For the followers of Śrīla Gurudeva, this time of the year is most essential because it gives us the chance to express our gratitude by collectively performing śravaṇa and kīrtana of his limitless glories. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura states that it is by this process that true smaraṇa (remembrance) is made possible.
Srila Gurudeva’s Viraha-utsava
The dozen Gauḓīya Maṭhas in Puri maintain a very cooperative friendship with one another. All maṭhas give invitations to each other on the appearance and disappearance days of their respective ācāryas. I’ve attended many such festivals. It is amazing to see how, out of all these numerous appearance and disappearance day festivals, Śrīla Gurudeva’s Disappearance Day always remains one of the biggest festival with such a large turnout of devotees. The majority of devotees overflowing the temple room were from different Gauḓīya Maṭhas and other institutions. I think all the Gauḓīya Maṭhas must have emptied on that day, for I even recognized the pūjarīs from many of the maṭhas attending. So many sannyasīs and Vaiṣṇavas from other maṭhas so beautifully glorified Śrīla Gurudeva. This revealed to everyone how he was a truly fit recipient of the title ‘Bhakta Bandhava’ — ‘bound in affection with all devotees’ — a name given to him by our Paramgurudeva, Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja.
Many uninvited and unexpected guest showed up for the lunch feast and again for the dinner feast of Jagannātha mahāprasada. Both times we didn’t know how we could feet everyone. But by Śrīla Gurudeva’s mercy all the pots must have turned into Draupadī’s akṣaya patra pot [which could feed any amount of people] because there was no shortage of prasāda, and everyone left sumptuously fed, happy and satisfied.
The following days, everyone—even those who have never had darśana of Gurudeva—had a chance to glorify him. After that, we went back to our regular daily temple program… in the morning: maṅgala-ārati, tulāsi-parikramā, jāpa, bhajana and kīrtana, śloka class, Śrīmad Bhagavatam class and guru-pūja; in the evening: bhajana and kīrtana, gaura-ārati, tulāsi-parikramā and Caitanya Bhagavat class. During the day, everyone was engaged in their various sevās, especially in cleaning up and clearing out our new land on which we will build the new temple.
Book distribution and preaching
There were many programs and many books distributed in these past two months. In fact, as I’m typing this report, I’m sitting in the car on the way to a village program 200 kilometers away.
One brahmacarī from Govardhana came to our maṭha after traveling and preaching from village to village around Orissa, and donated 15,000 rupees for distributing Śrīla Gurudeva’s books to libraries and prisons within Orissa.
We also attended two book fairs in which many books were distributed. We had a booth at the book fair in Bhubanesvara from December 4th to 15th and a booth in a book fair next to Gundica Mandira in Puri from January 3rd to 12th. On January 5th we attended a magazine fair in Bhubanesvara.
On January 18th, Śrīmatī Śyāmāraṇī Mātājī arrived in Puri and blessed the maṭha with her presence. She gave generous donations that she had collected in order to get all of Śrīla Gurudeva’s Odia books into 50 prisons and libraries in Orissa. Every night her classes were well attended by Indian and Western devotees alike, and she enlightened everyone with Gurudeva’s conceptions through her discourses of Śrīla Gurudeva’s harikathā.
From January 13th to 21st, Uttama-kṛṣṇa Prabhu and myself met up with Śyamānanda Prabhu and Śyāmasundara Prabhu in the Orissain village of Kendrapaḓa. With the help of our godbrothers and godsisters there, we preached Gurudeva’s harikathā in the daytime at houses of local residents and at night the main program in a large room within a public school. These programs were nicely attended, and many books were distributed.
Shortly after the arrival of Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bharatī Mahārāja in Puri, more and more devotees began to arrive in our maṭha from Vṛndāvana and around the world to attend Śrīla Bharati Mahārāja’s classes and to be here for Śrīla Gurudeva’s Vyasa-pūja Festival. On the 23rd, Śrīpad Premānanda Prabhu arrived with 70 devotees. From that time until now, the maṭha has been surging with activity, with day and night kīrtana, harikathā and sevā.
Śrīla Gurudeva’s Vyāsa-pūjā Mahotsava
Days before Gurudeva’s Vyāsa-pūjā, Premānanda Prabhu very expertly kept everyone busily engaged in various sevās in preparation of this most holy day. Our Aśoka brahmacari built a huge stage on the roof under the direction of Premānanda Prabhu, and a group of Russian devotees beautifully decorated it with draping cloth and handmade flower decorations made out of ribbons and cloth. A group of devotees sowed beautiful cloth covers for all the chairs and the siṁhāsanas for Śrīla Gurudeva and Śrīla Bharatī Mahārāja. Our local mātājis stayed every day, from early morning till late at night, making varieties of Orissain sweets and savories, stringing flower garlands and cutting vegetables. Devotees cleaned and scrubbed the whole building. All of our six industrial stoves got constant use, cooking the various items for about 1,300 guests.
At 3:45 pm, the day before Vyāsa-pūja, we led a huge adivāsa-nāgara-saṅkīrtana from our maṭha to Jagannātha Mandira, to Caitanya Gauḓīya Maṭha and back again. A large picture of Gurudeva sat on a horse-driven chariot, and we had four large speakers, four mṛdaṅgas and about 250 devotees singing and dancing the whole way. We arrived back at the maṭha at 7:00 pm, just in time for gaura-ārati, and performed non-stop kīrtana until 9:00 pm.
Finally, after so much preparation and anticipation, the day of Vyāsa-pūja arrived. In the early morning, after maṅgala-ārati, we started kīrtana, then there was a class given by Śrīpada Tirtha Mahārāja. Next, abhiśeka and guru-pūja were performed. Afterwards, we served out samosas cooked by a group of ladies, headed by Caru Candrika dīdī, and many sweets made by our local Orissain mātājis.
We started bhajanas and kīrtana for the main program at 10:30 am on the roof, which quickly filled up with many devotees and guests. We again performed guru-pūja. Then many respected sannyasīs from other maṭhas gave wonderful glorifications of Śrīla Gurudeva. Just as Śyāmārāṇī Mātāji was giving her glorification, Śrīla Bharatī Mahārāja arrived, accompanied by a kīrtana procession. He spoke a wonderful glorification, describing Gurudeva’s glories. He offered two Hindi publications (Śrī Caitanya-carita-piyuṣa and Bhāgavat Pātrika) and one new English publication (Discerning the True Sentiments of the Soul) to Śrīla Gurudeva. Glorifications continued until 2:00 pm, and then prasāda was served out continuously until 4:00 pm. During that time, until 3:00 pm, all of Gurudeva’s Western disciples gathered in the temple room to hear the powerful glorification of Srila Gurudeva from Śrīpada Premānanda Prabhu, wherein he admonished all assembled to become sincere in heart.
The program continued in the evening with glorifications from Śrīla Gurudeva’s followers; after, we distributed Jagannātha prasāda to all the devotees. During the following days, all the devotees got a chance to glorify Gurudeva. I cannot describe the wonderful mood and atmosphere in the temple while all the devotees intimately gathered together in glorification of him. Without doubt, Gurudeva was directly there happily accepting all the offerings of his darling daughters and sons, showering his heartly blessings on everyone who attended.
We hope that next year even more devotees will come to participate in this wonderful festival.
That’s all for now.
Jaya Śrīla Gurudeva!
For more Vyasa-puja photos.…
Krsna Karunya Prabhu’s photos:
Gaura-gopal Prabhu’s photos:
I’ll try to upload more photos soon.