Sri Janmastami is celebrated with much grandeur all over the world, because it is the birthday celebration of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. Can there be any festival greater than this? If this question is asked to devotees in Sri Dham Mayapur, the answer will be ‘Yes.’ Sri Krishna may be God, but there is one personality who devotees honor even more than Him.
Who is greater than God Himself? Sri Krishna, by definition, must be the greatest, but He has expanded Himself as Srimati Radharani, and although the whole world is controlled by Lord Krishna, He is controlled by Srimati Radhika.
Srila Prabhupada explains:
“Krishna,everyone is trying to love Krishna, but Krishna is trying to love somebody. Now how great She is. Just try to understand. Everyone, the whole world, the whole universe, all living entities, they are trying to love Krishna, krsna-prema.…So krsna-prema is so valuable, but Krishna is after Radharani. Just see how Radharani is great. Just try to understand the greatness of Radharani. Therefore She is so great, and we have to offer our respect.”(Montreal, August 30, 1968)
Pleasing Srimati Radharani is the ultimate goal, for if She is pleased, then automatically Krishna is pleased. Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and thus it can be difficult to approach Him, but through Radharani He can easily become accessible. Srila Prabhupada explains in the Nectar of Devotion that Srimati Radharani is the representation of Krishna’s compassionate nature, and so devotees pray to Srimati Radharani in order to achieve Krishna’s compassion and mercy.
“O Radha! O beloved of Madhava! O you who are worshiped by all the young girls of Gokula! All glories unto You! All glories unto You!” (Sri Radhika-stava, by Srila Rupa Gosvami)
On Radhastami, devotees take advantage of this day to serve and please Srimati Radharani and obtain Her mercy, and through honoring Her on Her appearance day, also greatly please Her Lord Krishna. Therefore, apart from the annual ISKCON Gaura Purnima festival, Sri Radhastami is one of the most grandly celebrated festivals in ISKCON Mayapur.
Radhastami in Sri Dham Mayapur has a unique sweetness. Sri Navadvipa Dham is a manifestation of Srimati Radharani’s mercy and of Her desire to serve and please Lord Krishna; She personally created Sri Dham Mayapur in order to enchant Him, and He eternally resides there and is especially merciful to devotees who perform devotional service to Him and Sri Radhika in Mayapur Dham. Honoring Sri Radhastami, the most merciful of days, in the most merciful land created by Sri Radhika, is a wonderful way to obtain the mercy of the Lord.
The day before Radhastami in Sri Dham Mayapur, Radhastami celebrations have already begun, as the devotees’ excitement to honor Srimati Radharani cannot be contained for another day. The Radha Premdan Kirtan Utsav commences, and ecstatic kirtan is performed all day as devotees make preparations for the next day’s festival. Many devotees, both residents of Sri Dham Mayapur and visiting devotees, get the opportunity to sing for Sri Sri Radha Madhava.
The climax of the day’s Radha Premdan Kirtan Utsav is during the Adhivas ceremony that evening, when Sri Sri Radha Madhava are honored with 26 auspicious items and the devotees are encouraged to prepare their consciousness for Sri Radhastami the next day with an Adhivas address by His Holiness Jayapataka Swami.
On Radhastami day itself, senior devotees speak about the glories of Srimati Radharani and Sri Radhastami during Srimad Bhagavatam class. This takes place before Darshan Arati, which is one hour later than usual in order to allow Sri Sri Radha Madhava’s pujaris to exquisitely adorn the deities in a new dress and to transform Their altar with elaborate decorations. Devotees crowd into Radha Madhava’s temple hall and call out to Sri Sri Radha Madhava as they wait to take darshan of Srimati Radhika.
As the curtains of the altar are drawn back and Sri Sri Radha Madhava are revealed, the beauty of Srimati Radharani stuns all who are assembled. Srimati Radharani’s beauty surpasses all other beauty, and it is described by Srila Rupa Gosvami as follows:
“The beauty of Srimati Radharani’s eyes forcibly devours the beauty of newly grown blue lotus flowers, and the beauty of Her face surpasses that of an entire forest of fully blossomed lotuses. Her bodily luster seems to place even gold in a painful situation. Thus the wonderful, unprecedented beauty of Srimati Radharani is awakening Vrindavana.”
Srimati Radharani is glorified and served in many ways in Sri Dham Mayapur on Her divine appearance day. The Radha Premdan Kirtan Utsav continues throughout the day, as devotees glorify Srimati Radharani with Her holy name. A booth is set up in the temple where devotees can sponsor gifts to offer to Srimati Radharani, and hundreds of these gifts are offered. Srimati Radharani is given new cloth and jewelry, such as shawls, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, noserings, and anklets. She is given many varieties of foodstuffs – numerous types of fruits, vegetables, and sweets, and honey, ghee, and other auspicious items. Throughout the day, the devotees bring these gifts onto the altar and offer them to Srimati Radharani.
A special dance drama is performed for the pleasure of Sri Sri Radha Madhava and the assembled devotees, in which devotees play the parts of Vrajavasis and demonstrate the happiness the Vrajavasis felt upon hearing about the appearance of Srimati Radharani.
A Maha abhisheka is performed for Radha Madhava and They are bathed with a variety of auspicious substances – pancha gavya, panchamrita, various fruit juices, scented sugar syrups, and flower waters. Radha Madhava are also given two kinds of showers: Sarva Aushadi and Maha Aushadi, which use natural medicinal and herbal substances to bathe the Lord. After being bathed in these various substances, sandalwood paste is applied and then washed off of Radha Madhava’s forms with a steady shower of Ganga water known as Sahastradhara. The abhisheka finishes with a Pushpa abhisheka,in which Radha Madhava are showered with flower petals until They are almost completely covered by what resembles a hill of petals, and only Their lotus faces can be seen.
Hundreds of bhoga preparations are cooked by the devotees of the community and offered to Radha Madhava and Their Ashta-sakhis. Among these offerings are two birthday cakes for Srimati Radharani, but these cakes are not like most cakes; the double layer cakes are massive, with one measuring 3 feetby 7 feet(21 square feet) and the other measuring 3 feet by 9 feet (27 square feet).
A Maha arati isperformed for Radha Madhava, and then a feast is served to all of the devotees, in various venues, before the devotees return to the temple to again take darshan of Sri Sri Radha Madhava and to engage in the kirtan which has been going on continuously, and which continues until late in the evening.At this time, all of the devotees offer ghee lamps to the deities, illuminating the temple with the flickering light of their offerings, and Srimati Radharani is glorified through the singing of Sri Radhikashtakam by the assembled devotees. This ecstatic kirtan concludes the festivities.
“So this is our philosophy, to please Krishna through Radharani, and just today is the auspicious day of Radharani appearance. So we should … pray to Radharani that ‘Radharani, kindly be merciful and tell about me to Your Krishna. To Your Krishna. Krishna is Yours.’ Krishna, Radha-Krishna. Krishna is not independent. Krishna is Radharani’s property. So you have to approach Krishna through Radharani. That is, today is the auspicious day. Worship Radharani very nicely and be happy.”(Lecture given by Srila Prabhupada on September 5, 1973
By honoring Srimati Radharani on Her appearance day, devotees become filled with bliss, because when Lord Krishna is pleased, the whole world becomes pleased, and there is no better way to please the Lord than by honoring His devotees – and of all the devotees Srimati Radharani is the topmost.