On the evening of October 15th, a traditional festival of the autumn full moon, Sharad Purnima, was celebrated at the Radha Gopinath Temple in Mumbai with Radhanath Swami and over 5,000 guests. The Indian scriptures reveal that five thousand years ago in the sacred land of Vrindavan, on the night of Sharad Purnima, Lord Krishna performed a beautiful dance festival called rasa lila with his dearmost devotees, the gopis. Bhakti yogis traditionally congregate on this night to commemorate the event through the singing of beautiful devotional songs. This year at the Radha Gopinath Temple, the guests were also offered a wonderful visual treat… the sacred deity altar was decorated with a variety of beautiful flowers brought from all over India, causing the altar to resemble the lush forest of Vrindavan. Enthusiastic chanting and dancing by the devotees continued unabated for over four hours.

Radhanath Swami’s Message on the Festival of Sharad Purnima

“Sharad Purnima is the night when Lord Krishna performed the rasa dance with the gopis, the purest devotees of God. The rasa dance has been glorified in the art, poetry and theatre of India, but most importantly it is worshipped in the Vedic scriptures as the most sacred expression of love by the Lord’s devotees.

A dance is commonly understood to be performed to satisfy our own senses. However, the dance of the gopis was performed to please the Lord’s senses. The gopis were not ordinary women; they were pure devotees of the Lord and were always meditating on serving the Lord, free of any material motivation. This dance signifies the most elevated rendition of their spotless, genuine love for Krishna. It also represents the soul’s absolute, undivided aspiration to serve and to love God. This dance shows us the standard of pure devotion—a pure devotee has not even a tinge of selfishness, and God reciprocates by filling the heart of such a devotee with the highest spiritual bliss, as experienced by the gopis during the rasa dance. On the night of Sharad Purnima, Krishna played an enchanting note on his flute, and the gopis were irresistibly drawn to Krishna; they forsook everything and risked dangers and social rejection only to satisfy the Lord. On meeting the Lord, He admitted he had no power to repay them for their pure devotion. But as reciprocation, Krishna expanded himself to dance with each gopi simultaneously in their eternal spiritual bodies for a night of endless joy.”

Above: The entire altar at Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Temple is decorated with flowers brought from different parts of the country. The eight prominent gopis – Lalita, Visakha, Chitra, Champakalata, Tungavidya, Indulekha, Rangadevi and Sudevi manifest on the altar with garlands, flowers, musical instruments, chamara fans and butter pots to serve Radha and Krishna.

Prayers to Offer

“On this night we offer prayers to God that we can develop the purity of purpose and love so that we too can follow the footsteps of the gopis, and offer our hearts and our whole existence for service to the Lord and His dear devotees. We certainly do not imitate the dance, but reflect deeply on surrendering our lives for the pleasure of the beloved Lord of our heart. The gopis are teaching us that if we relinquish our egoistic pleasures for the service of God we will never be the losers. We should know that Krishna is playing upon His flute for all of us. He is calling each and every one of us to enter His divine rasa lila; we need simply to reciprocate by cultivating true humility, selflessness and a pure desire to serve.”