Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID-19 impact: ISKCON Vrindavan limits daily Sewa, sanitized flowers for Lord Krishna

Shree Banke Bihari Ji Temple closed till March 31

Temples of Vrindavan are world-famous; some for their grandeur and some for their antiquity and legends associated with them. Thousands of devotees visit this small town daily from far-flung places of not just India but the world. But, amidst the threat of novel Coronavirus, temples are closed and visitors are few. From Shree Banke Bihari Ji Temple to the ISKCON Temple, all big and small temples have been shut down as a protective measure against the spread of COVID-19.

The deserted front gate of ISKCON Temple, Vrindavan

A priest inside ISKCON Temple amid the shut down

Rare sight of the empty hall inside Shree Banke Bihari Temple, Vrindavan

In an attempt to safeguard the Temple premises against Coronavirus, ISKCON management has cut down the daily offerings to deities. These offering also include grand flower decorations known as Pushpa-Sewa. Management has also minimized the quantities of items that are being procured from outside. Every article before allowing inside the Temple premises is being sanitized first, including flowers.

At ISKCON Temple, daily Sewa and offerings are being observed as usual but on a small scale. Daily flower offerings to deities including Lord Krishna, Shree Radharani, Balarama and Nitai Gaur have been curtailed to 4 Kg whilst in normal days, 60 Kg flowers are offered in different forms. ISKCON management procures flowers for Temple use from cities such as Delhi.

Public Relations Officer of ISKCON, Saurabh Trivikram Das informed that only 4 Kg flowers are being purchased due to Coronavirus threat. He further added that the entry inside the Temple premises is barred for public till March 31. Only 3 priests are exempt and these priests reside 24 hours inside the Temple and perform daily Sewa of Lord Shree Radha-Krishna. In normal days, around 40 devotees offer daily Sewa in the Temple on a daily basis, but in the light of COVID-19 threat, except for 3 priests, no one is allowed inside the Temple.

Sanitized flowers and in-house prepared Naivedyam for Lord Krishna

Temple management sanitizes flowers before allowing them inside the Temple premises. From the supplier’s end, the flowers arrive securely in poly bags. But, before allowing them inside, they are transferred in a sanitized cloth right outside the Temple gates. To avoid any hazard, the poly bags are discarded outside the Temple at a specific place. Following this, flowers are mixed well inside the sanitized cloth to get rid of any potential threat and are then offered to deities.

As per the Temple traditions, Prasad offered to deities are prepared in-house. ISKCON Temple never offers food articles prepared outside to deities as Prasad. Only Temple-authorized cooks prepare Naivedyam inside the Temple kitchen.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Temples of Vrindavan take protective measures to deal with the COVID-19 threat

The ancient town of Vrindavan is the land of some of the most famous temples in India. Thousands of devotees not just from India but across the globe visit this temple town every day. But in the light of COVID-19 threat, many temples have been shut down as a protective measure against the spread of Coronavirus. Temple authorities have also been quick to take the decision of disinfecting the temple premises on a timely basis. Due to the increasing threat of COVID-19, public places like temples have seen exponential fall of visitors.  

ISKCON Temple Vrindavan closed till March 31 –

After conducting the discussion with the members of the governing body of ISKCON, temple management has decided to completely shut down the temple till March 31. The decision has been taken as a precautionary measure against the increasing threat of COVID-19. It should be noted that the ISKCON temple in Vrindavan is visited by thousands of devotees every day. 
Deserted ISKCON Temple after the shutdown 

Empty market lanes in front of ISKCON Temple, Vrindavan

Earlier, temple management had arranged for the screening of devotees before permitting them inside the premises. Additionally, yearly Krishna-Balrama Ratha Yatra and the famous Boat-Festival scheduled for March 18 and March 19 respectively have also been cancelled by temple authorities. During the shutdown, the daily rituals of the temple will be observed uninterrupted by temple priests.

Disinfecting Banke Bihari Ji Temple –

To protect the visitors from COVID-19, temple authority at the world-famous Banke Bihari Ji temple has made arrangements to disinfecting the temple premises on a timely basis. Moreover, an advisory has been issued for the workers of the temple to ensure safeguarding against contracting the virus. Temple management also distributed medicines to the temple staff.

               Workers disinfecting the main hall of Banke Bihari Ji Temple, Vrindavan 

Brahmotsava celebrations cut short at Rang Ji Temple –

The ongoing Brahmotsava celebrations at the famous Rang Ji temple have been cut short as the precautionary measure against COVID-19. The Chief Executive Officer of the temple Anagha Srinivasan informed that for the safety of the public, the yearly processions of Lord Sri Goda-Rangamannar will not take their usual route but will be carried out within the temple premises. 

