Despite falling on a Tuesday on the lunar calendar, this year's Gaura Purnima celebrations still resulted in a temple filled with devotees ready to celebrate the birth anniversary of Lord Caitanya!
Lord Caitanya is an incarnation of Krishna who appeared in Nadia, West Bengal, India in the 15th century A.D. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna Himself, appearing as His own devotee, to teach us that we can gain full enlightenment simply by chanting the holy names of the Lord.
Festivities began early in the morning at 4:30am, while most Torontonians were still asleep. Around 50 devotees made their way to the temple for the first arati of the day. Getting the day off to an auspicious start, the sweet sounds of kirtan and japa (mantra meditation) filled the early morning air.
Later in the morning, the assembled devotees gathered in the temple for the second arati of the day (and the first opportunity to see the Deities in their festival outfits)! As the doors swung open, the dazzling Deities and the decorated altars were revealed much to the delight of those who were present.
After a fun-filled morning class by HH Bhaktimarga Swami, devotees scurried about the temple throughout the day as they busily prepared for the evening festivities. Decorations went up, sound and lighting equipment were adjusted and the kitchen was humming with activity.
The evening festivities began with an arati led by HH Bhaktimarga Swami which set the tone for the evening as devotees danced about, using the space around them that would soon be gone as throngs of devotees arrived throughout the evening.
Maharaj then gave a small talk which led into a very special musical and dramatic performance. Bhaktimarga Swami, in collaboration with Gaura-Shakti, Toronto's new kirtan yoga band, presented "Siksastakam". The Siksastakam is comprised of eight verses written by Lord Caitanya that succinctly capture Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy and practice.
The first part of the performance involved a musical singing of the Siksastakam by Gaura-Shakti and the second part was a dramatic telling of the translation of the beautiful verses, directed by Maharaj. The drama had the crowd absorbed and was very well received by everyone in attendance.
The conclusion of the program was a special abhiseka (bathing ceremony) for the Deities of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai. Amidst a rocking kirtan by Yajna Gauranga das, the Deities were bathed in milk, yogurt, honey, ghee, and different types of water. While being bathed, a live video of the abhiseska was displayed on a giant screen above the altar, allowing devotees to see close-ups of the Deities as they were bathed.
At the conclusion of the abisheksa, rose petals fell from the ceiling onto the altar as the kirtan reached a climax! After the 8:00pm arati, with kirtan led by Ajamila das, a giant feast awaited the packed crowd.
Tuesday evenings are usually pretty routine for most people. Many people come home from a hard days work and settle into a standard evening routine. Students either come home from school or head off to evening classes. However, at the Hare Krishna temple, every once in a while, such standard weekday evenings bring festivals that are larger than life!
View the Gaura-Purnima Festival Gallery Below: