Janmastami Mahotsav at ISKCON Baroda
Posted August 28, 2003
A Short report on the Janmastami festival at ISKCON Baroda by Basu Ghosh Das
Crowds started gathering in a 1/2 kilometer queue (line) for darshan of Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar here at ISKCON Baroda at around 4:30 PM. The line was a continuous crowd of people until midnight!
We estimate that 2-3 hundred thousand people had darshan on the Deities, or between 10-15 percent of the population of Baroda on Janmastami day and almost an equal number of people came the next day for darshan! This was the first time in the 4 years since the inauguration of the new temple that so many people came on both days!
It's worth a mention that this year, security was heavily increased by the local police authorities. All visitors had to pass through one of three metal detectors installed at both the main entrance to the Mandir and on the special entrance for life members on the side of the Mandir. Besides local police, the State Reserve Police (SRP) were posted here in large numbers.
On Janmastami day every visitor got a "peda" (sweet) and banana prasad. Also "maakhan" and "misri" - butter and sugar candy were distributed. After midnight there was traditional distribution of "panjiri" (traditional in Gujarat: a sweet powder made from sugar and coriander powder) and "charanamritam" from the ashishek to all.
Also, there was a very simple IYF exhibition, three book stalls, sweet stall, donation booths, laddu sales counter, and our snack shop and cold drink shops all did brisk business throughout the day and up to 1 in the morning!
There was special lighting on top of the Mandir, in the garden both in front and in back of the Mandir, on trees, bushes, etc. A Shenai band played continuously at the Main Gate of the Mandir.
On Janmastami day on a stage in the 1 acre "Hare Krishna Garden" behind the Mandir several cultural programs were presented for the assembled public. They included dance, drama and a "bhajan sandhya" (evening of Bhajans) by local artist.
The visitors to the temple would have darshan, take prasad and then either visit the cultural program or browse the various booths.
At midnight, there was a mob in the temple to witness the grand panchamrita abhishek of Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar. The security guards had a hard time restraining the crowds who were eager to have a glimpse of the ceremony. The limited space in front of the 3 altars - about 3000 sq. ft., was inadequate to accommodate all those who wanted to see the abhishek.
On Vyas Puja day there were two separate massive prasad distribution programs. The first, for life members in the morning and the second for the general public in the evening.
In the morning, just after a Shraddhanjali and Pushpanjali offerings to Srila Prabhupada, around eight thousand life members and their families took full prasad in the Hare Krishna garden behind the temple. Again in the evening, we estimate that 15-20 thousand people took prasad. Prasad was puri, chole (Punjabi style spicy chick peas), halava in pure ghee (not in vegetable shortening), kadi (spicy creamed yogurt soup), rice, and salad. For the life members in the morning there was chick pea burfi ("mohan taal") instead of halava and there was a special thick moong dal.
Again there was a "Bhajan Sandhya" program by Smt. Manju Bhatia and her party from Bombay. She had earlier performed at ISKCON Moscow on Janmastami 2 years ago, and she has toured and performed at several ISKCON temples in the USA too.
By the mercy of Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar, one donor came forward to sponsor both of these feasts as well as for the new dresses for Their Lordships. He donated more than Rs. 4 lakhs (Rs. 400,000 = US$ 8,500.00 or soI) just for these aspects of the program.