Summertime is Ratha Yatra time! The Ratha Yatra festival is a celebration of reunion, when Their Lordships Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra, who had been separated from Their devotees during a two-week “sick” leave, finally return and are taken out on a pleasure ride in a gorgeously decorated chariot. On a deeper level, it signifies the ecstatic reunion of Krishna with the residents of Vrindaban after Krishna had been away for a long time on business in Mathura. For us at New Vrindaban, this year’s Ratha Yatra, which took place on Wednesday evening, was a reunion of all the devotees who had been separated from each other due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions. On all three levels, it was a joyful bringing together of the devotees with the Lord.
With pandemic safety measures such as social distancing, masks, and gloves in place, New Vrindaban residents happily volunteered to contribute in whatever way they could. Our “chariot” was Gopisa prabhu’s Dodge Ram pick-up on which Tattva-darsana prabhu had skillfully crafted a beautiful altar. Jayasri and Srimati Nrsinghalaksmi prabhu’s decorations then transformed the truck into a gorgeous open-air temple. As our pujaris, Sri Radha, Mahamani, Ekanta Sevika, and Shalagram prabhus and others, carried the large deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra out of temple and placed them reverentially on their mobile altar, the children from Gopala’s Garden Homeschool waved colorful flags and danced around Them joyfully, Amita das led an amazing kirtan, and a wave of devotion flooded the parking lot.
Once the Deities were securely settled in, the engine started, and the truck began to glide down the road with several cars of devotees following in procession. Their itinerary included five or six stops and took Them all around the New Vrindaban property which covers over 1,500 acres. From the temple parking lot, the first stop was the Ghee Factory by Big Wheeling Creek. There, devotees greeted the Lord with lotus flowers and varieties of home-cooked food offerings and performed a beautiful arati ceremony.
At each stop, pre-packed prasadam was distributed, and what a treat that was! Our expert cooks, Samardha Krsna and Ananga Manjari prabhus along with their many helpers, prepared a delicious pasta salad with basil from our own gardens, green beans also from our own gardens, paneer made from milk from our own cows, and an amazing strawberry halava. The sincere service of many devotees and the bounty of New Vrindaban dhama was appreciated in that delicious prepackaged meal which was given freely to everyone along the way.
The next stop was Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold where we were lovingly received in the parking lot by Varsana Swami and more devotees with a variety of offerings. From there, we proceeded to Rupanuga prabhu’s house where at least 50 devotees who had been waiting in great anticipation offered many delightful items to the Lord. At Sudhanu prabhu’s home, we had a wonderful Gaura arati ceremony for the pleasure of the Lord, and then we headed over to “Mystic Valley” in Talavan for more offerings.
In this festival, there was an outpouring of devotion – from the devotees to the Lord, from the Lord to the devotees, and from the devotees to each other – which was incredibly rejuvenating. Although the temple, the center of our community, had been in lockdown for months, Lords Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra are so merciful that if you can’t come to see Them, They will come to see you! And this is exactly what They did. Travelling to every area of the property, They graced the whole community with Their affectionate glances, and as each devotee stepped forward with heartfelt offerings, there was a wonderful exchange of love which could be felt by all. In this way, our Ratha Yatra festival was truly a celebration of reunion. Although as individuals, we will inevitably have different opinion and tastes, there is one thing that all of us in New Vrindaban have in common: love and devotion for Krishna.
This spirit – the basis of our unity – is the very spirit of Vrindaban, and it was brought out on Thursday by the mercy of Lords Jagannath, Baladeva, and Subhadra, and all the devotees who participated in Their wonderful Ratha Yatra festival. We would like to offer special thanks to the organizers: Malati prabhu, Sachimata prabhu, Jayasri prabhu and Madri prabhu for working hard behind the scenes and inspiring everyone else to pitch in and make this event a transcendental success. Hare Krishna!
Please enjoy looking at the pictures here: https://www.facebook.com/newvrindaban108/posts/10158709362123699