Festivals are an integral part of ISKCON. With colourful decorations, multi-course feasts, elaborate rituals, kirtans, dance and dramas, the festivals make spiritual progress a fun-filled experience. Anyone who participates in them can vouch that there is no modern day substitute for these soul-satisfying experiences.
The Vaishnava festivals' dates are determined by using the vedic calendar. Therefore, dates will vary from year to year when compared to the Western calendar.
Janmastami – the birth of Lord Krishna – is one of the biggest events of the year. It is the Vaishnava equivalent of Christmas in that devotees celebrate God’s advent 5,000 years ago into this material world from the spiritual world. The name Krishna means “All-Attractive.” Lord Krishna exhibits six opulences in full: beauty, knowledge, fame, wealth, strength, and renounciation. Thus, He is worshipped as “The Supreme All-Attractive Personality of Godhead.”
Today, Janmastami is celebrated across the globe at all ISKCON centers. All day performances of music, dance and chanting in glorification of the enchanting pastimes of the Lord, lead up to the midnight hour at which Lord Krishna appears. A midnight service accompanied by kirtan and dancing is followed by a vegetarian feast for all.
Ratha Yatra - Festival of Chariots
According to scriptures, even though Krishna became a great King of Dwarka, his childhood was spent amongst simple cowherd boys and girls in the village of Vrindavana. This mood of wanting to bring back Krishna to the playful pastimes of Vrindavana signifies the inner meaning of Ratha Yatra. When devotees pull the ropes of the cart, it symbolizes the pulling of the Lord into our hearts.Ratha Yatra traditionally held in Puri, India is one of the festivals that attracts the largest gathering of pilgrims in India. During this festival, the beautifully bedecked Deities of Jagannath (Lord of the universe) , Baladev (Krishna’s brother) and Subhadra (Krishna’s sister) are taken out on chariots specially constructed for the parade.
In the late 1960s, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada inaugurated this joyous event in North America. With roots steeped in spiritual traditions, the festival is now celebrated in every major city around the world, with melodious singing, chanting, drumming, dancing and feasting.
The Ratha Yatra festival in Hong Kong is held in the evening of 24th December, Christmas Eve, in Tsim Sha Tsui. All are welcome to join to celebrate this great festival !
Gaura Purnima - Appearance of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu
This festival celebrates the appearance of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It is observed annually (in February - March) by Krishna devotees all over the world—especially in the area of Mayapur, India, the place where Mahaprabhu appeared in the year 1486.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Person, Krishna Himself, appearing as His own devotee, to teach us that we can gain full enlightenment simply by chanting the holy names of the Lord:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
Those who witnessed Mahaprabhu's pastimes saw Him dance and chant with ecstatic love for God, the likes of which had never been seen before. He encouraged everyone to follow this same process. He taught that anyone—regardless of background or spiritual qualification—could develop their innate love of God and experience great spiritual pleasure by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra.
The present-day ISKCON continues the work begun by Lord Chaitanya, who predicted that the chanting of the holy names of Krishna would spread all over the world.
Gaura Purnima means "golden full moon," signifying that:
1) Lord Chaitanya was “born” during a full moon, and
2) The Lord blesses everyone with the soothing, moonlike rays of His sublime teachings.
His followers generally observe this festival by fasting and chanting the holy names all day. At moonrise, a vegetarian feast is offered to the Lord and then enjoyed by all.
Karttika - The Month of Damodar
Karttika is considered by devotees of Krishna, Vaishnavas, to be the holiest month of the year. It occurs during October-November, at the end of the four-month period of rainy and autumn seasons in India. During this month, devotees make extra vows, perform extra spiritual activities, and generally worship Krishna in His form as a young boy, Damodara, who was once bound at the waist by His mother to prevent Him from mischief.
Two major festivals during Karttika are Diwali and Govardhan Puja.