Srila Prabhupada Appearance Day 2023: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of a Spiritual Giant
On September 8th, 2023, devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) will celebrate the 127th anniversary of the birth of their founder-acharya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Known as Srila Prabhupada Appearance Day, this festival is a time to honor and remember the extraordinary person who dedicated his life to teaching the world about Krishna consciousness, ancient India’s most noble message of spiritual wisdom.
Srila Prabhupada was born as Abhay Charan De on September 1, 1896 in Calcutta, India. He grew up in a pious Hindu family and was influenced by the teachings of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who revived the bhakti movement in India in the 16th century. Srila Prabhupada became a disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, a prominent spiritual master in the Gaudiya Vaishnava lineage, who instructed him to spread Krishna consciousness in the English language to the Western world.
Srila Prabhupada took this order as his life’s mission and worked tirelessly to fulfill it. In 1959, he renounced his family and business and took sannyasa, the renounced order of life. He started writing commentaries on Vaishnava scriptures and publishing them under his own press. In 1965, at the age of 69, he boarded a cargo ship to New York with a trunk full of his books and a few dollars in his pocket. He faced many hardships and challenges in his journey, but he never gave up his faith and determination.
In New York, he started preaching in the Lower East Side and attracted some young Americans who became his first disciples. He founded ISKCON in 1966 and established the principles and practices of the movement, such as chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, following the four regulative principles, worshiping the deities, distributing books, and engaging in various services for Krishna. He also initiated many projects such as temples, farms, schools, restaurants, and cultural centers.
Srila Prabhupada traveled around the world 14 times in 12 years, visiting more than 60 countries and establishing more than 100 centers. He met with many prominent leaders, scholars, artists, and media personalities and introduced them to Krishna consciousness. He also wrote more than 70 books on various aspects of Vedic philosophy, culture, and history, which are widely acclaimed as authoritative and authentic. He translated and commented on the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Chaitanya-charitamrita, and other classics of Sanskrit literature.
Srila Prabhupada left this world on November 14, 1977 in Vrindavan, India, surrounded by his loving disciples who chanted the holy names of Krishna. He left behind a legacy of devotion, compassion, and wisdom that continues to inspire millions of people around the world. He is revered as a pure devotee of Krishna and a representative of Lord Chaitanya’s mercy.
One of the places where Srila Prabhupada’s presence is strongly felt is ISKCON Ujjain, a majestic temple built by his dear disciple His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja in 2006. The temple is made from the finest white marble from Makarana, which was also used to build the Taj Mahal. The temple houses beautiful deities of Sri Sri Radha Madanmohan, Sri Sri Krishna Balaram, Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, Sri Sri Prahladesa Nrisimhadeva, and Sri Sri Jagannath Baladev Subhadra. The temple also has a guest house, a goshala, an ayurvedic clinic , and various other facilities for the devotees and visitors.
ISKCON Ujjain celebrates Srila Prabhupada Appearance Day with great enthusiasm and devotion every year. The festival begins with a mangala arati at 4:30 am followed by japa meditation, guru puja, darshan arati, and Srimad-Bhagavatam class. At noon, there is a grand abhisheka ceremony where Srila Prabhupada’s murti is bathed with various auspicious substances such as milk, yogurt, honey, ghee, fruit juices, flowers, etc. The devotees sing melodious kirtans and offer prayers and glorifications to Srila Prabhupada. After the abhisheka, there is a feast of delicious prasadam prepared by the temple devotees. In the evening, there is a cultural program where the devotees present various songs, dances, dramas, and speeches based on Srila Prabhupada’s life and teachings. The festival concludes with a shayana arati and a pushpanjali where the devotees offer flowers to Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet.
Srila Prabhupada Appearance Day is a wonderful opportunity to express our gratitude and love to Srila Prabhupada, who gave us the priceless gift of Krishna consciousness. By following his instructions and example, we can make our lives successful and please him. As he said, “Your love for me will be shown by how much you cooperate to keep this institution together after I am gone.” Let us all unite in serving Srila Prabhupada’s mission and spreading his message to every town and village. Jaya Srila Prabhupada! Hare Krishna!