Photos and Text submitted by Prahlada
Now the snow has melted, spring is in the air and the warm sunny days mean that summer is just around the corner. For most people summer is a time for relaxing and vacation. But for us here at Festival of India, the arrival of summer means that we are preparing for 25 ecstatic, blissful, transcendental festivals over the next five months!
Festival of India started with 4 University Programs in Early April in the Washington D.C./Batimore area. Now, three weeks later, Sunday May 11, an auspicious day again here. It is the beginning of the 35th annual Festival Of India Tour. Devotees from all corners of the world are gathering at Festival Of India's headquarters in Prabhupada village which is located in the beautiful, lush and green North Carolina countryside. After attending the blissful Sunday program at the Temple of the Holy Name,we prepared for our departure to Houston.
Above is Govinda from Lithuania
Krishna Caitanya from Vancouver, B.C. showing his new Festival of India Tatoo....
We start every trip by first paying obeisances to Krishna's 18 wheel form (the Festival of India truck) and then we inspect the vehicles to make sure they are in tip top shape. Once the thorough inspection is complete we chant prayers to invoke auspiciousness. We chant the names of Sri Pancha Tattva followed by the maha mantra, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, at the top of our lungs!
After this sacred ritual we start our journey.
Tuesday may 13, after a long journey we arrive in Houston Texas just in time to celebrate Narasimha chaturdasi.
We were all pleasantly surprised to see an incredible temple!
The temple was shining like a diamond surrounded by pebbles, its golden domes were rising into the clouds and the golden chakra on top could be seen from many miles away! There are many fragrant flowers decorating the temple grounds. Inside the temple there is intricately carved wood and marble everywhere, dioramas and painting of Sri Krishna's Lila's decorate the temple's walls.
Inside the temple room we got darshan of the presiding deities their lordships Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundar, Sri Sri Radha Nila-Madhava and Sri Sri Giriraja maharaja! After a blissful Narasimha chaturdasi festival we took rest.
Wednesday may 14, all the devotees woke up bright and early for the mangal aratik. After attending the full morning program and Srimad Bhagavatam class, we were all feeling spiritually energized and very eager to do devotional service! Fortunately for us here at Festival of India we don't have to look very far for devotional service, immediately with great enthusiasm we started setting up! While we were setting up reinforcements arrived, three devotees from Dallas Texas, H.G. Giri-Goverdhana Prabhu, H.G Krishna Chakra Prabhu, H.G Nrshimha Prabhu and One devotee from Vancouver BC, H.G Krishna Chaitanya Prabhu. These enthusiastic young men plan to travel with us for the whole summer!
At about 6:00 pm we finished. With most of the festival equipment setup all that was left was the finishing touches.
Friday may 16, Was the first day of the greatly anticipated ISKCON Houston temple opening! Vaisnavas from around the world started arriving to give blessing and to witness this auspicious event. Amongst this gathering of wonderful Vaisnavas, Many exalted Vaisnavas such as HH BB Govinda Swami, HH Bhakti Sundar Goswami, HH Giriraja Swami, HH Gunagrahi Dasa Goswami, HH Guru Prasada Swami, HH Hanumatpresaka Swami, HH Jayadvaita Swami, HH Radha Raman Swami, HH Romapada Swami, HH Rtadhvaja Swami and HG Dinabhandu Prabhu were present too.
To begin the festival 12 Brahmanas blew conch-shells and devotees did kirtan simultaneously. During the festival devotees performed kirtan in the temple room for the pleasure of their lordships Sri Sri Radha Nila-Madhava. On the main stage the talented young matajis from the Sunday school entertained the audience with classical Indian Bharat natyam dance, and the Mayapuris got the crowd going with their enthusiastic performance. To conclude the evening H.H. B.B. Govinda Swami led a sweet melodious kirtan. After a blissful evening, we were all feeling eager to experience the bliss that the next two days of this festival will hold!
Saturday may 17, was the second day of the festival, the program started with a inspiring Srimad Bhagavatam class. by H.G. Gunagrahi dasa Goswami, and then the grand re-installation ceremony of Sri Sri Radha Giridhari! There was also a 12hour kirtan in the temple room for the pleasure of their lordships. Outside on the main stage, the outstanding 50 piece modern jazz orchestra "United Nations" performed. There was also many booths around the festival site selling Transcendental books, Delicious Snacks, Vedic clothing and traditional eastern musical instruments.
Sunday May 18, was the third and last day of the festival. The festivities started with and intriguing Srimad Bhagavatam class by H.H. Jayadvaita Swami. The devotees performed another ecstatic 12 hour kirtan in the temple room for the pleasure of their lordships. In the Gauranga hall, the talented local youth from Houston performed Kirtan, Bharat Natyam dance and a wonderful drama about the Transcendental Lila of Lord Narasimha Deva. Outside the main stage many world famous Kirtaniyas such H.H. B.B Govinda Swami, Ajamila dasa, Hari Bhakti dasa and the Mayapuris Performed the yuga dharma Sri Harinama Sankirtana! At around 10:00 pm things started winding down, we were all feeling very blissful after such an amazing festival. At around 11:00 pm we started taking down Festival of India's equipment and by 4:00 am Monday morning we finished.
The ISKCON Houston temple opening was a grand success, over 30,000 people visited the temple over the course of the 3 day festival. Many priests from local churches, Rabbis from local synagogues and Imams from local Mosques came to congratulate the devotees for constructing such an amazing for the lord. The ISKCON Houston temple (imho) is the most magnificent temple in North America. I would like to thank the devotees of ISKCON Houston for inviting us to their wonderful festival. I would also like to thank the Festival of India crew for their dedication and countless hours of devotional service over these past 3 days namely Madhuha prabhu; Govinda from Lithuania; Krishna Chaitanya from Fiji; Goverdhana-dhari dasa from Sri Vrindavana dhama; Guneshwara dasa from Peru; and Krishna chakra, Nrishma and Giri Goverdhana all from Dallas. All Glories to His Divine Grace Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada--ISKCON's Founder Acharya! Yuga Dharma Harinama Sankirtana Ki Jaya!