Johannesburg, South Africa
|Arrival at Johannesburg Airport|
[Condensed from the report by Krishna Nandini devi dasi]
As the sun was setting in Mauritius on May 31st, 1998, the devotees knew that it was to rise in South Africa in just a few hours. While we could understandthe sadness and separation of the devotees in Mauritius, we in South Africa could not help but feel enlivened, and prepared to celebrate the arrival of His Divine Grace, Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj.
When the green light flashed in the International Arrival Hall at the Johannesburg Airport to indicate that the airplane had landed at 10:00 p.m., all the devotees started chanting, "Srila Guru Maharaj Ki - Jai!" Many devotees shed tears of joy.
Within ten minutes Srila Guru Maharaj arrived at the V.I.P. lounge, reunited with his children in South Africa after almost two long years. After resting for a few minutes, His Divine Grace walked down to meet the devotees. The appearance of his beautiful transcendental figure made the devotees immediately offer their humble obeisances. Guru Maharaj embraced the devotees, showering them with his blessings. Soon his chest was resplendently adorned with many beautiful flower garlands.
Just forty-five minutes later, Srila Guru Maharaj arrived in the suburb of Lenasia and was welcomed with lighted candles. Children stood along the roadside, each with a lighted candle, to give Gurudev a warm and memorable reception. He was then taken to the home of Sri Amiya Krishna Prabhu; the house was filled with the jubilant chanting of the Holy Names. Amiya Krishna Prabhu's family as well as all the other devotees and well-wishers showered flowers and petals upon His Divine Grace, and made offerings to his lotus feet as Guru Puja was ecstatically performed. Srila Gurudev then enlivened the devotees with Krishna-katha. Thereafter a grand, delicious feast prepared by the devotees was offered to Gurudev.
|New Temple Site|
The first auspicious morning in South Africa started with Guru Maharaj
giving darshan at 5:30 a.m. Then, with excitement and eagerness, the devotees
escorted Gurudev to see the new Temple site. Guru Maharaj was very pleased
with the 2200 square-yard plot, and glorified the devotees for their
achievement. Jayaram Prabhu, the architect, presented Srila Maharaj with the
At 2:00 p.m. the installation of Ananta Sesa was performed under the instruction of Gurudev. The auspicious appearance of Lord Baladev immediately penetrated through the hearts of all the devotees and this led to the ecstatic chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord.
On June 2nd, His Divine Grace gave his first public talk in Johannesburg -- an inspiring lecture on the Srimad Bhagavat Gita -- to a gathering of about about 200 guests. The audience was overwhelmed with the talk and asked Guru Maharaj for his blessings. Sripad Bhakti Ananda Sagar Maharaj assisted Guru Maharaj in many ways, and on a later occasion when Guru Maharaj was feeling unwell, Sripad Sagar Maharaj gave a lecture at the University of South Africa.
|TV and Press Coverage|
The next day of Srila Guru Maharaj's tour started early -- at 4:00
a.m. Guru Maharaj gave darshan to the devotees at 5:00 a.m. and then went to
the South African Broadcasting Corporation to appear on national television.
Upon his arrival, Srila Gurudev was respectfully received by two crew members
before making his appearance as chief guest on the nationally broadcast
"Breakfast Club." This glorious interview was viewed by over 25 million
people in South Africa. The crew that interviewed Gurudev was so impressed
that even after the program was over they never left his side. Always
distributing his mercy, Guru Maharaj took his garland and put it around the
neck of the crew leader. What a sensational TV program!
When Srila Gurudev returned to his residence, he received a phone call from the Broadcasting Studio informing him that many viewers had called the studio to speak to Guru Maharaj. The Broadcasting Corporation respectfully invited Srila Guru Maharaj to fulfill the public demand to make a further exclusive appearance on the "Breakfast Club" television show. Unfortunately, due to his tight schedule, Guru Maharaj was unable to make a second appearance.
And at a Johannesburg press conference, the reporters were so impressed that a conference scheduled to last half an hour lasted for a full three hours. Srila Govinda Maharaj charmed everybody that he met! Before departing, Guru Maharaj gave the news reporters a personal invitation to our Nabadwip Math.
More devotees decided to take initiation, and later that evening, at 7:00 p.m., a very distinguished program was held at the Vishnu Hall. After an enlightening talk, many people offered their sincere thanks and respects to His Divine Grace.
|Live Radio Talk Show|
The next day, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., Sripad Sagar Maharaj gave a
lecture at the Witwatersrand University. At 4:00 p.m. Guru Maharaj was taken
to the East Wave Radio Station to participate in a live talk show. This also
went across very well.
His Divine Grace was invited to the city of Benoni to give a talk at the Radha-Krishna Mandir. Srila Gurudev was very impressed with the Temple and Deities. A large gathering eagerly listened to an inspiring talk on Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Thereafter Srila Guru Maharaj partook of a large feast offered to him by the devotees, and everyone joined in the honoring of Prasadam.
Before departing for the coastal city of Durban, Srila Maharaj gave initiation to six more devotees at the airport. It was time to say good-bye; tears of joy and tears of the sadness of impending separation were experienced by the devotees. Srila Maharaj then boarded the plane and departed for Durban.
Next Stage: Durban, South Africa.
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