Akshaya Tritiya at ISKCON Mayapur: Chandan Yatra and Nauka Vihara
The 3rd Lunar Day in Baishakh -the day of the waxing moon – is considered an auspicious day. It is the Akshaya Tritiya. “Akshay” means “unending”. And, Akshay Tritiya is the day of unending prosperity.
In Kolkata, people purchase gold as a mark of affluence, while business owners start their “haal khata”, the book of accounts for the next financial year. And, on the outskirts on Kolkata, in the holy Sridham Mayapur, starts a 21-day festival.
This is the Chandana Yatra and the indispensable Nauka Vihara of Sri Radha Madhava – on the holy occasion of Akshaya Tritiya at ISKCON Mayapur.
The presiding deity at this temple is Lord Jagannath. All the idols, or the Utsav Murtis, are first smeared with sandalwood paste as a sign of devotion. Behind this entire ritual is a beautiful intention. This festival is celebrated to please and soothe the deities in summer; this is because Chandan has a cooling effect on the body.
The idols are then taken out in a palanquin for the holy Yatra. And after that begins the Nauka Vihara of Radha-Madhav and the Utsava Murtis, along with the idol of Lord Chaitanya, in the Srila Prabhupada’s Pukur. Devotees dress the Lord in beautiful clothes, sewn especially for Him for this festival. Interestingly, these clothes represent his various Leelas.
Devotees come in large numbers to watch this boat festival. They stare, mesmerised, as the boatmen rock the boat to entertain Krishna. An enormous fountain sprays water in the air, and the gentle, wet summer breeze results in a transcendental moment. Meanwhile, a few devotees sing Kirtanas about the glory of the Lord.
The ritual of Chandan Yatra and Nauka Vihara also takes place at Jagannatha temple at Puri.
There are many legends associated with this ritual. What’s astounding is that this festival is said to have its roots in the Treta Yuga! In fact, Skanda Purana says that Lord Jagannatha Himself instructed Malav King Indradyumna to perform the Chandan Yatra.
Another lore suggests that Lord Gopala instructed Sripada Madhavendra Puri, a devotee of Gaudiya Sampradaya, to bring sandalwood pulp from Jagannatha Puri and anoint the Lord’s idol on Govardhana Hill with it to relieve His worn out body. So, the old man went there, and on his way back, stopped at Gopinatha. Once again, the Lord appeared in his devotee’s dream and told him to put the Chandan on Lord Gopinatha’s body. He explained that Gopinatha and Gopala are one and the same. And thus began the ritual of Chandana Yatra.
The Mahabharata, however, has a different legend. When the Pandavas lived in the palace of King Virata during Agyatavasa, the king expressed his desire to meet Lord Krishna. As per the advice of the Pandavas, the king arranged for a boat journey for the Lord’s entertainment; he also arranged for Chandana to smear on the Lord’s body to comfort Him during the summer heat. Lord Krishna arrived with His brother Balarama; and together with the Pandavas, took part in the Snaan yatra and rowing festival.
The Chandan Yatra and Nauka Vihara at ISKCON Mayapur, which begins on Akshaya Tritiya, is a commemoration of this entire event.
Thousands of people come here, particularly for the boat festival, and participate in the gloriously sublime event. From khichri and pakora to cake and pizza – devotees get to enjoy delicious food as prasad.
Songs to praise the Lord also mark the blessed day of Akshaya Tritiya, in the form of Harinam Sankirtan. It is said that the Lord prevails where His truest believers gather to take His name. And, thus, on this very day, the preparation of the Mayapur Ratha Yatra begins at Sridham Mayapur, in the presence of Lord Krishna.