By Her Grace Citrangada Dasi

Every 17th of September, Srila Prabhupada’s Memorial Festival is celebrated in a reflective mood in Ujjain. On this day Guru Maharaja avails us the opportunity to  take cognizance of  Srila Prabhupada’s preeminent and unique  position as the Founder-Acarya of  ISKCON and further  fortify  His Divine Grace’s position as our eternal Siksa-Guru.

Guru Maharaja is continuously and even persistently reminding us about the fact, that by recognizing and positioning   Srila Prabhupada as our eternal Siksa-Guru, our spiritual life will remain safe and protected. We hear these words being reiterated  from the lotus mouth of our spiritual master time and again, yet, at times we take it for granted. However, when we face calamities in our spiritual life, these words become a solace and  a panacea to the turbulent mind. So, this festival allows us to glorify Srila Prabhupada,  to recognize his many positions as Founder-Acarya, as eternal Siksa–Guru, as beloved Father or Grandfather or even as an exemplary disciple and emissary of the sankirtan movement.

The festival as usual, began with the morning programme from mangala arati  and culminated at noon after Guru Puja/Puspanjali. Srila Prabhupada’s  gold embellished  vyasasan was gorgeously decorated with
hybrid purple orchids and green ferns. I was told that our very artistic brahmachari Godbrother Vishvambar prabhu and his team did the decorations.  Srila Prabhupada wore  garlands  made of  fragrant yellow and red roses brought in from Mumbai. His  kurta and  dhoti was ironed with crisp lines.  He looked extremely majestic, ready to preside over the  celebrations!

The altars were also decorated very beautifully and our Deities were dressed more opulently than on Radhastami. If I start writing about  how gorgeous They looked,  I will get so totally absorbed in describing the
details like how gorgeous Sri Krishna and  Balarama looked with strings of pearls hanging in a  loop on Their mukuts and etc and completely digress from my account of the Festival,  So, please see Their gorgeous pictures on Guru Maharaja’s website and  feast your eyes on Them.

To get the ball rolling,  Guru Maharaja gave a wonderful class about the significance of the celebrations and his experiences with Srila Prabhupada.  Every year we hear Guru Maharaja recollect and narrate the sweet pastimes of  his beloved spiritual master but these narrations become more and more nectarian to the listener. We never tire of listening about Srila Prabhupada’s dealings with his disciples, his humour and wit,  his gentle and sweet side, his stern instructions and many more aspects of his charismatic personality.

The  Festival programme was hosted by our very own  Priyavrata prabhu, a senior disciple of  Guru Maharaja’s from the UK. I felt Prabhuji did an excellent job as the entertaining and interactive host. He called out
persons who I presume were chosen by Guru Maharaja, to read their offerings to Srila Prabhupada. I like this aspect of the Festival very much. It allows the reader to  express his feelings of love and  devotion, failings and faults, hopes and prayers to Srila Prabhupada devoid of shyness.  As a listener I derive so much inspiration from these offerings. The many obstacles which they have had to surpass to remain at the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada is so motivating. I have to confess here, that whist these names are being called out,  I am praying profusely that  my name  will not be called.   To me, the process of writing to Srila Prabhupada  itself is a very emotional one, so, I would definitely embarrass myself if I were to express these emotions out loud in public. So, best stick to just writing.

Amongst the devotees who read their offering, I found  Mahamantra prabhu’s (Srila Prabhupada’s disciple) offering very nice. It gave me a glimpse of Srila Prabhupada’s sweetness and how he understood the heart of his disciples. The offerings of Radharani mataji as always was very personal, and sincere and that of  HG Ananga Mohan das and his godbrother HG Vallabha Caitanya das. They are the endearing disciples of HH Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaja who are based  in ISKCON Kolkata. They received their Second Initiation from Guru Maharaja.

I became acquainted with them in 2007 when serving Guru Maharaja in Calcutta. Although being  stalwart preachers in the brahmacari ashram, their kindness and  care  made me feel at home. These devotees are like two shining stars who I am sure reflect a speck of HH Tamal Krishna Goswami’s magnanimity. Ananga Mohan prabhu  glorified Srila Prabhupada and revealed his devotion in a most simple yet heart warming way.  I was moved to tears when he mentioned how shattered he was when his Gurudev left his body suddenly and was left bereft of his love and guidance. He said at that time,  he was praying before Sri Sri Radha Govindaji for guidance  and strength when suddenly he felt the arms of someone embrace him from behind.  He turned around and saw…… Guru Maharaja. He said he still remembered Guru Maharaja’s warm and tight embrace filled with so much love and concern. He mentioned that he felt so consoled and protected at that time and felt Their Lordships were answering his prayers.

