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The Vrindavan Prakash Mahotsava, the festival celebrating Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s arrival in Vrindavan 500 years ago, is going to be celebrated in November but it is already starting to create waves of excitement among the devotees. The group of some 200 devotees that left Jagannath Puri on foot on August 5th arrived in Mathura on Thursday and was given a grand welcome in various places in the city. The principal organizer of the Vrindavan Prakash Mahotsava, Vaishnavacharya Sharat Chandra Goswami of the Radha Raman temple, was present in Puri for the ceremonies to launch the pada yatra then and was also here to greet them on their arrival in Mathura. After two months and seventeen days of walking, covering the 1600 km distance between the two holy lands, those who participated in the procession are still not finished walking, however. They will now do a complete chaurasi kos Braj parikrama, and after completing it in the third week of November, will go to Vrindavan to participate in the festival . Before Mahaprabhu’s arrival five hundred years ago, the places in Braj associated with Lord Krishna’s pastimes had for all intents and purposes been forgotten. After his arrival, his lieutenants Rupa and Sanatan Goswami, as well as many others such as Narayan Bhatta and the acharyas of other sampradayas, followed his lead and started to identify these places throughout Braj. “For this reason the word prakash has been used for the festival’s name, since Mahaprabhu’s arrival was the beginning of Krishna’s Dham being revealed to the world,” said . “Devotees from all over India will participate in this festival,” said Goswami. “Everyone in Braj owes a great deal to Mahaprabhu, for since his visit, consciousness of Vrindavan has grown progressively to the point where it is known as the home of Krishna throughout the world.” Joining the padayatra, which followed Mahaprabhu’s footsteps through the Jharikhand forest path, were a large number of renounced devotees and sants from Jagannath Puri and Braj, headed by Krishna Das Baba. Their first stop was Mathura, as this is where Mahaprabhu’s arrival in the Dham is described before he went to Vrindavan itself. The procession was given a rapturous reception by the residents of Mathura. The visiting devotees were moved by this warm welcome, and bowed to the land of Braj, to the river Yamuna and to all the Dham’s residents before taking rest. The organizing committee for the Vrindavan Prakash Mahotsava led by Sharat Chandra Goswami placed a garland on the murti of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu that had accompanied the pilgrims and gave respectful greetings to the visiting Vaishnavas. Joining him were local saints and Mahants like Fuldol Bihari Das, Radharaman Das, Mahant of the Radha Shyamsundar temple Krishngopal Goswami and others. The participants in the pada yatra were first garlanded and greeted at the district headquarters (DM offices). From there they walked to Holi Gate where a separate reception committee greeted them. The Mathura residents and local business people showered the devotees with flower petals and gave them shawls. After this, the devotees proceeded through Holi Gate and went to Vishram Ghat where brahmins chanted Vedic hymns and led them in puja and milk abhishek of the Yamuna River. From there they went to the Agarwal Dharmashala in Masani to rest. People of the town were overwhelmed by the visiting devotees who were ecstatically chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantra with mridanga, dhol and kartals, and blissfully sang their praises.