This past Sunday, Toronto's Hare Krishna temple celebrated the Panihati Festival for the very first time! The Panihati festival holds unique significance in our Hare Krishna tradition. The origination of the Panihati festival is beautiful and is deep with rich meaning and significance.
Over 500 years ago, when Lord Nityananda first returned to Bengal, after spreading the sankirtan movement (the philosophy of jubilantly chanting the Lord's names) throughout the land, He began His mission in Panihati, a village four miles north of Calcutta. For almost five months, He preached and gathered followers in this area, until thousands chanted and danced in ecstasy under His able supervision.
It was at this time that Raghunatha dasa Goswami, then a young boy, approached Nityananda Prabhu as a surrendered servant. Since Raghunatha was born into a wealthy family, Nitai asked him to hold a huge festival in which all the devotees could have as much yogurt and chipped rice as they desired. The festival at Panihati was a grand success, drawing pilgrims from miles around to participate in various ways. This naturally enhanced the sankirtana movement and pleased Nityananda very much.
So it was in this mood that preparations began at Toronto's Hare Krishna temple for our inaugural Panihati celebrations. It all began in our bustling temple kitchen as chipped rice was purchased and lots of yogurt was lovingly made! Fruits and sweets were added and the mood of Panihati began to fill the air.
Meanwhile, upstairs in the temple room, festivities kicked off with a heart-warming concert by HG Atmarama das. The entire temple room was filled with the incredible and beautiful Siksastakam prayers, or “Eight Instructions”, a concise course in attaining spiritual perfection, composed by Lord Caitanya Himself! Atmarama das then continued right through the first arati of the evening and had everyone dancing in jubilance!
Before the class, a special moment was taken to ceremonially welcome the special guests and saintly persons who were present at Toronto's inaugural Panihati festival. Special garlands, which were placed at the feet of our Deities, Sri Sri Radha Ksira-Chora Gopinatha, were offered to HH Bhaktimarga Swami, HG Kratu das, HG Brhat Mrdanga das and HG Atmarama das.
Bhaktimarga Swami then read from the Caitanya Caritamrta, relating the pastimes that took place at Panihati over 500 years ago! This lead to an enamouring dramatic production entitled, "The Witness" which had a packed temple room enraptured!
The festival wrapped up with an incredible final kirtan by Atmarama das that had everyone dancing and chanting, creating a palpable spiritual atmosphere! As the kirtan winded down, a huge feast was served to all and while plates were filled with many delictable items, the chipped rice and yogurt especially filled many hearts!
View Festival Photo Gallery Below: