Oh man…so many posts pending from my end related to my recent Mayapur visit. If I post an article a day from tonight, I would have shared all my 9 days 8 nights away from work and almost all of it at Mayapur with you all. So here goes the one for today.
Day 3 : Mayapur
9 March 09
On this day, I had the chance to witness the Sri Sri Radha Madhava Boat Festival. The Mayapur website says, “The small Sri Sri Radha Madhava deities (uttsava-murti) are brought in a procession amidst kirtana to the lake at Srila Prabhupada’s Pushpa Samadhi Mandir. Their Lordships are placed on a boat and taken on a boat ride during a boat festival evening. The festivities intend to engage everyone in Krishna’s service, thereby giving us a chance to perfect our lives.”
After the morning mangal aroti, an announcement was made that by 4:30pm, the boat festival would start. And there I was, at 4pm, well ahead of time. But I was the first one there and it was nice to sit and observe these few workers seen above, frantically trying to get the boat ready in 30 minutes. A tall order I thought. Because when I came in there at 4pm, only a few garlands had been arranged.
I can’t remember the exact time, but it must have been around 6pm when the deities reached the boat surrounded by wildly jumping and enthusiastic devotees. And there were many of them. All packed together and running down with their heads turned towards the deities. If you were in their way, you would be run over. And there I was right on their path. I was already on the last step next to the water. And I knew the entire approaching crowd would want that space as well. Which meant that I had to move into the water. And this is what happened. There was pushing, pulling, shoving, falling and somehow I managed to get free and stepped into the cool waters. Others also followed. Contaminated as I am, I didn’t want to spoil the water and also to respect it, I quickly got out and moved to the corner of the lowest step from where I could witness everything nicely.
Everyone watched the entire process of placing the deities within the boat with great enthusiasm. The boat rocked from side to side as people pushed on to it for support and also as the pujaris moved about inside, aligning the throne of the deities. Above you can see the one of the head priests (one of the twin brothers) making some final adjustments.
Sri Sri Radha Madhava looked more than happy once all were in proper place on the boat. The boat was steady. The priests started their mantras. The devotees outside belted out an ecstatic kirtans. The lion throne looked comfortable. Plenty of flowers. Let’s go !
About 3 devotees steered the boat. They pushed their oars against the step and they moved away from the crowd into the calm water within the tank. There was a large fountain right in the middle of the tank that gushed water up in the air with colorful lights all around. People cheered. More people thronged all around the large water tank. The music filled the skies. It was great !
After a few rounds around the tank, the boat reached the starting point. Immediately, I saw some large vessels being taken in. They had fruits and other delicacies. A few devotees covered the entrance with a thin cloth as various rituals were being conducted inside. Everyone waited. The kirtan became a little slow and silent. Devotees sang alongside silently as well. Then when the curtain was raised, people went mad again. Suddenly food was being passed about from the boat. There was a lot of crowd surging towards the boat to get a piece of a fruit or some sweet. Once again, I found myself almost near the water. By the way, I got a piece of a grape I think it was. Someone shared it with me. That is the way. No need to push, I thought.
For almost 15 minutes, I gazed the aroti lamp going all around the complex offering its flames to the hundreds of devotees. People from far and wide regions of the planet were there. And they hungrily came forward to scoop some of the warmth over their faces. Some followed the lamp carrier and repeatedly touched the flame for blessings. Who knows when will they be back again?
I admired the devotee who carried the lamp all over the place. He was patient, had a huge smile and he wanted everyone there to feel the warmth of the flames. I have carried such a lamp for devotees at the Melbourne temple. And boy, after a while the whole item heats up. And its almost unbearable to hold it. So, these days, I quickly run into the side room, get out a nice shiny plate and place the lamp on it. Now I can carry it for a longer time. But this devotee, even though you could see he was finding it tough to hold to the heated lamp, he did his service with little or no signs of pain.
Amidst the busy kirtan, the lamp carrying devotee, dancing of the devotees, cheers of onlookers, the boat kept its rounds for a long time. I followed the boat for some distance around the paved shore. I could see some devotees had their eyes closed and had immersed themselves into meditation and music. For them, the boat had already moved away from the water and was now encircling the shores of their hearts.
It was so nice to see the head priests look at the deities with so much love and care. This is something I watched with great interest over the days. So patient, so calm. They seemed very pleased with all the proceedings.
Then at some part of the late evening, the boat ended its rounds and reached back at the starting point. By now, the music was incredibly ecstatic ! No words to describe it. Full of energy and enthusiasm. All around the place, you could see people singing and dancing. Many more thronged the steps leading up to the waiting swing. The deities were slowly taken out of the boat and somehow managed to get up the stairs.
More on the beatiful swing session in the next post. Good night for now ! Good morning actually, its 12:05am. And by the way, we just had an earthquake in Melbourne, few hours ago.