ISKCON devotees are serving alongside Sri Vaishnavas to celebrate Ramanujacharya in the lead-up to his 1,000th appearance day (Sahasrabdi) on May 1st.
A great saint in the Sri Vaishnava tradition, Ramanuja lived between 1017 and 1137. He was a revolutionary who preached that all are equal before the Lord. His teachings were referenced by many Gaudiya acharyas, including Srila Prabhupada in his Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
To honor him ISKCON devotees put on their own Sahasrabdi celebrations in several locations key to his life.
On March 19th at Kanchipuram – where Ramanuja studied Vedanta under Yadava Prakash, and served the Deity of Sri Varadaraja – they did abhisekh for him. They also took his Deity on a procession, and held a program with traditional Thivyaprabandham chanting; a dance drama by Russian devotees; and speeches by both Ramanuja Jeeyar Swamis and ISKCON gurus. Two hundred devotees from forty countries attended.
A Deity of Sri Ramanujacharya during the ISKCON-organized celebrations at Madurai
On March 26th, over 5,000 people participated in a joint ISKCON 50 and Sri Ramanuja 1,000th celebration at Gandhi Mandapam, one of Madurai’s biggest outdoor auditoriums. Madurai is about an hour’s drive from Thirukoshtiyur, where Ramanuja went on the temple tower against the order of his guru, to give out the “secret” Holy Name ‘Om Namo Narayanaya’ to everyone.
At the event, Jayapataka Swami and His Holiness Sri Renga Ramanuja Jeeyar Swami spoke Ramanuja’s glories. The Jeeyar thanked ISKCON for organizing the event and was very pleased to see followers of different Vaishnava traditions celebrating the 1,000th anniversary together.
Devotees also held similar programs at Sriperumbudur, Ramanuja’s birthplace, on March 21st; and at Srirangam, where he was the Acharya, on March 29th.
Coming up next from April 23rd to May 1st, ISKCON devotees will participate in a 10-day festival at Sriperumbudur alongside Sri Vaishnavas from various mutts.
Devotees witness the Abhisek of Acharya Sri Ramanuja
“We will serve them by distributing 100,000 plates of prasadam,” says Sadasivananda Das, ISKCON regional secretary in the area. “We are also planning to arrange a medical camp, emergency facilities, rest rooms and drinking water.”
“Our main aim is to educate the visitors on the glories of Sri Ramanuja,” he adds. “So we’ll have a special exihibit on his life and teachings; dramas to enlighten the public; and will distribute specially produced literature for the occasion.”
ISKCON Tirupati also plans to coordinate with the management of the famous Venkateswara temple for a big festival that will include abhisekha and a procession for Ramanujacharya, and a pandal program with temple officals, Mahants, government ministers, and ISKCON sannyasis.
“After that, we are also planning to have celebrations in all the prominent holy places of South India throughout the rest of the year,” says ISKCON Tirupati president Revati Raman Das.
Jayapataka Swami and Sriviliputhur Jeeyar Swami release a souvenir book about Ramanujacharya at Madurai on March 26th
Meanwhile, in a resolution this year ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission encouraged devotees worldwide to also observe Sri Ramanuja Sahasrabdi. Possible ways include glorifying the Acharya during Bhagavatam class or in Sunday programs, keeping a picture of him in a worshipable place in the temple and letting the public and devotees offer flowers, and organizing events with Sri Vaishnavas wherever possible.
Sadasivananda requests ISKCON devotees around the world to send him reports of their celebrations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Sri Vaishnavas are very happy that although we are from a different Sampradaya, we are holding this Global Observance,” he says. “They are very appreciative of ISKCON, and these efforts have improved our relations with the Sri Vaishnavas at Kanchi, Sriperumbudur, Madurai and Srirangam.”
“Lord Chaitanya,” he concludes, “Wanted to unite all the Vaishnavas. We are trying to do our humble part to serve His mission.”[ kanchipuram ] [ ramanuja ]