From Cape Town, Maharaja headed off to Durban to participate in the famous annual Ratha Yatra festival. This event is truly in a class of its own and is always held over the Easter weekend. It runs over four days and includes two chariot processions where Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe, together with His brother Balarama and Their sister Subhadra are pulled along the beachfront and the inner city of Durban to give darsana to wandering souls. Devotees from all over South Africa congregated for the occasion as well as many international guests, namely HH Jayadvaita Swami, HH Bhakti Caitanya Swami, HH Indradyumna Swami, HH BB Govinda Swami, HH Bhakti Marg Swami, HH Rama Govinda Swami, HG Yadubara Prabhu, HG Deena Bhandu Prabhu and Madhava Prabhu,.
The first procession which took place on Friday (6 April) was a glorious inauguration and highlight of the festival. Three massive carts, adorned with beautiful flower decorations, carried Their Lordships. Leading the procession was Lord Caitanya in a smaller cart. He was followed by Lord Balarama, Lady Subhadra and then Lord Jagannatha. Huge crowds of devotees chanted and danced in ecstasy as they accompanied the respective chariots. Kadamba Kanana Swami led the kirtana in front of Lord Balarama for most of the four hour procession. The kirtana party was made up of devotees playing drums, caratals and accordion. During the last half hour, HH Bhakti Caitanya Swami took over the microphone and led the procession to the festival site which was the end point.
At the festival site, a huge tent city was erected show casing many aspects of Vedic culture for example: cow protection, mantra meditation, vegetarian cooking, questions and answers, book distribution, Krishna art and so on. There was also the Nilachala Blue Mountain tent for kids entertainment and a Youth Tent for the young at heart. In addition to this, there was an open air stage where the program consisted of melodious kirtana led by the Madhava Prabhu, Indradyumna Swami and BB Govinda Swami. Another outstanding feature of the festival was the theatre plays directed by Bhakti Marg Swami’s. This year the Ramayana and Gopal the witness were performed.
As part of the festival, Bhakti Caitanya Swami and Kadamba Kanana Swami gave initiations to a group of over twenty devotees. This took place on Sunday in the Chatsworth temple and many meaningful names were given like Teja Prakasa dasa, Gokula Taruni devi dasi and Bhadra Balarama dasa. After inspiring lectures by both sannyasis and taking of the vows by the initiates, Kadamba Kanana Swami performed the yajna to complete the ceremony.
Unfortunately, the Monday night Ratha Yatra procession got rained out but that didn’t discourage devotees from joining in. But due to the intense kirtana sessions over the weekend, Kadamba Kanana Swami lost his voice and therefore he did not participate this time. All in all, it was four fantastic days of fun and mercy going out to all the visitors and devotees present.
Enjoy the pictures!
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