Life emerged on a white canvass with maroon strokes tinted with gold and pink when curtain opened on the morning of 17th July, 2011. They were dressed in a pristine new maroon dress, ordained with golden stripes, golden brocade, dazzling borders, fine jewellery and fresh pink garlands on their Birthday. Twenty three years ago on this day Sri Sri Radha Gopinath were brought at 7, K.M Munshi Marg on the desire of Radhananth Swami and his disciples and no one knew that 23 years later they will become the life and soul of thousands of devotees here.
Every year this day is a big celebration in the temple with thousands of devotees gathering to celebrate the day and leaving so many visitors confused whether it is Janmastami (Appearance Day of Lord Krishna) celebrations in temple. This year also the day started like every day at 5 am with the sound of concshell to indicate the first Darshan of Sri Sri Radha Gopinath. Even at the wee hours of early morning the temple hall was packed with devotees who had come to seek blessings of their lordships on this auspicious day. The Days proceedings began with the auspicious Mangal Arti of their Lordships, this was followed by regular Japa session in the temple hall.
As the clock was ticking towards 8 am, the intensity of chanting by devotees was increasing as they were waiting to see Sri Sri Radha Gopinath in their new birthday suit with many of them guessing and debating on the color of the dress. Finally, the curtains opened with a loud chanting of “Sri Sri Radha Gopinath ki Jai”. Devotees were glued to the vision of the altar where stood Gopinath dressed in his favorite Yellow with Radha Rani and Lalita, Vishaka in magenta tops and skirts with carved white and pink flowers against a backdrop of splashed water drops giving a rainbow hue to the whole imagery. Picassos and Vincis of the world can’t recreate what everyone witnessed here today.
The day had much more in store for everyone. Events started with the Bhagvatam Class by one of the temple’s famous and mesmerizing speaker Radha Gopinath Das which ended by 10:30 am. On the ground floor the kitchen team was cooking a big feast for more than 4000 people who had come that day. A special swing was created in the temple hall where Utsav deities Radha GopijanVallabh were seated for the pleasure of devotees. The Swing appeared like a fragrant spring of flowers with white, red and flowers of many colors. Devotees were coming in turns and pulling the rope of the swing for an oscillation giving joy to their lordships while offering their silent prayers.
At 12:30 pm was the regular feature of the Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Temple, the Sunday Feast class. Though it was a regular event, the speaker was rare and extraordinary, Gauranga Das, who is also one of the temple’s famous and cherished speakers. Gauranga Das shared the history of Sri Sri Radha Gopinath temple with the audience and made them literally walk through the whole journey from day one of the temple till today.
Next in the event was a dedication to the Lordships with a famous Gaudiya Bhajan ‘Gopinath’ written by a famous vaishnava acharya Bhakti Vinod Thakur. Next event was the Maha-aarti offered to Sri Sri Radha Gopinath accompanied with ecstatic kirtan which left devotees dancing enthusiastically for hours.
All this while when several events were happening, people were flocking at another place in temple to present their birthday gifts, offerings of love, for the divine Lordships. People had come with food items personally prepared by them, handmade greeting cards, bouquets, jewellery, toys, letters etc. Each one of them had poured their hearts into their gifts which made it much more than what it was.
All these events were clues for the final mystery to be unveiled very soon at 5:30 pm. Curtain! Fast music! Light! Ready for the last finale! that’s what was buzzing in the air of the temple. Finally, at 5:30 a thunderous uproar of chanting of the holy name – “ hare krishna hare krishna krishna hare, hare ram hare ram ram hare hare”, sounds of nadswaram, concshell, drums, vedic hymns from Brahma Samhita heralded the arrival of Radha Gopinjanvallabh in a palanquin adorned with pearls and beautiful flowers, in the temple corridor. There were small girls dressed in traditional Gopi dresses holding plates with lamps ahead of the procession and palanquin marking an auspicious beginning for the procession. The palanquin was surrounded by nicely dressed sevaks who were carrying umbrella to shadow lordship and holding silver poles. Like the lordships the sevaks were equally dressed. The sight and aura matched in essence to the description of scenes when Lord Krishna enters Dwarka. Even enthusiasm of devotees was no lesser than Dwarka residents and may be many of them were living that scene in reality.
The Lordships seated on the palanquin were now on their way to the circumambulation of the temple. On their way they visited various temple departments and projects and will heard their annual reports; after all they are the CEOs of this institute of devotees nurtured by Radhanath Swami. The palanquin was followed by an entourage of devotees who were singing and dancing ecstatically on the tunes of Hare Krishna Kirtans; Kirtan always intensified at the stopovers. The lordships visited all the offices be it Finance, accounts, Book distribution office, Website team, Temple secretarial office, Guest reception office, Security office, Vaishnava Training Academy, Temple Kitchen, ISKCON Youth Services Office, Radha Gopinath Media Services, Temple Yatra committee, Tulsi Books Publication, Yamuna Kinara Bank, Back To Godhead Magazine team and many others.
Highlight in the whole procession was the performance by the students of Gopal’s garden school which was held at the stopover in Temple Courtyard. A group of young girls performed a classical dance on the song ‘Jaya Janardan’ and then a group of young boys performed the Maharashtrian folk dance Lezim. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the performance and reciprocated by three loud chants of Hari Bol – a customary way of thanking anyone at ISKCON temples.
Finally, the time arrived when Lordships came for a final stopover which ended by dedicating Gopi Geet – prayers from 10th Canto Srimad Bhagvatam where Lord Krishna’s most ardent devotees Gopis are glorifying and remembering Lord krishna in separation. The song totally reflected the mood of devotees who were sad for Lordships going back and it will be a year they will get to see them so closely again. With an enchanting kirtan the palanquin was guided back to the altar. With folded hands devotees bowed down in respect thanking them for a day in their life to associate so closely with them, serving them and providing shelter validating the words of their spiritual master Radhanath Swami who says, “We are not here for happy material life, we are here for selfless service and shelter.”
The day ended and this was probably the most vivid, longest and euphoric birthday party anyone would have ever attended. For all of us our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time but this birthday celebration was an experience and remembrance for a lifetime. This remembrance is very essential as again in the words of Radhanath Swami, “Remembrance is a necessary expression of love, internally.”
Please visit the Gallery Page for photos of festival