06 Sep Janmashtami in Ujjain
Drums playing in perfect rhythm, walkway filled with flowers, exquisite lighting all over the temple that the temple can be easily be marked from far far away just like a palace and if you are close by-you will be stunned without your 3D glasses. Everyone was so happy today from little children to adults that everyone had a smile from ear to ear. After all, it was a moment everyone was waiting for and counting minutes to receive and welcome dearest Gurudev at Ujjain temple as he was coming back to Ujjain after a long period of 5 months! My heart was beating in happiness at the same time as I was about to begin a new journey to serve Guru Maharaj for the next few months and I had traveled seven seas to see him on the auspicious occasion of Janmashtami. As Gurudev entered the gate, the music and voices became very loud with excitement and joy, the drums and kartals got into a very high beat. As Gurudev walked on the flower path, he was showered with flowers as well. So many people had tear of happiness in their eyes as they saw Guru Maharaj and most people had big smiles as they were totally over joyed by seeing Gurudev.
Gurudev had a very hectic schedule before coming to Ujjain. He left at 3:30am from Habibpur where Iskcon has a Jagannath temple midway between Mayapur and Calcutta. He reached Calcutta airport at 5:30am, then he left for Mumbai at 6:30am and reached Mumbai at 9am. He had a connecting flight through Indoor and only reached Ujjain temple at 1:30pm. Upon his arrival he gave a short welcome class which ended pretty sweetly with the distribution of sweets by Guru Maharaj. After a little rest and prasadam Gurudev gave another class at 6pm to around 100 youth students who came from different colleges to celebrate Janmashtami which was followed by ecstatic kirtan and dancing.
The Special day of Janmashtami was here. Guru Maharaj began the day by doing the mangal arti and Nrshingha dev arti in temple. Gurudev also gave a very entertaining class in the morning on Krishna’s birth and story of demons Krishna killed in his childhood. Janmashtami is a holiday for everyone in Ujjain from government to schools-everything pretty much is closed here. It’s reported that with no invitation 200,000 people came to the Janmashtami festival in our Ujjain temple! There were extra shoe stalls put up for the festival and luckily no shoes were lost, yes that’s right! People walked half Kilometer to get into the temple due to the extensive crowd. The road was completely blocked for any traffic. The crowds were very systematically handled. Although there are other temples in Ujjain, Iskcon temple is one of the two most popular.
There was a big hardworking team of temple devotees, outside devotees and 200 volunteers which led to a very successful and smooth festival with absolutely nothing falling through the cracks- it was a class act! Every day it has been raining in Ujjain for the last one month. In all nearby areas there was heavy rain on Janmashtami, water was till knees everywhere but at our temple there was no rain or even a drop of water just that 1 day!
The temple was extremely crowded from 4:30am to 1am next day. The peak hours were 7-11pm and at 12am the temple room was absolutely packed. For the first time we had Kirtan party on the road outside the temple where many people joined in. The temple president Bimal Krishna prabhu shared that same day with all these activities happening, the auspicious installation of solar plant happened.
There were fifteen different special stall including book shop, Iskcon youth forum etc. Krishna Lila was depicted with props throughout the temple. Little Krishna animation movie was shown in the afternoon from 2-5pm. From 5 to 6pm-Instead of doing individual grhastha deity abhishek at home, the grhastha devotees did collective diety abhishek in temple.
The evening was filled with several cultural programs with a very nice Guru Maharaj’s class in the middle of the program. The cultural program done by the I.Y.F. Girls and Bhakti Vedanta Sunday School was a huge hit and the auditorium was more than full. Children melodiously sang “Lord Krishna is so Big” and “Krishna jinka naam hai”. Dance items included “Choti Choti Gaiya”, Madhurashtakam, “Vrindavan me gopi ayo” and “Murli manohar Krishna”. These programs were choreographed by Jamuna Priya, Radha Piyari and Shyam Pyari. When I asked Jamuna Priya about her best part of Janmashtami, she answered “training the kids and see all the hard work manifest into the actual performance was so great. The kids performed brilliantly and seeing the kids happy with their performance was nice too. The unexpected icing on the cake was when Gurudev acknowledged their efforts and blessed them”.
While talking to the regular Ujjain youth temple girls and mata ji’s, here is what they said- Bhanushri said “doing the dance was her favorite part” Ratna enjoyed watching the abhishek and Gurudev’s Bhagavatam class which gives the Kansa daman Lila. I was so surprised to see how another girl-Gauri could remember all the details of the festivities even in the huge crowds we had and her favorite part of the festivities was Gurudev’s lecture and the midnight kirtan and dance! Mitr Vrinda mataji’s favorite part was seeing Gurudev after so long.
The maha abhishek was performed by Gurudev, Bimal Krishna prabhu and Ganga Narayan prabhu. This was followed by kirtan till 12am. For the maha darshan at 12am, the kirtan and dances took a high note and people jumped with joy for Krishna’s birth. The alter was magnificently decorated with fruits. I was breathless after seeing the beautiful special dress of Radha Madan Mohan which was navy blue color with golden work on it and red border. Radharani’s hair was decorated with flowers and pearls. Their garlands were made of Chinese rose and other flowers. Krishna had star shaped exquisite gopi dots and a cute little butterfly on his hand. More than 108 food items were cooked. At 12.30pm all regular devotees around 1500 had prasadam and other people had charnamrita and sugar peanuts.
Coming from United States, where the temples are smaller and where temples face noise control and other problems-My Janmashtami in Ujjain was one of a kind. It was the most grand, spectacular and perfect Janmashtami I had attended. My favorite part was my meeting with Gurudev on Janmashtami about my services for him for the next few months and his interesting classes about Krishna’s childhood past times. As I closed my eyes that day after getting back to my room, the images of the beautifully lit temple, midnight dancing, madhurashtakam sounds, and Gurudev’s smile captivated my mind.
Rasalila Devi Dasi