23 Oct 2014

Govinden Festival in Cudrefin, Switzerland

Last Saturday, Sri Swami Vishwananda was in Cudrefin, Switzerland celebrating the Govinden festival. Devotees from all around the world came to the town to be a part of the all-night celebration of Lord Krishna, and to be a part of this event which Guruji was sharing with European devotees for the first time.

The day of the Govinden festival began in the morning with abhishekam for the Krishna of the Cudrefin Kamala Netra Krishna temple.

Kamala Netra Krishna ("Krishna with the beautiful eyes") in His home altar
Krishna was brought out of His garden temple and brought to the abhishekam site. He was bathed and given a set of new clothes for the big ceremony in the evening.

Guruji decided that the abhishekam should be done in the house of Cliven and Marie, who had organised the festival.  Already nearly 40 devotees were present at this ceremony. Although the rooms could allow only a few to see the abishekam and puja, all present were full of joy. All sang and clapped and Krishna was already very present.

In the course of the morning ceremonies, Krishna was offered seven curries, which were then served as prasad to everyone as lunch.

In the afternoon the nearly 50 residents of Shree Peetha Nilaya, the main international centre of Bhakti Marga, arrived by bus in Cudrefin. The Swiss devotees were very gracious hosts - look at how they describe this on their blog post:

"To our great joy, nearly 50 Residents had announced their visit. Now they could just be guests and enjoy a ceremony with Guruji from beginning to end. We were happy again, that we were able to enable a nice stay those who are careful in Springen to always make sure that all goes well for their guests."
(rough translation from http://vishwananda-ch.blogspot.de/2014/10/govinden-fest-teil-2-der-tag.html)

The evening festivities got underway with a procession from the nearby house to the hall.

Beautiful rangoli decorations at the front of the hall.
Once the procession arrived at the hall, Krishna was installed on the altar and Guruji took his place in his chair. He welcomed all the guests and gave a speech in Creole and English.

Sri Swami Vishwananda asked the guests: what donation has the greatest value?

Many people responded quickly, saying "Love!", "Oneself!", and "Sugar!" (many laughs at the last answer). Swamiji said that in the Hindu culture, the greatest gift one can give is a cow. Here's how Guruji explained this in connection to the Govinden festival:

"Gau Daan is the most ultimate donation that one can do - to give a cow. During the month of Karthik, if you offer just one Tulsi leaf to Krishna, this one Tulsi is equal to 10,000 cows. So this is the punya, which means, the blessing that you receive by offering just a single Tulsi leaf to Krishna on that day, is 10,000 punya.

"The ultimate donation which you give - a cow - you get punya, meaning, you get good merit for your life. When you offer this donation, this cow, you get a certain merit, which will elevate you to a higher degree of spirituality. And during this month, Bhagavan, in the Shreemad Bhagavatam it says that even just by offering a single leaf of Tulsi at the Feet of Krishna, whether you believe or not, you get 10,000 times the punya of offering one cow. Which means: imagine, the one who believes in offering it. It is much more. This is the glory of the Lord Himself, where, during these months, He makes Himself accessible to everybody. We light a lamp on that day to show our gratitude to Him, and our dedication to Him.

"Always, the lamp is the centre. So who is the centre of the Universe? It is Bhagavan Himself, no? It is Narayana. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna said, 'I am the centre point. I am the bindu. I am the ultimate. I am all.' And this is the centrepoint of it. That's why He's in the middle there. It is Krishna Himself. And all who will be dancing around, symbolise the gopis. The people, all of you who will be dancing around, you will be the gopis. You will be in the gopi bhav.

"The lamp, in this lamp for example - of course there are much bigger lamps in India, but always each light of it is Krishna and a gopi - Krishna and a gopi, Krishna and a gopi, Krishna. Krishna and a gopi, Krishna and a gopi, Krishna. There is five, five, five, five, five. At the end there is 155 in this. 154 will be Krishna and a gopi, Krishna and a gopi, Krishna and a gopi. At the end is only Krishna. He is the Ultimate that stays, always. This is the supremacy of the Lord Himself, that He is represented as the lamp, which, throughout the night will be lit. and of course we will sing. It's a joyful festival. It's not a boring festival - it's joyful! An expression of one's love for Him. Love which you have inside of you, you express it to the Lord, so that the Lord magnifies it, and awakens the same bhav which He awakened when He was doing the Ras with the gopis, inside of you also."

After Guruji's speech, the ceremonies began - first with the Guru Stotram, during which all the devotees who had helped in the past few days and weeks to prepare the feast, were allowed to offer petals to Guruji's feet.

Then the Mauritian priest began the first puja. At the end, the great Kambam lamp was lit.

Once all the lights on the lamp were burning, everyone began singing bhajans, and danced around the lamp. Guruji also sang and danced together with all of the devotees.

Some Swiss and Mauritian devotees had special dances rehearsed which they performed around the lamp. 

After dancing and singing for the whole night, we arrived at the morning. Swami and the visiting Mauritian priest completed the pujas, and offered arati to Krishna on the altar, and to Krishna as the lamp.

Guruji offered blessings to all visitors with Vishnu Padam from the altar
As part of the traditional end of the festival, the lamp at the centre of the festivities was carried to the nearby lake - the Lac de Neuchatel - to be returned to nature.

The organisers gave their thanks to all the attendees and to Guruji for coming to their event, and everyone called it a night.

The Swiss devotees spent many hours to set up the event, and to host Swamiji and the many guests for the 12-hour event. Many volunteers came and gave a helping hand.

This event was a great joy to be a part of. Seeing all the devotees working together to offer this festival to Krishna, and to enjoy participating in this 12 hour prayer with Guruji was a lot of fun and a beautiful experience.

Many thanks to Guruji for this new experience of this traditional festival, and to the Swiss devotees for hosting it so wonderfully!

Jai Gurudev!