I  recall  Ananga Mohan prabhu telling me that  Guru Maharaja told him that he will take care and protect them for  HH Tamal Krishna Goswami and that they should never feel alone in ISKCON as Guru Maharaja and the ISKCON family will be there for them always. Such is the heart of our spiritual master, so compassionate and caring. Guru Maharaja  understanding the heart of a disciple, offered his love and guidance to these prabhus so that they remain at the shade of Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet and ISKCON forever.

During these glorification sessions, I realized that it is indeed very difficult  not to glorify one’s spiritual master and to  focus only on Srila Prabhupada. The probable reason for this I think  is because we are able to perceive Srila Prabhupada through the manifestation of  the spiritual master and by the dint of the spiritual master’s  mercy only, we get connected to Srila Prabhupada. So, we get to appreciate the significance and magnanimity of both personalities at the same time.  Although Guru Maharaja consciously endeavours to give the exclusivity to Srila Prabhupada on this day, the fact that it also the day of his vyasapuja, disciples take the opportunity to express their love and devotion to him.

After the reading of the chosen offerings which took  about 2 hour or so, everyone dispersed and were told to congregate at the Temple Hall for the following programme, the  Guru-Puja/Pushpanjali for Srila Prabhupada. By this time, my mind and heart which was totally soaked with the glories of our beloved Srila Prabhupada, craved for worship as a climax.

Guru Maharaja performed the Guru-Puja in very reverential mood whilst we sang guruv-astaka. The Temple hall was packed with everyone standing around  Guru Maharaja and the Vyasasan.  I found myself trying to inch and squeeze myself towards the vyasasan to offer my flowers after  each session of prayers. With persistence (ie shoving and pushing)  I managed to do so!.  What followed after that was a mega-watt ecstatic  kirtan and dancing. You see, that’s the mood in Ujjain. We fast, feast and dance all the time!! For those of you who have never experienced this combination like a 3 in 1 package, please come next year and get the taste! You will be wanting for more, rest assured.  The Festival ended at around 1.30pm.

After honouring prasadam, we went back replete with joy.I was quite exhausted by this time. We had like another 3 hours to get  our beauty rest and prepare to look fresh in our best sarees for Guru Maharaja’s Vyasa Puja celebrations! The programme was scheduled to start at 6.30.

Dear Readers, I realized that if I were to now write and describe the Vyasapuja celebrations, it would dilute the significance and impressions you must have perceived whilst reading about Srila Prabhupada’s Memorial Festival. I feel even though the task is an onerous one, I would like to keep the glorification of  Srila Prabhupada distinct from Guru Maharaja’s in this article. So we have a Part 4 this time round.

The reason for this is two fold; one is that I have so much to say about Guru Maharaja and the celebrations and secondly, as Guru Maharaja desires and endeavours to retain the exclusivity of these celebrations for Srila Prabhupada, I too would like to humbly attempt to give all of you the “Prabhupada  mood” experienced at the Memorial Festival in Ujjain.

To me the Memorial Festival has many underlying messages….that by perceiving the magnanimity of Srila Prabhupada, we recognize how small and insignificant our own contributions are , by perceiving His determination to take the holy name to  America  to please his spiritual master, we recognize what an exemplary and esteemed disciple Srila Prabhupada was. He built not just a house but a home the whole world can live in.

I leave you with what Guru Maharaja wrote in Spiritual Connections 2001 August issue, “ Srila Prabhupada created a house where the whole world can live  and he is taking care of that house as its most magnanimous host. He built a transcendental ship to take us across this dangerous ocean of material nature and he himself is steering it. All we have to do is just remain in this ship with full confidence that the most expert captain is in control as its founder-acarya”

“Therefore we request all the members of ISKCON, for all time, to recognize  Srila Prabhupada’s extraordinary spiritual status as the Founder-Acarya- for their own good, for the good of the Society and for the benefit of humanity at large.”

All Glories to Jagat Guru Srila Prabhupada!
All Glories to Guru Maharaja!

Thanking you for your patience and encouragement.
Your servant