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As the time raced across, closing in to strike 5:30 pm, another set of devotees were seen busy preparing the modern version of Krishna’s ‘Panchajanya’ A mini bus that would carry wisdom across. Just like how Krishna’s conch resounded his presence all over. The bus was designed by one of the devotees to carry and display books. Decorated and well illuminated the vehicle would carry books imparting knowledge of Lord Krishna, Bhagavad Gita and Srila Prabhupada and would traverse around the temple during the festivities.Other devotees were busy involved in preparing the glorious ‘Kalyani’ with its borders decorated with flower petals. Several varieties of flowers were collected and prepared for the rituals.
A large number of devotees began to assemble around the Kalyani as dusk set in. It was a cloudy evening and the aroma of incense filled the air.
The Chida-dahi Mahotsav, also known as the Chipped Rice Festival of Panihati, is a yearly celebration of the pastimes of Nityananda prabhu and Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswami, one of the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, the primary disciples of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. An astonishing celebration took place on the banks of the Ganges at Panihati, which is situated in the north of Kolkata. During this time of the year in June, the temperature soars up to an often 40C in the region. Cool yoghurt is considered to be soothing in the hot weather.
Chida-dahi Mahotsav also known as Danda mahotsava(the festival of punishment) remembers how Raghunatha dasa, as directed by Nityananda prabhu, had arranged an ecstatic feast of yoghurt and chipped-rice for several thousands of devotees assembled at the banks of Ganges in Panihati.
The Panihati Chida-Dahi Mahotsava was initiated at ISKCON Bangalore and the ‘Panchajanya’ book distribution vehicle was flagged off after a pooja. Chanting revering the deities of Nitai Gauranga resonated throughout the temple complex as the brilliance of the deities was carried by devotees on a ‘pallakki’. The procession invoked the spiritual happiness of one and all gathered around the kalyani to witness the brilliant grandeur. The deities were placed at the entrance of the kalyani and were prepared for the abhishekha.
The environment at the temple was magnanimously illuminated, with lights and decorations. Chanting by all the devotees present added more flavor to the opulence. Cow’s milk, honey, Sandalwood paste along and other divine ingredients were used to purify the lords’ deities. A garland made of tulsi leaves were placed around the deities and then followed an arthi. The deities were prepared to be bathed in the kalyani. 2 devotees carried each of the deity and took 3 dips in the water. Flowers were showered as vedic mantras were chanted. While the deities were dressed and glorified with precious jewelry, Chanchalapathi Dasa narrated the importance and history of the Panihati Chida-Dahi Mahotsava.The deities decked with festive attire and splendid jewelry was then placed in the decorated barge in the pond. The ritual of taking the deities around the pond is called the nauka vihar or the boat-festival. Rowed by two devotees the barge housed the deities and was taken3 times around the kalyani.
About 25 different varieties of the Chida-Dahi mahaprasadam was distributed in the last round. The devotees expressively said “Even the full-moon has arrived to take a darshan of the lord”. After the prasad was distributed, the deities were taken back to the temple altar for the Shayana Pallakki Utsava. This marked the end of the Panihati Chida-Dahi mahotsava.
Devotees also enact the story of Raghunatha Dasa’s surrender to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the original festival at Panihati.