The pre festival day of Brahmotsava celebrations is dedicated for vivid and interesting rituals. The prime event of the day is Garuda Pata Pratishtha, the installation ceremony of Sri Garuda on pata or flag. This is preceded by a series of rituals that are performed to purify the festival paraphernalia and arena, and then to invoke the protection of the Lord’s confidential associates.
Give below is a brief summary on each of the main rituals performed on this day:
Svasti-vachana (sabha prarthanam): This ritual is similar to invoking Lord Ganesha who is well known for destroying the obstacles. The Vaishnavas, in order to remove obstacles, invoke Sri Vishvaksena, the commander-in-chief of Lord Krishna’s army. He is invoked to protect the festival of His beloved Lord. Sri Vishvaksena is offered sodashopachara seva (Sixteen fold worship).
Sri Sudarshana, the beloved disc weapon of Lord Krishna is invoked into a kalasha (water pot) in order to sanctify the water. He is offered sodashopachara seva along with the suitable Vedic mantras. Once the offerings to Sudarshana are over, he is ceremoniously sent back. The water thus left behind in the kalasha is the most sacred water and is used to purify the festival paraphernalia, the yaga-shala (sacrificial arena), paka-shala (the cooking place), temple premises, etc.
Raksha Bandhanam (Sri Brahmotsava Kankanam Raksha Dhara):
Raksha bandhanam is a sacred thread that is tied around the wrist as a protection from evil or untoward forces. The ritual involves invoking Sri Sudarshana, the destroyer of all evils, onto the sacred threads smeared with turmeric paste. Sudarshana is requested to reside on the threads and is offered sodashopachara seva. The threads are then tied to the right hand of all the Deities, except Srimati Radharani, for whom it is tied on the left hand. This is followed by tying it to Srila Prabhupada and then to all the devotees. This thread remains on the wrist till the conclusion of the Brahmotsava festival.
Sacred mud for planting the seedlings is collected from the goshala (cow shed). The dust in the cowshed is considered to be always pure due to the residence of mother cow who herself is pure and also very dear to Lord Krishna. The process of collecting soil involves sprinkling of the sanctified water on the soil and then invoking the ashta dikpalas (the presiding deities of the eight directions - East – Indira, South East – Agni, South – Yama, South West – Nirurti, West – Varuna, North West – Vayu, North – Kubera, North East – Isana) into it. Thereafter, Their Lordships Sri Lakshmi Bhu Varaha are invoked and offered sodashopachara seva. Mother earth is glorified by chanting the Bhu-suktam prayers and then with her permission the earth is dug to collect the mud.
Vainateya is another name of Garudadeva, as he is the son of Vinita (Aditi), the chaste wife of sage Kashyapa. In this homa or fire sacrifice Sri Vainateya is invoked into the sacrificial fire and then oblations are offered for his pleasure.
After the conclusion of the homa, the collected mud is brought to the festival arena in the temple hall. Eight pots are half filled with this mud. Sanctified sprouted grains of nine varieties (nava-dhanyam - Bengal Gram, Wheat, Horse Gram, Green Gram, Rice, White beans, Black Sesame seeds, Chic Peas, Black Gram) are planted into the pot, and finally covered with the remaining mud. Sanctified water is poured on these seedlings while the specific Vedic mantras are being chanted. The ashta dikpalas are invited to reside in the eight pots till the conclusion of the festival. The pots are placed in the respective directions of the dikpalas residing in them. In the middle of these pots, soma kumbha, water pot invoked with the presence of Soma devata (Moon God) is placed, after being offered sodashopachara seva.
After Vainateya or Garuda is satisfied with the offering of oblations in the sacrificial fire and the sanctified grains are planted, it is the time for the golden winged carrier of Lord Vishnu to accept Patadhivasa (residing on the flag). Before Sri Garuda accepts his place, the ashta dikpalas are invited to occupy their respective positions on the flag and are offered sodashopachara seva there. Then Sri Garuda takes his position in the center. Eight celestial serpents are invited, who bind his body to hold him there and prevent from flying off from the flag in any of the eight directions. This binding is known as ashta dik bandhana (binding from eight directions). The process is performed along with the auspicious chants of Sudarshan Mantra and is concluded with the recitation of Garuda Dandakam followed by a Maha Mangala-arati. In this way Garudadeva is invited to preside over the festival.