By Hari Narayana Das
Ratha Yatra on Narasimha Caturdasi, a wonderful coincidence or two pastimes on the same day. On the auspicious day of Lord Narasimha's appearance day, a flood of mercy swept out the second biggest city of Indonesia, Surabaya. Lord Jagannath, His brother Lord Balarama, and His beloved sister Subadra Devi on his ratha yatra chariot bestowed Their causeless mercy to the citizens of Surabaya on this year's Flower and Cultural parade commemorating the anniversary of Surabaya city on May 3, 2015. This being the second Ratha Yatra in Surabaya.
The festival was followed up by many departments under Surabaya government bringing their flower decorated cars to participate in the festival. The organizers also gave chance to different cultural groups to participate in the festival. The devotees in Surabaya who are mostly students led by Maharathi prabhu, Sandya Avatara prabhu, Srivatsa prabhu and their team quickly took this opportunity to glorify Srila Prabhupada by joining the parade with Jagannath ratha yatra as a cultural performance. As Srila Prabhupada wrote in his letter "I am so much satisfied with your successful performance of Ratha-yatra festival and I am awaiting to see similar festivals in all our other centers...." SPL to Gurudasa, 16th July, 1968.
Srila Prabhupada in one of his lectures said that "Simply by understanding Krishna, Krishna's appearance, Krishna's disappearance, Krishna's activities. This Rathayatra is one of the activities of Krishna. Therefore to take part in the Rathayatra festival means to associate with Krishna directly. So in this way, if we associate with Krishna's name, Krishna's pastimes, Krihna's qualities, Krishna's form, then, gradually, we transcend this material existence." Ratha-yatra-London, July 13, 1972.
Understanding this, devotees from various part of Indonesia came to Surabaya just to render devotional services for the success of the festival according to their abilities to satisfy the Lord. They came by bus, train, flight a day before the festival.
The deities of Lord Jagannath, Balaram, and Subadra devi, along with Their chariot arrived in Surabaya on May 1, brought from Jember by the chariot team lead by Sadhu Jivana Prabhu. The chariot team and the committee members met and discussed the model of the chariot before they started the decoration for the chariot was to appear in the parade next day. The devotees enthusiastically decorated the chariot and on May 2, 2015, while the chariot team finished their work, the pujari prepared the Lord for the darsan arati program in the afternoon. Then came the rain. Heavy downpour, flooding the streets and lanes of the city, made the devotees pray to Lord Jagannath for His merciful glance so that His festival may proceed unhindered.
The rain stopped just in time for the first darsan. After all it was Lord Indra's humble service to clean the city and make it pleasing for the Lord of the Universe to go about in His Chariot. Devotees arranged for the Lord to stay in the hall of Sindhu Bhavan, an Indian community centre where Their Lordships were offered arati and the devotees dance and sang happily in front of Lord Jagannath. HH Kavichandra Swami, the GBC of Indonesia, gave a presentation and a short lecture about the appearance of Lord Narasimhadeva with very attractive powerpoint slides because ratha yatra on the next day coincided with Narasimha caturdasi. A moment later, HH Subhag Swami Maharaj arrived at Sindhu bhavan. After HH Kavichandra Swami, H.H. Subhag Swami Maharaj gave lecture about the origin of Ratha yatra. Maharaj narrated the journey of Srila Prabhupada to USA and how the first Rathaytra outside of India took place. Maharaj also told how Srila Prabhupada first brought Jagannath to the West and now by the intense eagerness of the devotees Srila Prabhupada is travelling to city after city in Indonesia with Jagannath and the devotees are travelling with Prabhupada. Since it also happened to be the disappearance of HG Jayananda prabhu, Maharaj also told about the dedication of Sriman Jayananda Prabhu, for serving Srila Prabhupada.
May 3, 2015, 6.30 am local time, Sri Jagannath along his brother Sri Balaramaji and His beloved sister Subadra devi were put on the chariot that was beautifully decorated with flowers. They were offered bhoga and the devotees sang nice bhajans. At 07.00 am, H.H. Subhag Swami Maharaj offered arati to The Lord. Then the devotees pulled the chariot to the start point of the parade in front of Merdeka field. On the way to the start point the Lord captivated many people to see Him. People left their offices, work place and ran to the street just to see the Lord. Arriving at the start point the devotees arranged for a place for the Lord's chariot to rest in front of market which was fully crowded with people. The devotees performed kirtan and danced in front of Lord Jagannath's chariot. As Srila Prabhupada wrote in his letter, "if there is chanting of Hare Krsna, even the soul is there for a short time, Oh! he will hear and become advanced. This sound vibration is not material, it is spiritual and powerful beyond our conception. So it cannot be hindered in any way by something material; it surpasses all these material barriers". SPL to Mukunda and Janaki, 28th February, 1968.
