Every Sunday is a celebration at ISKCON Baltimore. There are more than 100 people that regularly attend our Sunday Love Feast Program, a tradition going back to the founding of ISKCON.
The evening starts with lively Kirtan (chanting call and response), followed by a thought-provoking discourse and ending the evening with a sumptuous vegetarian dinner and more Kirtan.
Please bring your friends along to join the celebrations!!
4:00 - 4:40 pm Kirtan
4:40 - 4:45 pm Announcements
4:45 - 5:30 pm Discourse/presentation
5:30 - 7:00 pm Dinner
Diwali is a five-day festival widely known as the Hindu New Year, and comes from the Sanskrit word dipavali (dipa, lights and vali, numerous. The festival is commonly observed by illuminating hundreds of candles in homes, temples and public spaces, and by offering opulent preparations of food to the deity.
In ancient times, Diwali was first observed by the citizens of Ayodhya to celebrate the joyful return of King Rama, an incarnation of Krishna. In another era, this was also the day when Lord Krishna performed His Damodara childhood pastime of breaking the pots of yogurt and letting Himself be bound by Mother Yashoda. Devotees remember these pastimes during this auspicious month known as Karttika.
The day after Diwali is called Annakuta, or Govardhana Puja. On this day the inhabitants of Vrindavan (Lord Krishna’s abode on Earth) used to hold a festival to honor King Indra, the demigod responsible for providing the rains essential for a successful harvest.
One day, however, sensing that Indra had become overly proud of his position as king of heaven, Lord Krishna convinced the residents of Vrindavan to modify their festival and celebrate Govardhana Hill instead, arguing that it was the fertile soils on the hill that provided the grass upon which the cows and bulls grazed; that the cows and bulls who provided milk and ploughed the lands should be worshiped. This turn of events naturally upset the mighty Indra, who retaliated with terrifying rains and thunderstorms.
Seeing this, Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, calmly lifted Govardhana Hill with the little finger of His left hand and held it up like a giant umbrella, providing a shelter for the people and animals of Vrindavan from the torrential downpours. The rains intensified. Indra's fury raged. Finally, after seven days, beholding the wonder of the situation and realizing the futility of his own actions, King Indra surrendered. He came down from the heavens and bowed before Lord Krishna with folded hands, offering prayers and asking for forgiveness. He realized his true position as servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In this way Lord Krishna demonstrated that He is Deva Deva, the Lord of the Demigods, and that any purpose for which demigods might be worshiped could easily be served by worshiping Him, the supreme cause of all causes.
Several thousand years later, on this same day, Srila Madhavendra Puri established a temple for the self-manifest Gopala Deity on top of Govardhana Hill.
To celebrate this festival, devotees build a replica of Govardhana Hill made of various opulent foods, worship Lord Krishna as the lifter of Govardhana Hill, worship the hill as His incarnation, and worship the cows and bulls who are dear to the Lord. At the end of the festival, the hill of prasada (sanctified food) is distributed to the public. All Vaishnava temples in India and throughout the world observe this ceremony, and hundreds of people are fed prasada according to the capacity of each temple.
The festival of Ram Navami marks the birthday celebrations of the Supreme Lord Sri Rama. According to the ancient Vedic calendar, it falls in the Spring season. It is considered auspicious to undertake a fast on the day in the name of Rama. Devotees perform elaborate worships and chant the name of Rama. Temples of Rama decorated with flowers, leaves and have special services and bhajan sessions throughout the day. Stories from the Ramayana are read out in joyous public gatherings. Most people fast until midnight.
When the Lord comes to this world he doesn’t take birth like ordinary human beings but appears out of His own sweet will. Whenever there is a need for the protection of devotees the Lord appears. The Supreme Lord incarnates in many forms like Matsya the fish, Varaha the boar, Narsimha the half man half lion. All these forms of the Lord are very attractive to His devotees who take great pleasure in talking about his pastimes.
One such famous incarnation of The Supreme Lord is Lord Rama. The birth of Lord Rama is celebrated as Rama Navami. Lord Rama was born to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya in Ayodhya. He had three younger brothers Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna.
The Ramayana narrates the history of Lord Rama – the great King, Husband, ideal Son and Master.
Lord Rama was an ideal son. He always obeyed his father and had great respect for his mothers.
He was a perfect King and ruler. Lord Rama ruled for 14,000 years. His reign till today is called Rama Rajya. When Lord Rama was ruling his people there was no famine in his kingdom, no scarcity of food and no disease ever affected anyone. The people in his kingdom had a strong bond of love with Him. They lived only to serve and please Him.
He was very strict with troublemakers and punished them when necessary. He was handsome, strong, brave, chivalrous, fair, just, gentle, sweet, kind and always merciful to His devotees and all the citizens.
What is Janmashtami?
Janmashtami commemorates the earthly appearance of Krishna, who is described in India’s sacred writings as God Himself. One of the biggest religious festivals in the world, it is celebrated by nine hundred and thirty million people around the world--and two million in the US alone. To devotees, it’s Christmas and New Year’s in one, a day of deep spiritual renewal and celebration that effectively finishes an old year and begins a fresh one.
But why Janmashtami, you may ask? What’s so special about Krishna, as opposed to any other form of God? It’s His personable-ness. He reciprocates in unique, personal ways with every devotee who offers Him love—He is the most adorable, mischievous son, the most romantic lover, the most compassionate friend. And on Janmashtami, devotees celebrate Krishna in all of these aspects. For just as Krishna reciprocates individually with His relatives and confidantes, he responds to the distinct feelings and desires held most deeply in the heart of every single worshipper.
So remember that whatever way you worship Krishna on Janmashtami, He will reciprocate with you accordingly. It’s a meditation that makes for an extremely rewarding devotional experience.
How is Janmashtami Celebrated?
Where Vaishnava temples exist, festivities begin before dawn and extend all day until midnight, the exact moment of the anniversary of Krishna’s appearance. Events include kirtan, singing the Lord’s name along with other devotees; and japa, private, more intimate prayer. Some devotees cook a feast of over one hundred dishes, while others perform drama and dance. Some clothe and decorate the deity of Krishna while others string enormous flower garlands and other decorations for the temple. Incense burns, scriptures are read, and all but the young and the infirm fast all day. The deities are also bathed with a variety of auspicious liquids in a kind of ablution ceremony called abhisheka. Sometimes taking over two hours, this is performed with great pomp.
Finally, at midnight, priests pull apart the curtains to reveal the freshly dressed deity of Krishna on a creatively festooned and colored altar. The excitement builds, and a rousing kirtan ensues.