Festivals in the Hot Season – an interview with Jananivasa Prabhu
Setting the Standards
As worship of Lord Jagannatha in Jagannatha Puri sets the standards for temple worship, thus also Deity worship in Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir gives the best example to numberless temples and congregation of our ISKCON society around the world. Beside the uniqueness that all 64 items are offered daily to Their Lordships (Sri Sri Radha Madhava, Sri Sri Panca Tattva, Sri Sri Ugra-Nrsimhadeva- Bhakta Raj Prahlada Maharaja), the other attractive feature of Deity worship in Sri Mayapur Dham are different festivals arranged for the pleasure of the Lord.
The Months of the Hot Season
The period of the year during which the festivals are performed the most frequently is the hot season. The summer comes in the Bengali months of Vaisakha and Jeshta or the Vaisnava months of Madhusudana and Trivikrama- April/May/June.
Syamesvari Mataji: Where does the inspiration to perform these various festivals come from?
Jananivas Prabhu: When Srila Prabhupada was teaching us how to worship salagram-sila, he told me that I could follow this festival. He told me: “During the Vaishak month, you hang a pot over the salagram, and it drips water.”
The same instruction is also in the Hari Bhakti Vilas: “In the month of Vaisakha, the Sun moves into Mesa rasi, and the New Year begins according to many calendars. Kesava Vrata starts- for one month one should control the senses, sleep on the earth, bath twice daily in a river, worship the Lord and give cloth, sugar, sesame, rice and gold to the brahmanas. If one worships Madhusudana in this month one gains the benefit of one year’s worship. While Kesava Vrata lasts one may hang a pot with a hole in it, fill it in with water and drip water over Tulasi and Salagrama.”
Salagram and Tulasi Jala-dan
Syamesvari Mataji: So, that is the first festival that comes with the beginning of summer?
Jananivas Prabhu: Yes, it is called Salagram and Tulasi Jala-dan. Salagrama silas of Lord Janardhana and Lord Nrsimhadeva, as well as Tulasi devi, are placed under the pots from which the water is dripping.
The pot has a small hole at the bottom into which a cotton wick is put. Anything can be used, like kusa grass or a Tulasi stick, but with a cotton wick it is easier to adjust the volume of water. Camphor can be put inside the wick, and scented oils and flowers into the pot so that a nice scent comes through. Salagram sits in a tray, which is also filled with water and decorated with flowers, so that it too is cooling and pleasing for the Lord. Different cooling drinks as the butter milk, ghur water with ginger and flower sherbets are also being offered at this time. It is generally done during the hot time of the day, from about 10:30 am until the Deities take rest at 1 pm, and with Tulasi it goes on all day. This festival is celebrated for the whole month of Vaishak, from one dasami to the next.
Syamesvari Mataji: The Jala-dan festival ends, yet the summer is still going on. How is the Lord keeping cool then?
Jananivas Prabhu: As it gets even hotter, and summer really starts, it is not cooling enough just to sit under the water. Candan Yatra starts- Krsna gets completely covered with candana. This overlaps with the Salagram and Tulasi Jala-dan since it begins on Aksaya Tritiya, which is an auspicious day for beginning an activity. It is understood that the activity which was started on this day will be successful.
Hari Bhakti Vilas gives such a description on this festival: “Candan Yatra starts on the Aksaya Tritiya, the third lunar day of the waxing moon of Vaisakha month, and continues for twenty one days. This day is celebrated as well as the day on which Treta yuga started. Barley, one of the main ingredients for homa, which is the yuga dharma for Treta yuga, was also created on this day. One should bathe in a sacred river, give charity, perform japa and offer barley into fire, and offer barley preparations to the Deity.
Jagannatha gave direct instructions to King Indradyumna to perform this festival at this time. Smearing the body of the Lord with ointments is an act of devotion, and the best of ointments is sandalwood paste. Since the month of Vaisakha is very hot, the cooling effect of sandalwood is very pleasing to the body of the Lord.
Sandalwood paste is applied all over the body of Jagannatha leaving only His two eyes visible. One can apply candana saying: om gandha dvara duradarsan nitya pustam karisinim isvarim sarvabhutanam tvam ihopahvaye sriyam.”
