Festivals in VrindavanVrindavan, located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, is one of the most religious places for Hindus and the people who worship Lord Krishna. The Lord spent his entire childhood here along with his cowherd friends and consort Radharani. This town is home to nearly 5000 temples dedicated to Radha and Krishna and are considered sacred by various religious traditions such as Vaishnavism, Gaudiya and Hinduism in general. There are plenty of festivals and fairs that are celebrated from time to time in the honor of god, Lord Krishna.
Janamashtami in Vrindavan
The birth of Lord Krishna or his ‘Janamashtami’ is celebrated with the greatest fanfare and aplomb in Vrindavan. A number of rituals are associated with his birth and are enacted through ‘Raas Lila’ at various sites. People dress up their children as little ‘Gopals’ and seek the blessings of the Lord. In almost all the temples the decoration and the festivities are planned several days in advance. The silver, brass and ornate cradles are hung in the foreground of the worshipping areas in preparation of the coming of the Lord. Devotees fast and spend the day and night singing hymns in praise of Lord Krishna and his mystique. At the stroke of midnight there are a number of rituals including the bathing of the Lord in milk and then it is believed that Krishna had appeared in the cradle at Vrindavan after his father, Vasudev had carried him to the home of his brother, Nand after crossing a turbulent Yamuna. Legend has it that it always rains on Janamashtami day and that is when the devotees all bathe in the sweet showers that fall from the skies like the blessings of the Lord himself. It is considered auspicious to rock the decorated cradle of infant Krishna.
Vasant Panchami in Vrindavan
Another festival associated with the Pitamber (yellow or clothes wearing) Krishna is Vasant Panchami when everyone dresses in marigold yellow to commemorate the event. It marks the receding of the winter and the blossoming of spring. The doors of the Vasanti Kamra or yellow room of the Shahji Temple are opened on this one night and the deities are brought to this room. Other significant days of the month are Bihari Panchami – the day when the idol of Banke Bihari was discovered by Swami Haridas in Nidhivan.
Shivratri in Vrindavan
Shivratri, the day of the Lord Shiva and Gaura Purnima, a significant day associated with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are observed with great devotion by several devotees besides many of the other festivals that are celebrated at Vrindavan with its unique levels of participation. The other significant festivals are almost all associated with the life and exploits of Lord Krishna when he was in Vrindavan.
Govardhan Puja Vrindavan
Another one of these are Govardhan Puja, when he had lifted the massive Govardhan Parwat or mountain on his little finger and protected the entire clans and animals of Gokul under its protective umbrella from the rabid onslaught of the stormy weather. When the elders of Krishna’s village under his persuasion begin worshipping the ‘Goverdhan parvat’ rather than Indra for rains, Krishna himself attained a huge form as the ‘Giriraj’ and accepted all their offerings. This festival is also called Annakoot.
Dahi Handi in Vrindavan
‘Dahi Handi’ or ‘Reaching the Yogurt Pot’ is an interesting enactment of how the wily Krishna would get at the most inaccessible of places to satiate his own and his friend’s yearning for fresh butter churned by gopis. This festival comprising the youth of a locality getting together and forming a pyramid by standing on each other’s shoulders and steadily climbing up to great heights to reach a pot of butter or dahi hung up precariously at some very high point. This takes on the form of competitions with the prize booty going up to hundreds of rupees and gifts and lavish feasts for the winners. Therefore, to make the going tougher the competing teams pour water on the backs of the boys standing at the bottom of the pyramid and even shout out all kinds of inducements to the boys climbing up so that they are distracted and tend to fall down. However, the team that reaches the prize and breaks the pot with a coconut placed on top of the pot succeeds in winning and is celebrated by the entire community.
Holi in Vrindavan
The festivals of Vrindavan are unique, colorful events almost always involving ‘Raas’ or singing and dancing, the throwing of colors and eating several sweetmeats. The grandest festival, however, is the Holi festival or the festival of colors that virtually provokes everybody to lose all inhibitions and immerse themselves in the multifarious presence of the Lord. The significance of Holi is such that in some temples colored water is sprayed continuously all the year around and that too with a fervor matched with the devout passion of the devotees. One of the best places to see the enact of ‘gokul’s’ holi celebration is at the Gulal Kund of Braj. Here the young boys and girls form into troupes and dance the ‘Raas’ throughout the day and night regaling the audiences with the episodes from the life of the young Krishna depicting him as a mischievous and naughty yet very friendly and loving person. At the lake near the Govardhan hillock the waters are fragrant with the perfumed colors or ‘gulaal’. The ideology behind the colorful festival is the substance of Krishna’s love tales. He would often complain to his mother that the pretty damsel Radha with whom he was constantly playing was too proud of her fair complexion and often teased him for being so dark in comparison.
