BY LAKSHMAN DASA
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: The significance and glories of Ratha Yatra
Intricate sentiments symbolise the grand Rathayatra festivities connecting the event with the return of Lord Krshna to Vrindavan from His pompous life in Dwaraka to meet His heart throbs. The palace of Dwaraka represents the residence of Jagannatha, an enticing enactment of Lord Krshna’s scintillating pastime. At Puri, Krshna and His fraternal associates dwell as living Deities to wipe off the sufferings of His devotees in this mutilated age of kaliyuga. The Gundicha represents the Vrindavana, where His eternal associates Radharani, the gopis and gopas dwell. The visit of Jagannatha to Gundicha symbolises the visit of Syamasundara to meet His youthful associates of Vrindavan and the seven days stay there reminds His enchanting moments of rasa-lila with the loving company of their association. Many have enacted this colourful event and many have coined articulating words of gesture to glorify their touching love of Lord with the glories of Vrindavana.
Engrossed in separation with Radharani, Lord Krshna travelled to Kurukshetra from Dwaraka accompanied by Balarama and Subhadra and met Radharani, His ever loving friend in Golola Vrindavan. Dragged in ecstatic love, Krshna was arrested in sentiments and His limbs dragged in his body. Lord Caitanya was the manifest love of Radharani and He carrying Jagannatha to Gundicha reminds Radharani wanting to take away Lord Krshna from Dwaraka to Vrindavan.
The Narada Purana (uttara kanda 52.12) reveals the conversation between Lord Narayana and Lakshmidevi about Purushottama kshetra (Jagannatha Puri),
pratimam tatra tam drstva svayam devena nirmitam
anayasena vai yanti bhavanam me tato narau
“A person who sees the Deities there built by the Lord Himself will easily find the path to reach My abode.” Anyone seeing the Deities of Lord Krshna, Balarama and Subhadra at Jagannatha Puri during their leisure outage of Rathayatra means buying a ticket to reach the Supreme Abode of Vaikuntha, the eternal world of no worries. The Lord promises that His devotees who take all pains to gather at Puri during the Rathayatra will be rid off their miseries and may reach the eternal abode of Goloka Vrindavana and enjoy their life in association with Lord Krshna, Radharani and their close accomplices.
It is said that the participants in the festivities will be blessed immensely by Lord Jagannatha (Krishna) such as
(1) By the sight of Jagannatha’s merciful large two eye globes, the devotee will be blessed with astute purity of mind and spiritual elevation;
(2) Observing the Rathayatra will dissipate the sins committed by the embodied person in the past births;
(3) The accompanying person in the Rathayatra will receive opulence at par with Lord Vishnu even if he hails from a poor family;
(4) Dancing, singing and chanting in the Ratharatra entourage, the participant will be elevated to a level superior to yogis; and
(5) Active participation in the Ratha yatra by any means will receive the utmost blessings of Lord Jagannatha.
The glories of Ratha yatra are inimical to imprint in mind the symbolic love of Lord to His devotees. Srila Prabhupada said, “If you participate in these car festivals, as stated in the scriptures, rathe ca vanam drstva punar janma na vidyate”. If you kindly see these Jagannatha deities riding on these cars or these processions, and as Caitanya Mahaprabhu chanted the Hare Krsihna mantra in front of this car, then according to the Vedic scripture, in your next life you’ll go back, back to Godhead.” Those who participate in the festival have a food for thought in the years to come and it may drag down even to the final moments of their life to affix the attention in the eventful pastimes of Jagannatha as Krishna tells in Bhagavad Gita (8.5-6),
anta-kale ca mam eva smaran muktva kalevaram
yah prayati sa mad-bhavam yati nasty-atra samshayah
yam yam vapi smaran bhavam tyajaty-ante kalevaram
tam tam evaiti kaunteya sada tad bhava bhavitah
“Towards the end of life and at the time of departing the body, he who remembers Me will undoubtedly attain My nature. Whatever a living being thinks at the time of leaving his body, that alone he attains for being always absorbed in that state.” Those devotees who always chant and prostrate at the holy feet of Lord Jagannatha uttering the mahamantra (HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE) ordained by the Lord Krishna Himself in the form of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and propagated all over the world by Srila Prabhupada will be blessed with perfect devotion to Lord forever, which is said to be superior to liberation.
Below are the Ratha yatra dates for ISKCON Malaysia in various parts of the country. Be sure to take part in any of of them to get the mercy of the Lord.
6 July: Sri Jagannatha Mandir KL/Bukit Mertajam
9 July: Johor Bharu/Teluk Intan
17 July: Kuantan
23 July: Ipoh Mengelembu Mini
13 August: Bahau
31 August: Taman Kenari
3 Sept: Cameron Highlands
10 Sept: Skudai
15-18 Sept: Hare Krishna Convention
16/24 Sept: Kluang
1 Oct: Sitiawan
8, 9, 10, 11 Dec: TODU Youth Kirtan Mela
16 Dec: Sg Petani
17 Dec: Klang
23 Dec: TODU
24 Dec: Saturday Penang
26 Dec: Sg Siput