Vrindavan, 2011.03.29 (VT): The Vrindavan Rangaji temple’s annual 10-day Brahmotsava festival came to its conclusion with a magnificent fireworks display in the main temple gardens and the deity Thakur Godarangamannar going for a horseback ride through the town.
The Rangaji temple is one of the biggest in northern India and is famous for its many unique features. One of the main attractions is a 60-foot pillar made of gold inside the temple, another is the sandalwood chariot that is used for its rathayatra, held every year on Chaitra Krishna Ashtami (March 27th this year).
The Brahmotsava is the principal festival held at the temple. It lasts for ten days, from Chaitra Krishna Dvitiya — two days after Holi — to Dvadashi. Each day, the deity Godarangamannar, which means the husband of Goda Devi, is taken out for a procession from the temple to the main garden (Bara Bagicha) 600 meters away where there is a garden house, which has been decorated specially for the occasion.
The Lord is there greeted with a special program. The parade itself has its own special songs and rituals along the entire route. On the day of the rathayatra, the main temple deity is taken rather than the vijaya form. The cart is surrounded by brahmin guards. Common people and donor businessmen pull the ropes at will. The whole trip takes about two hours. That night there is a magnificent fireworks display that charms people from far and near.He is taken out on vehicles made of gold and silver, giving his darshan to the throngs of devotees who come. Each day, the carrier is different, representing gods like “The morning light”, i.e., the sun god, Hanuman, Garuda, Sesh Nag, or animals like an elephant, horse, lion, swan, or the mythical sharabh beast, etc.
During this time, people of all classes, races and religions are able to behold the Lord. This is why the Lord would come outside the temple. In previous ages, entrance to the temple was restricted and this would be the only occasion that non-Hindus or non-caste Hindus could have his darshan. Over the past few years, however, the Rangaji temple has softened its policy and allows at least Western devotees to come inside.
The main attraction of the Brahmotsava, however, is the rathayatra. This is probably the biggest rathayatra festival in the whole of northern India and certainly in Vrindavan itself. Indeed, this is the biggest public annual festival held in Vrindavan at any time during the year.
The deity is taken out on huge cart made of sandalwood that stands about 60 feet high. The cart was built at great expense 150 years ago. Every part of it is priceless. It cost lakhs to build back then, but if it were to be rebuilt today it would cost crores of rupees. Several years ago, it cost 30-35 lakhs in order to have the cart undergo a thorough refurbishment.
It is said that over the 150 years, every part of the cart has been replaced or repaired at one time or another. Each year, some part or another is reworked or replaced prior to the festival. Last year, for instance, the wheels were fixed at a cost of some three lakhs. They have their own unique design and only the best wood can be used. At least twelve of the best carpenters and wood sculptors were engaged in the work, working on it both day and night for six months.
Then the rath is dissassembled after the festival and reassembled again to be ready for the next time. The carpenters have to give their full effort. Painting the rath also costs lakhs of rupees each year. The end result is that the rath takes on an attractiveness that forcefully attracts devotees from all over just to see it.
After the death of Ramanuja, his followers created several centers or acharya-peeths throughout India, one of them in Vrindavan. This temple was later established in 1851 by the grace of Shri Rangadeshika Swami. His disciples, three brothers Radhakrishna, Govinda and Lakshmichand Seth from Mathura financed the project. The temple has seven parikramas, each with high surrounding walls. The western gate is seven storeys high, all built in the south Indian style.
For more, see Bharat Discovery. The full story of Ranganath will be presented here at some other time.