By Hari Narayana Das
Lord Jagannath attracts diverse cultures and all people to join in the festival of Unending Bliss during the anniversary cultural parade of Palangka Raya city.
The annual Isen Mulang cultural festival or the New Year festival in Palangka Raya is held to commemorate the anniversary of city. The festival highlights the cultural diversity of the different communities from various part of Central Kalimantan (Borneo). This year on May 18, 2015 Palangka Raya celebrated its 58th anniversary and received special Mercy from Lord Jagannath. Lord Jagannath along His brother Balaram and Their beloved sister Subadra Devi on the Ratha yatra participated in the Isen Mulang Festival. The Ratha Yatra gave special colour to the festival because of the beautifully decorated chariot and the fired up melodious Hare Krishna Maha Mantra kirtan.
Srila Prabhupada wrote in a letter that "It doesn't matter if you can or cannot establish a temple there, but if you can introduce the Ratha-yatra, surely it will be a great success. So try to execute this will as far as possible." (SPL to Yamuna, 27th May 1969). In his other letter Srila Prabhupada wrote ".... If we introduce this festival in all big city in the world alongside with book distribution then in no time we will conquer the whole world." (SPL to Bhutatma, 7th August, 1973).
After the Yogyakarta ratha yatra in September 2014, the coordinator devotees of Ratha yatra Indonesia met with His grace Candra Pati Das from Palangka Raya. They had a small discussion about the possibility of having Ratha yatra festival in Palangka Raya, Central Borneo. Three months went past and then came the good news, right on time. The devotees in Palangka Raya were able to secure an invitation to the annual cultural festival Isen Mulang to be held to celebrate the 85th anniversary of Palangka Raya city this year.
The festival was followed up by delegations from Central Borneo and departments under Palangka Raya government bringing their decorated floats and variety of cultural presentations. Devotees in Palangka Raya and surrounding places took advantage of this offer and immediately started preparation to glorify Srila Prabhupada by joining the parade with Sri Jagannath Ratha Yatra as a cultural performance. As an advance team, Tapana Misra prabhu and Sachi Putra Prabhu went to Palangka Raya, few months before the festival to discuss about the preparation of the festival with devotees there. The devotees were hesitant about the chariot, because they did not have the required experience to make the chariot. After long discussion then they decided to make the chariot in ISKCON centre of Jember, East Java.
Srila Prabhupada points out in his letter that "I must say that the Ratha-yatra festival was so successful for your diligent labor only. If you would not have constructed such a nice Ratha (car) in such a short time, it would not have been possible to perform the grand festival. By Krsna's grace you have got the talent of carpentermanship, and you have fully utilized it in the service of Krsna. You have carved so many Jagannatha Murtis, and the car also, so Krsna must have been very much satisfied with your service. SPL to Syamasundara, 15th July, 1968
The chariot team lead by Brajanagara prabhu and Sadhu Jivana prabhu worked with full enthusiasm to complete the project; starting from selecting wood for the chariot and the wood for the deities. The chariot was made of teakwood and sculpted with Beautiful Balinese designs and motifs. The deities were carved from neem wood. After completion, the deities and chariot arrived at Palangka Raya with the team of devotees to reassemble the chariot and make proper arrangements to take care of the deities Who had now so mercifully manifested on the island of Kalimantan.
Invitation letters were sent out to the devotees all over Indonesia. The Pitamaha Temple foundation, Palangka Raya, made arrangements for devotees' accommodation in the classrooms of their school. The police department showed favorable gesture by sending foldable beds for all the devotees. The STAH, Sekolah Tinggi Agama Hindu or Hindu University, Tampung Penyang sponsored a bus for transportation of devotees.
HH Bhakti Raghava Swami and HH Subhag Swami arrived few days ahead of the festival and were personally present to grace the occasion as well as to see that everything went on well for the pleasure of Jagannath and Srila Prabhupada. A day before ratha yatra devotees arranged a fire sacrifice to invoke auspiciousness for the festival. The fire sacrifice was led by Sriman Shyam Sundar das brahmacari from Mayapur. Many devotees and local Hindus came and eenhusistically took part in the yajna. H.H. Subhag Swami Maharaj and H.H. Bhakti Raghava Swami Maharaj gave short class about the festival, inspiring all the devotees.
Next day, festivities began from early morning onwards. The chariot was nicely decorated with an abundance of flowers and so were the deities. The head of the Hindu Parisad mentioned that the Palangkaraya Hindu Parisad always welcomed all kind of diversity among the Hindus. He also said that this Ratha yatra festival was one way to introduce the Vedic culture to the public in Palangkaraya and he would give all support for the festival. The chief of Palangkaraya police department also attended the program. Bhakti Raghava Swami and Subhag Swami also spoke in brief about Ratha Yatra.
