Waking the Lord by chanting of the Vedas, stutis, and other verses accompanied by musical instruments, thus offering oneself submissively to the Lord before entering the Deity room for puja.
During the auspicious morning hours of brahma-muhurta when the entire atmosphere is spiritually surcharged, Their Lordships are requested to wake up from the sleep and accept the service of devotees.
Traditionally, in large temples devotees chant Vedic verses to awaken the Lord in the temple. In Tirumala of South India, devotees chant suprabhata, a hymn specifically meant for waking the Lord.
Immediately after Their Lordships wake up, They are offered kheer, a preparation of rice with sweet condensed milk which is called as Balya-bhoga. This is the first offering of the day to Their Lordships. In some temples the Lord is also offered rasagulla, sandesh and burfi.
Srila Prabhupada writes: There must be regular mangala-arati in the temple during the early morning, an hour and a half before the sun rises. (Cc. Madhya 24.334, purport)
Arati is also called nirajana or drishti, which means waving auspicious items before a person in order to dispel inauspicious influences or elements, as a means of protection. The various items offered, all representing of the material elements in pure form and the corresponding sense objects (i.e. sound, form, touch, etc.) are auspicious and purifying. Thus all arati ceremonies offered to the Lord are auspicious (mangala), but the first arati of the day, in the early morning, is considered particularly auspicious for all who participate.
After the morning offering of sweet rice, Their Lordships get ready to receive mangala-arati, the first arati of the day. Devotees adorned in bright tilaks and in the ambient fresh low light of dawn, start assembling in the temple to have darshan of Their beloved Lords. Conch-shells blow pumping in the transcendental sound into the air thus announcing the opening of the doors of Sri Sri Radha Krishnachandra, Sri Sri Krishna Balarama and Sri Sri Nitai Gauranga, all mercifully glancing upon Their beloved devotees.
The mangala-arati is a full arati, with incense, lamp, water, cloth, flowers, chamara (fan made of yak tail) & vyanjana (fan made of peacock feathers). This arati ceremony goes on amidst the sweet kirtana which devotees sing for the pleasure of Their Lordships. To the accompaniment of this kirtana devotees sway back and forth, raising their hands in the air, in the sign of appealing to the Lord to shower His mercy upon them.
After mangala-arati, pujaris sprinkle sacred water on devotees and then the devotees inform Their Lordships about the temple activities.
Tulasi is glorified throughout the Puranas and Pancharatra: It was for the spiritual upliftment of the souls in the material world that Lord Vishnu created tulasi as the ocean of milk was being churned. Tulasi is more dear to the Lord than Lakshmi, for Tulasi-devi undertook extreme austerities and worshiped the Lord with love in order to have Him as her husband, and the Lord fulfilled her wish.
In the morning, after mangala-arati all the assembled devotees attend tulasi worship and circumambulate Shrimati Tulasi-devi. First they offer obeisances to Tulasi-devi with the tulasi-pranama-mantra, chanted three times.
Then they sing the tulasi-puja-kirtana while pujari offers arati to Tulasi-devi with incense, a ghee lamp and flowers. When the arati is finished, the assembled Vaishnavas circumambulate Tulasi-devi at least four times and offer her water by pouring some drops at her root. When a person circumambulates Shrimati Tulasi-devi, all the sins he may have committed are destroyed at every step, even the sin of killing a brahmana.
After tulasi-puja devotees approach Sri Prahlada Narasimha temple to attend mangala-arati of Sri Prahlada Narasimha. Narasimha-kirtana is sung while the pujari offers an arati to the Lord.
Sri Narasimhadev is half-lion and half-man incarnation of the Lord who takes away obstacles on devotional path of the devotees. Therefore it becomes necessary for devotees to pray to Him before they start the day’s devotional service. After arati, Narasimha-kavacha mantra is chanted by the devotees.
kausalyasuprajarama! purva sandhya pravartate, uttishtha! narashardula! kartavyam daivam ahnikam.
