For ISKCON devotees around the world this October 22nd, the 32nd Disappearance Day of their founder Srila Prabhupada was a celebratory occasion.
While celebrating the passing of a loved one might seem strange to mainstream society, a great Vaishnava’s passing is a bittersweet experience for devotees. They lament no longer enjoying the pure devotee’s association, but rejoice his return to Krishna, or God.
Srila Prabhupada’s Disappearance Day festival was particularly poignant, however, at the ISKCON temple in West Bengal’s capital city Kolkata. For it was there that the founder of ISKCON was born in 1896, in a humble house in the Tollygunge suburb. What’s more, the current Radha Govinda Mandir’s deities were installed by Srila Prabhupada himself.
Around 250 devotees attended the festival—which began with a video of Prabhupada speaking on “The Teachings of Queen Kunti” and included Pushpanjali, a traditional worship with flower petals.
Ateendees then broke their half-day fast at noon, savoring the fifty-six different dishes that had been offered to Srila Prabhupada. In the evening, the mood was heartfelt during Tirobhav Muhurta, the exact time of Srila Prabhupada’s passing from this world. As devotees sang Je Anilo Prema Dhana, a traditional song for departing Vaishnavas, they offered lamps to their beloved spiritual master.
130 kilometers away in ISKCON’s world headquarters, Mayapur, a much larger group of devotees assembled to listen to Prabhupada’s disciples tell of their personal association with ISKCON’s founder. Sharing their experiences and profound realizations were Radhanath Swami, Ramai Swami, Kavichandra Swami, Pancharatna Dasa, Hari Sauri Dasa, Jananivas Dasa, Pankajanghri Dasa, Sitala Dasi, Saci Dasi, and Ramaniya Dasi.
Later in the day, hundreds of food dishes prepared by Mumbai and Mayapur devotees were offered at Srila Prabhupada’s Pushpa Samadhi, along the traditional flower petals and arati ceremony.
As in Kolkata, devotees spent the evening time offering garlands and lamps to a deity form of Srila Prabhupada known as a murti, who sat on a Vyasasana seat decorated with elaborate flower designs.
Yet perhaps the biggest festival for Prabhupada’s Disappearance Day was the two-day celebration in Vrindavana, where ISKCON’s founder departed for the spiritual world on November 14, 1977.
On the day before Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, devotees took a murti of him on a kirtan-accompanied procession to the temples of Vrindavana’s famous Six Goswamis. They also invited local saints and brahmanas to the temple to feed them, as is the custom.
The Disappearance Day itself saw the temple, Srila Prabhupada’s “House” and the Samadhi where the great devotee is enshrined gorgeously decorated. As in Mayapur, devotees gathered in large numbers to listen to memories of Srila Prabhupada by his disciples.
At midday, Srila Prabhupada’s murti was given the traditional abhishekha bath and offered an array of food dishes. Finally, an incredible 12,000 devotees sat cross-legged to eat a sumptuous feast at the nearby Fogla Ashram.