New York City – More than two hundred devotees gathered together to welcome the small (chota in Sanskrit) deities of Sri Sri Radha-Murlidhar to a Hare Krishna temple here, where They join larger deities of the same name. The last time the two sets of deities were worshiped together was more than twenty years ago, in Their original home in Cleveland, Ohio. The two day festival, held on May 2 and 3, featured abhishek (sacred bathing of the deities), kirtan, and devotees sharing memories of the deities over the years.
ISKCON sannyasis Radhanath Swami and Bhakti Caru Swami presided over the ceremony, bathing and dressing the small deities, and then installing Them on an altar profusely decorated with floral arrangements. Other special guests included Romapada Swami, Trivikrama Swami, and Laksmi Nrsimha Dasa.
The weekend’s guests of honor, along with the deities Themselves, were the handful of devotees who had served Radha-Murlidhar in Cleveland, New Vrindaban, and New York through the years. Kamagiri Devi Dasi, who worshiped the small deities for more than to decades while They were separated from the larger ones, coordinated the festival.
The large marble Radha-Murlidhar deities were first installed in Cleveland, but were moved to New Vrindaban and were eventually brought to New York City to reside in a satellite outreach center unaffiliated with ISKCON. The small metal deities stayed back in Cleveland until the East Cleveland temple closed. Then, entrusted to the care of Kamagiri, They traveled with her to Puerto Rico and then back to Ohio—this time, Columbus.
Remarkably, even while lovingly worshipping the forms, Kamagiri prayed that she would reunite the deities when the large deities were under the care of dedicated ISKCON pujaris again.
Meanwhile, after being outside of ISKCON for some time, the East Village temple housing Radha Murlidhar changed management and the board invited the monks (brahmacharis) connected with ISKCON’s flagship center at 26 2nd Avenue to move in to the building and begin worshiping the deities. After some time, the ISKCON devotees were eventually given charge of the entire center – a six-story building just around the corner from the very place Srila Prabhupada incorporated ISKCON more than forty years ago.
For many attending the festival, the twists and turns in Radha-Murlidhar’s history made the reunion that much sweeter.
“There is so much healing that is taking place here,” Nityo Dita Dasa said, his voice choking with emotion. “After the dissension and rivalries of those days”¦ we’re finally going past that and coming together to glorify the deities and devotees.”
Want to experience the festival? Check out our exclusive multimedia presentation here.