Easter is a time of family gatherings and feasting for those of the Christian faith. However in Durban, Easter also represents a time of celebration for Hare Krsna devotees as it is time for the annual Ratha Yatra festival. The four day festival took place from 18-21 April and is widely considered to be the largest of its kind outside India. A great fascination about this Ratha Yatra is its sheer size in terms of the number of people that attend.
Devotees travelled from all over South Africa to be part of it. There were also many prominent international guests including BB Govinda Swami, Bhakti Caitanya Swami, Partha-Sarathi Das Goswami, Rama Govinda Swami, Veda Vyasa Priya Swami, Bhakti Brhad Bhagavat Swami, Bhakti Marg Swami, Bhakti Ashraya Vaishnava Swami and Madhava Prabhu. For the eighteenth consecutive year, Kadamba Kanana Swami participated as well.
The festival started-off with the Ratha Yatra itself. As it happens every year, Maharaj took lead of one of three kirtans that accompanied each of three massive chariots mounted by Their Lordships Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra. Singing for two hours under the blazing African sun, in front of Baladeva’s cart, Maharaj had the crowd dancing in ecstasy.
This festival has become famous for many exhibitions that have endured over the years, for example: the main stage cultural entertainment, Q&A tents, an onsite Jagannatha temple and various Govindas food stalls. Some newer features of the festival were the youth tent called Bhakti Cloud – Up Your Soul Game and Kirtanuity tent which as the name suggests had ongoing kirtan through the duration of the festival. This year Bhakti Marg Swami directed the local youth in two dramas called Big Fish, Little Fish and Little Big Ramayana.
On Sunday, 20 April an initiation ceremony took place. Kadamba Kanana Swami initiated six devotees (one first initiation and five received second). Anisha from the KKS Blog team is now Amrtavani devi dasi! In this address to the initiates and audience, Maharaj emphasized the importance of receiving mercy in our lives.
Just as it started, the festival ended with a Ratha Yatra procession on Monday night and an ecstatic final kirtan. There are many pictures in the slide-show below trying to capture the spirit of this wonderful event. We hope that you will enjoy it. If you cannot view the slide-show then please visit flickr.
After a very busy tour of South Africa, on Tuesday night Kadamba Kanana Swami departed for Europe. The celebration of his Vyasa Puja takes place today (25 April) in Radhadesh and tomorrow is the world famous Kingsday Harinam in Amsterdam.