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Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born in Bengal (India) on a full moon night during a lunar eclipse. It is typical for people to bathe in the Ganges during an eclipse and chant the Lord’s holy names for spiritual purification. So, everyone in the area was chanting the holy names when He was born. His parents gave Him the name of Vishvambhara, meaning the support of the universe, because astrologers had predicted His super human qualities and that He would deliver the people of the world. He was also nicknamed Nimai because He had been born under a nima tree.
The ISKCON of Houston temple celebrated Lord’s appearance day – also known as “Gaura Purnima” on Tuesday, March 22nd.
Lord Chaitanya is Lord Krishna in His most merciful feature. Therefore, even if one doesn’t understand Lord Chaitanya’s identity as the Supreme Lord, but accepts Him as a saintly person or as a social reformer and philosopher, one can still derive the highest benefit by chanting the names of God.
Devotees came in with flowers, fruits and various offerings for their beloved Lord Chaitanya, also known as Gauranga – who is the Golden incarnation of Lord Krishna. The spectacular temple room with ornate design and depiction of various narrations from the Vedic scriptures was specially decorated for the occasion. Depicting a specific incident from Lord Chaitanya’s life, where he once brought all the animals of the Jharikanda forest to peacefully join him in his joyous singing of praises to the Lord, the temple was decorated with a colorful forest theme.
The festivities began with the ceremonial abhishekh (bathing) ceremony. The Deities were bathed in sacred substances such as milk, ghee, honey, fresh fruit nectars and other choice substances while the hundreds of congregation members gathered chanted the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra in unison. It is the philosophy of Gaudiya Vaishnavas that chanting this 16-syllable mantra, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, cleanses one’s heart from all anxieties and illusions.
The resounding and deeply meditative sound of the conch shell announced the arati ceremony. This is not just ritual of an offering a lamp to the Lord, but meaningful way to connect to the divine. Offering a lamp to the Deity form of the Lord invokes auspiciousness and as the worshipper waves the lamp across each limb of the Lord, it takes the beholder away from the mundane.
After arati, His Grace Radha Krishna Dasa narrated excerpts from the life of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who brought to the world a truly secular path of Bhakti Yoga, with his teachings of how to serve and love God, regardless of caste, race, religion or creed.
Adding another fun element to the proceedings, students of the Goswami Academy presented a beautiful rendition of the song ‘ Lord Chaitanya’s moon is rising’, as an attestment to their training in both creative academics and spiritual values. As is tradition at any ISKCON festival, the evening celebrations ended with a delicious vegetarian feast.
Come visit ISKCON of Houston temple at 1320 West 34th Street. Sunday feast program starts every Sunday at 5:30 PM