15 Oct UJJAIN-A SPIRITUAL OASIS PART 2
By Her Grace Citrangada Dasi
I observed that since the first celebrations of Srila Prabhupada’s Memorial Festival, the Ujjain Temple Management team has become well organized in preparing for these huge festivals under the expert guidance
of Guru Maharaja and the able leadership of our Temple President, HG. Ganganarayan prabhu. In every department I noticed refinement. The Ujjain Pujari Department, as always, outdo themselves with the Deity
dressing. I noticed that Sri Sri Radha Madan-Mohan wore more proportionate sized mukuts, and gorgeous hip belts that accentuated His transcendental tribhanga form, the elegant head ornaments and hair dressing of Srimati Radharani and not forgetting our Giriraja Maharaja who looked resplendent in his colourful turbans embellished with lovely big brooches.
I also saw how so many visiting godbrothers who are pujaris from ISKCON Kolkata, Tripura and Mayapur grabbed the opportunity to perform Deity worship during the Festival. It’s fascinating to note how Their Lordships manifest and reciprocate in different ways according to the desire of His devotees and by the dint of the spiritual master’s mercy, these desires get fulfilled.
One can easily perceive Guru Maharaja’s proficient hands in the standard and style of Deity dressing and worship in Ujjain and how he expertly engages all his disciples in the kind of devotional service that enhances their best qualities and nullifies the anarthas. Only the spiritual master is able to smash down our false ego and dovetail us towards serving Sri Krishna and vasinavas with humility and devotion. Whilst attending all the classes, enjoying the association of Godbrothers and sisters, (yes, in Govinda’s mainly!) filling the belly with sumptuous prasadam (another glory of Ujjain) and trying to catch 40 winks in between, life was pretty hectic during the Retreat. Arcana and I endeavoured to make it for as many aratis as possible but the 12.15pm arati everyday was my favourite, as not many people attend the noon arati . At this time the temple hall is imbued with a kind of quietness that’s surreal, the feeling is enhanced further by the sweet rendition of “Yashomati Nandana” which wrings the heart.The sweet echo of the lyrics calling out to Gokulananda Kanea….. transports one to Vrajadhama . I find that I can truly absorb myself in the worship of Sri Sri Krishna and Balaram at this time. I realize that each one of us has our favourite arati, favourite song, favourite Deity and favourite hiding place for chanting in Ujjain. (I think most of them know mine by now!)
Now to mention a little bit about my experience on Radhastami. The day began as usual with Guru Maharaja performing the mangal arati. It’s always so special to see Guru Maharaja performing the mangal arati at the alter of Sri Radha Madan Mohan. Only one verse kept ringing in my head…”Sri Radhika madhava yara paaro, madhurya leela guna rupa naam naam”…and here we had the blessed opportunity of seeing the Guru worship Sri Radhika with such devotion. Honestly I was so absorbed in just looking at Guru Maharaja then concentrating on my prayers. But then so was everyone else. This is also I guess another highlight of attending the Retreat in jjain… ‘Being’ in the association of Guru Maharaja means also to relish his mood, his activities and his exemplary ways as a devotee of Krishna and disciple of Srila Prabhupada.
The whole day was dedicated to Srimati Radharani, our Queen. By early noon, devotees trickled in and sat in the temple hall facing the Deities to witness the highlight of the Radhastami celebrations, the abhisek ceremony. The ambiance in the temple hall was completely spiritually charged. The kirtan singers took the chanting of the holy name to a different plain altogether that day. I can still hear the reverberation of the mridanga and bongo drums, the blowing of conch shells depicting all auspiciousness, the clanging of bells which seemed like a call to every living entity to come forth to witness the appearance of Sri Radhika. The vision of the utsav Deities being bathed and worshipped with so many nectarian substances by so many brahmanas…..It was an absolute feast for the senses and I could not help myself but to shout out “Radhe! Radhe!” I never felt this much of ecstasy even when celebrating Krishna Janmastami in Kuala Lumpur this year. By Guru Maharaja mercy only, I was able to experience a tiny speck of the spiritual sky that day.
