By Hari Narayana das
Malioboro is the most famous street in Yogyakarta. Located in the heart of Yogyakarta, this is the city's main street, and was once the ceremonial avenue for the Sultan to pass through on his way to and from the Keraton, the royal palace. On commemorating International Tourism Day on September 28, 2014, the government of Yogyakarta did "Becak and Andong" parade. "Becak" is a local tricycle public carrier and "Andong" refers to the horse drawn cart.
"Make the Ratha-yatra festival very great success. This will be a great introduction in your city and people will appreciate it" SrilaPrabhupada letter to Syamasundara, 4th May, 1967
The government of Yogyakarta through its tourism department really appreciated the Rathayatra and personally invited the authority of Narayana Smrti temple, the local ISKCON preaching centre of Yogyakarta, to take part with Jaganntha Ratha yatra during that parade. They said that it would give a special color to the festival because they had seen the spirit of the last Jagannath Ratha yatra in Bantul, Jogjakarta in June this year.
"This Ratha-yatra festival is very dear to me from my very childhood days...." SPL to Sri Govinda, 29th September, 1974
The preparation for the ratha yatra was done at the Yogyakarta Governor's office premises. The chariot was beautifully decorated with an abundance of flowers and other paraphernalia and it attracted many visitors who came to the government office to pray in the mosque there.
The committee of the ratha yatra comprised of HG Subhananda Caitanya Das and his team of dedicated Jagannatha bhaktas (Weda Kusuma prabhu, Yani Mataji, Govinda charan prabhu, Gopal prabhu, BhaktaWayan Arjana, Sukelini mataji, and Citta mataji) from Narayana Smrti Ahsram, who were mostly students, worked hand in hand and tirelessly for the ratha yatra. They prepared prasadam, arranged for accommodation and transportation for all the guest devotees from Ahsram to the basecamp. Garuda Prabhu happily accepted to serve as the coordinator for the RathaYatra and with all humility facilitated the devotees starting from making the chariot up to arranging all final requirements for the festival. He is also worshipping Lord Jagannath at his residence since the centre is too small for the deities and takes care of the chariot by keeping it in his house.
Devotees came from all over Indonesia to participate in a spiritual happiness given by Sri Jagannath. More than hundreds hundred devotees came by bus, train and flight to participate in the festival. They came in spirit of devotion to the Lord and to distribute the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. On the journey from Bali to Yogyakarta devotees always sang Hare Krishna mahamantra on the train. They were very happy. The other passengers who were from other faith approached the devotees and joined on the kirtan. They said that they also sang to glorify their Lord and the devotees listen them and then they were invited to continue the kirtan and they were verey happy. As SrilaPrabhupada wrote in his letter "And 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. There also four young student in the train and were very interested in the chanting. They followed the devotees and joined the rathayatra. They also came to the temple after the rathayatra and asked many question about the Hare Krishna movement.
On the day of the festival, the deities of Lord Jagannath, Baladeva, and Subadradevi were carried to the base camp, the governor's building complex of Jogjakarta. The pujaris dressed Their Lordships with colourful dresses and decorated Them with fragrant flower garlands. At 13.00 P.M. local time, all devotees gathered under a tree 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. To boost the spirit of the devotees Srimat Subhag Swami Maharaj gave short lecture live from Vrindavan through phone call on the life of SrilaPrabhupada and how he brought Jagannatha to the West. Maharaj mentioned that Jagannath went to the West to bless the people there and now by the sincere service of the devotees, Lord Jagannatha is coming to different places in Indonesia and blessing everyone and needless to say the devotees who are working very hard to please Jagannatha, surely they will get unlimited mercy of the Lord. Then Mr. Ida BagusAgung, the leader of the Hindu Parisad of Indonesia (PHDI), gave a short speech and highly appreciated the devotees for bringing the Ratha Yatra of Lord Jagannatha, he also expressed gratitude to the committee and devotees for introducing the Vedic culture.
