As we know Bhaktivinoda Thakur said that Vaisnava festivals are the mother of devotion if we celebrate them deeply, with heart and soul.
We had only a few days left to get absorbed in meditating on all the arrangements....
I had made efforts to invite a preacher to come and visit us in Kharkov for those festival days. It always adds a special festive note to the atmosphere and is very uplifting to everyone's consciousness. But this time I had been out of luck. Many preachers were going to the 40th anniversary of the installation of the Deities at Bhaktivedanta Manor, which was a big event.
Nevertheless, we had the opportunity to receive one special guest amongst us: Mahabharata Prabhu from Moscow, who is serving there as the head-pujari.
He had kindly agreed to come and train our pujaris in various aspects of puja, and help us to arrange a very nice abhishek for Janmastami.
And it engaged so many congregational devotees! The men were going out in the evenings and early mornings to collect the flowers, and the ladies were serving in teams to string them up in simple decoration garlands.
We also decided to introduce a new decoration for the temple room: we hung up some pots along the walls, with decorative arrangements of twigs, flowering grass, bright sunflowers and wildflowers collected from the forests and fields. It created a wonderful village mood, reminding of Vrindavan. Especially sunflowers always look very happy and joyful....!
We set up three gates with decorative colored cloth, ribbons, twigs and flowers. The first gate marked the very entrance coming from the street.
Such festive decorations are very important and are uplifting to everyone's mind. Prabhupada describes in the Bhagavatam how the entire city of Hastinapur was decorated when Krsna entered.
We were only attempting to decorate the temple building....
The stair case leading up to the temple room was also nicely decorated with Marygold garlands and ribbons, and the entire atmosphere was festive and increased the anticipation when coming closer to the altar where the Lord was patiently awaiting us.
This year we also had a well organised cooking team - to cook more than 108 preparations, not only for Janmastami, but also for Prabhupada's appearance! It would be the first year where we managed to make a concentrated effort to cook many nice preparations for Prabhupada's pleasure. Often his Vyasapuja day is a little neglected as devotees are tired from serving on Janmastami.
On the morning of Janmastami we heard several senior devotees speak on various aspects of Krsna's appearance.
Vicka had made many nice flower compositions in vases, and together with her husband they had stayed up all night to create very elaborate decorations with Marygold flowers behind the altar on the walls. As every year I was going on the altar after the dressing had almost finished, and I profusely decorated the altar - one of my favorite services!
And the Deities looked very beautiful and happy indeed - surrounded by many cows.....
The atmosphere in the temple throughout the day was surcharged with the spirit of service in devotion to the Lord - almost electrifying....
The abhishek was well conducted by our brahmana initiated men, with a variety of liquids in various colors being poured over Their Lordships. I was invited to give the main lecture in the evening, ending with a little skit demonstrating the power of chanting the Holy Name being nondifferent than associating with the Lord in person.
Throughout the night we had a nice program engaging the mind in remembering Krsna: a well performed drama, nice kirtans and little cultural performances. Sarvatma Prabhu, our chairman of the Temple Council had prepared a report introducing with a slide show all the various temple departments and their activities.
I was invited to open the Lord's gifts while Sahasrajit Prabhu was reading out the cards which the devotees had offered, expressing glorifications and gratitude to the Lord for appearing in this world.
After another big bhoga offering the Lord received the midnight artik, accompanied with sweet melodious kirtans, while we could marvel at all the little delicacies which were offered with love and devotion. The entire altar was lit with candles, which created a more intimate and festive atmosphere.
Immediately after the midnight kirtan I was driven back to my room, where I took simple prasadam and rested for some hours in order to be back at the temple in the early morning to decorate Srila Prabhupada's Vyasasana. This is the first Vyasa Puja where Prabhupada's Vyasasana is ready, with all the carved decorational parts along the top and sides.
And it looks so nice - a feast to my heart....!
The abhishek started timely, and everybody who was present and wore devotional clothes was invited to bathe Prabhupada.
I was sceduled to give the lecture about Srila Prabhupada. I chose to speak on aspects of the deeper meaning of him being the Founder Acarya: the importance of his books being the law books for the next ten-thousand years, and his outstanding glory of being the only disciple of his Guru Maharaja who had clearly understood his Guru's mission of a world-wide Sankirtan movement having to be lead by not one acarya, but a team of acaryas forming a governing body. And I further elaborated how Bhaktisiddhanta's mission of the Gaudiya Math had been entirely spoiled, because his disciples had not understood this very important point and thus had been fighting over who would be the next leading acarya. They had prefered to be the main acarya of their own little Math, rather than being part of a world-wide organisation.
The price we have to pay in order to fulfill Mahaprabhu's mission of bringing the holy name to every corner of the world is our readiness to cooperate - something which is especially difficult in this age of quarrel and hypocracy....!
We read out the homages of some of our GBC's and ISKCON Guru's personally known to our devotees, followed by our humble selves offering deep and heartfelt words in glorification of Srila Prabhupada. Many devotees had deeply meditated on their relationship with Srila Prabhupada and spoke very nicely.
Your servant, Devaki dd