All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga
Divine Appearance Festival
by Prabhu Gauranidhi
serving at our Srila Sridhar Swami Seva Ashram,
Jay Om Vishnupad Sri Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj ki jay!
Please accept my dandavat pranams.
26th May: I was taking Kesavananda Prabhu (USA) and Dayal Krishna Prabhu (Venezuela) on Vrindavan Parikrama, and when we arrived at the Sri Radha-Raman Temple we discovered that it was Sri Radha-Raman's Appearance Day, the day He manifest Himself from a Salagram Sila.
Around 450 years ago, Sri Gopal Bhatta Goswami was living in Vrindavan Dham. He was well known to Sri Rupa Goswami, Sri Sanatan Goswami, and the other Vaishnavas (Devotees of Krishna) who were living in Vrindavan. He kept twelve Salagram Silas (Deities of Lord Vishnu in the form of a stone) in a basket, and worshipped Them daily. One day, someone gave Gopal Bhatta Goswami some fine cloth to dress a Deity form of the Lord. Gopal Bhatta Goswami was a little disturbed because he had no Vigraha (standing Deity form) to worship; rather, he only had twelve Salagram Silas. When he awoke the next morning, one of the Silas had changed into a beautiful little deity of Krishna, which he called, 'Sri Radha-Raman'. This name means, 'Krishna, who gives pleasure (Rama) to Radharani'. From that day onwards there has been grand worship of the Sri Radha-Raman Deity every day. This temple is famous for its strict worshipping standards. Also, like most of the temples in Vrindavan, this temple generally does not allow photographs to be taken. I shall try to paint you a picture in words...
To celebrate the Divine Appearance Festival of Sri Radha-Raman, the temple servitors publicly bathe Him with much pomp. Radha-Raman was on the stage in front of where His altar is. The whole temple was decorated with flower garlands and flower chandeliers. There was a flower fence behind Radha-Raman, and a flower umbrella above His bathing place. He was standing on a silver platform, which was in a huge silver box. Radha-Raman was wearing a white dhoti and a white chaddar (light cloth that goes over the shoulders), showing His beautiful black chest to the audience.
There were maybe twelve pandas (servitors) on stage, some in white cloth, some in bright red cloth, and some in golden yellow cloth. One panda was holding Sri Radha-Raman's feet to keep Him steady whilst showers of nectar were poured over His body. Another panda was seated, chanting mantras from a book and making mudras over the bathing articles (hand symbols). A third panda was bathing Radha-Raman with the substances which had been purified by the mudras. A fourth panda was refilling the bathing conch and preparing things. Behind Sri Radha-Raman, one panda was fanning Him with a chamara (yak-tail whisk).
In the audience, there was a loud kirttan with a pair of whompers (huge karatals), a pair of smaller karatals and two mridangas. Western Vaishnavas were coming in succession through the doorway, eager to see the ceremony. We stayed for about ten minutes. In that time they bathed Radha-Raman with many things: it looked like ghee, honey, yoghurt, chandan (sandalwood) paste, fruit juice, milk, etc. I suppose they were doing panchamrita abhishek (bathing with five nectars), plus some special extra items. There was so much milk being poured over Radha-Raman! I don't know where it all went. One panda was pouring milk by the litre from a silver jug into a silver coated conch shell, which was held by another panda. The milk then spilled out of the conch shell and all over Sri Radha-Raman's body. Each time, first they bathed His feet, and then they bathed the rest of His body. We felt very fortunate and happy to see the celebration.
It seems to be a habit of mine to unexpectedly walk into big festivals. Being well accustomed with the programme in this temple, I put twenty rupees on the stage in front of a panda. He took the money from near him, put it aside, and then he disappeared for a moment in a nearby room. He came out with a leaf bowl, containing a little pot of kheer (sweetened condensed milk), and a besan laddu ball (chick-pea flour roasted with ghee and fine sugar). The three of us shared the laddu ball and I kept the kheer for Sripad Bhakti Sampat Narayan Maharaj, who has just arrived in our Govardhan Ashram, coming from Hawaii. (His Holiness has recently joined the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, and has received this sannyas name from Srila Govinda Maharaj during the Sri Gaura Purnima festival in Nabadwip.)
After honouring the Prasadam, we continued on our parikrama. As I am writing this, I am back in Govardhan. Sripad Narayan Maharaj was very happy to receive the kheer Prasadam. Now that I'm back in Govardhan, I can show you all the photo of 'Sri Sri Guru-Gauranga-Gandharvva-Rasabihari-jiu and Srila Guru Maharaj', that I took on the Chandan Yatra festival some days back (refer to the Chandan Yatra Article).
Jay Sri Radha-Raman ki jay! Jay Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami ki jay! Sri Vrindavan Dham ki jay! Sri Vrindavan Parikrama ki jay!
Please again accept my dandavat pranams, and forgive any mistakes and my inability to describe properly such a wonderful festival.
-- Gauranidhi Das
Srila Sridhar Swami Seva Ashram,
27 May 2002