Rang Ji Temple decorated with colorful lights on the occasion of Brahmotsava

Earlier, the famous Ratha Yatra which was scheduled for March 18 had been cancelled by the temple authority. It was only the second time in the 171 year history of the Brahmotsava that the Ratha Yatra was cancelled. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Ashtyam Leela – A unique way to experience Leelas of Shree Radha-Krishna

An event showcasing the Ashtyam Leela of Shree Radha-Krishna is being held at the Jugal Ghat of River Yamuna at Vrindavan. Devotees from far away corners of the country have arrived in Vrindavan to witness various Leelas of Shree Radha-Krishna that will be showcased during the 10-day event. The event is being held by Shree Radhikavallabha Lal Temple, Vrindavan in collaboration with Ras Bharati Sansthan. 

Ashtyam means eight, and Leela can be understood as pastimes or plays of Shree Radha-Krishna. As is evident, Lord Krishna spent his childhood in Vrindavan and Gokul regions where he performed many Leelas with Shree Radha and Gopas and Gopis of Braj region. Thus, Ashtyam Leela means playtimes of Shree Radha-Krishna during 8 parts (Prahar) of the day.

Nauka Vihar Leela of Shree Radha-Krishna at Jugal Ghat of River Yamuna, Vrindavan

                                           Nauka Vihar Leela 

On the first day of Ashtyam Leela, Greeshma Ritu Kalin or summer season Leelas like Nauka Vihar Leela, Jal Vihar Leela, Shringar Leela and Snan Leela of Lord Krishna were displayed in the morning on March 15. The whole experience was turned surreal with the depiction of each Leela in Padya form in Braj Bhasha. A group of local artists recited the Padya related to the Nauka Vihar Leela as follows –

Manimaya Kal Nuakan Me, Raajat Jugal Kishor
Mann Vinod Bichin Badhin, Tann Chhavi Uthat Hilor
Morakrit Kal Naav Me, HitAli Ju Sang
Raajat Shreehit Swamini, Ang-Ang Chhavinu-Tarang
Hansakrit Nauki Bani, Taamein Raajat Lal
Ras-Salita Mann Mein Badhi, Sang Liyen Lalita Baal
Hod Badi Naukan Mein, Bharikein Kamalani- Punj
Jitai So Jo Pratham Hi, Pahunchai Kamal Nikunj
Mann Mein Badhyou Hulas Ati, Adharani Bhadhyou Haas
Pyari Ke Mukh-Chandra Pai, Kanchan Ki Chhabi Raas
Lalan Dekhi Adbhut Chhata, Bhuli Gaye Sab Khel
Nauka Ki Gati Bhulikain, Nain Rahe Inhi Gail

Thursday, March 12, 2020

10-day Brahmotsav begins at Rangji Temple of Vrindavan

Lord Sri Goda-Rangamannar visits the city in a splendid golden chariot

Ten-day long Brahmotsav began amid grand celebrations at the famous Rangji Temple of Vrindavan on Thursday. The much-awaited festival began with the procession of presiding deity of the temple, Lord Sri Goda-Rangamannar in a golden chariot ‘Sri Poornakothi Vahan’. A large number of devotees took part in the procession. To welcome the procession, devotees and temple priests made beautiful Rangoli on various spots of the Yatra-Marg.

Lord Sri Goda-Rangamannar seated in a golden chariot during the Brahmotsav procession

The festivities of Brahmotsav began with the worshipping of Garuda-Stambha, a gigantic golden pillar situated at the middle of the temple premises, in the morning. Following this, a flag was mounted on Garuda-Stambha signifying the official start of the Brahmotsav. Colloquially, this golden pillar is also called ‘Sone ka Khamba’. Then, Sri Lord Goda-Rangamannar was carried out in a huge procession seated in ‘Sri Poornakothi Vahan’. A huge crowd of devotees from various parts of India gathered on the front door of the temple to welcome the procession. South Indian musical instruments like Nadaswaram and Thavil added a unique charm to the procession which reached the Temple gardens via Chungi Square. A large elephant wearing Ramanuja sect Tilak on his forehead was leading the grand procession. Temple priests or a group of Acharya Ji was chanting Vedic Mantra during the processions. After resting for some time at the Temple Gardens, the procession headed back to the Temple premises. For thousands of devotees of Sri-Goda-Rangamannar, Brahmotsav is one of the most anticipated events of the year.

   Temple priest worshipping Garuda-Stambha during the opening ceremony of Brahmotsav

As per the traditions of the Rangji Temple, one-day before the Brahmotsav, the chief commanding officer of Sri Ranganatha, Vishwaksena visits the Yatra Marg to review the preparations of the Brahmotsav. Thus, Vishwaksen was taken out in a procession on Wednesday to evaluate the arrangements. He was seated in a silver chariot and was accompanied by Temple priests and devotees of Sri Ranganatha.

