By Hari Narayana Das
2nd Ratha yatra festival at Bantul, Indonesia.
A cultural carnival was held at Bantul city, Jogyakarta, Indonesia, on July 25 this year commemorating its 284 anniversary. Traditional cultural performances starting from dances exhibiting attractive costumes and social life were performed in the carnival. Groups of traditional artists from 17 districts in Bantul participated and presented their performances in front of the crowd at the parade starting from Trirenggo field to Masjid Agung (Great mosque). The committee of the anniversary also invited the Nrayana smirti Asram, the local ISKCON preaching centre, to participate in the carnival. The devotees accepted the invitation in great joy which meant that it was an opportunity the devotees were waiting for, the opportunity to organize the second Sri Jagannath Ratha Yatra festival at Bantul.
"To implement this transcendental bliss to the people of your country there is immense work to be done ahead and this Ratha-yatra festival is only a bit of sample. If we get opportunity we shall be able to overflood your country with the waves of transcendental bliss, by the grace of Krsna" (SPL to Aniruddha, 7th July, 1968)".
The performance of our Jagannath Ratha Yatra team last year attracted the committee of the anniversary of Bantul city. They personally invited the devotees to participate in the Carnival this year. As Srila Prabhupada wrote in his letter that "There is no question of our not being popular to the world. Simply we have to present ourselves in true perspective. (SPL to Janardana, 7th February, 1968). The famous and the joyful participation of the last ratha yatra in Bantul made the government invite the ratha yatra team to give a special colour to the carnival.
The devotees in Jogjakarta followed it up by making small committee to prepare the ratha yatra. They sent invitation to the devotees all over Indonesia. It was two week before festival; the response from the devotees was not coming. The committees were so worried because there were not so many devotees in Jogjakarta and that it was time for school holidays where most of the student devotees who stayed in Narayana Smrti center return to their homes. Understanding that all happened because of the Lord's will, they prayed to Lord Jagannath so that they could do little service in the Ratha yatra. A week before ratha yatra, thirty devotees from Bali confirmed their participation for the ratha yatra. They arrived a day before the ratha yatra. They came just to have chance to do devotional service. In this way they could improve their devotional service to the Lord Jagannnath.
As sila prabhupada wrote in his letter that "The faith increases in Krsna consciousness by our voluntary increase of serving Krsna. Serving Krsna is unlimited and He can accept our unlimited service, and award us unlimited transcendental pleasure in the unlimited service of the Lord....." (SPL to Brahmananda, 20th February, 1968). All devotees were very happy to prepare the festival. The chariot team lead by Sadhu jivan prabhu prepared the chariot in the residence of Garuda prabhu. On the day of the festival, the deities of Lord Jagannath, Baladeva, and Subadra devi were carried to the base camp, the National Sports Complex Building in Bantul. The pujaris dressed Their Lordships with colourful dresses and decorated Them with fragrant flower garlands. At 10.00 A.M. local time, all devotees gathered in front of the chariot to receive the Lord's darshan. They were so eager to see the lord and the only expression that came from the devotees was "Jai Jagannatha", "hare Krsna"... continuously.
The special guest who came to the ratha yatra was, Mr. Ida Bagus Wika Krishna, Director of Hindu Society and counselor Jogjakarta. The hindu parisad of Jogjakarta also came to the festival. When Mr. Ida Bagus Wika Krishna arrived, he went directly forward to the front of the Lord. As a son meets his father after long time of separation, he deeply prayed in front of Lord Jagannath. Showing his humbleness, he came to sit on the ground with devotees instead of sitting on the chair that was already prepared for him. Then he gave speech, he told that usually he is able to speak for long time but in front of Lord Jagannath he felt speechless. Tears sometime flowed from his eyes when he talked. He told that, he actually lost the association of the devotees for long time because about 14 years ago he used to come to temple continually.
The Lord was then offered arati by pujari. Devotees began Kirtan along with chanting of the Jagannathastakam. The guests offered coconuts to the Lord. Then the devotees pulled the chariot to the Trirenggo Ground to join the festival parade. The other participants who were dressed as Ramayana characters: Rama, Sita, Hanuman, Sugriva, Ravana and asuras joined dancing in front of the chariot in the uproarious kirtan. As the parade commenced all the participants who had come from different places of Bantul started showing their attractive performances. In the parade, Lord Jagannath, Balarama, and Subadra devi passed through the city of Bantul. Many devotees commented that the size of the crowds right from the start point to the Masjid Agung were noticably more than in past years. All people there came eagerly to take Mahaprasad from the devotees. One ton of oranges that already offered to Lord Jagannath which was donated by mataji Dinadarini were distributed by the devotees. Within a short time the stock of prasadam ran out but still more and more people were coming to see Jagannatha and were asking for prasadam. Then devotees started to distribute the flowers from the chariot and it was a wonderful sight to see that these people were even happier to receive the flowers. The Kirtan group led by Sesa prabhu sang the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra all the way that could be heard by all people in Bantul. After two hours journey, the Lord arrived in front of Masjid Agung.
Even in small number about sixty devotees, their enthusiasm was simple extraordinary. At the end all devotees honored prasadam that already prepared by the committee. The book distribution team lead by bhakta Mangku ariana distributed 15 Srila Prabhupada's books.
We hope that Prabhupad is pleased and bless the devotees who organize 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).
We would like to take this opportunity to thank HH Bhakti Raghava Swami for his blessings and encouragement which were so essential for the devotees. Our ever grateful obeisances are due 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 Leader of Yogjakarta Hindu Parisad, and all Yogjakarta Devotees, Subhananda caitanya das, Garuda das, Weda Kusuma prabhu, Yani Mataji, Govinda charan prbhu, Gopal prabhu, Bhakta Surya, Acyuta Krishna das ,Sukelini mataji, and Citta mataji. Our gratitude to sankirtan team for their wonderful Kirtan. Our gratitude to Dinadarini mataji the donation 1 ton oranges.
We offer our humble obeisances to Srila Prabhupada again and again for showering his unlimited mercy upon the devotees and keeping us engaged in the movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Jay Jagannath, Baladeva, and Subadra Devi ki.... Jay!