To stop this constant harangue his mother had answered that he should color up Radha in any colour of his own choosing. Krishna quickly went and colored Radhs’s cheeks with ‘gulaal’. It is this practice that opened up the colorful festival of Holi and its several additives. In fact many a young damsel has her cheeks colored by her amour during this festival.
Akshaya Tritiya in Vrindavan
The festival of Akshaya Tritiya is celebrated when Banke Bihariji or the supreme deity enshrined in the Banke Bihari Temple shows his beautiful lotus feet for ‘darshan’ and it is this holy vision of the wondrous feet of Lord Krishna that has driven devotees to sing paeans in their glory. Many devotees have experienced miracles when they sighted the feet of the Lord. It is said that some got sight others who were maimed became whole and those who had any other kind of physical infirmity were healthy and powerful again. In fact the ‘darshan’ or holy and devout envisioning of the Lord’s feet was a rich experience that made even a pauper into a prince or ‘chatarwala’ i.e., someone who rode in procession under the cover of a resplendent umbrella to mark their status.
Akshay Tritiya signifies the day when the holy constellation is so placed that anything bought or stocked on that day would last forever. It is considered the harbinger of prosperity and perennial happiness. The Lord shows his feet to his devotees on that day as a special treat with the succinct message that it is not the hording of material things that will lead to eternal happiness. The real eternal happiness comes from within by doing pious deeds and distributing piety and kindness all around. It would be the source of constant happiness to the person if he or she indulges in the distribution of goodness all around. Therefore, on this day there are many who have ensured that they distribute alms, clothes, food and even money to the poor and needy so that they may continue to enjoy the wealth and comforts they have already been blessed with. The ideology of Akshay or unlimited or eternal wealth stems from the fact that the more you give, the more you may have and will then subsequently again be able to give!
Guru Poornima in Vrindavan
Guru Poornima is the day when the teachers or Gurus are paid obeisance among them the sage Ved Vyasa is the given the highest position because of his iconic work in organizing the wealth of mortal knowledge in the four great epitomes, the Vedas namely the Yajur, Sama, Atharva and the Rig Vedas. To him also goes the credit of the penmanship of the great epic Mahabharata and within it the supreme lesson of life as embodied in the Bhagwad Gita or the divine sermon of Lord Krishna to Arjun on the battle field of Kurukshetra. Sage Vyasa is also the author of the ‘Veda sootras’ that are the explanatory treatise on the Vedas. He has also authored the Puranas or the stories of great legends among which the Shrimadbhagwat Purana is the most read because it contains the life of Lord Krishna and his condensed teachings on day to day living. The first and foremost guru has been taken to be the Divine Being or God himself and his disciples over the ages have followed. Many of the devotees have equated the two entities of Guru and God as one. The Supreme Teacher and the Teacher designate both are worshipped on this day of Guru Purnima.
In Vrindavan, Swami Haridas, the guru of Tulsidas, is propitiated as the designated guru with great celebrations ringing out in the Nidhivan and the Banke Bihari Temple. The Nidhivan is anointed with cow dung and cleansed and purified with the panchamrit of honey, milk, yoghurt and water while the Phool Bangla or a house made of flowers is set up near the samadhi or resting place of Swami Haridas. The entire Vrindavan pays homage to their Gurus and this invocation goes all through the country because of the reformative work of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who is also worshipped as an eternal Guru.
Hariyali Teej Vrindavan
The festival of Haryali Teej is another festival peculiar to Vrindavan. This festival marks the end of the hot summer and is the point where the soft rains are welcomed. It is a time when the earth takes on a green hue after the long parched months. As the showers begin to fall regularly towards the middle of this ‘sharavan’ month it is nearer the amavasya of sharavan that the Lord’s resplendent swing is setup outside the Jagmohan of the Banke Bihari Temple. The Lord with his consort moves out to the beautifully ornate swing that defies description at the very least. There he is seen by this deliriously ecstatic devotees in hues of green garments that make him almost one with nature and on that day the Prasad comprises ‘ghevar’ and ‘pheyni’ both of which are sweetened rice and milk preparations.
The festival is marked with all sorts of interesting and involving outdoor activities for both the men and women. While the women contend themselves with swinging leisurely on the swings that have been strung up on almost every tree of the region, the men have more rigorous pastimes. They tend to indulge in wrestling matches and various competitions of physical prowess. The Haryali Teej is celebrated on the days after the Shravan Amavasya for a few days.