The euphoria stretched until sayana arati. After giving the class, Guru Maharaja got the ball rolling with his kirtan which as usual starts reeeeaally slow and then picks up like a slow swirling tornado and before
you know it, we were all swept away to another world. We sang and danced with abandonment of every material concern BUT the holy name, “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare..” As ecstatic as it was, the atmosphere became even more euphoric when Guru Maharaja got up from his vyasasan and joined the dancing party. It was awesome, Guru Maharaja danced with the boys, they danced around him like gopis, everyone holding hands, laughing with such happiness…all in the celebration of Srimati Radharani, the internal pleasure potency of the Lord.
All of us were sweaty and out of breath by the end of it but the party didn’t end there, mind you. Everyone ran to the GaurNitai corridor, near the stairs, to catch Guru Maharaja going up the stairs to cross over the
bridge ( I call it the “Spiritual Bridge”) to the other block. It was as if we didn’t get enough of him and wanted the night to go on. When Guru Maharaja got on the bridge, we all looked up at him with our smiling ,
satiated faces shouting out “Hariiiibol! Guru Maharaja must have felt the mood, he had a huge grin and lifted his arms up and called out “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare!” Then he waved goodnight to everyone. It was indeed a sweet ending to an amazingly memorable day. We are indeed so blessed to experience the joy of Krishna consciousness in this life time. Where else can one possibly feel this kind of love and joy but in Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON. All Glories to Jagat Guru Srila Prabhupada and All Glories to Srila Guru Maharaja!
The next day was 16th of September and Guru Maharaja conducted initiations. I enjoy and almost revere these Initiation ceremonies. Arcana and I always make it a point to sit trough it until the end. It not only reminds us of our own special day but it regurgitates our own commitment to the Guru and the Gaudiya Madhava Sampradaya. It is indeed a pleasure to see our BCS family expand so wonderfully and seeing so many taking to this path only reiterates the fact that Krishna Consciousness is alive, ISKCON is alive and we have the onerous responsibility of preaching the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with conviction.
Funnily the one thing that comes to my mind vividly about that day was our own little Nrshimakripa, the son of Subhangi mataji. Everytime Guru Maharaja gave the candidate his or her initiated name, he screamed “Haribol” the loudest and clapped his hands with so much enthusiasm. He was adorable and I thought at the age of maybe 3, even he was celebrating the ceremony and had a part to play in it. Arcana and I then spent remaining of the day to put the final touches to our offerings. We did one for Srila Prabhupada and one for Guru Maharaja as always.We feel that the importance of writing our Offerings was not for the purpose of reading our feelings and thoughts out loud in an audience but the significance is in the process of just sitting down quietly, reflecting gravely about the myriad aspects of our spiritual life, our role as disciples, as devotees and mainly our contribution to Guru Maharaja and ISKCON. It is indeed a humbling process that forces us to take cognizance of all our failings and inadequacies. Every year we make promises and find
we are unable to fulfil them. But Guru Maharaja still so lovingly gives us the shelter of his lotus feet and continues to encourage us in our devotional and personal lives.
So this year, we wrote again, expressed ourselves again, opened our hearts to Guru Maharaja again so that he will see how utterly useless we are and how lost we are without his love and spiritual guidance. Tomorrow, 17th September, we celebrate Srila Prabhupadas arrival in the USA and the appearance day of our beloved Guru Maharaja.Guru Mahatajas BIRTHDAY!….
In Part 3, the final part, I will take the opportunity to write about the festival and Vyasa Puja celebrations. Thank you for patiently reading my attempt to give you some picture in your mind about the glories of Guru
Maharaja which I am totally unqualified to write about and Sridham Avantipura.
To see again pictures of the Iskcon Ujjain Radhastami click here