her feet. This is the vaisistya (speciality) of our Gosvamis. If Shri Krishna hears such prayers He will feel indebted and think, 'How can I ever repay you?' So we should recite the prayers of our Gosvamis. Shri Jayadeva Gosvami could not write these things because he was not under the guidance of gopis like Shri Rupa Manjari."

After Shrila Maharaj's lecture, Pujyapada Bhaktivedanta Trtha Maharaj began to recite and comment on Shrimad Bhagavatam 10th Canto from the first verse onwards. This Bhagavatam Katha continued for ten hours by the combined efforts of several prominent Vaisnavas. Then, at 7.00 p.m. kirtana began and continued until midnight with a mixture of Gaudiya bhajanas in Bengali and charming traditional bhajanas in Vraja-bhasa (the local language of Shri Vraja). Thus all the members of Shri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha sat in the holy presence of Shrila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaj and relished the mellows of nama-sankirtana for five hours while literally thousands of pilgrims flowed through the temple room eager to have darsana of Shri Shri Radha-Vinodabihari and partake of the kirtana and swing festival.

At midnight, the auspicious moment of the birth of Shri Krishnacandra, a maha-abhiseka began. All the devotees looked on in great satisfaction as Shri Shri Radha-Krishna were bathed in milk, yoghurt, honey, rose-water and so on. Although most had fasted completely from food and even from water throughout this exceptionally hot Janmashtami day, and many were feeling exhausted, still, upon witnessing the bathing ceremony of their beloved ista-deva and devi (predominating deities), all fatigue, hunger and thirst miraculously disappeared. Thus the statement of Shrimad Bhagavatam was subjectively apparent to the faithful participants.

yatha taror mula nisecanena
trpyanti tat skandha-bhujopasakhah
pranopaharac ca yathendriyanam
tathaiva sarvarhanam acyutejya

"By pouring water on the root of a tree, all the leaves and branches are automatically nourished. In the same way, by offering service to the lotus feet of Shri Krishna, all other purposes are satisfied. Just as by offering food to the stomach all the limbs of the body are satisfied, similarly, by offering service to Shri Krishna the entire universe is satisfied." (Shrimad Bhagavatam 4.31.14)

Shri caranamrta from the abhiseka (bathing ceremony) was distributed among the crowds of pilgrims. Then, with renewed vigor, the resident Vaisnavas and volunteers began to serve out the Janmashtami mahamahotsava maha-prasada to all the guests before honoring maha-prasada themselves. The post-prasada clean-up finished just in time for the Shri Mangala-arati which heralded the arrival of…

Shri Nandotsava -- The Grand Festival of Nanda Maharaj and divine Appearance Day of Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj.

Shri Nandotsava, the grand festival of Nanda Baba, is always something of a spectacle at Shri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha, and this year was no exception. From 6.30 a.m. Shrila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaj presided over the assembly in honor of the founder-acarya of Iskcon, Nityalila Pravista Om Visnupada Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj Prabhupada.

Shrila Prabhupada's Appearance Day

This mahotsava (festival) actually began just after mangala-arati, and Shrila Maharaj arrived at about 6:30am. He first called on some of Shrila Prabhupada's senior disciples and followers to offer their heartfelt puspanjali (offering of flowers) in the form of words of glorification. Shrimati Vrindavana Vilasini didi began her beautiful talk by saying that on this day Nanda Baba gave charity. On a person's birthday he gives in charity, and on this day Shri Krishna gave Shrila Prabhupada in charity to the world.

Shripada Brajanatha dasa glorified Shrila Prabhupada nicely by saying that the western world would not have come to bhakti if it were not for him. He quoted Shrila Prabhupada's statement in relation to the Shri Krishna-Balarama mandir, that, "If one of my devotees is attracted to hearing the glories of Lord Krishna, this temple is successful."

After this, Shrila Maharaj himself made an offering. He said that if one does not know the heart of Shri Gurudeva he cannot serve. On one hand one must follow the orders of Shri Gurudeva, but sometimes Gurudeva may be like Bhagavan Shri Krishna when He told the gopis to go home, and He really meant the opposite. That is why the gopis were able to defeat Krishna in their discussion with Him, and then they all engaged in rasa-lila. A disciple who knows the heart of Shri Gurudeva is rare in this world, and he himself is qualified to make disciples all over the world.

Shrila Maharaj humbly asked his audience, "Do you know who his most senior disciple is? Myself. I became his siksa disciple when there was no ISKCON - in 1946. Sometimes the siksa-guru is superior and sometimes the diksa-guru is superior, but I saw him just as I saw my diksa-guru. I am his first disciple and I will be there until the end. All others may leave him, but I will never do so. That is why I am preaching everywhere in the world, and that is why so many are coming to me. What is my credit? I am like a dry straw, but he is inspiring me and therefore I am doing something. Those who are coming to me, or to anyone, are coming from reading his books and hearing his words.

