Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard sends a video message.
Potomac, MARYLAND: Thousands of devotees flocked to the Hare Krishna Temple in the Washington metro area to celebrate the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, one of the most beloved and revered Gods in the Hindu pantheon, last week.
This year, the event was even more special at ISKCON which was observing its 50th anniversary worldwide, as a strategically placed banner at the DC area location aptly read: â€œCelebrating 50 years of serving Krishna togetherâ€.
Inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple were the awe-inspiring deities of Lord Krishna and his consort Radha bedecked in flowers.Â Devotees began queuing for â€˜Darshanâ€™ (viewing) from early evening, with many partaking in the â€˜Aartiâ€™ that was held every hour on the hour leading up to the grand midnight Aarti and â€˜kirtanâ€™ which marks the time of Lord Krishnaâ€™s birth.
A huge attraction of the ISKCON DC event are the outdoor festivities on the sprawling lawn and grounds of the temple.Â Last Thursday, the crowd reveled in the outdoor splendor on a warm evening in late August.
On one side was erected a stage with a colorful background that included a large image of Krishna with Radha, beautifully painted.Â The performances were all dedicated to these divinities and included: a semi-classical dance by talented artistes of the Hare Krishna Temple, choreographed by Kala Shahi; bharatanatyam and folk dances by young students of the Potomac-based Nrithya Geethanjali Dance School, choreographed by Deepa Natarajan; melodious kirtan by children of the temple; an Odissi dance choreographed by Jayantee Paine-Ganguly, director of the Konark Dance School; and an annual drama by children of the templeâ€™s SundaySchool, on the Appearance of Sri Krishna and killing of the evil Kansa.
Among other outdoor features were: booths for mantra meditation to reduce stress and overcome depression; inspirational books on display; a childrenâ€™s tent; Bhakti gift store; the templeâ€™s famous vegetarian meal; and a Vrindavan Village.
Inside the village, devotees could pet Laxmi the cow, pull a swing with deities of Radha-Krishna (Jhulan), and children were encouraged to perform Abhishek (sacred bathing) of a deity of Laddo Gopal (child Krishna).Â People of all ages joined the â€˜Janmashtami Journeyâ€™, a magical walk through the forest with special Krishna Lila presentations along the way.
Fortunately for devotees, parking was much more convenient than in recent years with multiple parking lots available some 10 minutes from the temple, equipped with free shuttle buses.
In related news, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (Democrat – Hawaii), the only Hindu lawmaker serving in the US Congress, conveyed a very inspiring and relevant message on the sacred occasion of Janmashtami.Â In a heart-warming video, she spoke about the inclusiveness of the Vaishnava/Hindu perspective that focuses â€œon the essence of real religion which is spiritual loveâ€.
Elaborating, she said, â€œItâ€™s not that there is a Christian god, a Buddhist god, a Hindu god, or a Muslim god, all competing with each other.Â There is only one God although we may call Him by different names.Â It is the loving exchange one has with God that is true spirituality.Â And one who is experiencing such love for God is able to see beyond our external differences and designations, and recognize that we are all relatives in the deepest sense.Â We are all children of the same Supreme Lord.Â This is the message of Bhagavad Gita, the message of love, of how we can achieve real harmony with others, no matter the different backgrounds we come fromâ€.
Recalling how she was raised in a â€œfaith-inclusiveâ€ family, Congresswoman Gabbard said, â€œIt was not as if my Catholic father was on one spiritual team and my Hindu mother was on the opposing teamâ€.Â In fact, it wasnâ€™t until her late teens that she became aware of the concept of sectarianism which she decried as â€œthe false notion that there are many distinct and opposing religions, each with their own god, and each the enemy or competitor of the otherâ€.
She noted that in Krishnaâ€™s Bhagavad Gita, the Supreme Lord says: â€œAbandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me.Â I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction.Â Do not fearâ€.
Gabbard emphasized, â€œThis is true spirituality.Â True spirituality means love for God.Â It means oneâ€™s personal loving relationship with the Supreme Soul.Â It does not mean belonging to a particular group or organizationâ€.
She concluded her message with the salutation, â€œJaya Sri Krishnaâ€ (victory to Sri Krishna).