What do you like most about ISKCON’s Rathayatra festivals?
The Rathayatra festivals of ISKCON enable countless conditioned souls, like myself, to take part in bhakti-yoga, devotional service to God. Just by hearing the sweet chanting of Krishna’s names sung by devotees, seeing the beautiful form of Lord Jagannatha, walking along the procession, pulling the cart, or tasting the delicious vegetarian feast, anyone can very easily make spiritual advancement by the causeless mercy of the Supreme Lord and His devotees.
Of all the transcendental activities included in the Rathayatra festivals, my favorite is taking part in the lively kirtanas. Glorifying God, Krishna, is very purifying. It awakens our natural loving propensity and gives us a taste of the real pleasure for which we all hanker.
What I like most about Rathayatra is that it gives nondevotees the wonderful chance to see Their Most Glorious and Beautiful Lordships in person and to see another side of ISKCON and ISKCON devotees. Very often, if you mention Hare Krishna to nondevotees they will speak of people in orange or hippy-style clothing they have seen dancing in the street or distributing books. Sometimes the word cult or the opinion that we are a minority on the edge of society is mentioned. Rathayatra shows nondevotees that we are anything but a minority hippy group. ISKCON devotees come from all backgrounds and nations, are normal people from all levels of society, not a cult, and are growing in number every day. That I think is as valuable an experience for nondevotees as seeing their Lordships or hearing the name of Krishna.
I like the large gathering of devotees chanting and singing the glories of Krishna. It is great to see people in the street joining the devotees and having fun. The whole town or city where the festival is held seems to be purified by seeing the devotees. It is a very colorful and vibrant festival, and certainly a day to cherish in your life and look forward to every year. All glories to this great festival and all those who take part in it or just watch the parade.
The Rathayatra festival is very amazing for me. At Rathayatra I saw Lord Jagannatha for the first time. I love to get the chance to pull the Lord of the Universe. All the people get the mercy of Jagannathaji. They give something to Him from their shops. At this year’s Rathayatra, it seemed to me that Jagannathaji was smiling more at the end of the procession than at the beginning. And His turban was tilted, as if He was also dancing along with the devotees.
I enjoy being able to express my love for Lord Jagannatha, Lord Baladeva, and Subhadra Devi. It is a joyous occasion that brings together devotees from all around the globe. I want everyone in the world to know how much love I feel, and I invite them to join me in feeling only ecstasy.
Jersey City, New Jersey
ISKCON Rathayatras are like a complete otherworldly experience of the transcendental kind. In my thirty years or so of being a devotee of Krishna, I have participated in several Rathayatras in Zurich and Geneva, and lately I’ve attended two Rathayatra’s in Prague, Czech Republic. It is the most transcendental street festival ever to be celebrated in the West—full of colors, fruits, and flowers falling from Lord Jagannatha’s cart, thrown to the crowd by first-class brahmana Vaishnavas; blissful chanting and dancing; and all literally pulling together on the same rope. Whoever sees the festival, be he a gentleman or a ruffian, a Christian, Jew, Muslim or Buddhist—not to speak of the countless Vaishnavas throughout the world—all become spiritually healthy, wealthy, and wise. A true blessing for mankind. That is the festival of Jagannatha Rathayatra.
Jaya Gurudeva Dasa
Prague, Czech Republic
I like the rare opportunity to sweep the path in front of the ratha (cart) carrying Sri Jagannatha, Sri Baladeva, and Srimati Subhadra Devi. By receiving their merciful glance I feel so blissful and very blessed. There is no other occasion when the deities come out in the public to claim the fallen souls by their merciful glance, and therefore it is our good fortune to participate in the Rathayatra festival. Because most of us are so engrossed in material activities, one should never miss the chance to take part in the ISKCON Rathayatra. It has a great potency to overcome our karmic reactions.
Vaikuntheshvara Balaji Dasa
Rathyatra’s gives an opportunity to fallen conditioned souls drowning in this material world to have darshana and the blessings of the Lord of the Universe and to interact with Hare Krishna devotees chanting, dancing, and distributing books and prasada. Seeing devotees immersed and enthusiastically engaged in chanting the holy names of the Lord inspires everyone, be they devotees or first-time attendees.
The Lord comes out of His home and showers His special causeless mercy, giving everyone an opportunity to surrender unto Him and to understand the real mission of this human form of life. The festival gives a glimpse of the visionary mission of Lord Chaitanya for spreading the holy names of the Lord in every town and village.
For devotees it’s an awesome opportunity to engage in different services to the Lord, such as book distribution, prasada distribution, dramas, and kirtanas. It is a special program designed to cover many activities of Krishna consciousness as introduced by Srila Prabhupada. It gives a chance to call the Lord of the Universe into the heart of the devotees. It reveals the real bliss and pleasure of Krishna consciousness.
What I like most about ISKCON Rathayatra festivals is that I get a chance to work with other temple devotees in the same spirit as a family preparing for a grand wedding. Everyone serves with great enthusiasm and their best effort to please Lord Jagannatha. On festival day the fruit of our labor is manifest when we freely distribute our love for Lord Jagannatha via the media of prasada, kirtana, art, drama, books, and dance. We share with newcomers, who otherwise would perhaps never receive Lord Jagannatha’s mercy in this lifetime.
Sachi Devi Dasi
Brampton-Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
The most lovable thing is the sankirtana in the streets. Everyone is singing the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and dancing, and it seems like the whole of Baroda is participating. It reminds me of how beautiful it would look when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was leading the Rathayatra procession in Puri.
My dear friend had nurtured love for Lord Jagannatha since the early days of ISKCON and would always meditate on His sweet form before going to bed. He loved the painting of Lord Chaitanya dancing in ecstasy in front of Lord Jagannatha’s ratha and would embrace that image and place it in his pocket close to his heart and go to sleep. Once he revealed his heart while showing me one of his most cherished photographs amongst his very few of his initial days in ISKCON. It captured him lost in dancing in front of Lord Jagannatha’s ratha at his first Rathayatra in Mumbai, with its twists and turns. Later he got initiated as Jagannatha Yatra Dasa. Indeed the giant wheel of the ratha crushes the nocturnal demons in the heart on its journey through the ocean of mercy—the Vaishnavas!