At 1200 hrs local time the Pujaris made the final preparations. The deities then took Their place on the chariot. H.H. Subhag Swami Maharaj offered arati to Their Lordships on the chariot. After the breaking of coconuts and sweeping of the road in front of the chariot, the devotees started to pull the chariot with mixed feelings, not sure about the outcome of the festival. In front of the chariot were Balinese musicians playing a nice concert, Balinese dancers and children with flags and banners with the maha mantra on them.
Arriving at the Bundaran Besar (Big Circular Park) of Palangkaraya city, the devotees started kirtan under the Bakula trees. For most of the visitors it was something new, chanting hare krsna and dancing. Very soon a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers surrounded the devotees and it appeared that they too were sharing the same bliss. Suddenly everything became very attractive- the out of the ordinary kirtan, the devotees dressed as Krishna and the Gopis, the beautifully dressed Dayak participants with bright costumes decorated with feathers and printed motifs, visitors from different faiths including the police and the press staffs- all were chanting and dancing. It was wonderful, no barriers, no distinction of religion, only bliss and none of them wanted to leave the devotees. One of our Christian friends asked, 'What is this Hare Krishna? How is it possible that the same song repeated over and over again is making so many people dance joyfully for hours together? A brief and clear answer was satisfying for all: 'Krsna is full of bliss and His name is no-different from Him. When we chant we are directly associating with bliss personified.' HG Vrajendranandan Prabhu, head of SAKKHI (ISKCON in Indonesia), commented, 'I seldom dance but when I saw all these people from different communities dancing with our devotees I also joined and danced with them. Everybody is happy.'
The Parade started at 5.00 pm and still so many people were taking pictures with the chariot and many still were dancing with the devotees. When Lord Jagannath entered the stage of honors something wonderful happened. Our Chariot was the last in the parade and surprisingly the MC announced that all the contingents have passed and the top officials there, including the Governor stood up to leave. Then the Governor saw a different kind of chariot approaching and with it a group around 250 people singing and dancing, cheerfully pulling the nicely decorated chariot. Then everyone including the Governor stood up and gave a standing ovation to the devotees. When the other participants passed by they all remained sitting but they stood up for Jagannath. More surprise was in the store for the officials when two men clad in saffron, Bhakti Raghava Swami and Subhag Swami, came up to the stage and offered flower garlands and Bhagavad-gita to the Governor of Central Borneo, Mr. Agustin Teras Narang and Mr. Ir Achmad Diran, the Vice Governor and the Chief of Police of Central Kalimantan. They were amazed, at a loss for words and certainly very happy. They were expressing their appreciation again and again.
The devotees also did book distribution and prasadam distribution. Around 2.5 quintal of oranges and 1000 packets of cookies were distributed. Srila Prabhupada mentioned in his letter that "The spiritual sky is far away but you just try to do it following Jagannatha Puri Ratha-yatra. Jagannatha Puri or wherever Ratha-yatra is performed is not different from the spiritual sky." SPL to Madhudvisa, 14th February, 1970
One common message continues to inspire the devotees and make them humble: 'All credits goes to Prabhupada and the previous acaryas. They are making all the arrangements. We are simply instruments in their hands.' We pray Srila Prabhupada to kindly keep his merciful glance over all the devotees who have been engaged in the service of Lord Jagannath. The Chariot of the Lord of the Universe moves on to yet another important city of Indonesia. Srila Prabhupada started the first ratha yatra in San Francisco in the 70's and he is still continuing to organize ratha yatras in many new places. Jayananda Prabhu is still continuing to construct chariots in different parts of the world. The potency Srila Prabhupada inculcated in his disciples continues to manifest in his grand disciples today.
We thank HH Kavichandra Swami and HH Rami Swami, the GBCs of Indonesia for their continuous support in increasing sankirtan all over Nusantara. Our gratitude is due to HH Bhakti Raghava Swami and HH Subhag Swami for their inspiration and guidance in making the festival the most wonderful one and guiding us all to come closer to Prabhupada. We would like to thank the head of Palangka Raya Hindu Parisad, Pitamaha temple committee and Palangka Raya Police Department for their unparalleled support. We thank to Candrapati prabhu, Surya Locana prabhu, Jagatpati prabhu, Giri govardhan prabhu, Arjuna prabhu, Mahatma prabhu, Muni prabhu, and all the exceptional devotees of Palangka Raya because of whom this ratha yatra became possible; Karabhajan prabhu and Guru Charan prabhu for their support for chariot construction; the prasadam team of Palangka Raya; Brajanagara prabhu, bhakta Edy, Ragava das and their team for tireless service in preparing the chariot of Lord Jagannath. Our gratitude to the sankirtan team led by Sridhar Prabhu for their wonderful Kirtan. Our appreciation goes to Acyuta Krishna Prabhu and Made G Yagustana for the beautiful pictures; to Putu Dharma Metri, Dharma Kerti mataji, Dina Dharini mataji, and the dancer team. Our obeisances to all the unnamed devotees who wish to remain anonymous but gave their time and dedicated service to fill up all the gaps in arrangement for the festival and their remarkable efforts to make this festival successful.