Gaura Purnima is a Gaudiya Vaishanva festival that celebrates the divine appearance of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Navadwipa, India. Gaura Purnima means “Golden Full Moon”. The name signifies that Lord Caitanya took birth at time of full moon and He blesses everyone with the moonlike rays of His teachings.
Lord Caitanya is non-different than Lord Krishna appearing as His own devotees. He spread the congregation chanting of Holy Name and taught that one can gain enlightenment by chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
Devotees across the world celebrate Gaura Purnima by fasting till dusk, chanting the Holy Name of Lord Krishna, performing abhishek of Lord Caitanya and offering a variety of foodstuff to the Lord by Sri Gaura arati followed and dinner prasada for all.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead incarnated Himself as Sri Rama, appearing as the son of His pure devotee Maharaja Dasharatha, the King of Ayodhya. Lord Rama descended along with His plenary portions, and all of them appeared as His younger brothers. In the month of Chaitra on the ninth day of the growing moon in the Treta-yuga, the Lord appeared, as usual, to establish the principles of religion and to annihilate the disturbing elements.
On the day of Rama Navami a Yagna is held to purify the atmosphere and imbibe the mood of the appearance of the Lord. Narations from Ramayana is held during the day and followed by Abhishek of Their Lordships Sri Sri Sita Rama and followed by feast prasadam for the all the guests and devotees.
Panihati Chida-dahi Festival
However, for ISKCON, Panihati has a great and a different significance. This place, for devotees, signifies the cosmic connection between Nityananda Prabhu (who was Lord Balarama Himself) and one of the eternally liberated devotees of Lord, Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswami. Srila Raghunatha dasa met Nityananda Prabhu in Panihati and according to His order organized a grand feast and distributed prasadam delicacies prepared with chipped rice (chida) and yogurt (dahi).
This is one of the most important festival at ISKCON Medchal where in nearly 1000 devotees from Hyderabad and Secunderabad congregate to observe this festival.
The deities of Sri Nitai Gaura are first taken for a swim in the Sudarshan Kunda and then brought on altar for a grand abhishek. All of this is accompanied by the sounds of melodius kirtans. After the abhishek a bhoga offering consisting of 108 preparations is offered to Their Lordships and then the devotees honor the Prasadam together.
On the day of Balarama-purnima, devotees fast till noon. Deities of Krishna-Balarama are decorated nicely and kept on the altar platform. At around 11 a.m., an abhisheka is performed and bhoga of varieties of sweets, savories, chutneys, rice, sabjis, cakes and pastries are offered. Flowers are offered at Their lotus feet and a maha-arati is performed. , and a grand feast is served at 2 p.m.
In the evening, devotees commemorate Lord Balarama’s breaking a honey pot. A huge pot containing honey and some maha-prasada are placed in pots and tied up on a post. Some devotees are blindfolded, and they try to break that pot using a stick. The pot moves up and down. It’s fun time for devotees watching and participating. Even though everyone is eager for a taste of the honey, hardly anyone can hit the pot. When the pot is broken, devotees relish the honey and the maha-prasada. Such an event gives us a glimpse of the bliss that the gopas might have enjoyed in the company of the Lord while breaking the pots in Vraja.
Balarama-purnima also marks the end of Jhulana-yatra and the first month of chaturmasya.
Sri Krishna Janmastami
The auspicious day of the appearance of Lord Krishna is celebrated all over the world as Sri Krishna Janmashtami. It is celebrated on the eighth day of the Krishna Paksha (waning moon) of the month of Shraavan. Krishna, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appeared in Mathura as son of Vasudeva and Devaki.
“As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, the Lord says that His appearance, birth, and activities, are all transcendental, and one who understands them factually becomes immediately eligible to be transferred to the spiritual world. “ – Chapter 3: Birth of Lord Krishna,Krishna Book by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Lord Krishna Himself in Bhagavad gita, Chapter 4 text 8 describes the reason of His appearance as follows:
vinsaya ca duskrtam
sambhavami yuge yuge
To deliver the pious and annihilate the miscreants, as well also restablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear millennium after millennium.
Preparations start months in advance to herald the appearance of Lord Krishna. The devotees, volunteers and well-wishers work tirelessly to ensure that the lakhs of devotees and visitors who flock to the temple have comfortable darshan of Sri Sri Krishna Balarama on Janmashtami day and the midnight when the appearance of the Lord is celebrated.
On the Janmastami day, thousands of devotees visit the temple for the darshan of their Lordships who are bathed and decorated in new dress.
The day after Diwali is referred to as Annakuta, or Govardhana Puja. On this day the inhabitants of Vrindavan (Lord Krishna’s abode on Earth) traditionally held a harvest festival in honor of the demigod King Indra who provided the rains essential for the harvest.
One day, however, Lord Krishna convinced the inhabitants of Vrindavan to honor Govardhana Hill instead, whose fertile soil provided the grass upon which the cows and bulls grazed, and to honor the cows and bulls who provided milk and ploughed the lands. Outraged, Indra retaliated with terrifying thunderstorms. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, calmly responded by lifting Govardhana Hill with the little finger of his left hand. For seven days and seven nights the Lord held up Govardhana Hill, providing an umbrella to shelter the inhabitants of Vrindavana from the torrential downpours. Realizing the futility of his actions, Indra finally appeared before Sri Krishna with folded hands, offering prayers of supplication. In this way Lord Krishna demonstrated that he is Deva Deva, Lord of the demigods, and that the purposes for which demigods might be worshiped could easily be served simply by worshiping Him, the cause of all causes.
This day is also significant as the day on which, several thousand years later, Srila Madhavendra Puri established a temple for the self-manifest Gopala Deity on top of Govardhana Hill.
To celebrate this festival, devotees build a replica of Govardhana Hill made of various opulent foods, worship Lord Krishna as the lifter of Govardhana Hill, worship the hill as His incarnation, and worship the cows and bulls which are dear to the Lord.
At the end of the festival, the hill of prasada (sanctified food) is distributed to the public. All Vaishnava temples in India observe this ceremony, and hundreds of people are given prasada according to the capacity of the temple.