Raksha Bandhan in Vrindavan
Raksha Bandhan is the festival of making and reliving annually a promise of protection and loving bonds between a brother and a sister. Draupadi or Krisna as she was named by the gods was the sakhi or sister of Lord Krishna. She developed this bond from her heart and loved the Lord as a brother. At one time when Krishna had visited the Pandavas during their exile in the jungles the Lord managed to get a cut on his finger. Draupadi was pained by his wound and immediately tore off a piece of her saree’s border to tie it on his finger and stem the flow of blood. This bond of affection was to hold her in good stead because years later when one of her own relatives put her in an embarrassing position of ‘Cheirharan’ or removal of clothes, it was her pitiful cry of help that was heard by her brother who created the divine miracle of an unending saree. The more it was unraveled the more there was to go around till the exhausted perpetuator of the evil deed fell to the ground and Draupadi stood unscathed praying in devout fervor to her Lord, her Divine Brother or Sakha. The festival of Rakha Bandhan at Vrindavan is one of great devotion where the men and women both look up to the Lord as a brother and ask for his Divine intervention whenever they may need his help.
Radha Ashtami Vrindavan
Radha Ashtami is the birthday of Lord Krishna’s playmate and heartthrob Radha. Vrindavan celebrates this day with about as much gaiety and pomp as it does the birthday of the Lord himself. Interestingly, it is also the birthday of Swami Haridas. He had composed a number of compositions on Radha and on the days following Radha Ashtami the Nidhivan is ceremoniously decorated and the Raas Lila troupes from all around participate in a non-stop delightful festival of reliving the life of the Lord and his beloved Radhey. One of the wonderful aspects of this day is the ‘chav’ or procession taken out from the Bankae Bihari Temple to the Nidhivan which is accompanied by a number of bands and all sorts of performing artistes who dance and sing along the entire pathway to commemorate the birth of the beautiful Radha as also to commemorate the even when Swami Haridas had found the image of Banke Bihari in Nidhivan.
Radha Ashtami is also marked by a number of cultural festivals that re virtual feasts to those who appreciate classical music and dance performances. The renditions continue to the wee hours of the mornings at the ‘Samadhi sthal’ at Nidhivan. Some of the worlds greats musicians and performers crowd to Vrindavan during these days to partake of the Divine celebrations and savor the amazing renditions of the experts in the field.
Nandotsav festival is celebrated a day after the Janamashtami. The priests of the temple give back to the devotes the vast collection of gifts, toys, utensils, commemorative coins, all kinds of sweetmeats as Prasad and a variety of clothing in the celebration of the birth of Nand Baba’s son, Krishna. There is widespread happiness and almost everybody greets each other with a smile and the happy expression of a child being born in their midst. The celebrations are wild and marked with a heady carelessness as if now that Krishna has been born all will be well with the world. This festival is a virtual marker of the life of the Lord as the cowherd or ‘Nand Gopala’.
Bhai Dooj in Vrindavan
Bhai Dooj festival is celebrated after Deepavali all over northern India. In Vrindavan it takes on a special meaning as Yamuna the sister of Yamraj or the God of Death and the daughter of Surya or the Sun God blesses all who come to her banks with protection from the travails her brother may put them through. In fact she has the power to deliver them from the hands of death virtually. This divine power is granted to her by virtual of being Lord Krishna’s fourth wife also. She is a faithful and devoted wife who followed Krishna to Dwarka also as one of his principal queens.
During the festival of Akshay Navami the Vrindavan dham yatra is taken on. The devotees travel barefoot through the streets of Vrindavan and anoint their foreheads with its mud or ‘Vraj raj’. The devotees perform the entire ‘parikrama’ or circumambulation and it is interesting to note that even the most frail ones also manage to complete the circuit from Mathura to Vrindavan and back feeling elated and recharged. They are covered from head to toe in Vraj Raj.
This circumambulation is said to bring divine peace and blessings into the lives of all who successfully compete it at least once in their lifetimes.
Bihar Panchami in Vrindavan
The Bihar Panchami Festival is another one of the festivities that is peculiar to Vrindavan. This festival commemorates the day when Swami Haridas through his Divine meditations had given his disciples a vision of the Lord and his beatific consort. Haridas was habituated to sitting at a particular part of the Nidhivan to meditate upon his Divine Inspiration and Muse. However, his disciplines would often pester him to enable them also to see the Divine Lord. One day Swami Haridas called them and asked them to enter a small kunj. It was the day of his son Vithal’s birthday. As a special treat he offered to show the Lord to them. However, the disciples were awe struck by the tremendous flash of light that they say in the sancto sanctorum. Then Haridas accompanied them into the kunj whereon the Lord appeared with his playmate, in a superb apparition. Everyone then sat peacefully inside and were especially blessed with the Spiritual experience that was to immortalize them. This event is also celebrated as Bihar Panchami.