The annual “Boat Festival” is one of the most unique events at ISKCON’s Krishna Balarama temple in the holy town of Vrindavana, India. Every spring, devotees fill the temple’s courtyard with water to create a pool, decorate its surface with flowers, and take the temple’s presiding deities of Radha-Shyamasundar on a ride in an ornate, flower-bedecked boat. But the event has become almost too popular in recent years, with crowds packing the temple so tightly that many devotees have been unable to attend.
A change of location from the Krishna Balarama temple to the nearby Yamuna river has long been suggested as a solution, and will finally be introduced this year, with the date set at Saturday March 21st.
“The festival will be held at Keshi Ghat, a sacred bathing area where Krishna is said to have killed the Keshi demon,” says organizer Dina Bandhu Dasa. “It’s perfect for the event – there are plenty of steps for everyone to sit on to peacefully view the festival, as well as several pier-like structures that lead out onto the river. The kirtan band will sit on one of these, the media on another, and leading senior ISKCON devotees and local sadhus on the last one.”
After the crowded intensity of previous boat festivals, much effort has been made to ensure a peaceful experience at the Yamuna event. Workers have been specially contracted to clean the area, cotton “dhurri” rugs will be laid out so that the audience can sit comfortably, and boats will be tied along the ghat’s bottom step to prevent any accidental falls into the river.
“And of course, we will be worshipping four-foot tall deities of Radha Shyamasundar at the event, so that everyone will easily be able to see them,” Dina Bandhu says.
A kirtan procession will leave from ISKCON’s Krishna Balarama temple at 4:30pm, arriving at Keshi Ghat at 5pm. The festival will end at 7 o’clock – a little earlier than previous year’s events, so that devotees can conveniently return to the temple or their guesthouse before dark.
Devotees and congregation from neighbouring cities Delhi and Chandigarh have pulled together to assist and make the event a success, while local organizations have also shown their enthusiasm to cooperate. The event is open to all.