Written by Nandan
Morning Class at Bhaktivedanta Manor (14 June)
CC Madhya 13: Ecstatic dancing of Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the Jagannatha Puri Ratha Yatra
So today was the day that many devotees were waiting for, including Maharaj. It was also great to see Maharaj giving the morning Ratha Yatra class in the country where Srila Prabhupada had so enjoyed Ratha Yatra back in the day. Maharaj decided to give class on this special day from the Caitanya Caritamrta, specifically Mahaprabhu’s pastimes in the Jagannatha Puri Ratha Yatra. Maharaj started off by describing the dayitas; a community descended from royalty and a tribe called the sabaras. They were strongly built and had the privilege of carrying Lord Jagannatha. Of course, one can argue, “Who can carry the Lord without his will?”
Five hundred years ago, Ratha Yatra was of a different nature due to Caitanya Mahaprabhu coming along. As described by Kavi Karnapurna, in the Ratha Yatra, everyone was ecstatic except for one person – King Prataparudra because it was the first Ratha Yatra after Caitanya Mahaprabhu had left. This perfectly highlights the separation devotees feel for their beloved Lord. When Caitanya Mahaprabhu was in the Ratha Yatra, no one could move the chariot!
Maharaj then stated that Lord Jagannatha is the most merciful deity but so is Caitanya Mahaprabhu. But as a deity form of the Lord, Lord Jagannatha makes himself even more accessible. This led onto describing the numerous glories of the Jagannatha Puri temple, including the endless preparations offered to the Lord at the temple. Maharaj then fast forwarded to Ratha Yatra in the early days of Iskcon… How Jayananda Prabhu had no money but he knew the Banana King and the builders, and he single-handedly constructed the Ratha cart!
Maharaj then spoke of the uniqueness of Ratha Yatra compared to other festivals. It’s so interactive; it makes you perform devotional seva. In India, they have chariot festivals but without kirtan so when the devotees are pulling the chariots, they need to take rest every five minutes. After all where is the inspiration to keep pulling without the racing beats of a kirtan to keep one going?
He then proclaimed that our kirtan of today is just an echo of that kirtan which was there five hundred years ago. Caitanya Mahaprabhu would jump so high, leaping so high into the air and Lord Nityananda would try catching Caitanya Mahaprabhu!
The sight of Mahaprabhu’s kirtan was astonishing; it made you forget everyone else like when Krishna was dancing on Kaliya’s head. No one would forget that, everything else meant nothing. It was the same with Mahaprabhu’s dancing.
Naturally Maharaj would not pass up the opportunity in glorifying Srila Prabhupada’s relationship with Ratha Yatra and how Prabhupada’s Ratha Yatra was a real victory march. Prabhupada was literally flooding the streets with mercy and that is the essence – to give the mercy. Maharaj then ended the class with the following message to the august assembly of devotees at the Manor,
So we don’t want to hear about old age, bones, back, etc. Ratha Yatra is where you push yourself to the limit, then to a level to which you’ve never been. Srila Prabhupada said preaching is easy, just show everyone how happy you are. Miracles will happen in Ratha Yatra. It’s not a case of (saying in a strict Victorian tone) preach, preach, preach. Krishna consciousness IS the topmost process for happiness, it’s hypnotizing! (Laughter)
A few hours later and London Ratha Yatra 2015 was under way…
London Ratha Yatra
London may have ruled the world once, but when one looks at the beauty of the city now, it certainly lags behind some of its European counterparts, like Rome or Vienna. However if there is one part of the city that still has world class architecture, majestic beauty and the look of a world class city, it would have to be the Ratha Yatra route. Their Lordships pass through most of the hallmarks of Britain’s past imperial glory (or infamy depending on how you look at it). Starting at 12 noon, in the legendary Hyde Park, Lord Jagannatha, Lord Baladev and Lady Subhadra will go into the posh Green Park area, then through to the famous Piccadilly Circus, the culturally refined Shaftesbury Avenue and then finally to one of the most famous spots in the world – Trafalgar Square!
This year, there were four kirtan groups with an absolutely huge turnout of thousands of devotees in the procession! Maharaj was in the second group with the big kirtaneering stalwarts of the UK, the fabulous Kripamoya Prabhu and the brilliant Govind Prabhu.
The first to lead in Maharaj’s kirtan group was Govind Prabhu. It was an amazing rendition of kirtan which really set the tone for the day. Then the carts came onto Green Park and about the time when they were in front of the glitzy Ritz hotel, Maharaj took over. All I can say is I am not an accomplished writer and I certainly cannot adequately describe what Maharaj did in that kirtan but it was truly something else! It felt like the Kingsday parade had never ended and was just carrying on in London. All the way from the Ritz Hotel, up to the mouth of Piccadilly Junction, Maharaj rocked it like it was the final party on earth. The holy names were decorated with a devastating fusion of earthy African tribal beats, juxtaposed with the Gothic tones and Classic Indian folksy tunes. The devotees were rocketing to the sky like they were in Jagannatha Puri Ratha Yatra with Mahaprabhu himself. From the look of the people that were in the streets witnessing this spectacle, it was obvious they could not quite comprehend what was going on, but they were transfixed nonetheless.
The Rathayatra carried on, with Kripamoya Prabhu eventually taking over the kirtan until they reached Trafalgar Square. The whole of Trafalgar Square was taken over by devotees and various Krishna conscious stalls, tents and gazebos. And the fun just carried on and on. In Trafalgar Square, they have the famous Nelsons column. At the base of the column is a gigantic, square granite platform and on each corner of this platform are positioned four humongous statues of lions. So what do the Hare Krishnas do? They convert the entire platform into a stage for some mega, fired up kirtans. Audacious and brilliant!!! Surprise, surprise Maharaj is right there in the thick of it. Not long after the chariots have come into Trafalgar Square, Maharaj is right up there in front of Nelson’s column, slap bang in the centre of two majestic lions, giving the kirtan of a lifetime. With a vocal baseline, deep enough to shatter a ribcage and some seriously loud but rhythmic vocals, Maharaj is in his element singing one of his trademark tunes with a strong, commanding and somewhat dark flavor. Like his majestic surroundings, Maharaj looks and sounds like a King!
While Maharaj was absorbed in taking Central London into the stratosphere, in another corner of Trafalgar Square in a small tent, Jayadvaita Maharaj was absorbed in bringing the materially illusioned Londoners back to reality with his engaging philosophical discussions mainly based around his new book Vanity Karma, an insightful and incisive commentary on The Ecclesiastes section from the Bible; from the philosophical vantage point of the Bhagavad-gita. Needless to say there were plenty of questions from the audience about karma, suffering, the notion of morality, fairness and cosmic justice, and how these concepts play out in our everyday lives.
Maharaj’s Ratha Yatra kirtans are still ringing in one’s ears… London Ratha Yatra 2015 Ki Jai! Srila Prabhupada Ki Jai! HH Jayadvaita Maharaj Ki Jai! HH Kadamba Kanana Maharaj Ki Jaiiiii!