"We can know a person by his company. How great was Parama-pujyapada Shrila Swami Maharaj that he came on Nandotsava. He was so powerful. He went to his Shrila Prabhupada, who was attracted to him and ordered him to preach in English and write articles. His Shrila Prabhupada inspired and initiated him, and he became a bosom friend of our Gurudeva in lokika-sadbandhuvat, just like ordinary, intimate friends. He took sannyasa here at this Shri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha. Just prior to that he had not a farthing nor a shirt. When he told me his story I told him to take sannyasa at once. Then my guru Maharaj came and told him the same thing - to take sannyasa immediately. He then took sannyasa on the holy day of Visvarupa Mahotsava. I was like the priest. I gave him his dor-kopin and taught him how to wear it, and I performed the sannyasa ceremony.

"Athough he was poor, he was very intelligent. He managed to go to the West by Scindia Navigation, and in a couple of years he preached the message of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Shrila Rupa Gosvami. He made lakhs of disciples and followers. When I went to the West I saw that in the mountains, in the forests, on the sea, in the cities, on farms - everywhere I saw Parama-pujyapada Shrila Swami Maharaj and the Hare Krishna mantra.

"He used to say that his office was in Bombay, his place of bhajana was in Navadvipa, and his abode is Vrindavan. You cannot imagine how glorious he is. At the end of his manifest stay his disciples did not understand what he wanted. He had told them, 'I want to die at Radha Kunda and Govardhana.' This is a very high class of idea. I know he never dies, but like Shrila Rupa Gosvami and Shrila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami he wanted to leave his body in a holy place.

"In his last days he wept when he saw me. He was not talking with anyone, but he wanted to talk with me. He asked me to sit on his bed. I did not sit on it; rather I did pranama to it. He put my hand his hand and he told me that he had collected so many devotees from around the world, but he could not teach them fully, due to their inability to learn fully. He requested me to continue the teaching of all his devotees. Very few had taken his internal mood, which is exemplified by the verse 'tan nama rupa caritadi sukrtananu…' (NOI text 8), and therefore he requested me to teach all his disciples. He told me, 'Give me samadhi in Vrindavan. Wherever you like; it depends on you.' He ordered me to instruct the leaders, and so I talked with the GBC members and told them, 'Don't quarrel. Preach his mission. Give respect to juniors and seniors.' Many of them never did so, and they fell. To fulfill the desire of Prapujya-carana Shrila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj I'm going around the world, and now some are realizing his real mission."

After Shrila Maharaj's talk, both foreign and Indian devotees engaged in guru-puja, chanting of 'Shri guru-carana-padma', and offering flowers, as Shrila Maharaj performed the arati. After this everyone partook of the breakfast feast in honor of Shrila Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, and then prepared for Nandotsava.

Shri Nandotsava

In the West it is customary to receive gifts on one's birthday. However, the Vedic custom is to distribute charity to others on one's birthday. In pursuance of this tradition Nanda Baba and Yasoda Maiya, the father and mother of Krishna, distribute charity on this day, the day after Shri Krishna Janmashtami. Therefore, those who nurture lokika sad-bandhuvat sambandha (a natural relationship) with Shri Krishna's family, spontaneously join in the festivities and distribute colossal amounts of maha-prasada to all the Vrajavasis.

Such festivals are extremely potent if performed in the holy dhama, under the guidance of a pure devotee. Shri Krishna has instructed Uddhava about this sure and swift method for attaining bhakti:

prthak satrena va mahyam
parva yatra MAHOTSAVAM
karayed gita nrtyadyair
Maharaj vibhutibhih

"One should celebrate, in public gatherings, those holy days and festivals set aside especially for My worship with singing, dancing and other grand arrangements of royal opulence." (Shrimad Bhagavatam 11.29.11)

As usual, the maha-prasada distribution was on the scale of a military operation in which more than 15,000 people were given a chance to awaken their attraction to Krishna through the transcendental power of His remnants. For many weeks, the sannyasis and brahmacaris had been begging door to door in the blazing heat of the sun in order to collect the ingredients for Shri Nanda Baba's festival, and so many rooms had been filled with the collected provisions including:

105 x 15kg containers of vegetable oil.
? x 15kg containers of pure ghee
20 x 100kg sacks of sugar
? x 80kg sacks of flour
500kg rice

Then the cooking began, under the superintendence of Shrimati Radharani, and after four days and nights, all the ingredients had been transformed into sabji, puspanna, kichories, puries, laddhu, bundi, chutney, fruit salad and other preparations that are very dear to Shri Krishna. When all the preparations had been offered, the devotees opened the gates to let in the first four hundred pilgrims who had been patiently waiting outside. They were seated and served to their full satisfaction, and then they all filed out through the back gate. The entire Matha was then quickly cleansed from top to bottom and again the front gate was opened to let in the next four hundred guests. And so it went on for five hours. In addition to this, 5,000 parcels of maha-prasada preparations were prepared to be distributed to all the families, friends and well-wishers of the Matha who were unable to attend the festival. In this way the Grand Festival of Nanda Maharaj was celebrated with uncommon enthusiasm. The devotees who participated could not help but think that it must have been something like this in Nanda Gokula on this day during the manifest pastimes of Krishna. Thus, by the mercy of Nanda Baba and Yasoda Maiya, at least the semblance of a greed to actually participate in that very festival in the not too distant future was awakened in the hearts of those who had tried their level best to make the festival a success for the pleasure of Bhagavan Shri Krishna.

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