As the summer season begins, ISKCON temples and devotees around the world are ecstatically waiting to glorify, serve, and welcome Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladeva, and Subhadra Devi during the annual Snana-Yatra festival. This year, on the auspicious purnima day of June 14th, ISKCON Ujjain will be hosting an especially grand celebration for the Snana-Yatra as well as the 45th Sannyasa Anniversary of His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaj.
As described in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, the Supreme Lord, appears in many forms for several righteous purposes. Above all, the prime purpose of the Lord’s appearance is to perform pastimes for the pleasure of the devotees and to give the devotees an opportunity to express their love through devotional service. Lord Jagannath is one of such worshippable forms of Krishna. Jagat- means the universe and natha- means the Lord; therefore, Lord Jagannatha is known as the Lord of the Universe. He is accompanied by Lord Baladeva, His elder brother, and Subhadra Devi, His younger sister.
The deities exhibit a very unique wooden form of the Lord, and the appearance of Lord Jagannath is beautifully described in Vedic literature. King Indradyumna, the ruler of Avantipura (present-day Ujjain), embarked on a quest to find a deity form of Krishna upon having a dream of a blue deity named Nila Madhava. He ordered several messengers to go and find the deity, and a brahmana named Vidyapati discovered a village farmer, Vishvavasu, worshiping Nila Madhava. When the King could not find the deity after coming to the village, the farmer was arrested. At that time, the Lord’s voice in the sky proclaimed that the farmer be released and a temple be built on top of Nila Hill where He would appear in a form constructed from neem wood. A famous deity architect, Vishvakarma, arrived to carve the deities under the condition that he would be not disturbed for 21 days as he worked behind closed doors. However, due to his intense curiosity, the King opened the doors before the time was up, and discovered Vishvakarma to have disappeared after leaving three “unfinished” deities without hands or feet. Later that night, the Lord appeared in the King’s dream and assured him that the deities are not unfinished because this is the form that the Lord wanted to appear in. Since then, the three deities have been lovingly worshiped in this form by devotees.
King Indradyumna arranged for a bathing ceremony for the deities of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Baladeva, and Subhadra Devi when they were established. Therefore, on this day of Lord Jagannatha’s appearance, devotees traditionally decorate the deities and perform the abhisheka ceremony while singing ecstatic kirtana. The blessings that one receives by taking darshana of the most merciful deities and by participating in Their bathing ceremony is unimaginable. ISKCON Ujjain has arranged for a special opportunity for everyone attending the festival to do the abhisheka of Their Lordships, Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra Devi. Attendees will also have a chance to personally associate with HH Bhakti Prema Swami Maharaj who will be present at the temple for the festival.
45th Sannyasa Anniversary of His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaj
According to the words of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur inscribed on the tomb of Thakur Haridas in Jagannath Puri:
He reasons ill who says that Vaisnavas die,
When thou art still living in sound!
The Vaisnavas die to live, and living try
To spread the holy name around.
It would be wrong to think that Srila Prabhupada and HH Bhakti Charu Maharaj are no longer with us due to the absence of their physical presence. They continue to guide us and live through their instructions. Maharaj was not only a dearmost disciple of Srila Prabhupada but was also known as Prabhupada’s Man. Maharaj displayed all the qualities of an exalted Vaisnava and through the sannyasa order of life, he delivered the message of Krishna consciousness to many and initiated 7000 disciples all over the world. Maharaj served Srila Prabhupada with complete dedication, he was always engaged in selfless service, and he demonstrated true leadership throughout his life.
In 1976, Srila Prabhupada gave Maharaj first and second initiation simultaneously and awarded him sannyasa three months later. Maharaj led several projects for Krishna consciousness and in 2006, Maharaj constructed the beautiful Ujjain temple that we have today.
The festivities for Snana Yatra and Maharaj’s Sannyasa Anniversary will take place on June 14th, and everyone is invited to join one of the most momentous celebrations of the year at ISKCON Ujjain. Hare Krishna!