Tuesday, October 28, 2008

“Kheturi Festival”: A tradition spanning over four centuries

Vaishnavs of ISKCON render "Naam Sangkirtan" at the festival. Photo: STAR
“Some render 'kirtan', some are immersed in 'puja', what links them all is their devotion to Lord Gaurango,” said Ramesh Chandra Das at Kheturi Dham.
A Krishna devotee, Ramesh recounted his pilgrimage from Narayanganj to Kheturi Dham at Premtali -- some 20 kilometers off to the west of Rajshahi city. He was humming a 'kirtan' of Nazrul, “Hey Gobinda rakho choroney.”
Like him, thousands of Vaishnavs and Hindus from different areas gathered at the three-day Kheturi Vaishnav Festival recently.
Many of the Vaishnavs arrived from far-flung districts like Chittagong. Joining them were foreign delegates from India, Italy, Australia and Canada who are members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) joined in.
This festival has been observed for 436 years. The festival marks the death anniversary of the renowned Vaishnav saint Sri Narottam Das Thakur (on the fifth day of Bengali month of Kartik).
The festival organisers say there has been a decline in the number of devotees due to the lack of facilities offered at the festival premises.
The historic site, they point out, needs urgent conservation efforts by the government. One version of the origins of the festival goes back to Narottom Das Thakur, known for his devotional verses on Radha and Krishna.
The son of King Krishnananda Dutta and Narayani Devi of the then Goura Pargana in Rajsahi, he renounced his royal claims at a very young age to immerse himself in spiritual leanings in Vrindavan.
Narottam was the initiator of the Kheturi Festival -- celebrating 'Goura Purnima,' the birth of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Legend has it that some 50 years after the death of Mahaprabhu, many devotees had a vision of him.

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