Sunday, February 28th marked Gaura-Purnima, the appearance anniversary of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Caitanya Mahaprabhu, revered as an incarnation of Krishna, propagated the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra over 500 years ago. He was at the centre of a spiritual revolution, focused on developing love of Krishna (bhakti-yoga).
Festivities began in the early hours of the morning with a stalwart group of spiritualists gathering to begin the day with mangala arati, the first worship ceremony of the day. The morning program was highlighted by Deity greetings, where the Deities were unveiled in Their brand new stunning gold outfit.Click here for the Deity pictures.
The festivities continued in the evening with an ecstatic 6pm kirtan led by Krsnadas Kaviraj das. After the kirtan, the temple room suddenly went pitch black. As devotees looked around to see what was going on, a voice could be heard, narrating the story of Prahlada, the devoted young prince tortured by his father, King Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu tried to torture Prahlada Maharaj in many ways. One such way was by forcing him to sit on a pyre of fire with Holika, a demoness who had the power to remain unharmed by fire. However, due to Prahalada's devotion to the Lord, he was saved and Holika was consumed by the fire herself! As the narration spoke about Holika being destroyed, the pillars on the balcony of the temple room were illuminated with orange, yellow, and red lights and began to flicker with the effect of flames. This story, is one of the reasons why Holi is celebrated and since Holi falls on the same day as Gaura-Purnima, the entire festival had a theme of colour.
Following this, the entire temple room was bathed in red lights as the pillars in the temple room displayed animations, accompanied by narrations, that depicted how Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared to help spread the chanting of the holy names. This was a prelude to a wonderful class given by Krsnadas Kaviraja das on the early pastimes of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The temple room was now engulfed in green light which faded into blue as devotees were transported back to the lush green lands of Mayapur in West Bengal, India. The Sunday School Kids performed a short play glorifying Caitanya Mahaprabhu's compassion which was not just limited to human beings but to animals also. This endearing performance by the future of ISKCON Toronto received a thunderous applause!
Following the drama, the temple room was illuminated in multi-coloured lights leading into the grand abhisheka, a bathing ceremony of the Deities of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and his eternal associate, Nityananda Prabhu. As opulent items such as honey, milk, ghee were being poured on the Deities, ecstatic kirtan was being led by Dhira Grahi das and had devotees in bliss! The bliss continued with more ecstatic kirtan led by Satyananda Krishna das during 8pm arati and had every one in the temple room dancing!
View the slideshow of the festivites below:
*some photos courtesy of Manish Thorat