Diwali in the ISKCON tradition is a wonderful celebration, one that simply has to be experienced. Typically, it involves the rituals of Govardhan Puja, Go Puja and Annakut. At Melbourne this year, it was celebrated with great zeal on 27-28 Oct at the ISKCON Temple at Albert Park.
The grandeur and devotion hit you as soon as you set foot in the temple, with the deities all adorned in bright finery.
Evening programs consisted of arati, kirtan and a special feast. Special lamps were lit at Sandhya Arati during this pious occasion. In a beautiful ritual, all guests were invited to offer lamps to Lord Krishna. You could feel the peace in unison with the Lord and the removal of all anxiety and fear from the fickle mind.
All devotees were served a delicious and grand feast at the temple complex. Prasadam included sooji halwa (semolina pudding), rice with various curries.
This feast was cooked in a high-tech kitchen, supported by volunteers. A sneak-peak in the kitchen reveals the high standards and the efforts put in at all stages of cooking of the feast by the volunteers.
This kitchen helps ISKCON distribute over 25,000 weekly lunches at free or reduced cost to the hungry and needy of Melbourne. ISKCON has been involved with various charitable causes like Food for Life (which provides free sanctified vegetarian food in a diversity of locations worldwide), organic farming, cow protection and eco-friendly living.
Lord Sri Krishna is also known as the protector of cows. Hence, devotees also worship cows on this day. Various sweets and foodstuffs are prepared and stacked as a hill to mark this occasion. This is later offered to Lord Krishna and then distributed as prasad. This festival is also known as the Annakut festival.
A significant ISKCON ceremony during Diwali is Govardhan Puja. In this, the mountain Govardhan, a sacred Hindu site in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh, close to Vrindavan, is felicitated. A ‘mountain’ of food is laid out and offered to the gods as a gratitude for the comforts in our lives.
Govardhan Puja was celebrated on 2 Nov at ISKCON temple with great fervour. A special Govardhana Hill was created by the congregation using a variety of sweets and fruits, and decorated with flowers and earthen lamps. Devotees were invited to circumambulate the arrangement, in a Govardhan ‘parikrama’.
The origins of this ritual can be traced back to the tenth canto of Srimad Bhagwatam. Sri Krishna lifted the Govardhan Hill on his little finger to protect the residents from the incessant rainfall caused by the wrath of Lord Indra. When they thanked him, Sri Krishna said they should thank Mount Govardhan instead.
These and other stories relating to the Diwali festival were revived meaningfully at ISKCON’s celebration of Diwali this year.