The evening festivities started off with kirtan (singing out the names of God) followed by an inspiring class on the importance of Diwali in the scriptures. The curtains were opened to show over a thousand small lamps on the altar for candlelit aarti. With the temple room lights turned down, it made for an awestricking vision of the Deities.
At 7:30pm, prasadam (blessed vegetarian food) was served in the large Gauranga Hall, to the delight of all the guests. Many volunteers had prepared and now served the large crowd.
Most returned to the temple for the nightly Damodarastakam prayers, offered in devotion during this month of Kartik.
Celebrating the Diwali or Dipavali translates to “garland of lights” in Sanskrit. The festival is a celebration of victory of good over evil that commemorates Lord Rama’s return to His kingdom after defeating the evil King Ravana. The main highlight of this festival- candle light aarti – that is offered to Their Lordships, where hundreds of candles adorn the altar, is a visual treat that’s not to be missed.
The celebrating of Govardhan Puja on the following Monday, October 28th followed a similar schedule. The special added attraction of the temple’s farm community cows (Go Puja) in the courtyard was a delight to the attendees, who showered loving affection on the pair. Sri Sri Giriraj Govardhan was given an abhishek (ritual bathing) and a multitude of food offerings (Annakut) were presented on the altar. HH Giriraj Swami gave another teaching to the devotees and guests, followed by the sumptuous enjoyment of the blessed foodstuffs.
Govardhan Puja is celebrated the day after Diwali. According to Srimad Bhagavatam, in Dwapara Yuga, when Lord Krishna observed that residents of Vrindavan were preparing a sacrifice to please Lord Indra, He suggested that they should worship Govardhana Hill instead, as it provides sustenance to the villagers.
Accordingly, devotees prepared a variety of foodstuff with grains, butter, clarified butter, milk to offer to Govardhana Hill. The food is stacked in the form of a small hill and hence the name “Annakuta”. It is mentioned in the scriptures that the Supreme Lord entered Govardhana and personally accepted all the offerings of the villagers. The food thus sanctified is then distributed as prasadam to the congregation.
All are welcome at ISKCON of Houston, 1320 W 34th Street, Houston TX 77018. Visit: www.iskconhouston.org for timings and special events upcoming.