Sri Sri Nitai Gauranga Rai installed in Penang

The trip to Seberang Jaya (Butterworth), Penang on the 17th and 18th September was worth every moment. My husband drove our children and I there. We reached at about 2pm. A very large canopy with a special stage was set for the installation. The deities were kept in a separate area beside the main canopy area. Many matajis were preparing the flower garlands in the main temple area. The flowers were simply lovely; The matajis were really expert in tying the garlands and making the bouquets. The flower garlands reminded me of the ones that was used in the Chowpatty temple during Gaura Purnima this year. Others were busy drawing the rangoli patterns for the fire sacrifice. Dozens of beautifully decorated pots laid in the side of the main stage area. Prasadam was being prepared for devotees who were slowly trickling in for the festival.

At 5pm, the “Opening of eyes” ceremony was done followed by parading of the mother cow and her calf, Tulasi Devi, virgin girls, Srimad Bhagavatam and Mrdanga to welcome the deities. The sweetest beaming smile spread across the deities’ exquisite moon-like faces, smiling ever so sweetly as if embracing every fallen soul who looked at Them. My daughter, Shevaanni was over the moon as she was one of the chosen girls to welcome Them as well.

This was followed by the offering of auspicious items, tying of auspicious thread and purificatory ceremonies before chanting of the Sri Sukta prayers were done.

I couldn’t sleep throughout the night. The images of the deities kept playing in my mind. Even the children got up the moment I called them. We rushed for Mangala arati the next day. HH Janananda Goswami Maharaj had arrived late night and was leading the song “Jiv Jago Jiv Jago” very sweetly under the main canopy. Then we entered the main hall for the mangala arati. Srila Prabhupada’s murthi was then carried to the main canopy area and Svasti vacanam (invoking auspiciousness) was performed. This was followed by Tulasi puja.

After worshipping the Lord of the ten directions, the fire sacrifice began. Later the deities were brought to the main stage for Their nectarean bathing. Members of public who has sponsored for bathing ceremony brought their pots of milk to abhishek the deities. The pots were given to the priests to bathe the Deities. Everything was planned to the detail spearheaded by HH Janananda Swami Maharaj and HG Simheswara. The agenda was followed closely by all who participated. Brahmanas from all over Malaysia i.e. Kulim, Penang, Butterworth, Taiping, Kuala Lumpur, Johor as well as Sg Petani took part in this event.

Next was the showering of the flower petals on the deities. Then the priests threw these showered petals to the onlookers causing a rain of flower petals all over the tent. The crowd went wild, uncontrollable. The deities were now ready to be taken to the main hall for their dressing. Srila Prabhupada’s murthi was taken out first followed by Tulasi Devi.

The kirtan went wild as the curtains closed for the deities’ dressing. And it never stopped. It went on and on like what seemed like hours. The dances also never ceased. Everyone was drenched in sweat, in the sweat of ecstasy, from head to toe. Sounds of “Gauranga, Nityananda” filled the main hall and its surroundings.

HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaj was unable to make it for the installation but mankind’s technology came in handy today. The Prana prastistha or the invoking of deities was done live via webcam in Bangalore where Maharaj was staying with HH Janandana Goswami Maharaj in Penang. I guess this is the first time it is done this way in Iskcon. HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaj also named these gorgeous deities “Sri Sri Nitai Gauranga Rai”.

It was then time for the bhoga offering. 508 items of food was prepared by expert matajis in small lovely pots. The cakes, buns and muffins were in bigger pots. I managed to do some service in the kitchen and my, what a kitchen it was. Everything was arranged very orderly and there was ample place for dozens of matajis to cut, blend, cook, etc with ease and comfort. Everything looked so clean and was meticulously planned.

As the curtains opened, the crowd went crazy for the umpteenth time. I didn’t understand how we could go on feeling this way both when seeing the deities and even when the deities were not in sight. The deities looked exquisitely radiant like the moon, so charming and ever so beautiful in bright blue and yellow outfits. The skillfully made garlands and beads around Their necks were well matched and elegant. After “Govindam” was sung, the crowd was dancing again in full force, kirtan going on at full blast. I don’t know where we ever got the energy to go on like this.

After the showing of ghee lamps by devotees, we took our prasadam. I have never tasted prasadam for a festival this tasty ever in Malaysia. Apparently the master chef was a mataji from Kulim and HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaj said that she was the best cook in all of Malaysia. Now I know exactly why he said that.

It was a historic deity installation ceremony in Malaysia, one that will be remembered by all those who attended and an exhilarating experience for many.

All glories, all glories to the lotus feet-eyed, moon-like faces of Sri Sri Nitai Gauraranga Rai. Your wonderful appearance has increased the happiness of everyone in Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center in Penang. Our hearts heaved joyous waves while looking at your beautiful faces. Dear Lords, look upon me mercifully so that my delusion is dispelled and I may be able to serve and worship You day and night.

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