NEW YORK: Sri Krishna Janmasthami - Lord Krishna's birthday commemoration, observed on August 23 and 24 - reached new heights around the globe this year, thanks largely to hundreds of celebrations hosted by chapters of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Of special significance were the celebrations in New Delhi, London, and Washington DC.
ISKCON's Janmasthami celebrations broke previous records for the number of guests in attendance, and featured special VIP appearances. ISKCON's grand temple in New Delhi, dubbed the "Glory of India" center, saw an estimated 700,000 people visit throughout the day- a new record for the temple. The temple also received VIP guests, including Central Government Cabinet Minister Kapil Sibal and New Delhi's Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Local ISKCON leader Gopal Krishna Goswami hosted the Chief Minister.
"When Goswamiji briefed the Chief Minister about our Food for Life and Mid-Day Meal charitable programs, she became very happy and expressed her sincere gratitude," said ISKCON New Delhi spokesperson Vrajananda Dasa. "In reciprocation she invited him to her home to give her and her family blessings and make her house auspicious.
"Not to be outdone, the Bhaktivedanta Manor - ISKCON's London headquarters and one of the most popular Hindu temples in the United Kingdom - broke some records of its own, hosting more than 65,000 guests at what is believed to be the largest celebration of its kind outside of India. With a theme of "food for the body and spirit" the festival included tasting tents, information about vegetarianism and environmentalism, and a kitchen staff of 400 volunteers working 24 hours a day to provide more than 50,000 plates of free vegetarian food throughout the festival.
Located in the picturesque town of Hertfordshire in the suburbs of London, the Manor was purchased and donated to the Hare Krishna movement by the late Beatle George Harrison in 1973, and has since grown to become one of the largest and most attended Hindu temples in the western world.
Closer to home, ISKCON devotees in the capital of the United States followed suit, hosting a jam-packed festival at the temple in Potomac, Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C. Here too previous attendance records were joyously broken; approximately 10,000 people attended the two-day celebration, which included a mela-style carnival of booths and displays, continuous darshan (viewing of the Deities), classical dances and dramas, and a special midnight aarti. The American celebration also included a special gift to attendees: a free concert featuring India's famed devotional singer, Anup Jalota.
The celebrity, dubbed the "king of bhajan", performed for several hours to the delight of the standing-room only crowds. "We were honored to have Anup ji singing Krishna bhajans as part of our festival," said temple spokesperson Anuttama Dasa. "Since the success of his early recordings at the ISKCON temple in Juhu, Mumbai he has been a special friend of the Hare Krishna movement, and continues to feel quite at home at ISKCON temples around the world."Additional Janmasthami celebrations were held at more than four hundred ISKCON temples across the globe, including Africa, Russia, and Australia.