Festival Fever by Cediraja dasa

Taken From the Oct. 1978 Issue of Brijabasi Spirit:

It started out to be a big sankirtan weekend. Tapahpunja prabhu and my­self worked Columbus on Friday night and did big. Since it was the Fourth of Ju­ly weekend many special events were scheduled. Our plan was to do a Blue Grass festival which was within traveling distance of New Vrindaban. We would pick up Muktakesa prabhu who had been recuperating at the farm for a few days and then proceed to the festival.

It just so happened that New Vrinda­ban was having its own share of festivals that weekend. That night a fire sacrifice and Ekadasi feast, with crores of prepa­rations including home-made ice cream, were to be held at the brahmacari farm. His Divine Grace Kirtanananda Swarm would be there to crown the affair with auspiciousness, along with devotees from Ottawa, Cleveland, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Columbus and all the Brijabasis. All would take place under the gaze of Their Glorious Lordships Sri Sri Radha-Vrndavana Natha.More...
It all sounded very attractive but we had our prescribed duty. So we proceed­ed as planned with heavy hearts. Because of the hilly West Virginia terrain the trip took longer than we had expected. When we finally got there instead of find­ing a hundred thousand people there were only five hundred. It was a bloop.
After considering the alternatives we decided to try to make it back to New Vrindaban in time for the fire sacrifice. New Vrindaban makes you aware of Krsna Conscious living. Just being there and associating with the Brijabasis en­thuses you to chant and hear more about Krsna. So on the way back we decided to brush up on our pastime telling. As a consequence the return trip took no time at all.
As it turned out we missed the sacrifice even though Muktakesa prabhu and I ran two-thirds of the way up the two-mile obstacle course from Bahulaban to the brahmacari asrama. We did man­age to get a surprised look from Maha­raja as we walked into his cabin one minute before the end of darsan.
All was not lost however. There was still the feast and the nectarean associa­tion of the devotees. Dharmatma prabhu informed us of what was happening in book distribution. Murli Krsna and Laxmisvara prabhus told us about Ratha-Yatra. Radhanatha prabhu gave me a few moments to relate to him the story of Jagadananda Pandita.
As the devotees started filing onto the tractor-drawn carts making their way down to Bahulaban the usual dilemma arose in my mind. Should I go to Bahul­aban and take darsan of Radha-Vrndavana Candra and Kirtanananda Maharaja or stay in Vrindaban with Radha-Vrndavana Natha, Atmabhu Maharaja and all the blissful brahmacaris?
Alter the guests had left the brahmacaris, who had been busy serving every­one else, finally sat down to take prasadam. Two devotees dragged out what appeared to be a huge sack of potatoes. It turned out to be a can full of ice cream and a roar went up when the can was opened in appreciation of the labor of Randtideva prabhu who had stayed up nights cranking out this prep­aration.
To burn up some energy after the feast we had a big kirtan. Since there was a nip in the air we built a bonfire and danced around it. I started leading, then Jalakolahali and finally Atmabhu Maharaja took over. We all danced in ec­stasy into the night.
Chanting japa in the temple the next morning was nectar. Tapahpunja prabhu gave Bhagavatam class and there was still plenty of ice cream left over for breakfast, an obvious change from the usual oat water and rice program. At seven-thirty Lord Jagannatha hadto be taken down to Bahulaban for His bathing ceremony. With devotees all in knee-high dhotis for traversing the mud­dy road, the procession got underway with Jalakolahali leading kirtan. The chanting and dancing through the for­ests of Vrindaban was ecstatic. Halfway down Lord Balarama started dancing and Ajeya prabhu stopped the parade to secure Him more safely.
At Bahulaban Lord Jagannatha took His place next to all the other Jagannathas. There were five sets in all. It was like a scene out of Krsna Book. The temple room was decorated like Naimisaranya forest. Big tree branches had been transplanted into the marble floor. Bhavisyat prabhu pushed a conchshell into my hand and told me to fill it with yogurt during the bathing ceremony. Mahaprabhu Krpa dasa was leading kirtan as Kasypapa and Sri Galima prabhus brought big Lord Jagannatha out and set Him on a large marble slab facing Maharaja’s vyasasana.
Sri Galima filled one conchshell with yogurt for those bathing big Lord Jagan­natha and I filled another for those bath­ing the others. Maharaja went first and the devotees joined in. Arjit prabhu continued the kirtan until Lord Jagan­natha was returned to the altar. Samba and I then had a short, but sweet, yo­gurt fight.
Next on the agenda was another fire sacrifice. Three big buckets of the water which had bathed the Lord were re­moved from the temple room, along with sections of the forest. Once again, somebody had left a window open during the bathing cere­mony and Lord Jagannatha got sick. Immediately, preparations were made to escort Him back to the old art studio to recuperate. Bhavisyat prabhu told me to start a kirtan as Lord Jagannatha was placed on a big ox cart filled with hay. Seated on his tractor, Kasyapa prabhu was a fitting chariot driver. He asked me to help brace the Deities so I jumped on.
Beneath my elbow were the same Jagannatha Deities Whom I had served in Buffalo for many years. They were looking as beautiful as ever. The proces­sion headed back into the Bahulaban forest. As Lord Jagannatha was disembark­ing from His chariot a light sprinkle of rain started to fall. Hastily gathered sar­is and choddars were used to keep Him from getting wet.
Inside the cabin all questions regard­ing the Lord’s all-pervasive aspect were laid to rest. Wide-eyed Jagannatha Dei­ties looked at you from every corner of the cabin. We paid obeisances to Them for the last time, assured that Mother Hladini would take good care of Them, as in previous years.

