All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga

Sri Gaura Purnima
at Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math

21 March 2008

Text by Malini Devi Dasi
Pictures by Malini Devi Dasi and Dhira Krishna Prabhu

Adhivas | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Sri Gaura Purnima

Sri Gaura Purnima

The big day has arrived! The morning programme is wonderful, with a wild kirttan that continues long after the usual time the parikrama around the Temples and Tulasi Devi ends. Srila Govinda Maharaj prefers not to give darshan this morning, partly due to the large quantity of disciples and aspirants present, and partly due to many initiations due to take place quite early in the morning.

Many devotees are busily engaged in service, decorating the Temple and making preparations for one of the most important events in the Vaisnava calendar. At 11am Sripad Goswami Maharaj gives the Sri Gaura Purnima lecture for the Western devotees. There is no Prasadam served, either for breakfast or lunch, as on this holy day the devotees observe a complete fast - according to their capacity, but certainly abstaining from grains and beans.

'Bangla TV', one of the most prominent TV stations in West Bengal, is here to give frequent live  broadcasts of the activities in the Math throughout the day. Tina, the presenter, is intrigued by the Westerners' attraction to Lord Chaitanya's sankirttan movement. She and her crew take several shots around the Temple compound - including filming devotees engaged in various types of service and interviewing them about their inspiration - and she even joins in when we invite them to shoot a Western sankirttan near the Sri Govinda Kunda main gate. The Venezuelan Didis perform a particularly good show of choreographed dancing, with several Bengali onlookers.

Outside the Temple gates, holi colours are being splashed, with pink and purple cows occasionally passing by as a reminder of a Pastime from Krishna-lila that Vaisnavas are only giving honour to and not quite participating in. Indeed, this is expressed even when a photographer comes to take pictures of the Westerners in sankirttan in front of the Samadhi Mandir with holi colour displayed on a table. This is my third participation today in the dancing and singing of the Lord's Holy Names in congregation. And it is nowhere near over yet.

Sripad Acharyya Maharaj has already concluded the Western kirttan near the Samadhi Mandir, which has been set up mainly for the photographer, when a little coaxing from the just-warmed-up devotees has him start up again, with the whole party throwing themselves into an even wilder and completely unselfconscious kirttan, with all devotees, Bengali and Western, chanting together as one big family united in the Name of Gauranga.

Eventually, Sripad Acharyya Maharaj sends us off to rest because it is only an hour before Srila Gurudev is due in the nat-mandir to commence the Sri Gaura Purnima programme. The devotees joke that they must go to shower and change their sweaty cloth for the umpteenth time that day!

Sripad Acharyya Maharaj is already holding a programme in the nat-mandir, which is jam-packed with devotees by the time Srila Govinda Maharaj makes an appearance. Srila Gurudev begins by expressing some of his heart's feelings, some in Bengali and some in English. Sripad Janardan Maharaj and Sripad Goswami Maharaj add something in English at Srila Gurudev's request.

Afterwards, Srila Gurudev sings verses 89–124 from Adi Lila chapter 13 of the Chaitanya-charitamrta, which describe the appearance of Sriman Mahaprabhu in this world. This song eventually develops into the wildest of wild kirttans so far as he hands the microphone to Sripad Acharyya Maharaj, who is expert at enlivening the spirits. Srila Gurudev remains seated for a while, smiling and tapping his feet to the kirttan, and eventually retires to his quarters for honouring Prasadam.

The kirttan continues for a while, until Bhudev Prabhu begins to sing Sri Bhoga Arati Giti (Bhaja Bhakata...), toning down Sripad Tirtha Maharaj's lively kirttan in the process. Eventually it is time for Srila Guru Maharaj's arati and the other aratis to follow, by which time most of the Western devotees and many Bengali devotees are already honouring Prasadam.

Suddenly a sound like that of gunshots bursts through the air - I take it as a signal that the fireworks are about to begin! I run to Sri Govinda Kunda to find Srila Gurudev already on the ground floor of the Seva Ashram surrounded by several Western devotees. The area around Sri Govinda Kunda is packed with people and more keep attempting to stream in. Soon there is no possible way that more people can cram inside and we later hear that people watched the fireworks of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math all the way from Gauranga Setu and as far away as the Manipur Ghat.

I consider myself extremely fortunate for the close proximity to Srila Gurudev - I am standing just five feet away from him surrounded by my most wonderful, international spiritual family. We embrace each other comfortably as we move around our positions while admiring the fireworks, oohing and aahing at the spectacle before us. Some of the fireworks are complex displays leading from one to the next in composition, some are shot into the air and descending in what look like garlands, some are shot into the water, creating an incredible effect using the two opposing elements.

Sometimes I would slide a sideways glance at Srila Gurudev, trying to observe a reaction, but his face is non-changing and I cannot quite read his expression. It is only afterwards, as he makes to go out, that his face breaks into the sweetest of smiles fixed perpetually on his face all the way out of Sri Govinda Kunda, and towards his quarters. He looks thoroughly relaxed and satisfied by the evening's events, and this makes the wide-eyed devotees even more happy! It has been a truly memorable Sri Gaura Purnima, not only for me but surely for everybody present.

Jaya Srila Gurudev ki jaya!
Jaya Sri Gauranga Sundar ki jaya!

I hope you have been able to share somethng of these special days via my account of the events leading up to, and culminating in, the celebration of the 523rd anniversary of the most merciful appearance of the Golden Lord, Sri Gauranga Sundar. Please forgive me for any inaccuracies which can only be due to my own shortcomings. May I ask for the acceptance of this offering, produced for the pleasure of Srila Govinda Maharaj and all the devotees worldwide.
~Malini Devi Dasi (on pilgrimage from Malta)

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