Once the boat ride was done, the deities were taken up a very packed staircase to a lavishly garlanded swing right at the top. Once they were seated, all the devotees and well-wishers thronged the place, hoping to get a chance to swing the deities for Their pleasure.
Once Sri Sri Radha-Madhava were placed, a lot of time was spent in arranging the remaining garlands, recitation of more mantras, another offering of the aroti lamp etc. By now the entire area around the swing was jam packed. The last time I remember getting caught in such a situation with no place to move, smelling the sweat of everyone around was when I took the public bus to school as a child in India.
There is no way anyone would ever get bored in a Hare Krishna festival. There is something happening all the time. So colorful, delightful and adventurous. People didn’t want to miss a single piece of the action right from the start of the preparation of the swing ride.
Then the head priests moved away from the swing holding the seated deities. Everything looked done. Sri Sri Radha Madhava were firmly seated. Plenty of garlands around them. Hundreds of well wishers glared at Them. Mantras chanted. The rope to pull the swing was made ready with a handful of senior devotees holding on to them. And it was time to start having fun all over again !
The kirtan party moved themselves away from the lake shore where the boat ride had just concluded to a less packed area, slightly away from the packed swing to continue with their melodious yet loud deliverance of beautiful songs.
“Recording” was the theme for many devotees and visitors. Everything was captured on film. Anywhere within the temple complex, the moment a conch shell was blown or the curtain to the deity’s altar area were about to be pulled open, you can see hundreds of hands go up in the air, holding on to a camera or a mobile phone, all eager to capture the Lord forever on their microchip. The poor villagers from various parts of India and the local residents just used their eyes and hearts. But I think its great we are all recording these proceedings. Surely, it will help future generations but we are also able to share the moments with those who couldn’t make it personally to the function. Last night, I showed the beautiful video of the Feb 09 Maha Abhishek compiled by Mayapur TV to a few of the Melbourne devotees. And one of the devotees was moved to tears seeing this episode. He proceeded to watch it again 3 times straightaway and said that it made a huge impact in his heart. I even got a huge hug for showing the video to him. Felt good, I say.
And then it started. The swing moved forward and backward. And slowly it gained momentum and it moved up and down pretty fast. We could see flower petals or the whole flower getting tossed up in the air. People cheered with each pull of the swing. And everyone wanted a chance to pull the ropes too. So, plenty of crowd management was required.
When it came to men, there was plenty of pushing. Looked like everyone wanted the Lord’s mercy and the pleasure of pleasing Them immediately. No one wanted to miss out. The referee of the entire pulling of the swing exercise was expertly managed by the ever patient head priests of Mayapur. I think this is Pankanjangiri prabhu on the right in the above photo. But it could be his twin brother, Jananivas prabhu.
What the head priest would do is, he would let one of the gender group do a certain number of rounds of pulling the swing, maybe about 5. Then he would take the end of the rope and walk up and down the chain of devotees pulling the swing and tap the end of the rope on their hands, signalling that they let go. Once the rope was free, it would be handed over to the other waiting gender group for their rounds.
Sri Sri Radha-Madhava were having a grand time. Look at Their expressions. Krishna looks completely satisfied and perhaps wanted the swing to go faster, but Radharani looked a bit nervous here.
I had a great time taking photos and also trying to catch a glimpse of the swinging activity. It was only after about an hour, I think it was, when I realized that I hadn’t participated. So from the back of the swing, I made my way through the crowd. Sometimes the shoulder strap of my camera got caught on someones head, another time my tripod hit someones elbow and another time someones elbow hit my ribs. After much suffering, I got to the front of the swing.
The head priest was there just about to finish the women’s round. As he turned to hand over the rope to the men, he saw me and recognized me as well. A soft “Hari Bol” flowed of his lips and handed over the ropes to me. That too, right in front of the swing area. Wooohooo ! Its like getting the best seat in a movie theatre. Many other men joined behind me and we pulled the swing many times. It was nice. My first ever such activity. I was so happy. Once done, I moved away from the swing area and jumped into the middle of a dance frenzy of young devotees. It was my turn to swing now !
Once the whole event came to an end, I realized how tired I was. Slowly I walked by the fields back home. It was pitch black but amply lit by the almost full-moon. After a quick wash, I crashed landed on my bed and had the best sleep I have ever had for a long long long time. Giving and taking pleasure. Perfect arrangement, I thought.