By Shyamagopika Devi Dasi
HG Praghosa dasa, festival co-chairman remarked that â€śSrila Prabhupada wanted this Gaura-Purnima festival to be done in a grand wayâ€™â€™ and asked HH Jayapataka Swami to brief how the festival is grander year after year right from 1972 â€“ the first festivalâ€ť. HG Praghosa Prabhu made the whole address very lively with his usual wit and hilarious comments.
HH Jayapataka Swami, Festival co-chairman, explained that during 1972, there were only 100 devotees, Srila Prabhupada gave class in the morning and that was it. But His Divine Grace desired to have Gaura Purnima festival year after year in a grand way and as a result, in 1973 or 74, over 300 devotees attended.
It grew to more than 2000 devotees in 1996 during Srila Prabhupad centennial year and now it has reached to the point of more than 5000 devotees coming to Mayapur to take the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu with them. He remarked that for all the devotees , Mayapur is their eternal home and they feel it when they are here. Maharaja was concerned about the safety and security of the devotees and requested the visitors to contact the Mayapur management for any help they needed.
Maharaja briefed how important it is to come to dham by quoting that once ,one of the BBT Trustees asked Srila Prabhupada if they could use the money (which is around half a million dollor) they give for airfare to come to dham for temple construction etc, would it not be better. Srila Prabhupada said â€ś You spend so much on eating. Would it not be better if you stop that?â€ť Srila Prabhupada said this because coming to the holy dham, hearing Krishna Katha, associating with devotees are all purifying and are like the food for the soul to enrich oneâ€™s devotional service.
HH Bhanu Swami , GBC Chairman for this year, gave few interesting instances of early gaura Purnima festival. When he came at 1971, there were no temples or land, they stayed at Navadvip, came to yogapith , visited some temples , chanted more rounds of Hara Krishna and went back to Navadvip and thatâ€™s all was Gaura-Purnima . when again he visited in 1974, ISKCON had land and thatched hut â€“bhajan kutir ,small building where small radha-madhava was worshipped and around 200 devotees were there. Srila Prabhupada took them to some temples and gave classes. From there, now the Gaura-purnima festival is expanding to fulfill the desire of Srila Prabhupada. Maharaja highlighted the purpose of attending such festival is that it enables one to become more purified, advance in devotional service by taking to the nine process of devotional service given in Nectar of Devotion and while they are in the dham, they should take the opportunity to do more hearing, more chanting, more devotee association and take part in Sankirtan. HH Prabhavishnu Swami also stressed the same point in his morning Srimad Bhagavatham lecture that the potency of the dham is more and it is always special and desirable to do perform devotional service in the dham for our purification.
HH Bhakti Purusottam Swami , Festival Co-ordinator , quoted Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati thakurâ€™s words that â€ś They are fortunate who come and visit the holy dham but more fortunate are the people who serve the devotees who come to the dham.â€ť In this regard, he said that now devotees are more eager to do service and many events for the festival are already sponsored and urged the devotees to be more fortunate by participating in various sevas. New attraction for this year festival is the GANGA CRUSIE â€“ a special boat from kolkata has come to Mayapur for the festival and there will be everyday Ganga Puja in the evening at the place of confluence. The devotees can go on one hour kirtan ride at Ganges or can visit Kalna- Gauridas Panditâ€™s sripat and temple over there to take darshan of the ancient deities.
HH Lokanath Swami, who inaugurated the Navadvip Mandal Praikrama ( by walk) , said right from 1973,he was regularly attending all the Gaura-Purnima festival. He said the sankirtan was so powerful and whenever Srila Prabhupada go out for morning walk and enter the temple campus, there will be a roaring kirtan and this was so special for him.
Maharajas Kirtans are always so enlivening during parikrama and devotees await eagerly to taste this nectar.