Over the Easter Weekend from Friday April 14th to Sunday April 16th, hundreds of devotees at ISKCON Auckland celebrated the 45th anniversary of their Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Giridhari, with love and great pomp.
The celebrations included a massive and stunningly colorful Harinama on Queen Street in the center of Auckland.
Because a planned Friday night bonfire camp-out was canceled due to a storm, things kicked off instead with an intimate candle-lit kirtan in the temple room, and a prasadam pizza party.
On Saturday morning, Prabhupada disciple and temple president Kalasamvara Das spoke about the history of Radha-Giridhari.
Tusta Krishna Das, he recalled, had told Srila Prabhupada that he wanted to preach in New Zealand and invited Prabhupada there. He was surprised when Prabhupada retorted, “I’ll be there in a week.”
There was a big rush to get everything ready. “During this time, when Prabhupada went to new countries, he wanted to install Deities to establish the movement there,” says Kalasamvara. “So Madhudvisa had to get the Deities from India and bring Them over.”
Srila Prabhupada installed Sri-Sri Radha-Giridhari on April 18th, 1972, at ISKCON’s first New Zealand temple, a small rented house at 155 Landscape Road. Later, in 1976, They were moved to a new temple at 67 Gribblehirst Road, just a block away.
Sri Sri Radha Giridhari in all Their splendor
In 1978, after Prabhupada’s passing, devotees purchased a 100-acre farm on the outskirts of Auckland, and used a farmhouse as the temple. In 2004, the Deities were installed in a beautiful new Vedic temple on the farm, which is now in the midst of affluent suburbia, with a golf course on one side and new multi-million dollar homes on the other.
“We’ve come a long way,” says Kalasamvara, noting not just the prestigious setting and custom temple, but also the gorgeous worship and incredible outfits, food preparations, and festivals offered to the Deities today.
The 45th anniversary did an excellent job of proving this point.
On Saturday afternoon, over 200 devotees participated in a Maha Harinama. Five different groups of devotees each wore the color of a different member of the Pancha Tattva, with elegant yellow, purple, blue, green and red Vaishnava dress, and matching balloons, fans and streamers.
Each group performed walking Harinama through a different area of Auckland, then all converged on Queen Street for a joyous procession up and down the city’s main thoroughfare.
Dancing down Queen Street
“There was an amazing response -- people loved seeing so many devotees together like that,” says Kalasamvara. “Some joined in and got so caught up in the sway of Lord Chaitanya’s sankirtana movement that they didn’t want to leave. We had people coming up to us saying they were off to a party, or to the movies, but this was more exciting!”
That night, the celebration continued with a boat festival at the temple.
“We hired a mini swimming pool, put it right in the the center of the temple room, and pujaris pushed our festival Deities on a beautiful swan-shaped boat while the devotees offered flowers and did more kirtan,” says Kalasamvara. “Then we had a feast of Malaysian cuisine.”
Sri Sri Radha Giridhari take a ride on Their swan boat
On Sunday, devotees bathed the full-sized Deities of Sri-Sri Radha Giridhari with honey, ghee and seasonal fruit juices right on Their altar, building an artificial wall around Them to catch the liquids.
The festival concluded with everyone tucking into a huge classic Hare Krishna Sunday Feast, full of favorites like curd subji, pakoras, halava and sweet rice.
For Kalasamvara and the other devotees of ISKCON Auckland, it’s all just another blissful example of how Sri-Sri Radha Giridhari are reciprocating with the hard work they’ve put in to serve Them over the years.
“The attachment devotees have for the Deities here is incredible, and ever-expanding,” he says. “And in turn, we’ve seen that Radha Giridhari have held not only Auckland but the whole of ISKCON New Zealand together through so many different faction splits and other trials over the years. Srila Prabhupada, of course, knew this when he installed Them – he knew serving Them would really solidify the movement here and keep us all together.”
Sri Sri Radha Giridhari are bathed in an abhisekha ceremony[ anniversary ] [ deities ] [ harinama ] [ new-zealand ]