By Hari Narayana das
"The Ray of Peace"
Second Jagannath Ratha Yatra in Bandung, Indonesia
Bandung is a small island in Indonesia. The annual 'Light Festival' commemorates the anniversary of Bandung city. This year the festival fell on the 8th of November. The festival includes a parade throughout the island with a variety of acts and performances. Many departments under Bandung's Government participated. Taking advantage of this golden opportunity, devotees organized a grand Ratha Yatra festival and joined the parade. They were granted permission from the Government. Srila Prabhupada was always pushing forward this festival. "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 center." (Letter to Gurudasa, 16th July 1968)
The theme of the festival this year was 'Animalia'. All participants were requested to decorate their cars with a variety of animals. It seemed that the Lord was helping out, as the Ratha was already bedecked with two elegant white horses. Adorned with colorful flowers and electric lamps the chariot was attracting all who glanced upon it.
Devotees from all parts of Indonesia flew in to be present for the festival. Some had been saving up for months in order to attend this program. "I am so glad to learn that you are prepared to work even harder, as a forward soldier, to fight the maya. May Krsna give you more and more strength." (Letter to Tamala Krsna, 18th March 1969)
Devotees arrived the day before the festival. All their needs, such as prasadam and accommodation were taken care by local devotee, Lokanath Acarya das. A teacher training center was hired where devotees could take rest and prepare for the festival. The deities of Jagannath, Baladeva, and Subadra devi arrived after a long journey from Jogjakarta and spent the night with Their' devotees in the teacher training center. Shortly after, the chariot also arrived from Jakarta. The chariot team worked late into the night, assembling the cart in preparation for tomorrow's procession. Many matajis also stayed up late preparing flower garlands for the Lord.
Srila Prabhupada stressed on our sadhana as a first priority. "And never neglect to chant your sixteen rounds of beads daily, rise early without fail, attend mangala-arati take bath, and follow the other regulative principles, and everything will come out very successfully, you can rest assured of that." (Letter to Bhargava, June 13th 1972) Following this instruction, the next day devotees woke up early, finished their rounds and attended mangala-arati. At 7am, the Lord gave darshan in a spectacular new dress. An ecstatic kirtan led by local devotees set everyone in the right mood for the festival. Before the parade started, a group of devotees distributed books and leaflets requesting all to attend.
The Ratha Yatra officially started at 2pm. Devotees gathered in the hall where the Ratha Yatra Committee welcomed all and expressed gratitude for their participation in this festival. Senior devotees gave short speeches about Lord Jagannath headed by Agastya Muni das. Adi Purusa das, chief committee member of ISKCON 50 in Indonesia also spoke. He then informed the devotees about the day's schedule. A recorded class by HH Subhag Swami Maharaj was played and translated by Sudarananda das. Maharaj sent his well wishes to the devotees who worked hard in order for the festival to take place. He mentioned that Srila Prabhupada wanted that all devotees should work together, tolerate and cooperate. Maharaj was extremely joyful when he heard that so many devotees came from all over Indonesia to attend the festival becoming united as one big family.
Conch shells were blown as the Lord made His way to the chariot, thus creating an auspicious atmosphere. The demigods sent their blessings in the form of rain as Jagannath was on route to the chariot! As the chariot was pulled was to the Government Office, the starting point of the parade, the rain got heavier and heavier. However, melodious kirtan led by Sridhar das lifted not only the devotee's spirits, but also others who were participating in the Light Festival parade and in a short time everyone was on their feet dancing. "If there is chanting of Hare Krsna, even if 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". (Letter to Mukunda and Janaki, 28th February 1968)
The parade started and the Lord's chariot was pulled. It was amazing to see that after the chariot set out it stopped raining! The sky cleared up and the stars shone as bright as ever. Jagannath made His route from Diponegoro Street-Trunojoyo Street- Sultan Agung Street- Ir.H.Juanda Street- Merdeka Street- Lembong Street-Tamblong Street and finished in Asia Africa Street. Along the way, many passersby joined the devotees chanting and dancing. Premadhana das captivated all with his soothing voice. A ton of oranges, kindly donated by Dinadarini dasi was distributed liberally to all. A few of Srila Prabhupada's sankirtan warriors distributed books along the way, spreading the message of Jagannath to all.
The Light Festival came to a close when it reached Asia Africa Street. All the guests of honor made their way to the stage. Last but not least to make His way onto the stage was Jagannath, the real guest of honor! As the Lord made His way up, many looked on with great wonder and delight. An enactment of Rasa Lila was performed by devotees on stage with the audience highly appreciated the act. Agastya Muni das and Adi Purusa das garlanded Mr. Ridwan Kamil, the Mayor of Bandung, with a flower garland offered to the Lord and presented him with a copy of Bhagavad Gita. Mahaprasadam was then distributed to all. The festival was covered by the national television and newspaper, thus thousands took darshan of the Lord who is known as Patita Pavana (Savior of the fallen). The Ratha was voted third place in the category of the best decorated car.
We hope that Srila Prabhupada is pleased with our humble efforts. We take great inspiration from a letter he wrote which is of relevance to us. "I thank you all very much for making the Ratha-yatra festival so successful. Please convey my gratitude to all the boys and girls who participated in this great transcendental service. This is the second year, and you have made a great stride from the first year and in the third year, I hope it will be still more successful." (Letter to Upendra, 4th July 1968)
We offer our respects to HH Kavicandra Swami and HH Ramai Swami, (the GBCs of Indonesia) for their support and guidance to always look for new avenues for sankirtan in Indonesia. Our humble obeisances to HH Subhag Swami for his inspiration and always reminding us of the importance of Mahaprabhu's sankirtan movement. Our gratitude to the SAKKHI leaders and all the devotees who participated. Special thanks to the Jogjakarta devotees for bringing Their Lordships from Jogjakarta to Bandung. The prasadam team who worked throughout the night and cooked a variety of items for the Lords and his devotees deserve special mention, as well as the kirtan team who attracted all by their melodious voices and sweet playing of instruments.
We thank Srila Prabhupada again and again for showering his unlimited mercy upon us and keeping us engaged in the sankirtan movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Jay Jagannath, Baladeva, and Subadra Devi ki.... Jay!