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Ratha Yatra festival all over Indonesia By Hari Narayana Das

Celebrating ‘Nyepi’ or ‘silence day’, which commemorates the Isakawarsa or Saka New Year on March 28, 2017, the committee of the silence day in coordination with Jogjakarta Tourism department organised the Ogoh-ogoh festival. The festival was held in Malioboro Street and The Chariot of Lord Jagannatha, which was also covered by many news channels, definitely proved to be a special attraction in the festival.

“This is preaching spirit. As soon as you get some opportunity, preach. What is that preach? Preaching, Caitanya Mahäprabhu has advised us, yäre dekha täre kaha kåñëa-upadeça [Cc. Madhya 7.128]. This is preaching. “Whoever you meet, simply speak of the instruction of Kåñëa.” Srila Prabhupada lecture on Bhagavad-gétä 1.28-29,London, July 22, 1973

This was ‘cross culture and faith festival’ held in Jogjakarata and the committee of the festival invited the devotees to participate. This was a good opportunity for the devotees to familiarise Jogjakarta with chanting of Hare Krishna Mahamantra and the mission of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

The devotees in Jogjakarta jubilee received the invitation and it was announced through the social media. Blue print for the participation in the festival was brought upon the discussion table. When the all preparations were ready, the chariot was carried to Jogjakarta tourism department. Flowers for decoration arrived from Bali and devotees who help in the preparation came from all over Indonesia. Srila Prabhupada’s mercy is certainly amazing; just imagining how devotees coming from different backgrounds, from different places, who hardly knew one another some time back are coming together to participate in the Ratha Yatra festival and assist Srila Prabhupada in his preaching movement, is simply wonderful and awe inspiring. Thank you Srila Prabhupada.

The devotees worked together to make flowers garlands. Early in the morning, the chariot team started decorating the chariot. Devotees also gave a hand in preparing the paraphernalia that was to be used for the ceremony. At 2 o’clock in the afternoon Their Lordships Sri Jagannatha, Sri Balabhadra and Subhadra Devi arrived and took Their place on the chariot. The Pujari offered bhoga, the kirtan team kept everybody in tune with the Hare Krishna Mahamantra including those other participants in the parade. Arati was offered arati. Garuda prabhu welcomed the devotees and offered his gratitude to the committee of the parade. A short class about Jagannath ratha yatra was given by Ramanuja das brahmacari. It could be said everybody present there were, without a doubt, attracted to the chariot. Then coconuts were offered to invoke auspiciousness.

After the ceremonial performances, devotees had to wait for the other participants to gather before our chariot could be pulled out for the parade. ‘Utility is the principle’; utilising the free time at hand, the book distribution team, led by Pitambar das brahmacari went around distributing Srila Prabhupada books.

“These books I have recorded and chanted, and they are transcribed. It is spoken kirtanas. So book distribution is also chanting. These are not ordinary books. It is recorded chanting. Anyone who reads, he is hearing. Book distribution must not be neglected. If things deteriorate that is another thing, but it is not the fault of book distribution.” SPL to Rupanuga das, October 10, 1974

There were 25 ogoh-ogoh (or tableau depicting victory of good over evil) from Hindu Bali community and 43 from art community and 6 from inter faith in Jogjakarta. The aim of this festival was to strengthen the unity of the nation and kept the tolerance among the diversity of the nation.

Both sides of Malioboro Street were crowded by people who were enthusiastically waiting for the parade to pass by. They were actually waiting for the Lord Jagannatha’s Chariot which was the last float in the parade because they too felt blissful to see the Lord approaching on His magnificent chariot coming along His group of entourage joyfully singing and dancing cheerfully and also distributing Maha Prasad to all. Mahaprasad is such a wonderful form of the Lord’s mercy that it powerfully attracts everybody. Many came to pull the chariot, many took books and yet many others joined in chanting and dancing…but those were still left out came rushing on their own to get mahaprasad. It was like re-enacting of the pastime of Mahaprabhu when He delivered the mayavadi sannyasis headed by Prakasananda Saraswati: everybody got drowned in the ocean of ecstasy generated by Mahaprabhu’s sankirtan; only the mayavadis escaped therefore Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or Nimai Pandita decided to accept sannyasa and then went to Varanasi and personally delivered all mayavadis. Again, simply wonderful!

