Thu 1 Oct 2015
Posted by autumn under Hare Krishna, Hridayananda Das Goswami, ISKCON, krishna, Life In New Vrindaban, New Vrindaban, Radha, Radha Gopinath, Radharani, Radhastami, Varsana Swami, Vrindavanchandra
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By Madhava Smullen
Lord Krishna’s eternal consort Srimati Radharani is known as the Queen of Vrindavan. So what better place in the Western World to celebrate Her appearance day, Radhastami, than New Vrindaban?
Described by Srila Prabhupada as “non-different” from Vrindavan in India, New Vrindaban’s Radhastami festival on September 21st 2015 drew many devotees from neighboring states, as well thirty students with their professor from nearby Christian liberal arts school Bethany College.
Favored by devotees for its particularly sweet and loving mood, the festival began with the traditional temple morning program when Sri Sri Radha-Vrindabanchandra were revealed in a stunning new dark blue and silver bespoke outfit made in Vrindavan, India.
With Radha carrying an umbrella of marigolds from New Vrindaban’s gardens, Krishna leaning on a staff entwined with flowers, and both Their heads decorated with heart-shaped flower halos, Their Lordships were breathtaking to behold. And, of course, Srimati Radharani’s lotus feet were visible throughout the day, the only day in the year when She bestows this boon upon devotees.
Visiting for three days, Hridayananda Das Goswami brought his scholarly outlook to several classes explaining Radharani’s position as the feminine aspect of God, and Her qualities of compassion and devotion. He also shared memories of Srila Prabhupada’s 1972 visit to New Vrindaban during an evening program at Nityodita Das and Radha Dasi’s home.
At noon, devotees immersed themselves in the Vrindavan mood, gathering in the under-construction Radha Gopinath temple on New Vrindaban’s Govardhan Hill to sing kirtan before the small yet incredibly sweet presiding Deities.
As in the transcendental village She reigns over, many residents of New Vrindaban offered Srimati Radharani dishes they had made with love in their own homes, such as laddhus, baklava, and fruit salad. The preparations included a strawberry-almond cake baked by Lakshman Isvara Das in the shape of a lotus with twelve petals representing the twelve forests of Vraj.
While Radha enjoyed Her offerings, longtime resident Varsana Swami gave a class full of entrancing stories and revelations about Her pastimes with Krishna, including one wherein She beat the Lord in a wrestling match and pinned Him down until He conceded, “I surrender!”
As it was a beautiful day, all the devotees then sat outside on the grass of Govardhana Hill around the glittering waters of New Vrindaban’s Radha-Kunda, Shyama-Kunda and Lalita-Kund to honor a prasadam lunch prepared by the appropriately-named Radha Dasi. A bull was brought up by the resident cowherds and the recently completed ornate “moon tower,” where Radha and Krishna are said to go to survey Their subjects and property, added to the Vrindavan atmosphere.
Meanwhile back at Radha-Vrindabanchandra’s temple, two visiting sisters from Mexico, Hladini and Aindayi, were married to their respective husbands Nimai Pandit and Jacob with a fire yajna and a talk on love and marriage in Krishna consciousness by Hridayananda Goswami. With its beautiful natural surroundings and spiritual vibrations, New Vrindaban has become a popular wedding destination among devotees.
The evening featured an abhisekh bathing ceremony for the small Deities of Radha Vrindavan-nath, along with a New Vrindaban Radhastami special, in which each devotee gets to receive Srimati Radharani’s mercy by submitting their own individual offering to Her.
“Everyone was given the chance to offer Her a stick of incense, a ghee lamp, and a flower,” says ISKCON New Vrindaban president Jaya Krsna Das. “They then each wrote a special vow or prayer to Srimati Radharani, which were all collected and offered in a basket at Her lotus feet. Finally everyone got to take a balloon with a heart-shaped label at the end of its string, each marked with a different one of Radharani’s 1008 names, and place it on the altar.”
The festival also included ecstatic kirtans led by Shyamala Kishori from North Carolina and Shyamasundar Das from Pittsburgh.
It concluded with a multi-course feast cooked by Sundari Dasi featuring a coconut-sauce subji with Arvi, a potato-like vegetable from India that is said to be Radharani’s favorite. There was also an oatmeal-oregano bread; a baked dish called Handvo; paneer subji; pina colada ice cream, and another jaw-dropping cake from Lakshman Iswara in the shape of the steamship Jaladuta, in honor of the recent 50th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in the U.S.
“Radhastami at New Vrindaban is so mellow and pleasing to the heart – hearing Radha’s pastimes and having an opportunity to make our own offerings to Her fills us with oceans of love,” says resident Autumn. “And where else in world – besides Vrindavan, India – can one spend Radhastami on the banks of Radha-Kunda?”