The grounds at the site of the upcoming new ISKCON temple in Parsippany, New Jersey were abuzz with a flurry of activity at the crack of dawn on Saturday September 26, 2015. Dozens of ecstatic, bright-faced devotees were quickly making preparations for the grand Bhumi Puja festivities that were about to start.
The team of world-class brahmana purohitas, led by Amara Dasa from Berlin our very own Brahma-Muhurta Dasa and North American deity minister Jayananda Dasa was intensely focused on putting the final touches onto the colorful array of mandalas and paraphernalia within the yajna shala.
The sacrificial arena itself, beautifully constructed by the congregational volunteers under the leadership of Narottama Dasa, was a sight to behold. A set of brightly colored wooden, concentric fences framed the magnificent fire kunda that had been built with over 700 bricks.
A vast tent equipped with a stage, chairs and an exhibition area showcasing a scale model of the proposed temple building was almost ready to go as the sound engineers made their final calibrations.
It was 8:00 am and everyone quickly stopped what they were doing. Sri Sri Gaura Nitai had just arrived to preside over the event and they were welcomed by an enthusiastic kirtan. Their welcome procession was led through a stunningly decorated reception area and visual exhibits. The procession continued around the yajna shala and to their altar within the tent.
The worship was started off with a sankalpa vidhi in the tent followed after which all the yajamanas and guests moved to yajna shala. It was amazing to see nearly a hundred devotees all dressed in harinama chadars and traditional pujari outfits neatly seated in rows ready and excited about the once-in-a-lifetime chance to offer oblations to the sacred fire.
With a ring of the bell, the yajna began. Guests looked on with amazement as the Western purohitas performed complicated mudras with effortless grace and enunciated Vedic mantras in perfect tone and meter. The yajna concluded with a loud "svaha" and a beautiful purnahuti or final oblation to mark the completion of the rituals.
The attendees then filed into the large tent and His Grace Radha Jivan Dasa led us in an appreciation of the vital importance of building this grand temple for the Lord. His potent words inspired a flood of donors who eagerly came forward one after another with pledges ranging from $500 to $50,000. Within an hour nearly half a million dollars were pledged by the enthusiastic crowd of supporters, some of whom had come to an ISKCON event for the first time.
This overwhelmingly awe-inspiring fundraiser was followed by a beautiful ceremony to install the Deity of Ananta Sesa within the ground exactly under the spot where the temple altar will be built. Lord Ananta holds up the weight of the entire creation on His hood and whenever Lord Hari descends upon this Earth, Lord Ananta is there to serve as Vishnu's transcendental seat. So as per tradition the purohitas accompanied by temple devotees took The gorgeous silver Deity of Sesa Naga and installed Him with mantras and auspicious articles.
The happy crowd cheered with loud chants of "Haribol!" and the atmosphere reverberated with transcendental sound vibrations.
Prominent community leaders such as Commissioner and Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, Mayor James Barberio, Councilwoman Loretta Gragnani and Councilman Michael dePierro graced the event. These honorable speakers enthused the audience with their words of encouragement and they were presented with gifts of shawls, a traditional way of showing appreciation to respected guests.
A lavish prasadam feast was served out lovingly to all the attendees by dozens of smiling devotees. Each dish was exquisite in taste and everyone enjoyed it with great relish.
Everything about the event was replete with auspicious signs. Getting the permission to build the temple was a long struggle that took five years of legal battling, but finally Lord Krishna's temple was victorious. This event marked the culmination of that struggle and the start of an exciting new phase to see the manifestation of the structure. The weather during the Bhumi Puja was magnificent - clear skies and gentle breezes. The turnout was large and encouraging. All the dozens of devotee volunteers poured their hearts and souls into the remarkable effort to bring this event together. Devotees and guests pledged their financial support in droves. We even saw a majestic eagle gracefully fly over and circle the yajna during the fire sacrifice. Amara Dasa remarked that this was a very auspicious sign and that the eagle indicates the presence and approval of Vishnu since the eagle is the symbol of Garuda.
It was clear that Mother Bhumi Devi was pleased with this sacrifice and all signs point to a successful project. May all those devotees who served in this event be blessed with transcendental bliss and bhakti.