5oo kgs of oranges were donated Dina Darini mataji but within a short time the devotees ran out the oranges and cookies.

“The preceding purport also contains the following instruction: “Distribution of prasadam … even to the ignorant masses of people and to animals, gives such living entities the chance for elevation to Krishna consciousness.” (SB 3.29.23 purp.). The Fourth Canto similarly states: “In this age, distribution of prasadam has replaced distribution of money. No-one has sufficient money to distribute, but if we distribute Krishna-prasadam as far as possible, this is more valuable than the distribution of money”. (SB 4.9.24).”

It was an hours singing and dancing along Malioboro street, the devotees then arrived in front of the stage of honour where the mayor of Jogjakarta and other officials welcomed Lord Jagannatha and His devotees. Garuda prabhu draped the mayor with flowers garland that was already offered to Lord Jagannath. The devotee dancers performed a dance depicting the gopis eagerly trying to take back the Lord of their life back to Vrindavan from Kurukshetra. Ecstatic Hare Krishna Mahamantra kirtan filled the entire atmosphere.

The Ratha Yatra finished at Jogjakarta museum where devotees took rest and Lord Jagannath was offered arati. Then the devotees in blissful honoured the maha prasadam.

That was not all. This was Ratha Yatras back to back all over Indonesia. After a mild rest for a day, March 27, the devotees in Tolai (Central Celebes, Mataram, west Nusa Tenggara) and Jember (East Java) had their Rath Yatra, participating, this time also, in the Ogoh-ogoh festivals in the respective places.

Famous for the biggest deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra in all Indonesia, Jember Jagannath ratha yatra was held in the evening and many devotees from Bali participated on the festival. Flash back 2 years ago: the Jember Hindu Parishad claimed that the Ratha yatra did not have a contribution to the festival so they did not allow the devotees to participate last year. Sadly the devotees did not participate in the festival. Lord Jagannatha took it very seriously. What happened was that without the devotees and Lord Jagannatha the festival became too dry and was not able to attract people in Jember. Somehow the organisers realized the situation and the committee apologized to the devotees and invited them to participate in the festival. Needless to say hundreds over hundreds of people turned up for the parade, much more than last year. It was way past midnight and still almost every family were having a picnic in front of their houses waiting for the Lord to come. Devotees also did book distribution and food for life for the people who came to see the festival. The devotees from Bali stayed in Krishna Balaram Temple to observe the silence day, which was, in fact, full of Kirtan, hari katha and lots of Prasad. This is how devotees observe silence, no mundane activities but more Krishna Conscious activities.

“I am very much pleased to hear of your increased book distribution and it gives me great pleasure to hear of your increased eagerness to distribute my literature. Through the distribution of this literature, we can completely annihilate all the bogus yogi groups in the world. Of this fact I am sure. Therefore there is no need for us to directly attack these charlatans but simply by this distribution of books the sunlight of Krishna consciousness will prevail.” SPL to Rameswara, 14 February, 1973

Meanwhile in Tolai devotees celebrated the ratha yatra with the local village authorities in Tolai. They pulled Lord’s Chariot on the main road. The Hare Krishna Mahamantra was sung harmoniously with Balinese traditional instrumental that villager played along with the ogoh-ogoh. Devotees in West Nusa Tenggara celebrated ratha yatra in the capital city. Many devotees from Bali also participated in the festival. They just crossed to Lombok by ship for four hours. Devotees gave different colour to the ogoh-ogoh festivals. They presented the glorious Lord Jagannatha chariot festival and the Hare Krishna Mahamantra to one and all.

AnchorOur 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. Jay Jagannatha…Jay Baladeva…Jay Subadra devi ….

Jay Srila Prabhupada…..


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