Back in the temple, Kirtanananda Ma­haraja had just finished giving his lec­ture to the new initiates. One devotee was given the name Nila Madhava dasa, which is another name for Lord Jagan­natha, and one of the women was named Subhadra devi dasi after Lord Jagannatha’s sister.
Radhanatha prabhu performed the fire sacrifice which was followed by an ecstatic kirtan. Next, of course, was a sumptuous feast of Krsna prasadam. I managed to get a few moments of Radhanatha prabhu’s association before he was pulled away to teach a Life Mem­ber some mrdunga beats.
After the feast Maharaja paraded up and down the prasadam room announc­ing a kirtan to be held up at Prabhupada’s Palace. We hopped on Ottawa’s bus and had a warm up kirtan on the way to the Palace.
When we arrived we found devotees hanging from the ceiling. The Toronto devotees were cooking it up. Madhava Ghosh, although a little out of shape, was spinning like a top for the first time in months. Parambrahma prabhu was moving around more than I had ever seen before and Tapahpunja was performing his ecstatic hand stand routine. De­votees took turns dancing madly in the center of the circle. The highlight came when Rantideva prabhu suddenly pros­trated himself straight out in the middle of the circle, hoping to take all the feet of the assembled devotees on his head.
Back in Bahulaban I found Kalpa Vrksa prabhu finishing off a large blow­up of Lord Jagannatha which he was going to present to Kasyapa prabhu for his unmotivated service to Lord Jagannatha’s lotus feet.
Kasyapa was staring at the photo­graph in disbelief, uttering the word Krsna over and over again. When I told him about Parambrahma’s purchasing a film about Ratha-Yatra in Puri, he became intent to hear. I told him in the film Lord Jagannatha had shiny hands and feet. His eyes widened as I told the story of how Ganasyama prabhu had taken darsan of Lord Jagannaiha in Puri. I mentioned how Caitanya Mahaprabhu had performed more pas­times at Jagannatha’s temple than any­where else.
Then Kasyapa quoted some verses about Lord Jagannatha that would have put Lord Caitanya in ecstasy. He con­tinued by quoting some selections from the Jagannathastika prayers. The whole time he was staring with boyish wonder, revealing his obvious enthusiasm for such topics. All of a sudden he realized the time and departed to do his service It had been like a page from Caitanya Caritamrta. After he had gone Kalpa Vrksa said, “There are some heavy rasas going on around here.”
The evening arati followed, lead by the bliss boys from Toronto. It promised to be one to remember. I warned Adwaita prabhu beforehand so he came pre­pared to dance. From the very beginning devotees were racing back and forth across the temple room floor like the waves of an ocean. Adwaita and Madha­va Ghosh spearheaded the dancing ec­stasy while Radha Vrndavana Candra looked on, appearing more radiant with each vibration of Hare Krsna. When all strength gave out only the momentum of the kirtan carried us through to the final “Jaya om” prayers. As the conch-shell sounded we all surrounded Mahara­ja’s vyasasana and chanted uproariously, “Jaya Kirtanananda,” bringing the arati to a reluctant but fitting end.
The cream of the entire festival was the Istagosthi Maharaja held up in the prasadam room after arati. Someone asked, “Since Lord Caitanya’s program was simply chanting, dancing and feast­ing, how is it that you are telling devo­tees to get to work?”
Maharaja denied it. “I never say get to work; I say ‘Let’s dance.’ ” Param­brahma prabhu said, “It’s called the Swami shuffle.” In this way the chant­ing and dancing goes on.

Praying unto the lotus feet of Kirtan­ananda Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada, always desiring their mercy, I, Cediraja dasa, narrate these pastimes of New Vrindaban, following in their foot­steps.

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