A ll of the devas, ṛṣis, and tīrthas congregate in Śrīdhāma Māyāpur to worship the Supreme Lord, for in Śrīdhāma Māyāpur – the center of the universe – Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa eternally reside and bestow Their benediction and mercy to those who worship Them there. Is it any wonder, then, that Śrīla Prabhupāda stated that Māyāpur, the World Headquarters of his ISKCON movement, was his place of worship? It is described in Śrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmṛta that “[h]e and his devotees would worship the Supreme Lord there in such a magnificent style that the whole world would be attracted to Prabhupāda’s place of worship, the Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir.” And this is indeed the case, for the opulence and devotion of Śrīdhāma Māyāpur’s Deity worship attracts and inspires devotees worldwide.
In 1972, it was hard to imagine that the Deities of Māyāpur would be served in the grand style in which They are now worshipped. When the Māyāpur project was just beginning, the original Rādhā-Mādhava Deities were housed in a simple thatched hut and worshipped by only one pūjārī. His Grace Jananivāsa Prabhu, the head pūjārī of ISKCON Māyāpur, recalls that in those early days the devotees could afford to offer only one piece of sandeśa per day, and this one piece had to be cut up to be used in each of the day’s bhoga offerings. Yet, Śrīla Prabhupāda spoke about housing Rādhā-Mādhava in a marble palace and offering Them the most elaborate worship. Śrīla Prabhupāda assured the devotees that since Mādhava is the husband of the Goddess of fortune, all facility would be provided. They must simply continue to serve Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava with love and devotion, and Mādhava would take care of everything.
Today, Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava and Their Aṣṭa-sakhīs, Śrī Śrī Pañca-tattva, and Śrī Śrī Prahlāda Nṛsiṁhadeva are worshipped with the opulence of kings and queens, and the Deity Department is so large that it is split into seven subdivisions, each of which is responsible for a different aspect of Their worship. Overseeing all of these aspects are His Grace Jananivāsa Prabhu and His Grace Paṅkajāṅghri Prabhu, who have been the pūjārīs of Māyāpur since the beginning and are among the most senior pūjārīs in ISKCON.
The Deities of Śrī Māyāpur Candrodaya Mandir are worshipped on the altar by approximately 60 pūjārīs, who wake Them, dress Them, perform seven āratis throughout the day, offer Them bhoga, dress Them again in the evening, and put Them to rest. Assisting the pūjārīs to opulently dress the Lord are over 40 devotees who make garlands, bouquets, and flower arrangements for the Lord’s worship. In Śrīdhāma Māyāpur, most of the flowers that are offered on a daily basis are grown in two flower gardens that are maintained on the temple grounds. These gardens are cared for by 20 devotees. In addition to this, many devotees grow flowers in their own homes and pick flowers from the surrounding area to offer to the Deities. Every day, 100 garlands are made and offered. In the mornings and evenings, groups of local devotees gather to string the beautiful – and very large! – garlands that are offered to the Deities, to create bouquets to be held by the Aṣṭa-sakhīs and Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, and to fashion flower arrangements to beautify the altars.
The opulent outfits offered to the Deities are all designed, stitched, and embroidered by a team of 28 local devotees who work year-round to create the Lord’s beautiful clothing. Resident devotees also hand make most of the jewelry worn by the Māyāpur Deities. Approximately 35 devotees are engaged in caring for the Deities’ paraphernalia rooms and paraphernalia. These devotees clean, polish, organize, and in other ways ensure that the Lord’s belongings are maintained nicely.
Deity worship could not be complete without opulent bhoga offerings, and Śrīdhāma Māyāpur is renowned for the delicious preparations offered to the Deities. The Deities receive eight bhoga offerings a day, which are cooked by at least 10 devotees and on festivals days by 40 devotees or more. In the early days in Śrīdhāma Māyāpur devotees could only afford to offer the Lord one piece of sandeśa a day, but now the Deities are daily offered an abundance of the most delicious sweets: milk sweets like sandeśa, barfī, and rasamalai, and cakes, cookies, and other varieties of sweet preparations. There is even a separate kitchen used as a confectionery for the preparation of some of these items. And of course, the sweets are only one aspect of the opulent meals. The Lord’s rāja-bhoga offering alone consists of 25 different preparations, each expertly prepared for the Lord’s pleasure.
It is said that in the spiritual world, every day is a festival, and in Śrīdhāma Māyāpur, it truly seems as if a festival is always being celebrated. More than 150 days per year are celebrated as festivals for the pleasure of the Lord and His devotees! These festivals are performed in a grand and opulent manner to please and glorify the Lord and to submerge the Vaiṣṇavas in an ocean of bliss. The Māyāpur Festival Committee’s sole purpose is to plan and execute festivals for the pleasure of the Lord and the Lord’s devotees, and working under their direction are many other devotees who assist in the hours, weeks, and sometimes months of planning and preparation that are required for Māyāpur’s elaborate festivals. The number of devotees who assist with the festivals is difficult to calculate, for the entire ISKCON Māyāpur community comes
together to help, along with devotees from around the world and local residents from the surrounding areas.
Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava and Their
Aṣṭa-sakhīs, Śrī Śrī Pañca-tattva, and Śrī Śrī Prahlāda Nṛsiṁhadeva are the proprietors of ISKCON Māyāpur, and all who reside there are Their servants. They are the center of the Māyāpur community, and all residents of ISKCON Māyāpur engage in Their service in one way or another – and as Śrīdhāma Māyāpur is the World Headquarters of ISKCON, the Lords of Śrī Māyāpur Candrodaya Mandir have a special relationship with ISKCON devotees from all over the world. Many thousands of devotees take darśana of the Deities in Māyāpur every year, and many more take darśana regularly through Māyāpur TV. It is said that Deity worship is at the heart of any Vaiṣṇava community, and this is certainly true of ISKCON Māyāpur.