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Russians join Indians in Janmashtami celebrations

Russians join Indians in Janmashtami celebrations

Author: Arun Mohanty, Indo-Asian News Service
Publication: Yahoo News
Date: September 1, 2002
URL: http://in.news.yahoo.com/020901/43/1uo1n.html

In keeping with a tradition in vogue for the past years, Indians and Russians celebrated the birthday of Hindu god Krishna with cultural programmes and religious functions here.

The lone Hindu temple, run by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) in downtown Moscow, was flooded with devotees throughout Friday, even though it was a working day.

But the real rush of devotees, both Indians and Russians, was seen on Saturday -- the Janmashtami day.

A surprising fact was that Russian Hindus outnumbered their Indian counterparts at the function in a country that barely had any of its citizens claiming to have converted to Hinduism before the Soviet disintegration nearly a decade ago.

This year, Janmashtami was celebrated on a grander scale as it coincided with Moscow's 855th birth anniversary -- an event celebrated with enormous pomp and show through the weekend in the Russian capital.

Mass Janmashtami celebrations began Saturday afternoon with an art exhibition and a drawing competition for children followed by the main ritual prayers for the deities of Krishna and his companion Radha.

The 'havan', or sacred fire ritual, for the prayers was performed with chanting of Hindu hymns.

The main attraction was a cultural programme held Saturday evening.

Artistes from the Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre (JNCC) under the Indian embassy and child artistes from the Indian School presented dances dedicated to Krishna on a huge stage especially built for the occasion outside the temple. Dances that celebrated the bond of love between Radha and Krishna, by the JNCC artistes, had the audience spell-bound.

A local theatre group, Gaurang, comprising only Russian artistes, staged a drama on the life and love of Krishna and Radha.

The festivities, which continued till midnight Saturday, ended with 'aarti' or a cleansing ritual.

'Prasadam', or the holy offering, was continuously served to visitors and devotees throughout the evening.

Janmashtami for many Russians is an occasion to get acquainted with Indian culture, art and food and to purchase exotic Indian souvenirs, for which the organisers had made adequate arrangements.

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