(Gauranga Simha Das's interview with Jananivasa Das.)
Gaurāṅga Siṁha: In Mayapur how are we observing the festival of Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva’s appearance?
Jananivāsa: In Mayapur, Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva is covered in candana up until the day before His appearance and then at 1 o’clock the candana (sandalwood paste) is taken off, this will be the day before. The candana is taken off, then we give the oil bath. The candana is absorbing the oils and everything from His body so again we put plenty of oils, have a big bath, snāna.
In the evening there will be adhivāsa, early evening, the adhivāsa for Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva, which is preparing for the appearance of Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva on caturdaśī. So the adhivāsa is an activity to prepare ourselves for the receiving and worshiping the Lord and understanding the significance of the appearance of Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva.
And then on Nṛsiṁha-caturdaśī there will be a homa for Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva in the morning in the courtyard and that goes on for a couple of hours and the classes will be on Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva. And then in the afternoon at about 4 or 4.30 will be the main abhiṣeka (bathing ceremony) of Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva and here we are offering the mahā-snāna to Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva. This abhiṣeka goes on for about 2 hours. We used to have parikramā, I don’t think we have one anymore. Anyway, then everything is ready for the Lord, the Lord is dressed and a feast is offered then He is opened for the ārati. He appears at the sandhyā, then He is opened again for ārati and kīrtana, then devotees will take prasādam and honor the breakfast, honor the prasādam.
￼Gaurāṅga Siṁha: Is the Lord offered any new set of cloth every year?
Jananivāsa: Yes. Usually He wears that in the morning. Then generally in the afternoon, after the abhiṣeka, the kavaca, the silver kavaca. So generally he wears that.
Gaurāṅga Siṁha: How was the festival in the beginning as opposed to how it has developed now? Was it always similar?
Jananivāsa: We just had the śālagrāma-abhiṣeka at the time of His appearance, at the sandhyā (just before sunset), then a kīrtana and a feast. We had a deity once; we made a clay deity of Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva and Hiraṇyakaśipu across his lap. Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva was tearing him up. Anyway we did śālagrāma-pūjā, offered 16 items of worship to the śālagrāma in front of the models we had made.
Gaurāṅga Siṁha: Since Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva has been installed, is the festival similar?
Jananivāsa: Well it’s just on a grand scale. The abhiṣeka is the main function, and there is possibly thousands of liters of different substances and Ganges water. You will see the huge drums.
Gaurāṅga Siṁha: It seems like the festival gets bigger every year in terms of numbers of devotees coming to see the Lord. And it becomes bigger and bigger.
Jananivāsa: Yes, it gets bigger and bigger. A lot of people from South India come because Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva is also very popular in South India. And also Jayapatāka Swami likes to be here for that festival. Many of his disciples are also from South India. The deity was made in Chennai, was manifested in Chennai. So they come for that period.
Gaurāṅga Siṁha: How can the devotees observe the festival in their homes, if they are not in Mayapur, and there is no deity of Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva?
Jananivāsa: They can have classes on Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva, and they probably have a picture of Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva, so they could give an abhiṣeka in front of the picture, so the picture doesn’t get wet. They can have an abhiṣeka like that so they have some caraṇāmṛta to distribute to everyone. And have kīrtanas and breakfast after the sun sets. They can have puṣpāñjali at His appearance time. We don’t have puṣpāñjali in Mayapur, it would be too big. But devotees in their house they could have puṣpāñjali and ārati and kīrtana. Nṛsiṁha-caturdaśī is also called vrata-rāja; people like to observe different vratas, so it is a good day for it. King of vratas. So it is a good day for observing special vratas; we will be fasting anyway, most of the day. You can do more; you can read the story of Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva in Bhāgavatam, chant more rounds, visit the holy places, worship nṛsiṁhadeva-śālagrāma or some pictures.
Gaurāṅga Siṁha: Any other thoughts or observations?
Jananivāsa: Two main things that could be observed if you want. There is offering of prasādam - prasādam distribution, and harināma saṅkīrtana. These make any festival successful. Without these two the festival is not complete. So there should be prasādam for distribution afterwards, and there should be a lot of harināma.
Gaurāṅga Siṁha: Do we take ekādaśī prasādam on Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva’s appearance? Is it recommended?
Jananivāsa: It is recommended for viṣṇu-tattva to honor anukalpa ekādaśī prasādam, but we don’t do for every viṣṇu-tattva deity. According to our ācāryas – Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and Śrīla Prabhupāda - we fast for Janmāṣṭamī and Gaura-pūrṇimā, and we do anukalpa prasādam for those because these are our main deities of worship. So they indicated that those two days we can have anukalpa prasādam. But because Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva is kind of special, there are two forms Lord Kṛṣṇa likes very much: Lord Rāmacandra and Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva, they are very special to Him. So devotees like to do fasting on that day. It is like an unwritten law in Mayapur, and now they make anukalpa prasādam for the devotees. Years ago they didn’t but now they do. More and more they observe this offering of ekādaśī prasādam on that day and then the feasting will be on the next day.
Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva in Mayapur he likes mangos. The Gauḍīya Math devotees they think that sweet rice is His specialty, so they always make sweet rice. They go to Nṛsiṁha-pallī, and they have kīrtana and they cook up a lot of sweet rice and eat sweet rice and distribute sweet rice. So there are two things we know the Lord likes; sweet rice and mangos. In India He likes panakam, which is gur water mixed with some ginger, lemon juice. It is very popular in South India. They offer it to Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva also.
Gaurāṅga Siṁha: It’s very wonderful taste, I had the remnants. Rāseśvarī Mātājī gave one time.
Jananivāsa: So Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva is taking it now. Maybe Rāseśvarī Mātājī is making now also. So this month is the śālagrāma tulasī jala dan, dripping water, so He is cool. Then someone is bringing ice-cream, and Rāseśvarī Mātājī is bringing panakam.
Another special feature of Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva is that He is our protective deity. He is our deity for protection. He is the iṣṭa-deva of protection but he is not the iṣṭa-deva of most devotees trying to understand our eternal relationship, but He is our iṣṭa-deva, our worshipable Lord for protection to remove the obstacles
on the path of bhakti. This is why He is so special. That is why Śrīla Prabhupāda introduced worship of Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva in ISKCON. Bhaktisiddhānta also had the deity of Lakṣmī-Nṛsiṁhadeva installed at the Yoga- pīṭha. And Nanda Bābā also worships a form of Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva in Goloka, so it is like paramparā. It goes on in Goloka and the reason Nanda Bābā worships Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva is to protect Kṛṣṇa. He is a protective deity. And Bhaktisiddhānta also, they were having problems there at the Yoga-pīṭha, so they installed the deity and afterwards He kept most of the problems away. So we worship Him as our protective deity, to remove the obstacles on the path of devotional to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.
The same idea is expressed in the Navadvīpa-dhāma-māhātmya, or the Navadvīpa-bhava-taranga, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura goes to Nṛsiṁha-pallī in Navadvīpa and Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva appears before him and blesses him with fearlessness – abhaya – and he says you should stay in the dhāma and worship Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, chant the holy names of Kṛṣṇa and very soon by the mercy of the devotees you will attain perfection. So this was Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva’s desire: worship Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa and chant the holy names. He gave His blessing there – fearlessness, abhaya.
So Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva has this special function in Mayapur: protecting the devotees devotion to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, whereas in South India they will all worship him and go back to Nṛsiṁha-loka, Vaikuṇṭha-loka. In Navadvīpa it is different we worship Him but to remove the obstacles. He helps us to go back to Goloka in Navadvīpa.