The pujari offered the arati to Their Lordships along with chanting of the Jagannathastakam. Leader of SAKKHI, Adipurusa das, along with the guests from Hindu parisad, Mr. Ida BagusAgung offered coconuts to the Lord accompanied by a wonderful and melodious kirtan. Then the devotees pulled the chariot to the Malioboro parking area to join the festival parade. Lord Jagannatha's chariot was the most glorious among other traditional horse chart and becak which were all well-decorated. Many passersby stopped-by just for taking pictures of Lord Jagannatha using their mobile phone. The drivers of the Becak who participated on the festival parade danced with the devotees accompanied by melodious Hare Krishna Mahamantra song. Devotees also did book distribution there.
The festival parade started at 03.00 P.M. started on the North side of Malioboro street. The street was crowded by visitors on both sides. The first line was devotees who brought Lord Jagannath's flags followed by a car decorated with a big Jagannath mask and carrying sound system to support the Kirtan. The fired up Kirtan led by Sesa das prabu made all the devotees and the visitors dance in ecstasy from start point until finish. 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 when they saw the dancer passed in front of them. They all knew Krishna from the Mahabarata movies series on television now days. Audiences brought home Lord Jagannath's picture in their mobile phone, even though they were seeing Jagannatha for the first time in their lives, they were appreciating both Jagannatha and the Chariot. More than 150 devotees pulled Lord Jagannath chariot. The Hindu community in Jogjakarta also participated. They were all satisfied by participating in the festival.
The Vice-Governor and the head of Jogjakarta police attended the festival. The commentator of the festival gave great appreciation asked all audience to give a big applause to the participants of the RathaYatra. Adi Purusha Prabhu gave maha prasad flower garlands of Lord Jagannath and Bhagavad-gita to the vice governor and the head of Jogjakarta police. They were so happy to receive them. Along the road the devotees distributed Lord Jagannath's prasadam and people eagerly accepted it.
When lord Jagannath arrived at the finish point, many of visitors asked what kind of festival is this. Gadadhar prabhu was approached by four men who looked interested then asked him about the festival. He then explained about the origin of the Rathayatra. Then they asked about the address of the center in Jogjakarta. Gadadhar prabhu then introduced them to the Jogjakarta devotees to give further explanation. This is the reality how Lord Jagannath attract all the sleeping souls. When the Lord Jagannath took shelter in the parking area at the finish point, many visitors approached the devotees asking whether they were allowed to take pictures in front of the chariot. The devotees allowed them. The most astonishing fact was that people from other faiths were so eager to get some Prasad from Jagannath that they came to snatch away flowers from the Lord's chariot. They believed that by taking such things from Lords' chariot they would be blessed by the lord. The festival was closed by honoring prasadam. There was only feeling bless in their faces. Srila Prabhupada will happy because the festival parade was reported by local and national media. The Event became headlines of one of the leading newspapers there.
"But I have not received any newspaper clippings, which I am very much anxious to see." (SPL to Syamasundara, 15th July, 1968)
We hope that Prabhupad is pleased and bless 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).
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 his inspiration and always reminding us of the importance of the Sankirtan movement of Mahaprabu and 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 Leader of Yogjakarta Hindu Parisad, leader of SAKKHI Adipurusha das, and all Yogjakarta Devotees, Subhananda caitanya das, Garuda das, Weda Kusuma prabhu, Yani Mataji, Govinda charan prabhu, Gopal prabhu, BhaktaWayan Arjana, Ananta Guna das, Acyuta Krishna das, Sukelini mataji, and Citta mataji. Our gratitude to the prasadam team of Balarambhakta and Virabadra das. Our gratitude to transportation coordinator SaktyavesaAvatara das, Satyaraja das and Advaita das.Our gratitude to Guru caran prabhu and Karan Bhajan for their great support. Our gratitude to the sankirtan team led by Sesa Das and Maharatri das for their wonderful Kirtan. Our gratitude to Upavitra mataji and the dancer team.
We offer our humble obeisances to SrilaPrabhupada again and again for showering his unlimited mercy upon the devotees and keeping us engaged in the movement of Sri CaitanyaMahaprabhu.
Jay Jagannath, Baladeva, and Subadra Devi ki.... Jay!