Some ISKCON temples have been adding new experiences to their biggest festivals to sweeten and deepen devotees’ absorption in serving the Lord, including this year’s Radhastami festival.
In Dallas, USA, there were two Radhastami festivals this year, each with their own unique element.
On the official Radhastami day itself, Friday September 9th, devotees bathed Sri Sri Radha Kalachandji in an unbelievable 50,000 roses during a Puspa Abhisekha.
“It takes about four days of preparation, of devotees removing the petals from the roses and storing them,” says priest Nityananda Chandra Das.
On Radhastami day, an extended class by Keshava Bharati Swami and a regular abhisekha bathing ceremony was followed by half an hour of devotees showering the Deities in a non-stop cascade of rose petals, as ecstatic kirtan created a devotional atmosphere.
The rose petals rain down
“The mountain of flowers rose to Their Lordship’s necks three times, and each time we had to remove some of them so that we could keep offering more,” Nityananda Chandra says.
Once all the rose petals were offered to Radha Kalachandji, they were taken off the altar and showered upon the chanting devotees, who whirled and spun and danced in ecstasy, calling out the Lord’s names at the top of their lungs.
“It got to be so that you couldn’t see the temple room floor at all,” Nityananda says. “The entire floor was just covered in a carpet of petals a few inches thick.”
Wanting to share the experience, devotees then took the sacred flowers out of the temple room, and bathed Kalachandji’s restaurant patrons in them as they arrived, as well as the mail lady who happened to be on her mail run at the time.
“She was delighted!” says Nityananda. “It’s hard not to like. There was only rose petals – no carnations or other flowers. So they were soft, cooling, and smelled wonderful. And, of course, they were saturated with Srimati Radharani’s mercy. It was very, very sweet.”
Meanwhile on the following Sunday, there was another full Radhastami festival for those who couldn’t miss work on Friday, along with another very special celebration – the Boat Festival.
Small Deities of Radha Kalachandji take a swan boat ride in a devotee-made pond
Devotees first placed small Deities of Radha-Kalachandji in a beautiful swan boat in the temple room, and then lined up to offer flower petals to Their lotus feet.
Next, they took Their Lordships out on a short parikrama in the boat, making their way to Kalachandji’s park next to the temple, where a large pond had been built.
There, Ritadvija Swami offered arati, and the Deities were taken on a boat ride, circumambulating the pond some one hundred times during a two-hour long ceremony.
“All the devotees got to pull the rope and take Radha Kalachandji for a ride, and also to offer a small arati with incense and flowers,” Nityananda Chandra says.
After Their boat ride, Their Lordships returned to the temple, and the devotees were invited to jump into the pond with their festival clothes on, jubilantly splashing each other and throwing wet rose petals on each other.
“It was so much fun!” says Nityananda Chandra. “We had around 200 devotees on Friday, and 300 on Sunday, from all over the country. These kinds of elements bring a unique flavor to the festival, and are a special meditation for the devotees who plan and prepare them, as well as those who are just looking forward to them.”[ dallas ] [ radha ] [ radharani ] [ radhasthami ] [ texas ]