Hundreds of devotees thronged to Iskcon New Town, Kolkata on 24th August to celebrate Janmashtami, the appearance day of Lord Krishna. Although it rained almost continuously and heavily throughout the day, but it did not dampen the spirits of the lovers of Krishna. The sky was covered with thick dark clouds and it appeared as if the rain God, Indra, was too eager to do abhishek of Lord Krishna on this auspicious day.
Devotees since early morning were busy preparing for the celebration in a grand way. The program at the temple began at 4:30 am with Mangal Arati and continued till midnight. Throughout the day people were coming to the temple to take blessings of the Lord. Everyone who came got a cupful of prasadam. Many were fasting since morning without water.
One devotee told me that he was so busy in his service that in the evening he remembered that today he is fasting and have not taken even a drop of water since midnight. It is verify said that service to Krishna is so pleasing and absorbing that devotees forget even their material needs.
The temple hall was beautifully decorated. In the centre of the temple was the deity of Lord Krishna and Srimati Radharani. The altar was decorated with green leaves and colourful flowers. Krishna and Srimati Radharani wearing attractive dress and ornaments sat majestically on a throne. It looked as if they both are enjoying their pastimes in the forest groves of Vrindavan. Towards the left of the main altar was the picture of Sri Sri Radha Govinda with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladeva and Subhadra Devi. And towards the left of the altar was a huge and beautiful picture of Srila Prabhupada.
Throughout the day devotees recited beautiful verses from Srimad Bhagavatam and discussed about Krishna’s innumerable pastimes. Devotees continuously sang melodious Hare Krishna kirtan and Vaishnav bhajans written by great Vaishnav acharyas.
In the evening there were cultural programs. Traditional dance, drama and specially kids’ programs were liked by all. For the kids there was fancy dress competition, drawing competition and dance performance. For the fancy dress most of the kids had dressed as Krishna and Radharani and on the stage they looked adorable.
While the other programs were going on devotees led by HG Vrindavan Chari Prabhu were making arrangements for the bathing ceremony (abhishek) of the Lord. Very meticulously all the ingredients required for the ceremony was prepared and put in earthen pots. A nice altar was prepared where abhsihek had to be performed. The Lord was then invited to come to the abhishek altar and be seated there. Just before the abhishek, devotees dressed Lord Krishna and Srimati Radharani in bathing garments.
The bathing ceremony of the Lord began at around 10 pm and the temple hall got filled with devotees. Amidst the loud but melodious chanting of Hare Krishna Mahamantra different sacred items were poured from the conch shells on the deities of Lord Krishna and Srimati Radharani. Scented oil, til paste and sandalwood paste was applied on the body of the Lord. Milk, Curd, ghee, honey, sugar candy water, sandalwood paste, coconut water, fruit juices and lots of Ganges water was poured over the Lord.
The ceremony continued for an hour. After the abhishek the Lord was dressed in beautiful garments, ornaments and garlands and placed on the main central altar. Different food items were offered to the Lord. While the Lord was being dressed devotees in the temple discussed beautiful pastimes of Lord Krishna from Srimad Bhagavatam.
Exactly at 12 midnight the altar was opened. Lord Krishna had appeared. A grand arati of the Lord was performed. Devotees reverentially participated in it and together sang – Yasomati nandana, braja baro nagara/gokula ranjana kana.
After the arati everyone rushed to the prasadam hall to break their fast and enjoy delicious Krishna prasadam comprising of sabudana sweet, cumin rice, paneer sabji, fried potatoes, fruits and sweet lemon juice.