Report by Nicole
Kadamba Kanana Swami left Amsterdam on Wednesday, 18 March and arrived in Johannesburg on the 19th. Maharaj welcomed the warmth of South Africa after the harsh wintery weather in Europe. On the day of his arrival in the country, he did a program at the Pretoria temple. He got to the temple early where he spoke with a few devotees. The evening started with incredible kirtan and then Maharaj gave a lecture summarizing the Bhagavad-gita by chapter. Many newcomers, from surrounding universities, visited the temple and Maharaj answered questions expertly. Maharaj then took leave for the night, to rest after his long flight.
On Friday, 20 March Maharaj travelled to Newcastle (a small town that is sort of halfway between Johannesburg and Durban) to attend the Ratha Yatra that was being held the next day. It was a blistering hot day in Newcastle and the festivities began with a group of local high school children performing an African dance for the pleasure of Lord Jagannath. After the traditional breaking of coconuts and an opening ceremony, Bhakti Caitanya Swami gave a short welcoming speech. He mentioned that Newcastle now joins some of the biggest cities in the world such as London and Paris in pulling Lord Jagannath’s chariot down the main streets of their cities.
Kadamba Kanana Swami led kirtan from the start of the procession. In previous years, the procession went through the residential area in Newcastle however, this year, for the first time, the procession went through the city centre where there were many more people and this is where the Ratha Yatra became magical. People could not believe their eyes and almost could not hold themselves back. Maharaj danced and sang with such enthusiasm in kirtan that it seemed to turn time (the internal mechanism of his watch came apart!) and he had everyone in ecstasy. Bhakti Narasimha Swami took over kirtan towards the end of the procession. The festival concluded at the festival site with prasadam and a tent where people could take darshan of Lord Jagannath.
Later, Maharaj joined the evening program in Newcastle. The gurukul there is now very active and they performed a wonderful play on the appearance of Lord Jagannath featuring about thirty-five actors. The youth also performed two plays which included some Michael Jackson dance moves and an impersonation of a local politician which was thoroughly enjoyed by Bhakti Narasimha Swami. Kadamba Kanana Swami was quite impressed by the energy put into the entire festival by the Newcastle devotees and called it “very special”.
The next day, 22 March, Maharaj travelled back to Johannesburg for the Sunday feast program in Midrand where he was received by a temple room which was bursting at the seams. Maharaj led a long kirtan while the rain pelted down outside. The kirtan was enjoyed by all and it helped everyone to forget about the weather. Maharaj gave an engaging lecture on the limits of our love for Krsna and the importance of service. After the program, Maharaja spoke to many devotees outside the temple room. The next day, 23 March Maharaj travelled to Durban where he spent the rest of the week.
Visit flickr to see all the photos.