These sacred chants start echoing into the atmosphere soon after Narasimha-arati when devotees move to have darshan of Sri Srinivasa Govinda. Sri Srinivasa Govinda is the Lord of seven hills and is worshipped in the mood of awe and reverence. Devotees chant Vedic hymns like Purusha-sukta, Brahma Samhita, Selected prayers from Srimad Bhagavatam, Svasti Vachanas, Sri Venkatesha Suprabhata to greet the Lord after He is awake. A full arati is performed to the Lord while devotees chant His glorification.
After Suprabhata, all the devotees assemble in main temple hall and together get immersed in the chanting of Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare with the transcendental voice of Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada mentions:
"In the early morning hours (known as brahma-muhurta) one should get up and immediately chant the Hare Krishna mantra, or at least 'Krishna, Krishna, Krishna.' In this way, one should remember Krishna. Some shlokas or prayers should also be chanted. By chanting, one immediately becomes auspicious and transcendental to the infection of material qualities. Actually one has to chant and remember Lord Krishna twenty-four hours daily, or as much as possible." (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila 24.331, purport)
Meanwhile behind the closed doors of altars, the kautuka-murtis of Sri Sri Radha Krishnachandra, Sri Sri Krishna Balarama and Sri Sri Nitai Gauranga are offered shodashopachara seva, a worship with sixteen upcharas.
The Agama-shastras recommend that a temple needs to have 5 sets of Deities called as Pancha Beras – Mula Bera, Utsava Bera, Shayana Bera, Abhisheka Bera and Bali/Bhoga Bera. Further to this, two or three beras can be installed into one Deity also as per the temple standards.
At ISKCON, Bangalore, there are three sets of Deities in the altar – The Mula Vigraha, Utsava Vigraha and the Kautuka Vigraha (which is the combination of shayana bera, abhisheka bera and bali bera).
The Kautuka vigrahas receive shodashopachara seva in the morning as well as the shayana seva.
During the shodashopachara-seva These Deities are offered the upacharas which include inviting the Lord to the seat of bathing, welcoming the Lord, offering the water for sipping, etc. As a part of the shodashopachara, Deities are also offered panchamrita-abhisheka (with milk, curds, ghee, honey and sweet water) and are dressed gorgeously.
It is also during this time that Mula Vigrahas are adorned in gorgeous outfits and garlands for the darshan-arati or shringara-arati.
Just before 7:15 am some devotees start performing the kirtana to greet Their Lordships. It is during this time many more devotees throng to the temple to have darshan of Their Lordships before starting their daily duties. The kirtana is stopped by the sign of conch shells blowing, announcing the opening of Lord’s darshan.
The doors open, an aromatic smoke finds its way out the altar and engulfs the entire atmosphere of main temple hall, before revealing the transcendental forms of Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Krishnachandra, Sri Sri Krishna Balarama and Sri Sri Nitai Gauranga. Govindam Adi Purusham song during this, stirs one’s soul.
It’s a unique experience being there in the main temple hall, witnessing the arati of the Lord. Devotees then pay obeisance to Their Lordships. Their Lordships are then showed a mirror in which They glance at Themselves. Then an arati is performed during which kirtanas glorifying Sri Krishna Chaitanya and Krishna Balarama echo the atmosphere.
After Shringara-arati, devotees carry out the processional murti of Srila Prabhupada in a palanquin and go around the main temple altar once. During pradakshina he takes darshan of Their Lordships. Devotees also circumambulate the Deities following Srila Prabhupada.
The Deity of Srila Prabhupada receives charanamrita and shatari after the pradakshina. During this time all the devotees are also blessed with the shatari, (Shatari is impressed with the lotus feet of the Lord).