Our following of Candan Yatra, as Gaudiya Vaisnavas, comes from Madhavendra Puri. Gopal told him that He is buried, to get Him out. After the installation ceremony, Gopal sent Madhavendra Puri to Orissa for sandal. On the way back He instructed him to offer the sandal to Ksira Cora Gopinatha in Remuna, being non different from Himself.
In Sri Vrndavana Dham, there is hundreds of years old tradition of covering the Deity of Lord Visnu in candan. It is done for one day, but they spend the whole day doing it. The temples close and they actually make His clothes, His ornaments, the garlands around His neck, the crown, the flute, everything- from candana. The darsan is in the evening.
In South India, Varaha-Nrsimha is kept under a plenty of candana, because He gets so angry when He is killing Hiranyakasipu. As they put candana on Him the whole year round, He keeps on getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Practically you do not see the form after a while, but He is inside the candana. There is only one day per year that you can actually see the Deity. On Candana Yatra they take all the candana off and start again.
In Sri Mayapur Dham, following the standard of Jagannatha Puri where the festival goes for 21 days, small Madhava gets covered for 21 days. The Deities at the Jagannatha Mandir also get candana for 21 days- Baladeva and Jagannatha are getting Their bodies completely covered, and Subhadra wearing candana on her forehead. Big Madhava is completely covered for 7 days, sometimes He gets blue, sometimes kumkum is applied to His cheeks, different decorations painted on His face, hands and calves, sometimes various nuances of glitter are applied. With small Madhava, sometimes the effect of wearing short pants is made and trim put above His knees. Sometimes He just wears a very short dhoti. Big Madhava often wears a short dhoti, more simple jewellery, and garlands. He is completely different because He is not reflective at all, and there is a different color so He looks really blissful having a really mild, blissful smile. He only wears candana for one week, probably because the devotees feel separation from Him, as they cannot see Him in His original form. Although, the candana is taken off every evening and you can see Him at mangala aratic. Radharani always looks happy during this time, wearing candana on Her forhead, as well as Sri Sri Panca Tattva. Lord Nrsimhadeva is covered in candan on the first day of Candan Yatra and stays like that until Nrsimha-caturdasi. He really likes being cool. He is all white with the candana on, and then you can see that it is dark inside His mouth. His mouth goes right up, with circles on the end, and that becomes very prominent. It looks like He is laughing- He does not look angry at all.
Syamesvari Mataji: During this time small Madhava is wearing the dresses that are depicting His different pastimes.
Jananivas Prabhu: This also comes from the practice that is being followed in Jagannatha Puri. There is a list of Lord Jagannatha’s special dresses for every day of Candana Yatra. In His form as Madan-Mohan, the utsava Deity, on the first day of the Candan Yatra He is The Best of the Dancers- wearing His Natavara Vesa; on the 2nd day He wears Krsna Janma (birth) Vesa; on the 3rd day- Rajadhiraja (King of Kings) Vesa; on the 4th day- Banabihari (Frolicking in forest) Vesa; on the 5th day- Vastra-harana (Stealing of Gopis’ clothes) Vesa; on the 6th day- Gomati Krsna Vesa; on the 7th day- Khata Doli Vesa; on the 8th day- Cakra Narayana Vesa; on the 9th day- Nauka Keli (Boat play) Vesa; on the 10th day- Rasamandala (Circular arena of the Rasa dance) Vesa; on the 11th day- Kandarpa Ratha (Chariot of Cupid) Vesa; on the 12th day- Aghasura (Killing of Aghasura) Vesa; on the 13th day- Rahasa Mandali Vesa; on the 14th day- Raghunatha Vesa; on the 15th day- Sad Bhuja (Six armed from of Lord Caitanya) Vesa; on the 16th day- Nrsimha Vesa; on the 17th day- Govardhana Puja Vesa; on the 18th day- Giridhara Vesa; on the 19th day- Cintamani Krsna Vesa; on the 20th day- Gaja Uddarana (Saving the Gajendra elephant) Vesa. There is one more list of these different dresses, coming from the Kolkata Gaudiya Math Panjika (Calendar). Being practically the same as Lord Jagannatha’s list, it only does not mention Nrsimha Vesa. None of these two lists are describing the 21th day’s dress.
Syamesvari Mataji: In Jagannatha Puri, the Deity of Madanmohan is daily being taken to Narendra Sarovar for the Boat festival, throughout the 21 days period of Candan Yatra.
