Celebrating 50 Years of Flood of Mercy
By Bhakta Dr. Chetan Hazaree - 11.1 2017
“Make the Ratha-yatra festival very great success. This will be a great introduction in your city and people will appreciate it and if we can introduce successfully this Ratha-yatra festival not only in San Francisco but also in New York and also in Montreal then it will be a great success of my mission in this country”, wrote Srila Prabhupada to Shyamasundara on 4th May, 1967 regarding introduction of the Ratha-yatra festival in the western world.
“Do everything nicely. Do it as well as you can, and Lord Jagannatha will be satisfied”, Srila Prabhupada gave an everlasting divine instruction that led to an transcendental globalization of Sri Jagannath Ratha-yatra which hitherto was limited to only Puri, India.
This year marks another special year in the spiritual series of celebrations of Golden Jubilees in ISKCON – 50 years have passed since Srila Prabhupada started offering and revealing the darshan of special form of their Lordships, Sri Sri Jagannath-Baladev-Subhadra to the whole world in the form of Ratha-yatra or the Chariot festival or the Car festival. In a uniquely special offering of the mercy of the Lord to the world and with the objective of bringing real unity (first purpose of ISKCON), Srila Prabhupada organized the first Ratha-yatra on July 9th, 1967 in San Francisco, USA. Since then, by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, the eternal chariot procession of the Lord of the universe has offered countless opportunities to innumerable souls to not only see the Lord on the streets, but also serve Him. As can be seen from the recorded communications, each Ratha-yatra organized used to please Srila Prabhupada more and more and it still does.
In Jagannath Puri, the annually organized Ratha-yatra engages thousands of artisans (for cart making), priests, and general populace in the service of the Lord. The king of the region is also engaged in actually sweeping the road on which the most merciful Lord rides on the chariot. Globalizing the exclusive and confidential ways, in which Srimati Radharani herself implored their Lordships Sri Krishna, Sri Balarama and Subhadra Maharani to come to Vrindavan, and then Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu danced in front of the Chariot and cleansed the Gundicha temple, Srila Prabhupada actually offers unconditional opportunities to all for serving the Lord.
The Jagannatha Ratha-yatra is one of the most important influences that Srila Prabhupada left in this world; others being offering a unique commentary Bhagavad Gita As It Is, distributing the Holy Name all over the world, constructing gorgeous Temples and distributing millions of transcendental books. Originally conceived engagements for the devotees include organizing the procession, prasadam distribution and kirtan. The main purpose was for all the people to have darshan of the Lord and opportunity to chant the Hare Krishna mahamantra. Thus the wonderfully introduced Ratha-yatra festival has been offering an unparallel opportunity for realizing the seven purposes of ISKCON. The non-sectarian nature of this matchless Ratha-yatra unconditionally invites one and all for participation.
A distinctive feature of Ratha-yatra during its preparation and execution is that the devotees actually get opportunities to serve the Lord through all the nine processes of devotional service viz. hearing, chanting, remembering, serving the Lord’s feet, praying, serving through execution of orders, serving as a friend and completely surrendering. A very attractive feature of the Yatra is the offering of chappan-bhoga (at least 56 different food preparations) to the “eating Lord”.
2017 being the 50th year of starting of Ratha-yatra by Srila Prabhupada, devotees around the world will be making special preparations in celebrating this festival with greater enthusiasm.