The Deity of Srila Prabhupada is then carried in a procession to Sri Prahlada Narasimha Temple. Before entering Narasimha temple, Srila Prabhupada takes blessings from Sri Garuda and Sri Hanuman. Sri Prahlada Narasimha, then gives His darshan mercifully to the devotees. The Lord is offered an arati and the devotees glorify Him by singing sri narasimha jaya narasimha jaya jaya jaya narasimha!!!
After the arati, the Deity of Srila Prabhupada receives prasadam flower from the lotus feet of the Lord and shatari and then He proceeds to Sri Srinivasa Govinda Temple.
As soon as Srila Prabhupada leaves to Srinivasa Govinda Temple, all the devotees also are blessed with the shatari of the Lord.
Soon after the sringara darshan of Sri Prahlada Narasimha, devotees follow the Deity of Srila Prabhupada to the temple of Sri Srinivasa Govinda, the Lord of the seven hills.
The sacred hyms – kamala kucha chuchuka kumkumato are chanted by the devotees to greet the Lord. Literally it is a visual retreat to see the Lord who is decorated with the scintillating jewels.The Lord is offered an arati. Again pujari offers the flower prasadam from the lotus feet of the Lord and shatari of Sri Srinivasa Govinda to the Deity of Srila Prabhupada.
ISKCON Founder- Acharya Srila Prabhupada is offered an elaborate Arati in the Guru mantapa.
All the devotees come in a row, offer flowers and respectful obeisance at his lotus feet.
After the Arati, sacred water is sprinkled on the devotees and the utsava Deity of Srila Prabhupada goes back to the main altar.
Srila Prabhupada says: This is our duty, to dress Krishna in such an attractive way that people at least see that it is very beautiful. Then he becomes a devotee, simply by appreciating. Simply by appreciating, if they say, "Now the Deity worship is very nice," then they go a step forward, step forward immediately, simply by appreciation. Then other things will come gradually. Therefore the temple worship should be exactly to the routine, to the instruction of the shastra and guru and acarya, so that the worshiper in the temple as well as the visitor, both of them will benefit. They will be gradually seeing. Krishna is so kind that He has consented to appear in a way so that we can see.
At the present moment we cannot see Krishna as He is spiritually embodied, sad-chid-ananda-vigrahah, because we have no eyes to see sac-chid-ananda-vigrahah (Bs. 5.1). So here is also sac-chid-ananda-vigrahah, archa-murti. It is not idol worship. The atheist class may say so, but it is not so. Those who have got eyes, they can see. Just like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, when He entered the temple of Jagannatha, immediately He fainted, "Oh, here is My Lord. Here is My Lord." So one has to become santah. Then one can see. But it is culture, by culture. Premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilochanena santah sadaiva (Bs. 5.38). When you develop that culture, when you develop that love for Krishna, then you will see immediately and you will faint, "Oh, here is my Lord." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.35 -- Bombay, December 4, 1974)
The second elaborate offering of the day is called as Pratara Bhoga. This is offered to Their Lordships around 8:15 am when the Lord is being greeted with the sankirtana. As a part of the Deity worship standards, the Lord is offered delicacies like bhaji, chutney, puris, sabji, paratha, halva, sandesha, fruit salad, juice, milk, etc.
Hearing shastra-especially Srimad-Bhagavatam-is one of the five principal activities of sadhana-bhakti recommended by Lord Chaitanya. Thus every devotee at the temple here regularly hears the morning class. Hearing must be done with full concentration and attention, with an active interest in understanding and relishing the message of shastra. At the end of the session, devotees put forth their questions to the speaker in order to clearly understand the subject.
After guru-puja and the morning sankirtana, devotees assemble in English Lecture Hall where the audio lectures of Srila Prabhupada are played. On some days of the week, senior devotees lecture on the verses of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Srimad Bhagavad-gita.
Around 11:30 am, the altar of Their Lordships starts getting ready to receive the Rajbhoga offering which is the third elaborate offering of the day apart from the numerous offerings of fruits which the Lord gets from His devotees. This is a grand offering of the Lord and includes varieties of delicacies like pickles, salads, raita, savories, puris, sabjis, rotis, dhal, kari, papad, shrikhand, thick juice, rice, etc.
