On the 28th of January, the first day of the spring season according to the Vedic calendar (also known as Vasanta Panchami), Radhanath Swami lead six-thousand guests, including sixty American yoga practitioners and teachers, to a flower festival at Radha Gopinath Temple, in Mumbai. The festival began in the morning with hundreds of the temple’s congregants plucking flower petals from over a ton of of a wide variety of flowers bought from all over India. Then in the evening Radhanath Swami addressed the guests on the special significance of the festival of bathing the lord with flowers. The short discourse was followed by long and melodious kirtans by Gaura Vani, Arunadhati devi, and Radhanath Swami himself. During the kirtans the deities were bathed with marigolds, jasmine, roses and many other types of flowers. This was followed by the showering of all these flower petals from the balconies of the temple on the guests. The rain of flowers bought great joy and happiness; everyone danced and chanted in the kirtan while lovingly throwing flower petals upon each other.
The special guests for the program included Raghunath Cappo, a yoga teacher from New York and his thirty five students and guests. Gopi Kinnicutt, another yoga trainer from Washington and her twenty students also enthusiastically participated in the festival. Both the groups are visiting South India and other holy places of India. An important part of their itinerary was to participate in the much awaited annual flower festival.
Below is part of the transcript of Radhanath Swami’s address.
“The only qualification the lord considers is our humility and enthusiasm to serve. Plucking a flower is not difficult, but by this simple act, performed in the proper mood, we could easily attain the perfection of our lives. Lord Krishna will reciprocate with our sincerity by accepting our sincere offering and by plucking our hearts away from material suffering.”
“Bhakti is the awakening of the dormant love for the Lord within our heart. Presently this attraction has been covered by the constant bombardment of weapons of mass distraction. By sincere chanting and selfless service we can attain the perfection of our lives. Many examples confirm the Lord’s reciprocation with our sincerity. Shabari was a simple old woman who was assured by her guru that the Supreme Lord would certainly accept her service. She served faithfully and patiently and when finally the Supreme Lord Rama came to her small hut, she served simple berries. Although this was the staple food of the monkeys of the forest and not fit for human consumption, the lord nevertheless graciously accepted it. Later when all of the Lord’s soldiers were constructing a bridge across the ocean, the Lord instructed the mighty warrior Hanuman that his herculean efforts in building the bridge with huge boulders was equal in spirit to the apparently tiny efforts of a spider which was also assisting in building the bridge. The Lord declared that the efforts of the spider and Hanuman were same in His eyes. Similarly in the epic Mahabharata we find Lord Krishna rejecting an opulent feast arranged by the wily Duryodhana and instead accepting the simple offering of love of Vidura’s wife who offered him banana leaves.”
“If we water the root of the tree, all the branches and twigs are satisfied. Similarly if we please the Lord by our sincerity, then our souls are satisfied, for in giving we receive.”
“The festival exemplifies the spirit of unity in diversity. Rich industrialists, simple monks, farmers, housewives, intellectuals, all of them sat in simple circles to pluck these flowers, transcending all hierarchies and classes. After we pluck the flower and put it in the basket we can’t recognize the petal we plucked individually. It’s not ‘me’ or ‘you’ but ‘we’ as we all feel that we have plucked these flowers as one big family. There are beautiful yellow, red, green, purple and white flowers, in all shapes and fragrances. But together the variety creates more beauty. Similarly we are from different races, religions, levels of occupation, yet instead of fighting over these differences, we create a special beauty of offering our love to god. Men and women in this world could be black, white, brown and from so many Nations. Yet we come together as one offering of real love. The flower festival represents this love.”
[photos by Michael Dehni]