VPSS Annakut Festival

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By Dr. Venugopal Menon

HOUSTON: From the intense bustle and noise of highway traffic of southwest Houston, a short deviation on to Bellfort Village drive and into the sprawling complex of Vallabh Priti Seva Samaj, the visitor is instantly transported into a serene, pristine atmosphere that is very much reminiscent of an authentic temple in a traditional Indian village.  On the evening of Sunday, November 2, the weather had turned gentle, welcoming the change over from the heat of the summer to the temperately salubrious relief of the autumn.

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The place was packed with joyous and pious crowd of Hindus, ladies clad in colorful sarees and men in their traditional kurtas, meeting, greeting, praying and enjoying the gratification of the occasion.

It was the Annual Annakut Celebration of VPSS, one of Pushti Marga’s main festivals.   It celebrates Krshna’s worship of the Mount Govardhan during his Vraj Lila.  Breaking with tradition, he recommended puja of Govardhan instead of Indra. Krshna argued that no one had seen Indra and benefits of his worship were rather dubious. Worshipping Govardhan-Nathji had positive and visible benefits. It was Govardhan-Nathji who protected them, gave them rain, grass, shelter etc. Therefore it made sense to worship Him rather than some remote God on a golden throne in a transient heaven!

On behalf of the temple Rasesh Dalal had invited the members of the Board and Advisory Board of the Hindus of Greater Houston to attend the sacred event.  As we walked into the foyer, the most hospitable hosts were ready to receive us and as a group we were taken to near the dais.  We were enthralled by the divine Darshan, receiving Shreenathji Bhagwan’s blessings, praying and listening to the melodious bhajans and kirtans.  The extensive and splendid display of the several hundred plates of food items, Annakut, all prepared by the priests on the same day, was a spectacle to remember.  We were then guided to the dining hall where we were offered the Maha Prasad and served a delicious and sumptuous vegetarian dinner.

The several office bearers of VPSS including Ramesh Parikh, Rasesh Dalal and many others cordially welcomed our group and explained their meticulous organizational structure, in which the enthusiastic volunteers were given total freedom to devote their commitment with passion and fervor.  Afterwards we all had a very informative and interactive discussion about VPSS, and we left envisioning a future of all the factions of Hindus working through separate avenues, but focused together for broader and common objectives.