Iskcon Newtown, Kolkata, celebrated 126th Vyasa Puja of Srila Prabhupada in a grand way. Thousands of devotees came for the Vyasa Puja celebration. A day before was Janmashtami. And on that day, there was heavy downpour. The weather was not good on Srila Prabhupada’s appearance day too.
But these ephemeral difficulties did not deter the devotees to throng Iskcon Newtown temple. Devotees were in the temple since morning. Large number of devotees participated in the guru puja at 7:30 am and attended Srimad Bhagavatam class.
Guru Puja and Pushpanjali
Many devotees fasted till 12 noon and also chanted more number of rounds of Hare Krishna Mahamantra for Srila Prabhupada’s pleasure. At 12 noon there was Pushpanjali i.e. flowers were offered to Srila Prabhupada and arati was performed. The mood was festive. After fasting for almost one and a half days devotees relished noon prasadam.
One of the things of Iskcon which attracts even a non-devotee is Iskcon’s prasadam. Lord Krishna appeared as Lord Chaitanya and made practicing devotion to Krishna simple. Srila Prabhupada an ardent follower of Lord Chaitanya carried the same mood and have ensured that devotees in Iskcon is not deprived of anything. One of the best ways to satisfy the senses is to eat nice food.
But when the food is prasadam then it not just satisfies the senses but also purifies the senses. So, devotees not just relish the delicious verities of prasadam but also parallelly remove unwanted substances from their heart which keeps them away from Krishna.
Offering of Devotees to Srila Prabhupada
Evening program started at 5 pm. To set the mood first there was lively kirtan which rejuvenated physically tired devotees. After the kirtan devotees began making their offerings to Srila Prabhupada on his 126th Vyasa Puja.
It is strange to see that how Prabhupada has touched everyone’s life in a personal way. Devotees one by one narrated their struggles in their Krishna Conscious journey and how Srila Prabhupada’s guidance through his books and lectures helped them and showed them the right path. Today, you and I cannot deny the fact that it is only because of Srila Prabhupada that each one of us are practicing Krishna Consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada was a revolutionary preacher. He led the worldwide Krishna Conscious movement from front and fought with anyone who opposed it with intellectual argument.
I liked an offering of one of the matajis. While giving her offering, she strongly opposed the idea of feminism which is taking women away from authentic Krishna Conscious practices. In her address she said that she felt proud that Srila Prabhupada gave her the position of mother. If you address any non-devotee young (or even not so young) lady mataji then she will become wild and will yell at you. But this mataji who was not old felt privileged to be addressed and respected as mother. It is a revolutionary idea which Srila Prabhupada promoted.
Some devotees wrote heart touching poems to glorify Srila Prabhupada.
While devotees were making their offerings to Srila Prabhupada, some devotees were making arrangements for the abhishek of Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada’s grand abhishek on his 126th Vyasa Puja at Iskcon Newtown
Abhishek started at around 6:30 pm. The stage was decorated with colourful flowers. Srila Prabhupada’s deity was brought for abhishek and reverentially placed on an elevated marble platform on a table.
First his body was smeared with chandan oil. Then his arati was done with 9 pista lamps which were put on a circular plate. Rose petals and other colourful petals were put around the lamps. These pista lamps are made of wheat flour or fine flour called maida. After that white til paste was applied on the body of Srila Prabhupada.
Bathing ceremony begins
The first liquid item which was poured on Srila Prabhupada was milk which was followed by curd, ghee, honey, sugar candy water and kusha grass water.
After that Srila Prabhupada was bathed with different fruit juices like banana juice, green grapes and black grapes juices, pomegranate juice, watermelon juice and mango juice. After the fruit juices, Prabhupada was bathed with kesar water and rose water.
And after this Prabhupada was bathed with Sarvaushadhi, Mahaushadhi, Ratnodak and Ashtagandha. Ashtagandha means eight sacred items, it consists of Panchpushp jal, Camphor, Jatamansi and Chandan paste.
After Ashtagandha bath there was Sahastradhara snana. For Sahastradhara snana, a vessel having multiple holes (ideally having thousand holes) was put above the head of Srila Prabhupada. Few peeled bananas were put on the vessel.
Few devotees held the Sahastradhara vessel which was on Prabhupada’s head and couple of devotees started pouring water on it. Water started flowing through multiple holes bathing Srila Prabhupada. Several pots of water were poured. It looked so beautiful. Devotees loudly started clapping and singing.
After bathing with Sahastradhara, Srila Prabhupaada was bathed with flower petals consisting of yellow and orange marigold and juhi.
While Srila Prabhupada was being bathed with different types of sacred liquid hundreds of devotees in chorus were singing the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. Devotees also sang the vaishnava song – vaishnaba thakura, doyara sagara, e dase koruna kori.
After the abhishek, Srila Prabhupada was taken for dressing and bhoga offering.
126th Vyasa Puja book offered to Srila Prabhupada at Iskcon Newtown
Devotees again started giving their offerings. HG Acharya Ratan Prabhu offered the 126th Vyasa Puja book of Iskcon Newtown devotees to Srila Prabhupada. After offering the book at Prabhupada’s lotus feet, HG Acharya Ratan Prabhu read the offering of Iskcon Kolkata GBC HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaj, HH Radhanath Swami Maharaj, other senior sannyasis and devotees. He then read his offering. While devotees were giving offering, Srila Prabhupada was getting ready.
Arati & Bhoga Offering
Beautifully dressed Srila Prabhupada came on the stage. Many devotees had worked hard to prepare bhoga for Prabhupada. Since it was the appearance day celebration of everyone’s beloved Srila Prabhupada, so devotees had put in their heart to prepare different delicious bhoga for him. If I am not wrong then more than 100 items were offered to Prabhupada along with a cake. After bhoga offering, it was arati time.
HG Vrindavan Chari Prabhu did the arati and HG Amar Kishor Prabhu sang the song – Sri Guru Caran Padma and led the kirtan.
The festival culminated with delicious prasadam. Every devotee loved the prasadam and had a big smile which was bigger than their prasadam plate.