Last Saturday evening’s Diwali and Govardhan puja celebrations set records for attendance. At one time I counted 400 people in the pavilion for the dance and drama, there were 75 guests eating dinner in the buffet, 50 people shopping in the gift store, and another 100 upstairs in the temple room participating in kirtan – a total of 625 at one point in time. Given the comings and goings from 6 pm until conclusion at 9 pm, there may have been 900 – 1,000 festival goers.
At 6 pm people appreciated Caru’s power point which explained the meaning of the twin observances. For those more energetically inclined, Jai Krishna Das led a simultaneous lively parikram and kirtan with Bal Gopal carried on a palanquin around the upper temple deck, where the views are spectacular. Once inside, guests were at first reluctant to join the kirtan circumambulating Pragna Shah’s replica of Govardhana Hill, until Caru announced that lots of adverse karma would be shed by going around the hill three times. Then there was a stampede during which everyone clapped, danced, and eventually consumed the hill as Yogi Shah dismantled it by passing out hundreds of sweets.
Subakrt performed a aarti during which everyone had the opportunity to offer a lamp to Lord Damodar. Then everyone was invited to either remain in the temple room for kirtan or adjourn to the new Prabhupada Pavilion for dance and drama. Krishna Karina performed a solo Krishna dance, followed by a technically amazing and totally devotional 15 minute Odissi performance of by Ankith Ray. Bhakta Mark and Divya Drsti caused the crowd to continually giggle during the 11 minute Dracula gets a Gita skit. Mark’s make up had taken an hour to put on as a result of which he really looked the part of Dracula.
The next element of the festivities occurred outside at the lake (temperatures were nice and mild) where hundreds of guests lit lamps and floated them on little boats made of folded leaves, courtesy of Vaibhavi and a crew of volunteers. They were encouraged to make a selfless wish for the New Year. Eight foot high statues of Sita and Ram overlooked the picturesque scene from the illuminated area around the waterfall. As Ram returned to Ayodhya and brought virtue and peace with him, so all prayed for the waxing of light and love in their lives.
It was indeed a Festival of Lights as the entire complex of New Kusum Sarovar Lake and Temple, and the Prabhupada Pavilion shone with light from hundreds of bulbs.
Alanath and the volunteers from Journey managed the buffet and the parking, while Sandhya and Karen took care of sales in the gift store.
Niru Patel cooked hundreds of puris for the accasion, and of course the kitchen crew of Keshava, Rakiv, and Yashoda, prepared many items for the feast. Coincidentally, the day was Yashoda’s birthday and her and Rakiv’s 30th wedding anniversary.
The excellent photos with this article were taken by Jason Gonzalez, who stayed up all night editing them so we could present them timely with this article.
Happy Diwali and Govardhana Puja.