To bring people closer to Krishna and each other and to house a sacred place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to Krishna—these are major parts of Srila Prabhupada’s vision for ISKCON. And ‘Growing Together into the New Year’ with the New Vrindaban community could not reflect these vision statements more accurately. This was particularly witnessed at the recent Gaura Purnima festival.
January 1st marks the beginning of the Western Calendar year, but every year in March, Vaishnava’s come together to celebrate one of the most important days of the year—Gaura Purnima. The spiritual New Year! The unity in our rural farm community was evident in the complete immersion of consciousness in Gauranga katha, Gauranga bhakti, and ultimately Gauranga karuna!
Like a seedling sprouting it’s first leaf, Kripamaya prabhu inspired us first by graduating from West Liberty University with a degree in music and theatre. With great determination and commitment to his service here in New Vrindaban (and at his inspiring age) he exemplified the value of always remaining a student.
The next bout of inspiration was a true team effort—as Nikunja Vilasini and the communications department spearheaded the organization and thematic design of the spectacular Gaura Purnima festival. The conscious creativity, replicating descriptions found in the Caitanya Caritamrita, included symbols of Jagannatha Puri, the Garuda stambha, the house of Jagannath Mishra, Haridas Thakur, the worship of Jagannatha, bright flags, and even a newly made outfit for the beloved New Vrindaban deities.
Many hours, days, and weeks of planning fructified on March 7th, when we all could finally feast our eyes on the exquisite beauty of it all! But even before the big day, devotees were actively taking part in Gauranga’s lila behind the scenes. Radha Priti and Mukunda Lila, from Pittsburgh, led the devotee warrior team in the battle of cleaning the construction dust from the temple. Although the dust is a beautiful symptom of community growth (but also Vraja raja), it has also had a heavy effect on devotees’ health. Cleaning everything from grates, chairs, windows, bookshelves, fans, and cobwebs, there is really not enough gratitude that can be shown to the nine devotees who dedicated all that time and energy. Gokula Priya, also from Pittsburgh burg, also contributed to the Raj Bhoga offering on the festival day. For such a glorious personality, an offering made for kings became even more opulent, practically to the level of chapana bhoga.
The beauty of Krishna Consciousness is that all of our senses can be used to remind us of Krishna. But the best way, the most powerful way, and sometimes the only way, to connect us to Krishna is through hearing! Through Gaura katha, we can be instantly transported to the this transcendental world and we can actually experience these pastimes. Ananta Gauranga helped us enter Jagannatha Puri with an amazing lecture all about the devotees of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and their loving and dynamic dealings.
One of the sweetest parts of this day was thanks to Tulsi Manjari who organized a special early abhishek for the community children of New Vrindaban. A beautiful altar was set in front of the temple room where the little golden forms of Gaura Nitai stood, arms raised for the festivities. The turnout was spectacular! Every child from the community attended and participated in bathing the deities. Showing signs of a bright future for us all, the children also lead kirtan for everyone to chant and dance. As sweet as this mini festival already was, deliciously decorated cupcakes were distributed to everyone at the end!
The day was not over though! Still some devotees were able to enjoy a fun quiz created by Gokula Priya, there were melodious bhajans, and Varsana Maharaj absorbed us again in hearing Gauranga katha—specifically the glories of Kolaveca Sridhar!
Finally it was time for the highlight of the evening—the maha abishek! Ananta Gauranga was back on scene leading an incredible heartfelt kirtan while the pujaris brought pot upon pot upon pot of bathing offerings. Senior devotees gathered bringing the auspicious and transcendental vibrations to another level. Honey, yogurt, ghee, sweet rose water, and many types of fruit juices were used in this intimate worship. Laksman prabhu provided all the guidance on this exciting event, organizing everybody and everything to come together in the festival spirit. The whole abhishek lasted for an entire hour! Near the end, Govinda jumped into the kirtan to take us home.
After the abhishek everyone migrated to the community hall—where we revisit our little community sproutling who now looks more like a little green tree sapling. The curtains pulled back as Vrindavan Priya and (music and theatre degree holding expert) Kripamaya prabhu helped bring to life more than 40 devotees in an ecstatic theatrical production! What was most insipiring about this cooperative effort, is that multiple devotees, no matter how big or small a part they played, helped to direct certain parts of the play proving there is unity in diversity—and more success and cooperation. Another sweet consequence of so many devotees participating in the theatre The Golden Avatar, is that the audience cooperation was stellar! Devotees devoured the presentation with rapt attention and provided the best support of the actors by giving them their full cooperation. Kudos to the directors , Nityoditha prabhu, Kripamaya prabhu, Vrindavan Priya and Uttara devi.
The evening ended with a rousing Gaura-arati as the full moon traversed the sky and the honoring of the Ekadasi feast and the many, many offerings brought by the brijbasis.
It was a wonderful day!