Later after an arati, the prasadam is made available to the devotees to honor.
As the name suggests, it is the grandest arati of the Lord during the day which is performed after Rajbhoga offering.
Devotees gather in front of the altars and perform the kirtana while the pujaris offer the full arati with incense, pancha-dipa, arghya, vastra, pushpa, chamara and vyanjana. After the arati, pujari sprinkles the holy water on devotees.
Around 1 pm, Their Lordships are given rest and for the next three hours the temple is closed.
Around 3:45 pm, the Lord is awakened from His short sleep and is requested to give darshan to His devotees.
This is the fourth offering of the day and happens behind the closed doors immediately after the noon jagrana-seva. Delicacies like lassi, fruit juice, fruit salad, fried nuts, sweet pakauras, honey, whipped-cream are offered to the Lord.
Around 4:15 pm, the pujaris blow conchshells and announce the opening of the darshan of Their Lordships. After darshan opens, Their Lordships receive a short arati called dhupa-arati amidst sweet kirtana sung by the devotees of the Lord.
All the other sevas like pushpanjali seva and fruits offering resume after the dhupa-arati.
Varieties of sabjis, rice, chutney, puris and gulab-jamun form the part of Sandhya bhoga offering which is offered around 5 pm.
Around 6:45 pm a tulasi-plant comes out of the main temple altar and is taken to the Tulasi square, an area adjacent to the main altar where the second tulasi-arati of the day is performed. This arati is performed just like the one performed in the morning.
This is again a very grand arati of the Lord. The holy kirtana of kiba jaya jaya gaura-chander… echoes in the main temple while the pujari offers full arati to Their Lordships. During this arati, Sri Chaitanya is especially glorified. Prayers are also offered to Narasimhadev by the devotees during this arati.
At the end pujari culminates this arati by sprinkling sacred waters onto devotees.
Varieties of sabjis, milk, puris, cakes are offered during this ratrikalina bhoga offering and is the sixth offering of the day.
This is the last arati of the day and it evokes a festive mood into devotees. A Few minutes before the arati, all the lights in the main temple are dimmed to almost dark. Conchshells blow, and the doors open, letting the aromatic smoke out, slowly revealing the forms of Their Lordships.
Radha Krishna prana mora, jugala kishore.. Devotees sing this song very melodiously while Their Lordships receive an arati. The visitors are made to sit in front of the Lord and when they witness opening of the Lord’s darshan, they can only express their devotion by clapping and joining in the kirtana. They are captivated by the sight of Their Lordships receiving the service of Their loving devotees. Claps grow louder and louder as the arati comes to an end.
After shayana-arati gets over, one can see a decorated palanquin brought to the altar and the pujaris seat the smallest pairs of Deities in it. Just after a few minutes, the Pallaki utsava commences. During the fifteen minutes of this festival, Their Lordships are taken three times round the main altar amidst tumultuous sankirtana. Visitors and devotees also follow the palanquin of Their Lordships.
The Pallaki utsava culminates with a grand arati to the Deities in the palanquin. Tambula and flowers are offered to the Lordships during this time. Bells and conchshells resound in the kirtana marking the grand finale of the sevas for the day to Their Lordships.
After Pallaki utsava, the Deities are taken into the shayana room where They are offered shayana-seva.
The daily program at ISKCON, Bangalore is a unique experience which cannot be really described through words.
Please visit the temple and feel the joy yourself!
ISKCON, Bangalore performs opulent Deity worship in line with the desire of the Founder-Acarya, Srila Prabhupada who writes:
Worship of Radha-Krishna Deities is the ultimate pinnacle of Deity worship, and it must be done with the utmost caution and attention to every detail of giving opulent service.
(Letter to: Gunagrahi: -- New York 3 July, 1972)