Jananivas Prabhu: Lord Caitanya used to participate in this Festival regularly. In Hari Bhakti Vilas, the Boat festival is explained like this: “The utsava murtis are taken on procession and placed in a boat in the temple pond. To commemorate this festival, Lord Caitanya also carried out water sports with His devotees.”
Syamesvari Mataji: Is it also part of Sri Sri Radha Madhava’s Hot season Festivals?
Jananivas Prabhu: In Sri Mayapur Dham the Boat festival is going on for the first seven days of Candan Yatra. The small Sri Sri Radha-Madhava are seated on Their Simhasana, and in a festive mood brought to Srila Prabhupada’s pukur, in the courtyard of his Samadhi Mandir. Everyone is chanting and dancing, sometimes even graciously jumping and running. This procession is quite rapid in comparison to other ones- it seems that Their Lordships are eager to get Their boat ride as soon as possible! On the first day of the Boat festival, the procession first comes inside the Samadhi, where Srila Prabhupada gets the darsan of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava and Their Lordships are being welcomed by an arati & bhoga offering. Then, everyone proceeds toward pukur. All the surroundings of the pukur are completely crowded with the devotees coming to attend the festival. On the pukur, a boat is waiting, beautifully decorated with flowers and sometimes with shapes of a fish, peacock or swan. Another arati & bhoga offering are taking place, flower garlands and incenses that devotees are bringing are being offered to Their Lordships- and finally, Their boat ride starts. Kirtan that is constantly going on follows the mood of the festival- as the first lines of “Jaya Radhe Jaya Krsna Jaya Vrndavana” start, everyone feels transferred to Sri Vrndavana Dham. Children are having a parikrama around the pukur following Their Lordships during Their circle ride on the pukur. The fountain in the middle of the pukur also adds to the cooling effect of the boat ride of Their Lordships- not just by it’s beautiful colorful presence, but as the Vaikuntha breezes (as Srila Prabhupada used to call the winds blowing in Sri Mayapur Dham) carry it’s drops towards the boat, it makes a pleasant mild splash on Their Lordships. Often, by surprise, the fireworks illuminate the evening sky above the pukur. Their Lordships take a boat ride around the pukur a few times, before They stop to accept the further offerings. As the boat approaches the steps again, everyone gets up, handling the plates and boxes with their offerings for Sri Sri Radha-Madhava. The countless offerings of fruits, cooling drinks, ice-creams, sweets, etc. can not fit the boat at the same time, so Their Lordships relish several offerings. As Their boat ride continues, devotees distribute maha-prasadam to each other, Sandhya Arati is going on, and offering of the lamps takes place. Towards the end, the boat ride gets really dynamic- the boat makes circles around itself and moves back and forth, as if being pushed by a strong wind or waves. When They come off, They come up the stairs, where beautifully decorated swing, looking like a little nikunja, is waiting for Them, now. Further arati & bhoga offering again take place. Sri Sri Radha-Madhava sit on a swing and all the devotees have a chance to get close and swing Them. The whole procession jubilantly gets back to the temple just before the last evening offering.
Water pastimes or Jala-vihar/Salila-vihar
Syamesvari Mataji: Taking shelter of cooling, merciful waters of Mother Ganga is necessary part of daily life of Mayapur devotees, especially during these hot summer months.
Jananivas Prabhu: Sri Sri Radha Madhava also take shelter of Mother Ganga’s cooling waters.
After twelve days of Chandana Yatra, it is purnima and the next festival starts. It is Jala-Vihar, or Salila-Vihar which means “water pastimes. Another name is Krsna-phula-dola or “Krsna’s flower swing festival.”
Hari Bhakti Vilas describes Jala-Vihara like this: “From the purnima of the Vaisakha month to the purnima of the Jestha month, in the midst of summer, on hot days, in the middle of the day, the Lord should be placed amidst cool water. In the evening he may return to the altar. On the dvadasi night special puja may be performed.”
There is note about observing Krsna-phula-dola by our acaryas, in “The Story of Rasikananda” (the famous disciple of Syamananda Pandit: ”My guru, Syamananda, has ordered me to collect goods for the Pancama Dola (swing) festival. The ceremony will be held on the day of Vasanta Purnima in the month of Vaisakha. I shall go there first to prepare a place and build a pavilion. You should all come there later.”
