By Hari Narayana das
Kapuas, a regency in central Borneo is a beautiful city located on the bank of the 'Simpang Tiga' river which in turn joins three other rivers; Murung Kapuas, Kapuas, and the shore of Javanese ocean. The capital city, Kuala Kapuas is said to look somewhat like Manasi Ganga in Vrindavan. This city was originally built as a port to connect roadways in Borneo. There are a few devotees who live in Kapuas. Since there is not that much active preaching in Kapaus, devotees had become a little unenthusiastic. The heartfelt prayers of the devotees was answered very soon however in the form of a grand Ratha Yatra celebration in Kaula Kapuas, the first ever in area. Under the banner of the Government festival, 'Indonesian Record for Creativity', devotees managed to hold the Ratha Yatra celebration.
"In the modern age this Krishna consciousness movement, Hare Krishna movement, was started by Lord Caitanya, and this Ratha-Yatra is part of this movement. Therefore we have introduced this Ratha-yatra festival in our society. And the boys and the girls, they are taking it very nicely, and it will go on. Srila Prabhupada's Lecture San Francisco, July 4, 1970.
On his last visit to Kaupas in 2015, HH Subhag Swami Maharaj had requested local devotee, Candra Pati das to try to arrange a Ratha Yatra festival for the Lord's pleasure. Candra Pati was always looking for an opportunity to arise and when he heard that the 'Record for Creativity' festival was approaching, he grabbed the occasion with open arms. The festival involves 5000 traditional dance students performing in the public and many more cultural acts. The proposal that the devotees could join in this program was immediately accepted and preparations started to begin from that very day!
A few days before the festival, devotees brought the Lord and His chariot from Palangka Raya to Kapuas, a 5 hour journey! The chariot team also arrived early to assemble and decorate the Ratha. The day before the event, devotees from all over Bali assembled in Kapaus and lent a helping hand in last minute preparations. Sastra Dhana was performed along with a lecture at the local Hindu students. In the evening a live class by phone was given by Subhag Maharaj which fired up all the devotees for the next days.
On the day of the festival, devotees gathered near the local sports center along with the Ratha. Colourful flowers and rambutan fruit added a special touch to the chariot's decoration. Many onlookers stopped to take pictures being amazed by the extraordinary scene. Kirtan and bhajans were led whilst Prasad was distributed. An arati ceremony was then performed and coconuts were smashed on the ground to remove any inauspiciousness. The chariot was then pulled in front of the famous 'Panunjung Tarung' fields of Kapuas, the starting point of the 'Indonesian Record for Creativity' festival.
After a traditional dance performance by the 5000 scouts, the Mayor of Kapuas, Mr Ir Ben Brahim Bahat officially inaugurated the festival. The Ratha Yatra committee garlanded him and gave him a copy of the Bhagavad Gita which was warmly received. The Mayor and his staff then started pulling the chariot and the festival was underway. As is the case with most VIP guests in Ratha Yatra, they pull the chariot for a while then leave to attend their other functions. In this Ratha Yatra however, the Mayor requested if it was possible for him to go up on the chariot. The devotees couldn't say no, so the Mayor along with all his staff went on the chariot's platform. Along with the kirtan, Balinese instrumentalists and a marching band from Junior High School of Basarang accompanied the procession.
"So this is good sign that they welcome Jagannatha" SPL to Riddha dasa, 15th June, 1976
The end point of the parade was the Mayor's residence. The Mayor's good wife welcomed the devotees by serving them water and cake. She also interacted with the devotees and expressed her gratitude for them arranging this program.
"Please accept my blessings. For so long I have wanted to have Ratha-yatra in New York and now at long last you have helped me fulfill this long-cherished dream. The Ratha carts were very strong and attractive and I thank you and all of your assistants for working so hard to prepare such nice carts. May Krsna bless you all for your sincere service that you may all go on making more and more advancement in Krsna consciousness....."(SPL to Jayananda dasa, 19th July, 1976)
We offer our obeisances to HH Kavichandra Swami and HH Ramai Swami, the GBCs of Indonesia, for their support and guidance to always look for new avenues for sankirtan. Our humble obeisances to HH Subhag Swami for always reminding us of the importance of the Sankirtan movement of Mahaprabu and inspiring us with the dedication of Sriman Jayananda Prabhu, for bringing us closer to Srila Prabhupada and keeping us united in family of ISKCON. Our gratitude to Karabhajan prabhu for helping to arrange all the requirements of the festival and taking care of the devotees. We thank Dina Darini dasi for her kind donation of one ton of fruits that were distributed. Finally we would like to thank all the devotees who participated and made the Ratha Yatra festival a success.