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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rain or Shine: Holi 2012 at Radha Madhav Dham

Rain or Shine: Holi at Radha Madhav Dham - By Joe Chorneau
[Check back for pictures!!]

Austin, TX. March 12, 2012: That was the headline of an email sent out late Friday night.  And so it was - the U.S. ashram of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj, Radha Madhav Dham, celebrated Holi on Saturday, March 11, 2012 - rain or shine.

On Friday, with hail in the morning and a cold barrage of nonstop rain throughout the day and into the night, everyone wondered what Indra, the god of rain, had planned. Would he force Holi to be played indoors with confetti and tinsel? There was no indication when the rain would stop; weather forecasters reported it would continue through Sunday.  

A man who had driven up from Houston with his family and had braved the brunt of the storm during his trip said, "We weren't sure if there would be Holi play, but we were happy to come in any circumstances. We always love to come to Radha Madhav Dham, no matter what happens."

But by 7:00 p.m. Saturday, Radha Madhav Dham was awash in color - red, pink, yellow, blue and green - layer upon layer everywhere, as though a great battle had been fought, but with gulal. The rain had stopped long enough to allow an enthusiastic crowd of about 1,000 people to do what they come to do every year: celebrate Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, at Radha Madhav Dham.  

Preceding this outdoor Holi play, the celebration began indoors with the chanting of Holi pads and kirtan, followed by the keynote speech by Swami Nikhilanand on the true meaning of Holi. Explaining the leela of Prahlad, he left us with three important points to remember. One, that God is omnipresent, so we are never alone. Two, that we don't need to ask God for any worldly thing, we just have to love Him selflessly and He will give us what's best. And three, that we don't have to think of God only as being supreme and almighty; we can love Radha and Krishn and play Holi with Them like we would with our own family.  

As Swami Nikhilanand lectured, the sky brightened and light poured in through the big windows of the Shree Raseshwari Radha Rani Temple, prompting him to say, "It looks like Indra is going to cooperate with us."  He then concluded the program with another Holi pad that enlivened the crowd with cheers of "Holi hai!" 

One devotee remarked, "It's something to see when, despite the weather, a crowd this size would come to Radha Madhav Dham on a festival day - because everyone is here not just to throw colored powder, but to experience the Grace through the whole experience of working together, doing the seva, doing the kirtan - it is really special."

Another agreed, "We're not going to let a little rain or cold stop us.  We are here for the grace of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj on Holi!"

This attitude was evident early on Saturday morning when, as the storm continued, a hearty crew of residents and community volunteers teamed up, as they have for so many years, to set up chairs in the prayer hall, remove picnic tables from the ras mandal in front of the Shiva Shrine, sweep debris off all the walkways, and fan the puddles with their squeegee sticks.  However, putting up the fire pit and setting up the gulal distribution stand would have to wait until it looked clear. Inside, the cooks, who had been hard at work since Friday, were continuing with lunch and dinner preparations.

By lunch, large groups from Houston and Dallas had arrived to pitch in.  Throughout the afternoon, more and more people arrived, as the rain continued to fall hard.  The program directors with their clipboards of long lists were seen running back and forth, pointing fingers to ready plan A or plan B; there was even a plan C.  Where would the Holi play be?  Wherever it would end up, the celebration had already begun.  Despite the cold and rain, all who had come were all smiles, with remnants of early-Holi-play skirmishes already on their faces.

Following the afternoon program in the Temple, everyone proceeded to the dining hall to partake of a delicious prasad dinner, after which they gathered outside to play Holi.  Part way through the evening, young Krishn came, riding on the shoulders of a devotee, as He showered Holi powder on young and old alike. 

Not far from the Gopeshwar Mahadev Shiv shrine, the Holi fire was lit and flames towered up to seven feet high as devotees gathered around to do parikrama and offer coconuts.  All the while, the Holi play 'battles' continued as laughing and gleefully screaming children and adults darted back and forth throughout the Radha Madhav Dham grounds. The storm didn't return until much later that night, but the love of Radha Krishn 'rained' on one and all, putting a 'shine' on their devotional hearts. Holi Hai!!

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