Five days after Sri Sri Radha-Madhava had Their Boat festival, They continue with the cooling water pastimes. This festival is performed in the evening around six. There is a pond filled with Ganga water, and with a fountain, in front of the altar. There is a flower house inside the pond – a flower bungalow. The smallest Sri Sri Radha-Madhava, the ones who ride on the elephant, come and sit in the house by the fountain for few hours. While Their water pastime is going on, numberless devotees and guests are approaching Them, each of them offering the lotus flower and one of Their 108 Names.
On the dvadasi evenings, Sri Sri Radha-Madhava get the special offerings. As They enter Their flower bungalow, first incenses smeared with the cooling kush oil are being offered, then the camphor lamp, followed by the variety of cooling drinks from the butter milk to different sherbets (bakul-flower, suvarna campa flower, gandha-raj flower, bel flower, jasmine flower, kush oil, sandalwood) .
Both Boat festival and Jala-Vihara end by distribution of Maha-prasadam to devotees and guests in the temple, though in the Vedic culture it is considered that without the distribution of Maha-prasadam no function is complete.
Syamesvari Mataji: The water pastimes are not cooling only for Their Lordships. As Sri Sri Radha-Madhava get back on the altar for the last evening offering, all devotees and guests are excitingly waiting to get the special gift- Maha-lotuses from Sri Sri Radha-Madhava’s pond that you personally distribute. Picking the lotuses up from the pond, while the Ganga water is still pouring and dripping from them, you place the lotuses on everyone’s heads. After that cooling shower of mercy we all feel as if we would just merge out from the pond of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava’s pastimes!
Jananivas Prabhu: (Laughing) Yes, the Water pastimes culminate with the shower. On the last evening of the Water pastimes, Sri Sri Radha-Madhava are also sitting under the shower water. They have been sitting there in front of the fountain for the whole month getting some splashes and some mist, but on this day the water comes above them as They sit under the shower for a few hours.
That day falls on the purnima of the Jestha month, when another festival takes place-it is Snana Yatra, when Lord Jagannatha gets His famous snana.
This day is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Jagannatha. In Jagannatha Puri, the bathing ceremony is performed according to tithi, which varies.
Rajapur Jagannatha, Balarama and Subhadra also gets Their bath on this day. Thousands of devotees and local villagers come to bath Thir Lordshis..
Sudarsana cakra, followed by Lord Balarama, Subhadra Devi and Lord Jagannatha, come to Snan vedi, while being escorted by the servants carrying the umbrellas above Them. They are dressed in silk, which is then removed and They stay in linen gamsas, ready for Their snan. For this occasion, Lord Jagannatha, Balarama and Subhadra take the mood of small children, as all three of Them are bathed together. The area is very pleasing- decorated by pictures depicting the forms of different flowers and creepers, and fragrance of scented water and incense spreading around.
First the water is poured, followed by 16 upacaras and full snan, as described by Srila Rupa Goswami in “Sri Krsna Janma Abisekha Tithi”. It can be elaborated on that by bathing the Lord also in fruit juices, etc.
After Maha abisekha, Lord Jagannatha, Balarama and Subhadra are dressed in the Hati Vesa, and capan bhog and arotic are offered.
Other Deities than Lord Jagannatha, Balarama and Subhadra are not getting the Maha abisekha on the Snana Yatra, but Radha-Raman in Sri Vrndavan Dham is sitting under the shower of water, thus getting pleasingly cooled during this last festival in the hot season.
Then the rainy season more or less begins. Two weeks after Snan yatra it is Ratha Yatra. Then it is rainy season. They say it must rain for Ratha Yatra. If it hasn’t started, then it must rain during that day. And it automatically gets cooler. There is a lot of cloud and rain. It is more humid because it is tropical but it is not hot, blazing sun.
So, during the blazing hot summer months, They figure out how to keep cool until the rain comes. (Laughing)
The sastra gives us very brief descriptions of these festivals, but there is no limit how much we could expand. It should be done beautifully, tastefully and gorgeously- for the pleasure of The Lord.
Syamesvari Mataji: Thank you very much!
Jananivas Prabhu: Hare Krsna!