The biggest event on most ISKCON devotees’ calendars – the Gaura Purnima festival at Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir in Bengal, India – kicked off this February 24.
Traditionally, Gaura Purnima honors the birth in 1482 of Sri Chaitanya, the founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. ISKCON’s founder Srila Prabhupada added to this in 1972 when he launched the Mayapur event as a kind of spiritual vacation for his followers, a chance for them to take a break from their regular outreach endeavors and recharge their spiritual batteries.
Now an ISKCON institution, the Mayapur festival draws thousands of devotees annually, and this year – it’s 38th—was no different.
An international crowd began to pour into the sacred town on February 23, just as the annual general meetings of ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission wound down. The festive spirit rose as the sweet melodies of renowned kirtan singer Aindra Dasa, of Vrindavana’s Krishna Balarama Mandir, surcharged the atmosphere with spiritual energy.
The morning of February 24th saw devotees carry a small golden deity of Srila Prabhupada in procession to the inaugural ceremony at Srila Prabhupada Park, along with deities of Sri Chaitanya-Nityananda, and Krishna’s auspiciousness-invoking bird-carrier Garuda.
Special guest Balaji Swami, head priest at Balaji Tirumala Mandir in Tirupati, South India, performed the ritual ceremonies with mantras propitiating Chaitanya and his associate Nityananda. ISKCON leaders Gopal Krishna Goswami and Lokanath Swami then hoisted the inaugural flag.
GBC member and guru Jayapataka Swami, who had just returned to Mayapur after 4 months recuperating from a brain hemorrhage, gave an inaugural address in which he presented the festival as an offering to Radha-Madhava and to devotees all over the world.
Master of ceremonies Pragosh Dasa then thanked Jayapataka Swami for being present at this important moment despite his ill health, mentioning that the Swami has never missed a Gaura Purnima festival since 1972. Pragosh also gave an introduction to the Mayapur festival and spoke of plans to improve it in coming years.
Other speakers at the inauguration included Gopal Krishna Goswami, Candramauli Swami, Prahladananda Swami and Bhakti Purusottama Swami.
The inauguration precedes one of the biggest events of the festival – February 25th’s Maha-Abhisekha – in which devotees get a rare chance to bathe deities of Sri Caitanya and Nityananda.
For photos and more information on the Mayapur festival, visit www.mayapur.com.