HH Lokanath Swami Maharaja’s Vyasa Puja was celebrated on the auspicious day of Asadi Ekadasi, Tuesday 4 July 2017 in Pandharpur Dham. Pandharpur is the spiritual capital of Maharashtra where the Lord is worshipped as Vitthala. It is also the day when 15 lac (1500 000) Varkaris come to Pandharpur to observe this fast as well as to take darsana of their beloved Lord Vitthala. In truth, it is a day of joyous celebrations all round. This year the festival commenced with initiations on 3 July 2017 and culminated with ecstatic kirtana on Vyasa Puja Day.
Puja means “worship,” and Vyasa, or Srila Vyasadeva, refers to the compiler and supreme authority on the Vedic literature. Vyasa Puja, literally means “the worship of Vyasa,” worship of the genuine spiritual master, who is the ideal representative of Srila Vyasadeva, on the occasion of his Appearance Day. The spiritual master is the representative of Srila Vyasadeva because he is distributing that nectar which was churned out of the ocean of the knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As the external manifestation of the Supersoul, the genuine spiritual master appears before us so that we can see him with our material senses. We offer ourselves as the sacrifice at his lotus feet and attempt to glorify him to the best of our ability.
There was an unanimous consensus that the accommodation and arrangements were beyond their expectations. In addition to months of hard work HG Prahlada Prabhu, Pandharpur temple president and his team went an extra mile to ensure that all arrangements were well facilitated.
3 JULY 2017
This year more than 200 devotees received either Harinama or Brahman initiation. Some devotees also took the vow to follow the brahmacari order. All in all a wonderful ceremony with plenty of blessings and an abundance of well wishers. Gurudev informed us that initiation is just the beginning of ones spiritual life. When instructed to repeat the vows in unison, there was a mood of surrender with everyone repeating the vows. This was followed by the fire sacrifice (yagya) for the initiation ceremony. A day that will always be remembered, by all.
The first event for the evening commenced at 5pm with the now famous boat festival. Sri Sri Radha Pandharinatha come out of the temple and are escorted on the holy Candrabhaga River in a beautifully decorated boat. Devotees climb into all the other available boats and follow Them, filling the air with the chanting of the holy names of the Lord.
The Adhivas ceremony is an inauguration of the festival that follows. During the ceremony auspiciousness was invoked with the singing of melodious Vaisnava bhajans by Sri Vrindavan Thakur. Gurudev was offered 64 lamps and 27 offerings. This was followed by Gurudev’s much anticipated ecstatic kirtana which filled everyone with enthusiasm and, as if on cue, each one in the pandal got up and danced. This was followed by cultural programs. There was a dance presentation by the Solapur devotees and a drama on Prahlada Maharaja by the devotees from Juhu. A sumptuous feast prepared by disciples and other enthusiastic devotees was offered to all the devotees who attended the festival.
4 JULY 2017 – VYASA PUJA DAY
Many devotees realised that arriving for mangala arati on time on Vyasa puja Day in Pandharpur is actually too late. On an auspicious day like this arriving timeously is actually too late if you are looking for a place in the temple hall. Even the reconstructed temple hall proved to be too small. It was already houseful. Many devotees took darsana of Radha Pandarinatha and Gurudev through the windows. Gurudev’s rendition of Gurvastakam flooded the entire ISKCON Pandharpur campus. Guru puja in the pandal turned out be a transcendental experience with Gurudev ecstatically dancing on stage inspiring everyone to follow suit.
Every year after a lot of hard work by many diligent disciples, Gurudev is presented with the collated offerings in a book. This year the book was presented to Gurudev on a silver platter by HG Kesava Prabhu and the Pune devotees.
This was followed by glorifications of Gurudev by senior devotees and disciples of which a few are shared here.
HG Vrndavan Chandra Prabhu, senior disciple of HH Radha Govind Maharaja.
I am pleased I got a chance to glorify Maharaja. I met Maharaja in Vrndavana. The most important thing I like about him was that he would speak in Hindi. This meant we could talk to him. Maharaja had come with the bullock padayatra to my village and till today my village people ask when that Maharaja who had come with the bullock cart padayatra will come to our village.
HG Acharya Prabhu, All India Padayatra leader
“Maje maher pandhari”- Pandharpur is my mother’s place (Abhanga of Tukaram Maharaj). So we all collect here every year to celebrate Vyasa puja. We walk in Padayatra, but it’s all with the Gurudev’s mercy. Many Muslims and Christians come and receive darsana of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nitai Gaursundara. Since January 2017 till date we have distributed 21,000 books
HG Nandalal Prabhu, Gurudev’s elder brother
He was filled with good qualities since his birth. He was always first in his class and he went to Mumbai for higher studies and then joined ISKCON. He fulfilled the desires of Prabhupada.
This year there was a new addition to these festivals. Even though Gurudev has been celebrating Vyasa Puja in Pandharpur every year, this year it was extraordinary. As Gurudev’s god brother, HG Akhiladhara Prabhu so aptly stated: “ Lokanath Swami tricked everyone. They were all coming for his Vyasa Puja, but it was actually a fundraising event for Srila Prabhupada’s Temple of the Vedic Planetarium (TOVP). It is actually the highest glorification of Lokanath Swami.”
As Gurudev happily stated : “ Nityananda Prabhu also made His Appearance in Pandharpur on Vyasa Puja Day.” HG Jananivas Prabhu and HG Braj Vilas Prabhu had arrived from Mayapur with the Nityananda’s Charan Paduka. Gurudev carried the Padukas on his head. Jananivas Prabhu then assisted Gurudev with the abhisek of the Charan Padukas.
Gurudev addressed and inspired the devotees: “ Srila Prabhupada made the prediction of Caitanya Mahaprabhu – prithvite ache yata nagaradi grama sarvatra prachara haibe mora nama Nityananda Prabhu predicted the adbhut mandir. In 1973 there was ground breaking ceremony of temple. Srila Prabhupada wants to offer this temple to Nityananda Prabhu. The temple is also my desire and as you are my disciples it also becomes your desire.” The overwhelming response surprised everyone and the devotees enthusiastically filled in the sankalpa forms.
This was followed by Charan Abhishek (foot bathing ceremony), Puspanjali (offering of flowers), chapan bhog offering (fifty-six items of foodstuffs) and maha-arati to Gurudev. An abundance of sumptuous offerings meant that maha prasada was shared by all. The evening commenced with a Maha-abhishek of the utsava (festival) Deities of Sri Sri Vitthala Rukmini. Devotees recited auspicious Vedic mantras during the abhishek.
At 8 pm an effulgent glow emanating from the temple meant it was Deepostava darsana of stunning Sri Sri Radha Pandarinatha. Many traditional ghee lamps were set up inside the temple. This darsana easily dissipated all the darkness in the hearts of the devotees. This blissful and successful Vyasa puja day culminated with Gurudev’s ecstatic kirtana which carried on till close to 11pm. Everybody sang and danced to their hearts content, carrying away fond memories which they will cherish for a very long time.
Some more highlights:
Pune devotees presented a table calendar of Gurudev’s images and quotes named Amrutavani.
Every year two ISKCON dindis walk towards Pandharpur.
About 250 devotees walked in each dindi.
100 000 Varkaris were served Prasada.
The Varkari pilgrims were housed on Prabhupada’s ghat under a pandal.
Three thousand Bhagavad Gitas were distributed.
Prasada was distributed to all ISKCON Pandharpur visitors.
Gurudev facilitated an address in English for his foreign disciples.
The amount raised for TOVP was an astounding 1 million US dollars.