A two-week festival celebrating the sixth anniversary of ISKCON’s temple at Vrinda Kunda, a sacred lake in Vrindavana, India, culminated in a grand finale this February 22.
ISKCON built the current temple in 2003 to replace the old, dilapidated one that Vaishnava scholar Baba Madhava Dasa constructed in the 1980s for Vrinda-devi, one of Krishna’s most beloved servants.
Celebrations for the event began early, with devotees gathering at Pavana Sarovar Lake for breakfast. Preparations for the traditional Kalash yatra (waterpot festival) followed immediately after, as women picked a clay pot each, filled it with water from Pavana Sarovar, covered it with bright yellow cloth, and topped it with a coconut. Local “Brijbasi” women then trained the international crowd of ISKCON women – most of whom hailed from China – to carry these pots on their heads.
Accompanied by a chanting party, the group went on to circle the village of Nandagram, where Krishna and his brother Balarama lived with their parents Nanda and Yashoda 5,000 years ago. Residents were astonished to see foreign women carrying water pots on their heads, an ancient local custom.
The devotees then visited the hilltop temple of Nanda Maharaja, where they rested before kicking off a rousing kirtan chant. Showing off their skills, the Brijbasi women danced without using their hands to secure the waterpots on their heads. When one of the Chinese ISKCON women took up the challenge and also succeeded in dancing hands-free, her companions, as well as the Brijbasis, laughed and applauded with delight.
The procession soon started back down the hill towards Vrinda Kunda, enjoying the cool, refreshing spring breeze. Arriving at Vrinda Kunda just in time for the arati ceremony, the women placed their pots around the flower-bedecked temple and entered to pay their respects to Vrinda Devi. The Brijbasis, meanwhile, set up on the nearby lawn to perform their enchanting traditional Brij song and dance.
ISKCON devotees served sacred prasadam food to all the Brijbasis, then listened as they told stories of Nandagram and Vrinda Kunda. As the festival came to an end with butter churning lessons and a feast in the shade of the trees, the devotees felt as if they had been transported back to a simpler time – a time when Krishna and Balarama once ate their lunch with their cowherd friends in those same groves of Vrindavana.
See photos of the event here.