On Radhastami—September 5th—around seven hundred devotees gathered in Omsk, Western Siberia for the installation ceremony of Sri-Sri Radha-Govinda, the first ever Radha-Krishna Deities to be installed in Russia.
|The beautiful Sri-Sri Radha-Govinda—Russia’s first Radha Krishna Deities|
“The temple room is not very big—it can only comfortably accommodate about 250 people,” says ISKCON’s Governing Body Commissioner for Russia, Bhakti Vijnana Swami. “But devotees, determined to get a glimpse of this special event, were sitting all the way up the stairs and stretching out into the hall.”
While Omsk is already a busy temple with about 200 devotees, others also arrived from Siberia’s biggest cities Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Irkutsk, as well as from Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk near Russia’s Ural Mountains, and Almaty in Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, Dayananda Swami arrived from England, and Bhakti Vijnana Swami, B.B. Govinda Swami, and Prithu Dasa flew in from Germany, where they had just attended the recent Kirtan Mela.
“It was one of the most significant events in ISKCON Russia’s history,” says Bhakti Vijnana Swami, a Russian native. “In fact, I believe Radha-Govinda are the first Radha-Krishna Deities not only in Russia but also in the whole of the C.I.S, which includes ten countries, and probably even in all of Eastern Europe.”
The festival began in the early morning with an elaborate fire ceremony known as Vastu Shuddhi. To purify the temple building and make it a suitable dwelling place for the Deities, Kishori Mohan Dasa, an expert Mayapur-trained priest from the Almaty community in Kazakhstan, performed a fire yajna and chanted sacred mantras.
|The Vastu Shuddhi fire yajna|
A long Abhisekha ceremony, in which many different items were used to bathe the Deities, followed, as did Prana Pratistha, in which priests called the Lord to personally reside and interact with His devotees through the medium of the Deity. Next, around 200 different food preparations were offered, as the curtains on the new altar opened to reveal Sri-Sri Radha-Govinda, spectacularly dressed and decorated, for the first time.