on Sept. 18, 2010
Janmastami is one of the biggest Vaishnava festivals of the year, with millions of people worldwide celebrating the divine appearance day of Lord Krishna. For many ISKCON temples it is an opportunity not only to celebrate but also broadcast to newcomers the glory of Sri Krishna.
At Bhaktivedanta Manor, ISKCON's largest temple in the UK, 55,000 guests passed through the temple gates to learn about and experience the festival of Krishna's appearance.
A mini village was erected on the temple property filled with displays, exhibits, stalls and activities all centered around the culture of Krishna consciousness.
A Harinama party weaved its way around during the day and the festival kirtana tent was busy into the late hours of the night.
The main marquee hosted dramas, dance, and two Abhisek bathing ceremonies for Sri Sri Radha Gokulananada.
An elaborate queuing system took guests through an interactive display of Krishna's pastimes before ending with darshan of the deities.
For newcomers and congregation alike the entire four-day festival was an awe inspiring, grand occasion.
Two weeks later, however, the appearance day of Krishna's divine consort Srimati Radharani was a more intimate celebration. Due to the deep nature of Radha and Krishna's relationship, Radharani's appearance day is not always a day advertised to newcomers but rather a celebration for the congregation of devotees.
All the many marquees that hosted the grand Janmastami celebrations were taken down, and the fields used to facilitate thousands of parked cars returned to pasturing grounds again, as Bhaktivedanta Manor resorted back to the countryside temple loved by local residents.
To celebrate the appearance of Radharani the temple pujaris dressed Radha Gokulananda in beautiful flower outfits. As devotees took morning darshan of the deities, Kripamoya Dasa led a kirtana which eventually had the entire temple room dancing back and forth in front of the altar.
Later, as second generation devotees Chakrini and Tulasi sang sweet kirtana, the beautiful forms of Radha and Krishna were bathed in auspicious ingredients in the traditional abhisek ceremony.
ISKCON guru Jayadvaita Swami lectured in the morning on the frailties of impersonalistic philosophy, while the Gurukuli children performed a drama which highlighted the sweet personal exchanges between Krishna and His dearmost devotees.
The community came together to celebrate Radharani's appearance, and as well as a grand feast, a special time was designated for everyone to offer presents to the deities. Srimati Radharani later reciprocated with the love of the devotees during the final arati at 9pm when a darshan of her lotus feet was available.
Twenty artistically decorated large cakes were offered on the altar, and each devotee was given a small slice of Radharani's cake as they came forward to catch a rare glimpse of her feet.
The curtains remained open long into the night until eventually all the devotees returned to their homes, uplifted and enlivened from the day’s festivities.
Many thanks to David C Photography and Bhaktivedanta Manor for the photos used in this article. You can view more photographs of the 2010 Janmastami festival at Bhaktivedanta Manor here:
More photos of Radhastami can be viewed here: