Sri Krishna Janmastami celebrations at temple
Faith Matters, The Arizona Republic
Pratibha Somaiya Guest Columnist
Have you heard of Ski Krishna Janmastami? As a local Hare Krishna devotee, I’d like to share it with you.
On Frida, Aug. 23, ISKCON of Phoenix celebrated Ski Krishna Janmastami, the paramount festival for devotees of Lord Krishna celebrating His appearance in the earthly world. This festival is celebrated annually. Thousands of devotees from around the Valley visited the temple on this day to receive blessings for Lord Krishna. It is a truly auspicious occasion and considered an opportunity for devotees to offer their love and services to the Lord.
Lord Krishna appeared 5,000 years ago in Vrindavan, India, to fulfill the desire of His devotees to gain His association. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna describes that there are three divisions of His purpose for appearing. Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam dharma- samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge. Giving protection to His devotees (paritranaya sadhunam) is one of the features of the Personality of Godhead. For those who are surrendered to Him, who are depending upon Him, Krishna always gives His protection. At the time that Krishna appeared, there was an overabundance, an overburdening weight, of demonic elements on the planet. Krishna came to chastise and eliminate that demonic element (vinasaya ca duskrtam) and to reestablish the principles of religion (dharma-samsthapanarthaya). Anytime the appearance of the Lord is manifest in this world (sambhavami yuge yuge), these three things are universally accomplished.
The festival preparations started a month in advance with temple cleaning and painting. Dedicated volunteers decorated the entire temple with carefully selected fabric designs embellished with colorful lighting. The altar was decorated with fresh flowers. Beautiful flags on the rooftop marked the advent of this festival.
The newest attraction was the model of Vrindavan village with various dioramas representing the place of Lord Krishna’s birth and His pastimes. The visitors through the tour of this attraction got an opportunity to connect with the Lord’s pastimes and get blessings from Tulasi Devi, sacred basil, who is considered to be a pure devotee of the Lord. Numerous families participated in the guided meditation of “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare” Maha Mantra, followed by sanctified food. This was followed by Jhullan (swing) with visitors getting a chance to personally swing the Radha Krishna deities. This represents Vrindavan pastime of swinging Radha and Krishna on a swing for Their pleasure.
Attractions in the temple included beautiful darshan of the presiding deities, Sri Sri Radha Madhava Hari and Their Lordships. Visitors enthusiastically grabbed the opportunity to bathe the Lord with milk and offer lamps to Radha Krishna deities.
One of the specialties of Janmastami is the food offerings made to the Lord. Various delicacies were offered that were prepared by the devotees with great care and attention. Additionally, a free vegetarian dinner with sweets was distributed to all who attended.
Cultural events like this turn out to be a huge attraction showcasing some of the fine artists from the Valley. Children enthusiastically participated in a fancy dress competition representing various pastimes of Lord Krishna.
Midnight Arati caught everyone in the blissful spirit to welcome the Lord with soulful kirtan (devotional song) and blowing of conch shells. Nobody could resist the mood of enthusiasm and all joined in dancing together to celebrate the Lord’s appearance.
It was quite a memorable event and will leave an everlasting impression on the minds of the visitors. Hare Krishna members express gratitude to attendees, temple management and the dedicated team of volunteers.
Pratibha (Patricia) Somaiya is a Hare Krishna representative and council member of the Arizona Interfaith Movement.