Boat Festival


By Aradhika Radha Dasi - 9.3 2018

Annual celebration of the Boat Festival in Vrindavan’s Krishna-Balarama temple

The Boat Festival has its roots in Goloka Vrindavan, the spiritual eternal realm. One of the boat pastimes is described in detail in Gopal Champu by Srila Jiva Goswami. One day the gopis, loaded with pots full of yogurt and butter, came to the banks of Manasi Ganaga, wishing to cross the river. They met a boatman who gladly agreed to help. When the boat was already far away from the bank the boatman stopped rowing, saying that He was too hungry. The gopis gave Him whatever food they had in their pots so that He could continue rowing. He continued. But after some time He stopped again. The gopis asked for what reason He was stopping.

The boatman said that now He was too tired and that they had to massage His arms. Having heard this, the gopis told Him that they would throw Him out of the boat if He would not continue rowing. Suddenly clouds covered the sky, wind started to blow and the waters became very agitated. The boat started shaking from one side to another. The gopis were overwhelmed with fear. Radharani, searching for shelter, clung to the boatman. When She saw that He had a flute, She immediately realized that the boatman was none other than Her beloved Krishna. Then She showed the flute to the gopis to make them understand. They were very happy to spend the rest of their time in the company of Krishna.

On 7th March 2018, the devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness celebrated the festival in the courtyard of the Krishna-Balarama temple. Any festival celebrated in the temple originates from an eternal pastime performed by Krishna and His close associates.

We inquired from His Grace Mukunda Datta Prabhu, head pujari of the Krishna-Balarama temple in Vrindavan about the significance of the Boat Festival:

Aradhika Radha Dasi: “Is it true that this boat festival originates from the lila which happened in the waters of the Manasi Ganga?”

Mukunda Datta Prabhu: “Yes, not only in Manasi Ganga, but also in the Jamuna River. Both places. Manasi Ganga or Ganga Devi has manifested from the mind of Krishna. Now there is only a pond there, at Govardhan, but before, it was a flowing river. It is a very beautiful pastime of loving exchange between Krishna and His most dear devotees, the gopis. The most exalted devotees of Krishna are the gopis. Only those who are advanced in spiritual understanding may be fully able to understand and appreciate the loving exchanges between Krishna and the gopis. But at the same time the attractive pastimes of Krishna can be revealed even to a common devotee. One of those pastimes is Nauka Bihar, or the Boat pastime, which happened at the Jamuna one time, or maybe more than one time, and then at Manasi Ganga, at Govardhan.”

The Boat Festival is one of the most wonderful and colorful festivals celebrated in the Krishna-Balarama temple. When the temple closes at 1pm, preparations start. For the next three hours devotees make decorations inside the temple room. The whole courtyard gets filled up with water. It reminds one of a beautiful pond which has small ghats in all four directions. When the pond is ready, the devotees cover the waters with colorful flower petals, creating marvelous ornaments. There is a secret how the petals of different colors do not get mixed up together. In order to understand it one has to come many hours before and watch this art. Some devotees decorate the courtyard while others prepare the boat. In the past, the boat had different forms such as peacock or swan. This year the boat is shaped like the transcendental fish Matsya.

At 4:30pm the devotees are already gathered, waiting for the beginning of the festival procession. At 5pm all three altars open, and Sri Radha-Syamasudara take Their seat in the beautiful Matsya boat. The procession starts. The sounds of melodious kirtan by His Grace Panchagauda Prabhu and devotees fill up the air. Their Lordships are enjoying the ride. In Europe there are many beautiful lakes, and people like to enjoy boat riding. But Krishna also likes to ride. In fact, He is the topmost rider! While the boat circles the pond, devotees from all sides offer different gifts to the Divine Couple: fruits, various food preparations, money and flowers. Then Sri Radha- Syamasundara take Their seat on another specially prepared asana, in the center of the pond. They are offered puja and varieties of food preparations. His Grace Mukunda Datta Prabhu {ACBSP} sings the bhajan “Radha Krishna prana mora…”, and after that there is a dance offered by Chandramukhi Dasi. Like in the spiritual world, everything is done for Their Lordships’ satisfaction! The festival ends by distributing delicious maha prasada to all the devotees!

All glories to Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara and Their wonderful pastimes in Vrindavan!

All glories to all the devotees who are anxious to serve Them!