Toronto's Hare Krishna Temple

Toronto's Hare Krishna Centre (ISKCON Toronto), has always been the hub of a rich, vibrant and enthusiastic community. Whether it be grand festivals, programs at local universities and yoga studios, philosophical discussions, cooking sessions, or singing and dancing on the streets, there are events taking place for everyone's interest.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Govardhana Puja Celebrations take ISKCON Toronto by "Storm"!

12:55:00 PM By Kevala-Bhakti Dasa (Keshav) , , , , , , , , , 2 comments

Toronto's Hare Krishna temple simply loves festivals! That's it. There's no need to elaborate with long descriptions (aside, of course, from this blog post). All one would need to do is stand outside our grand limestone building at 243 Avenue Road at the right time every few weeks and the thundering sound of kirtan, drums, and utter jubilation that would be spilling out of every window, door and crevice of the temple would be proof enough that we do indeed love our festivals.

Our weekly Sunday "Love" Feasts are already celebrations that leave everyone spiritually energized for the beginning of their weeks, but when festivals come, they are like spiritual juggernauts that blow open the doors of Krsna-prema (love of Krishna) as even more spiritual-seekers cram into our temple to bathe themselves in the sound, sights and experiences of focusing our consciousness on Lord Krishna.

On Sunday, October 18, 2009, celebrations for Govardhana Puja literally took the temple by "storm". Also known as Annakuta, Govardhana Puja, was the day the inhabitants of Vrindavan (Lord Krishna’s home on Earth) would hold a harvest festival in honour of King Indra, the demigod who provided the rains essential for the harvest.

One day, however, Lord Krishna wanted to teach Indra a lesson. He convinced the inhabitants of Vrindavan to honour Govardhana Hill instead, whose fertile soil provided the grass upon which the cows and bulls grazed, and to honour the cows and bulls who provided milk and ploughed the lands. Outraged, Indra retaliated with terrifying thunderstorms. In response, Krishna calmly lifted Govardhana Hill with the little finger of his left hand. For seven days and seven nights the Lord held up Govardhana Hill, providing a giant umbrella to shelter the inhabitants of Vrindavan from the torrential rain.

Festivities on Sunday evening were centred around a giant "Govardhana Hill" made entirely of sweets in the middle of the temple room. The mountain was then surrounded by all sorts of offerings from the community. After the 6pm arati, the weekly chanting of the Damodarastakam prayers took place and set the perfect mood for what was going to be an incredible evening.

As many regular visitors of our temple know, there have been new paintings commissioned for the temple room and they have been going up throughout the last few months. The next part of the program involved the final set of paintings being officially unveiled to the thunderous applause of all who were present! This was followed by a mantra meditation session and class by Bhaktimarga Swami that had everyone swimming in the enamouring story of Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill.

The climax of the evening was an audience interactive "Govardhana Lila (Story)" experience. With the lights lowered and soft music playing, everyone closed their eyes and were taken back 5,000 years. The whole audience became the villagers of Vrndavana! The time had come for the traditional puja (offering) to Lord Indra, who dramatically appeared at the top of the altar, regally waving to the audience! However, just at the offering to Indra was to begin, Krishna's little voice suddenly instructed everyone to worship Govardhana Hill! Along came the "village priest" (a transformed Brahma das) who then conducted an arati to Govardhana Hill.

Enraged, Indra interrupted the kirtan and celebrations and suddenly called upon his clouds to send their rain on the villagers. Magically, bluish thunderclouds suddenly floated in from the balcony (lanterns with blue and silver ribbons), sending their torrents of rain. Seeking the only refuge they know, the audience broke into an upbeat kirtan and, at the stroke of 8:00pm, the
temple room altar doors swung open! Krishna had arrived and the clouds, defeated by Krishna's presence, sulked away! After a wild 8:00pm arati kirtan, a massive vegetarian feast was served to everyone, and little pieces of the hill were packaged in bags and given to all those who attended!

Govardhana Puja brought a magical night to Toronto's Hare Krishna temple as an evening full of sweets, stories and symbolic-storms captured the imaginations of all who attended. It provided a chance for the throngs who attended to spiritually meditate on the story of Lord Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill to protect the villagers of Vrndavana.

We said it before, but it's worth mentioning again: Toronto's Hare Krishna temple simply loves festivals. Earlier, we said that there was no need to elaborate on this point because the sheer spiritual energy that pours from the temple during these times is proof enough. On Sunday evening, there was enough of this kind of energy to move mountains... well... to at least build hills!

Please enjoy the festival slideshow below or click here for the picture gallery (photos courtesy of Rishi Kumar):


Rishi said...

Every week is like a festival!

Keshav said...

You're right! As we've been saying, Kartik is a special time of year, so these festivals have been simply reinforcing the point! :o)