Many visitors were attracted to join the kirtan and danced with the devotees. The presence of two Prabhupada's disciples attracted many people to take picture with them. Both the Maharajas used this opportunity to spread Hare Krishna Maha Mantra by holding Hare Krishna Maha Mantra banner in front of them and those people even though from other faiths would happily hold up the hare krsna banners. At 11.00 am, the parade started and the devotees started to pull the Lord's Chariot. The street was crowded by visitors on both sides. The first line was a car decorated with a big Jagannath mask and carrying sound system to support the Kirtan. The fired up Kirtan led by Sesa das, Ananta Vijaya prabhu and their kirtan team made all the devotees present at the event and the visitors dance in ecstasy from start point until finish. Even fasting till dusk was no impediment for the devotees of Jagannath. One of the main attractions during the parade was our group of devotees dressed as Krishna and the gopis who danced beautifully all the way throughout the parade. The visitors were ecstatic and some of them even joined to dance when they saw the devotees pass in front of them. They also joined in to sing the Hare Krishna maha mantra. As the rath approached mid-way to the finish point, HH. Kavicandra swami Maharaj led the kirtan while HH. Subhag Swami maharaj enthusiastically distributed Mahaprasad fruits to the onlookers. One pick up truck loaded full with mangosteen accompanied the chariot which were distributed to the visitors.
Srila Prabhupada mentions in his letter, "The chanting of Hare Krsna continues to vibrate the brain for several days. We want to inject this transcendental poison into the heart of the maya serpent bitten people in general. Krsna consciousness, by the sound of Hare Krsna, if it continues for a moment in the brain of the rascals, then certainly it will act in the future to help them to become Krsna conscious." SPL to Brahmananda, 8th February, 1968
It was about 5 kilometers of the distance of the parade when the Lord entered the stage of honors more people came to see the ratha yatra and crowded the road. Many visitor said that "the Mahabarata" too has come join the festival. People became ecstatic and could not restrain themselves from dancing to the tune of Maha Mantra. The committees of the festival had to work hard to control the visitor to give way to the chariot to pass. In front of the stage of honors the devotees performed Rasa Lila dance, and HH Kavichandra Swami, the GBCs of Indonesia, gave a mahaprasad flower garland and Bhagavad Gita to Mrs. Risma, the mayor of Surabaya.
The festival was reported by National Television and newspaper. The devotees also did book distribution and prasadam distribution.
We hope that Srila Prabhupad is pleased with this insignificant offering and pray that he would shower his blessings to the devotees who organized such a wonderful Ratha-yatra. Srila Prabhupada mentioned in his letter that," I thank you all very much for making the rathayatra festival so successful. Please convey my gratitude to all the boys and girls who participated in this great transcendental service."(SPL to Upendra, 4th July 1968). He also blessed all devotees as he stated in his other letter that "may Krishna bless you all for your sincere service that you may all go on making more and more advancement in Krishna Consciousness." (SPL to Jayananda das, 19th July, 1976).
As a token of heartfelt gratitude we would like to offer our humble obeisances to HH Kavichandra Swami and HH Ramai Swami, the GBCs of Indonesia, for their blessings to make these ratha yatra festivals successful; for their support and guidance in helping us to push on this sankirtan movement of Mahaprabhu. Our humble obeisances to HH Subhag Swami for his inspiration and so sweetly engaging the devotees in the transcendental service to lord Jagannatah and thereby give pleasure to Srila Prabhupada and previous acaryas; for inspiring us with the dedication of Sriman Jayananda Prabhu, for bringing us closer to SrilaPrabhupada and keeping us united in family of ISKCON. Our gratitude to leaders of SAKKHI (ISKCON, Indonesia), and all devotees of Surabaya. Our gratitude to the prasadam team from Jember and the local devotees. Our gratitude to transportation coordinator Satyaraja das. Our gratitude to bhakta Edy, Ragava das and team for tireless sevice in preparing the chariot of Lord Jagannath. Our gratitude to the sankirtan team led by Sesa Das and Ananta Vijaya das for their wonderful Kirtan. Our gratitude to Acyuta Krishna das and Made G Yagustana for the beautiful pictures. Our gratitude to Agastya Muni das and mataji for the great support. Our gratitude to Upavitra mataji and the dancer team. Our gratitude to all the unnamed devotees who wish to remain anonymous but gave their time and dedicated service to make this festival an inspirationally succesful. We thank profusely Sriman Advaita Prabhu and devotees from Jember for so kindly bringing the deities and the Chariot all the way to Surabaya city.