On January 31, I was fortunate to be present at the Radha Gopinath Temple in Mumbai for their annual Pushya Abhishek, a devotional festival in which the temple congregation comes together to profusely decorate the deities of Radha and Krishna with flowers, and then offer them an extended shower of over a ton of fresh flower petals.
In the early morning devotees gathered to pluck the petals from millions of fragrant flowers. In the evening 2000 devotees squeezed into the temple as thousands more gathered in the temple courtyards to watch via video screen.
Radhnath Swami, the spiritual head of the congregation, inaugurated the event with a touching talk about the meaning of the festival. Then, with great anticipation, conch shells were blown and to the sweet tune of kirtan, the doors to the temple’s alter were opened for the darshan of Radha Gopinath (Radha and Krishna) dressed in outfits and ornaments made of flowers. Next, the abhieshek (bath) began. From behind the alter, temple priest rained down flower petals, first pink, then red, then white, yellow, orange. With each new color the crowd roared with approval. As the kirtan slowly grew in intensity, the pile of petals climbed from Radha Gopinath’s feet, to their waists, to their necks and then began to cascade to the alter floor, sometimes like a waterfall, sometimes like an avalanche.
Next, temple priests, on their hands and knees entered the pile of petals and began to toss them in the air creating a constant shower of multi-colored petals. The visual effect was stunning as the fragrance of the flowers began to permeate the entire temple. At this point, it would be hard to describe the experience other than to say it was a continual state of astounded joy to watch and sing. As the kirtan went on, behind the shower of petals, more and more petals were poured directly upon Radha Gopinath. It seemed the supply would never end.
As some priests, frolicking in the pile, continued to throw petals in the air, others collected the petals in large wicker baskets. These baskets were taken up to the temple’s balconies. And after what must have been a couple of hours of this, when it seemed as though the ecstasy could go no further, suddenly a rain of petals began to pour upon the crowd from above. This brought everyone to their feet as a joyful dance under a rain of fragrant flower petals commenced. It was ecstasy. It was surreal. It was astounding as the petals began to pile thick like snow up to the ankles. All that was left to do, as the kirtan thundered on, was to reach down, grab huge handfuls of petals and bless each other by gleefully tossing the flower balls at each other. Everyone became like children playing in snow, dancing and seeking out dear friends in the crowd to make sure they had the chance to bless them with a fragrant flower petal explosion on their head. The merriment went on and on. Clothes were ruined with stain. No one cared. The kirtan went on and the flowers kept flying.
I left with some friends when, overcome with exhaustion, and with flower petals smeared over our clothes and bodies, we could take no more. We retired to the temple garden, enjoyed a nice meal and shared our appreciation of the event as it continued to roar on in the distance.
Below you can find a slideshow of photos from the event. The photos are by my friend Barry Silver, taken on his simple compact Nikcon camera. I’ve also included the talk by Radhanath Swami which can be listened to on this sight or downloaded as a podcast. In the Featured section of the sight you can find another slideshow of photos by my friend, and professional photographer Stephan Crasneanscki entitled “Flower Shower“.
Below is a recording of Radhanath Swami’s inaugural talk.
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Here are the pics.