The observance of festivals associated with the pastimes of the Lord is an age-old custom in India.
Whenever Krishna entered the city of Dvaraka after being absent for some time the residents of the city would be so enlivened by His return they would observe wonderful festivals. The whole city would be decorated with the gifts of nature. Columns of banana trees containing bunches of fruits and flowers, and betel nut trees with leaves and branches were seen here and there. There were also decorations of the green leaves of palms, coconut trees, mango trees, and fruits, flowers and leaves and the streets and lanes of the cities and towns were all wet with scented waters prepared by distilling flowers like rose and keora. Such places, along with the marketplace and public meeting places, were thoroughly cleansed.
The many highways, streets and public meeting places with parks, gardens and reservoirs of water, were all very nicely decorated with flowers and fruits. And to welcome the Lord such flowers and fruits with unbroken seeds of grain were also strewn over the public places. Unbroken seeds of grain or fruits in the seedling stage were considered auspicious, and they are still used on festival days. There were also many gates set up which were structured to give the appearance of sharks and everywhere were hung flags painted with the picture of either Garuda or Hanuman, the two great servitors of the Lord.
When Lord Ramacandra returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana all the citizens placed burning lamps in the windows and on the roofs of the houses and buildings of Ayodhya so the Lord would be able to see His way back.
The process of reception according to Vedic rites is not at all dry. The reception was made not simply by decorating the roads and streets as above mentioned, but by worshiping the Lord with requisite ingredients like incense, lamps, flowers, sweets, fruits and other palatable eatables, according to one’s capacity. All were offered to the Lord, and the remnants of the foodstuff were distributed amongst the gathering citizens. So it was not like a dry reception of these modern days. Each and every house was ready to receive the Lord in a similar way, and thus each and every house on the roads and streets distributed such remnants of food to the citizens, and therefore the festival was successful. Without distribution of food, no function is complete. That is the Vedic culture.
Keeping the Vedic tradition alive
This Vedic tradition is followed even today in houses and temples around the world on the auspicious days associated with the transcendental pastimes of the Lord and His associates.
In different festivals the Lord, seated on a car, car moves through different streets of the city so that people may take advantage of visiting the Lord. In the Bhavisya Purana it is said: “In such a ceremony, if even a candala [dog-eater], simply out of curiosity, sees the Lord on the cart, he becomes counted as one of the associates of Visnu. Any one participating in such a festival, even though they are not devotees of Krsna are considered to be associates of Lord Visnu and thus their lives become auspicious.”
These Krsna conscious festivals are a wonderful opportunity to attract the general public to take part in the pastimes of the Lord, thus giving them the opportunity to take to Krsna consciousness. Festivals are an opportunity to celebrate the opportunity to serve the Lord and to also take part in His spiritual pastimes by assisting Him in performing the activities of these different pastimes.