29 December 2012
There are many Ratha Yatra festivals in South Africa throughout the year. However, the one in Cape Town is unique due to its cosmopolitan appeal. Since its inception in 2006, the festival has been held in various locations around the city. But this year, to ensure maximum exposure and crowd attraction, the procession took place in Sea point; an upper-class residential area overlooking the Atlantic Ocean that is frequented by locals and tourists, and is within walking distance of the waterfront and soccer stadium. The festival site was set-up nearby in Green point Urban Park, a recently developed, popular family recreational zone.
Proceedings at the festival site commenced at 11 am and went on until 4 pm which was when the 2 hour long procession started. Apart from the main stage; there was a question & answers tent, a Govindas prasadam stall, a mantra meditation tent, a gift shop, a book store, a kid’s area and a henna painting tent.
In his first session at the Q&A tent, Maharaja spoke on the ideal yoga process that is to be followed. And in his later session, Maharaja offered an explanation as to why the world did not end on 21 December 2012. The audience was a mixed crowd of passers-by that lent an ear out of interest and devotees. Many thoughtful questions were asked and Maharaja drew from his personal realizations, life experience and sastric knowledge to provide satisfactory answers.
Later in the day, Maharaja led a melodious and energetic bhajan session on the main stage which again drew the attention of the masses at the park. He concluded his slot by speaking about culture. That was the end of Maharaja’s scheduled commitments for the day, as he was not supposed to participate in the procession however, to the delight of all the devotees; he led the kirtan for the first twenty minutes.
Accompanied by enthusiastic drummers, Maharaja started-off with maha-manta, followed by hari haraya nama krsna and then jagannatha swami nayana patha gami. The kirtan got everybody dancing in ecstasy which became a spectacle for the hundreds that witnessed it. People leaned out of the windows of flats, cars and tourist buses with flashing cameras and devotees obligingly posed. When Maharaja ended his time in the procession, the microphone was passed onto other adequately talented musicians; however none could match his spirit.
The day was hot but the occasion was sweet! Bhakti Caitanya Swami, while seated on the chariot, tried to cool things down by spraying cold water onto the devotees as they tried to catch sweets and fruit that were being thrown down. It was a memorable day and we tried to capture it for you in these pictures, which also includes a special darshan of Sri Giriraja.
If you cannot view the slide-show, then please click here to visit flickr.