On the 31st of January, ISKCON arranged for a grand entrance of Srila Prabhupada into the Vrindavan Kumbha Mela. The ceremony is a first for this event, and follows similar debuts at the larger Kumbha Melas.
Many years ago, Shaivites attacked the Vaishnavas at the Haridwar Kumbha Mela, and since that time the devotees of Krishna have staged a separate and slightly earlier festival in Vrindavan whenever one is scheduled to be held in Haridwar.
Lokanath Swami, upon being requested by the organizers, cancelled a prior engagement and represented the movement, as he has done at similar such events.
ISKCON’s debut procession was a distinctive sight. While most other groups featured a handful of flag bearers and a marching band, the deity of Srila Prabhupada was preceded by 21 flag bearers and a large group of devotees engaging in an amplified kirtan. As they moved through the streets of Vrindavan, the devotees were happily-received: locals threw flower petals, offered garlands, and danced along with the chanting.
At the Kumbha Mela camp, Srila Prabhupada was seated on a decorated Vyasasana, while two brahmin brothers from Krishna Balaram Jewelers in Loi bazaar, acting as designated festival priests, conducted an elaborate puja for Lokanatha Swami. The assembled crowd of participants and spectators were then treated to a kirtan by Aindra Dasa and his group and fresh halavah prasadam, completing the ceremonious arrival of ISKCON and its revered founder-acharya at the sacred event.