Commander Vishwaksen in a silver chariot

As per Swami Raghunathji of the Temple, Lord Sri Goda-Rangamannar will be carried out in various golden and silver Vahanas during 10 days of the Brahmotsav. Processions will be conducted during mornings and evenings for all 10 days.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Holi in Brij

Hindus across the nation and world celebrated Holi with much fervour and passion on March 10. In Brij, Holi officially starts on Vasant Panchami and culminates with Dauji ka Huranga, the next day of Dhulandi. This 40 days long period is called Faag-Mahotsava in Brij which attracts thousands of people from across India and the world every year. 

Witness the colors of Dhulandi in Brij with these striking photos of the temples and streets of Mathura, Vrindavan, Gokul, Barsana and Nandagaon. 

People enjoying the splash of yellow color during Holi celebrations at a temple

Young women smearing Gulal on their friend on Holi

Two women coloring each other during Holi festivities in Brij

A young boy putting color on the face of an elderly women

Women playing Holi outside their houses


Monday, March 9, 2020

Holika Dahan celebrations in Mathura

People roast green cereals in Holi bonfire and exchange sweets

The ancient city of Mathura where Lord Krishna was born celebrated the festival of Holika Dahan with great fervour. To mark the occasion, huge bonfires along with statues of demoness Holika carrying Prahlada in her lap were placed at all the main squares and marketplaces of Mathura. But, the grandest of the celebrations were conducted at Holi Gate, where a large number of women performed Holika Puja till 4 pm. Holika Dahan was conducted late at 9 pm.  
Holika Puja at Holi Gali
The main event of Holika Dahan was conducted by Holikotsava Samiti at Holi Gate. A large number of women from nearby regions conducted Holika Puja at Holi Gate. Along with traditional items of Puja like whole turmeric, whole rice, Kumkum and Gulal a string of small cow dung cakes was also offered to Holi bonfire. Following the Puja, Parikrama of Holi bonfire was done by women with a cotton thread. The Puja rituals were concluded with Aarti. Thousands of women conducted Holika and Prahlada worship from 10 am to 4 pm. At 7 pm, Karshni Guru Sharanananda worshipped Holika and performed Aarti. Local artists performed various cultural events. A large crowd gathered to witness the celebrations often obstructing the traffic in the region. Other major locations of Mathura including Holi Gali, Rangeshwar temple region and Dampier Nagar square also held Holika Dahan events.  

A group of women worshipping Holika and Prahlada
People buying green cereals for roasting in Holi bonfire
At Holi Gate and Holi Gali, Holika Dahan was performed at 9 pm and 11 pm respectively. A large number of locals along with visitors gathered around the Holi bonfire for the event of Holika Dahan. People took a piece of burning cow dung cake to light the Holi bonfire at home as it is considered auspicious.

                     A local resident sharing her thoughts on Holika Dahan

As the festival of Holi also coincides with the harvesting season in many parts of the country, people also roasted green cereals like wheat and chickpea in the Holi bonfire. Later these roasted cereals were shared with loved ones and neighbours and Holi wishes were exchanged along with traditional sweets like Gujiya and Gulab Jamun. The next day of Holika Dahan is Dhulandi or Rangwali Holi. People across the Brij region will play Holi on March 10.

Chaturved Samaj of Mathura conducts Holi procession

Mathur Chaturved Parishad of Mathura conducted Holi Procession called ‘Holi Ka Dola’ on Monday, March 09. Clad in traditional attire, members of Chaturvedi community in large numbers took part in the procession. As the procession crossed various streets and markets, the whole ambience was covered in colorful hues of yellow, red and green Gulal. Youngsters were dancing on the beats of Holi songs. Shopkeepers closed their shops and welcomed the procession by spreading Abeel-Gulal on the revellers.

                                  Chaturved Samaj Holi Procession
Large number of community members walking with the Holi Procession

Revellers decked in various guises during the Holi Procession

The procession passed from various points of the city like Vishram Ghat, Dwarikadhish temple, Holi Gate, Kotawali Road, Bharatpur Gate, Ghiyamandi, Chowk Bajar and Swami Ghat before ending at the Dwarikadhish temple. Community members were singing Bhajan and Chaupai during the procession. Tableaus of Thakur Dwarikadhish, Keshavdev, Yamuna Maharani, Gopal Peethadhishwar Guru Vitthelesh Maharaj, and Siddha Vinayak Ganesh were also the centre of attraction of the procession. A large number of foreigners also participated in the procession.