The third day of the auspicious month of Vaishakh is celebrated as Akshay Tritiya, which is renowned for bestowing all auspiciousness on anything being started on this day, and it also marks the beginning of Chandan Yatra, one of the most popular festivals in the summer season, when the deities are smeared with the cooling paste of sandalwood.
In the Shri Shri Radha Govinda Dham, the preparation for the festival starts many days prior to Akshay tritiya, when the devotees start grinding chandan with rose water, mixed with camphor so as to make it even more cooling and pleasing for the lords, in the temple courtyard, while simultaneously singing the holy names of the lord. Each morning and evening the devotees take turns to grind chandan on stone slabs sitting on the marble floor of the temple. The scene of the devotees sitting there and engaging in this service is truly very beautiful and inspiring, as it instills within the heart an image of how it must be in the spiritual world where everyone is constantly engaged in the service of Krishna. In the time span of a few days, the devotees manage to accumulate enough sandalwood paste to smear on all the deities, big and small.
When the auspicious day arrives, their lordships are dressed in a flower outfit in the morning, prepared by the mataji’s who stay up all night engaged in the service of making an exquisitely beautiful flower dress to please the lords with the cooling effect of the sweet scented and colorful blossoms. In the afternoon the deities are covered with chandan, incorporated with the love and devotion of the devotees who ground it, from head to toe and detailed designs are drawn to decorate their most attractive forms. The devotees are extremely overjoyed on this day to see the lords, as their beautiful three bending forms are very visible. Seeing the lord smeared with chandan and decorated with flowers cools the eyes of the devotees and they feel tremendous joy in their hearts. This application of sandalwood paste on the Utsav murtis of the lords continues for 21 days and on the last day the big deities are once again covered in chandan. In this way by observing the chandan yatra festival and making arrangements for cooling the lord from the scorching heat we too can drown in the ocean of transcendental bliss and be freed from the scorching heat of this material existence.