40th Installation Anniversary Celebrations of Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakadhisha
Los Angeles ISKCON recently celebrated the 40th Installation Anniversary of Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakadhisha over the Janamastami weekend. The joyful festival spanned over two days and attracted a large number of devotees from all parts of the world.
The history of Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakadhisha coming to Los Angeles is quite interesting. These Deities were originally meant for the San Francisco temple (New Jagannath Puri) and were shipped there. At the same time Los Angeles (New Dvaraka) had received Radha-Krishna Deities of its own. While the Rukmini-Dvarakadhisha Deities were carved in marble and were 48” tall, the Radha-Krishna Deities (later named Sri Sri Radha-Gokulananda) were carved in brass and 24” tall. As a result of opulent and elaborate Deity worship already existing in New Dvaraka at that time, by transcendental arrangement it was decided that the Deities should be exchanged so that the large Deities could be served with pomp and splendor. And so it happened 40 years ago! And to this day, these gorgeous Deities are lovingly served with great care and devotion.
To celebrate Their 40th installation anniversary, magnificent celebrations were held at New Dvaraka on Aug 20-21, 2011. For this special occasion the street was closed to traffic and housed different stalls and booths on vegetarianism, Krishna conscious philosophy, prasadam, essence of chanting, books and music. The temple was decorated with fragrant marigold garlands, walls were adorned with pictures and montages on Krishna’s pastimes and the altar was resplendent with exotic flower arrangements and decorations. Celebrations included a large number of transcendental activities which included classes on Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita by special guest speakers, harinama sankirtans, film presentations, stage entertainment and children’s events. In addition, 24h kirtan and bhajan was performed and devotees were treated to tours of Srila Prabhupada’s quarters and garden as well as the Bhagavad-Gītā Museum. The highlight of the festival was the sharing of the New Dvārakā Dhāma pastimes by several devotees such as Badrinarayan Prabhu and Madhudvisa Prabhu who were personally present during the installation. The temple room was an abode of sweet nectar recounted by the devotees as things happened 40 years ago and their exchanges with Srila Prabhupada in New Dvaraka. Pastimes brought smiles and tears alike as devotees reminisced Srila Prabhupada’s kindness and words of wisdom.
On the day of Janamastami (actual day of the installation) at Srngara arati, all the Deities were offered a stunning new cloth outfit made of soft white silk trimmed with gold and red and splashed with a variety of bright colors, accentuated with glittering jewels and fresh flowers. Following a very ecstatic arati, a Jhulan-yatra was performed whereby the small Deities- Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakanatha were placed on a beautiful swing decorated with an abundance of flowers and garlands and swung reverentially by the congregation amidst the joyful chanting of the Holy Names. At Dhupa arati Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakadhisha and Sri Sri Rukmini Dvarakanatha were offered a grand flower outfit lovingly made by a team of twelve devotees who spent almost 48 hours creating this magical dress.
This outfit and the backdrop utilized an astounding 6000 flowers such as orchids, delphiniums, roses, poms, gardenias and mogras imported from Thailand, India and South America. The outfit was also adorned with a variety of dazzling jewels and crystals ordered from China, Austria and Italy. In the early part of the evening, samskaras were held for Sri Krishna with a sacred fire sacrifice and circumambulation of an utsava Deity. This was followed by another session of Jhulan-yatra which saw serpentine lines in the temple as hundreds of devotees desired to participate in this mellifluous activity. The swinging continued for three hours after which a Maha-Abhisheka of Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakanatha was performed using special gold kalashs. The Deities were bathed with an assortment of divine items such as milk, yogurt, golden honey, sesame seed paste, fruit juices and flowers. This was a sight to behold as kirtan was in full swing and the temple was reverberating with intense chanting. At 11p.m. after the abhishek concluded and the altar doors were closed, there was a special auction of the flower outfits which saw several devotees eagerly “bidding” for each part of the outfit such as dhoti, chadar, veil, skirts, mukuts and garlands. This was a jubilant time for one and all. Sharp at midnight the altar doors opened once again and midnight arati was held to herald the Appearance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The mood was deep and respectful as the congregation packed into the temple to pay their obeisances to the Deities. All three sets of
Deities were offered a third new outfit and jewelry at midnight; devotees sang with all their might, hands raised in surrender and hearts suffused with devotion.
These moments are hard to define as each and every individual has a personal interaction with the Deity at this time. The Deities looked absolutely splendid and breathtakingly beautiful. Just by looking at the Deities and witnessing the lavish worship of Their Lordships one can clearly understand why Los Angeles has been aptly termed New Dvaraka! After midnight arati a sumptuous Ekadasi feast was served to all and devotees broke the day long fast by honoring the mercy in the form of prasadam. The celebrations did not conclude there as devotees were now waiting and getting ready for Srila Prabhupada’s Appearance Day celebrations later in the day. As has been stated correctly, every single day in Krishna Consciousness is a festival!
The glories of Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakadhisha on this beautiful occasion were further enhanced by Their inconceivable potency. On Janamastami day the Disney Channel came to New Dvaraka to film the activities of a 10-year old boy and capture the spiritual essence of the events in a documentary to be broadcast on the Disney Channel in the future. After the filming, the crew was served a very opulent feast and greatly appreciated their time spent at the temple and its environs. The Deities really did want a transcendental party for Themselves and what better way than to have a world-class studio come to film Them and Their wonderful temple!
For this wonderful installation celebration, a special New Dvaraka Dhama souvenir booklet was released which was dedicated to Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakadhisha. The astounding photographs of the Deities in the booklet are a feast for eyes and can attract every living soul by Their beauty. The booklet also includes the history of the installation as well as information about how the Deities are served each day.
All glories to Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakadhisha Who have been bestowing Their mercy on us for 40 long years!