On 6 July 1959, the disappearance day of Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura was celebrated in Sri Uddharana Gaudiya Matha with hearing (sravana) and chanting (kirtana). Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is the best of the followers of Sri Svarupa Damodara and Sri Rupa Gosvami and is non-different from sri gaura-sakti Sri Gadadhara. Kirtana started from early morning with songs glorifying Sri Hari, Guru and Vaisnavas and the mahajanas’ songs of viraha, separation. Later there was a discussion of Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s transcendental character, the significance of his appearance in the present age and other subjects. Arati was performed at noon, after arcana-puja of the deities and offering of raja-bhoga. After that wonderful delicious maha-prasada was served to the assembled devotees.
In the religious assembly in the evening, Srila Guru Maharaja said in his lecture, “Today is the disappearance day of gaura-sakti Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura and of gaura-sakti Gadadhara Pandita Gosvami. Both mahapurusas appeared in this world to fulfil the innermost desire (mano-’bhista seva) of Sriman Mahaprabhu. After completing this seva, they entered nitya-lila on this day. This auspicious day comes every year to shower us with mercy and to demonstrate the supremacy of vipralambha-rasa. Although Sri Vrsabhanu-nandini is insulted and abused in hundreds and hundreds of ways, She does not abandon Sri Krsna’s vipralambha-seva. This sacred day auspiciously arrives every year to teach us devotion to the service of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, and so that we can reject the association of people who are unfavourable to the happiness enjoyed by Sri Sri Radha-Govinda in Their meeting. Hence, this day is called the adhivasa-tithi (the eve before a function begins) of the ratha-yatra of Sri Nilacalanatha, who is non-different from Sri Vrajendra-nandana Sri Krsna.
”Sri Jagannatha-deva’s dhama, Nilacala, is called Mathura or Dvaraka, and Sundaracala (Gundica) is known as Vrndavana. Nilacala is full of aisvarya and Sundaracala is full of madhurya. Sri Krsna desires to leave Nilacala and go to Sundaracala (Vrndavana) to meet the gopis. When He proceeds to Vrndavana, Rukmini and other Laksmis try their level best to prevent Him from going there. Seeing this, Kamala Manjari, who takes the side of Srimati Radhika – the shelter of the pure rasa of magnanimity (audarya) and sweetness (madhurya) – becomes restless and abandons this manifest lila. Situated in her eternally perfected form (nitya-siddha-deha) she enters Sri Sri Radha-Govinda’s midday pastimes. Saccidananda Vinoda-vani-vaibhava (Bhaktivinoda Thakura) appointed Sri Radha’s Nayana Mani Suddha-sarasvati (Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura) as a preacher established in siddhanta, to verify the supremacy of audarya-madhurya-rasa. This is the special mystery of this day.”
A huge assembly was held at 5 p.m. on the same day. A picture of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was seated on a beautiful simhasana. Afterwards, there was kirtana with prayers to sri guru, Sri Godruma-candra-bhajanopadesa (Instructions for Worshipping Sri Caitanya, the Moon of Godrumadvipa, by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura) and Vaisnavas’ songs of separation (viraha). The assembly started after the arrival of paramaradhyatama Srila Acaryadeva. On his instruction the brahmacaris, tridandi-svami Bhaktivedanta Vamana Maharaja and finally Srila Acaryadeva himself gave lectures filled with beautiful siddhanta and deep philosophical truths.
Sri Jagannatha-deva’s ratha-yatra
On 6–17 July 1959, the sri ratha-yatra festival was celebrated grandly for twelve days at Sri Uddharana Gaudiya Matha. Sri Jagannathaji ascended a beautifully decorated chariot and was brought to Gundica Mandira (Sri Syamasundara temple) accompanied by a royal nagara-sankirtana. Even the stony hearts of the atheists melted when they heard the kirtana, which was filled with deep affection for Sri Jagannatha-deva, and saw the devotees dancing along the road. Many people crowded the street to take darsana of Sri Jagannatha-deva and to pull the rope of His chariot. Faithful people offered bhoga to Sri Jagannatha on the street, and the pujari then distributed it to the crowd. It was wonderful to see how eager the people were to have darsana of Sri Jagannatha and to take His prasada. The whole atmosphere resounded with Sri Jagannatha’s jaya-dhvani. Sometimes the chariot stopped for awhile, and sometimes it went on slowly, until it finally reached Sri Syamasundara temple, where Sri Jagannatha-deva stayed for nine days, sporting in Vrndavana.
On the day of sri gundica-marjana and hera-pancami, Srimad Bhaktivedanta Trivikrama Maharaja read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta at Sri Gundica (Sri Syamasundara temple). At the matha, Srimad Bhaktivedanta Vamana Maharaja read about ratha-yatra from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. They also gave lectures illustrated with slides on sri gaura-lila and sri krsna-lila. Beginning on the ratha-yatra day, Srila Acaryadeva gave a series of discourses filled with many different instructions and siddhantas. He spoke on Sri Caitanya-caritamrta for four days, and spent another four days on Srimad-Bhagavatam. Here is a summary of the essence of his talks.
On snana-yatra day a very festive mahabhiseka of Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra-devi is performed according to rules and regulations. Brahma and all the other demigods participate in this ceremony without being seen. Afterwards, the curtain of the Jagannatha temple is closed and there is no darsana for fifteen days, because Sri Jagannatha becomes sick from bathing too much. This period is called anavasara, and Laksmiji serves Him alone at that time. During that period, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the embodiment of vipralambha-rasa, used to go to Alalanatha, because He was so restless in separation from Jagannatha. After anavasara, on the second day of sukla-paksa, the waxing moon, from the day after the dark moon till the full moon, Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra ascend three different chariots and start their journey for Sundaracala (Gundica). But Sri Jagannatha-deva does not tell His wife Laksmiji that He is going to Vrndavana. After sporting for nine days in Vrndavana (Sundaracala), He returns to Sri Mandira in Nilacala. Going to Sundaracala is called ratha-yatra, the day they come back from there is called the return yatra, and the fifth day from the beginning of the ratha-yatra is called hera-pancami.
There is a special meaning of hera-pancami. The day after Sri Jagannatha’s departure‚ Sri Laksmiji is eagerly waiting for her Lord to return, and when He does not return after four days, she becomes very anxious. In an angry and sulky mood she climbs her beautifully decorated chariot and goes searching for Sri Jagannathaji in the night with her maidservants. Somehow she reaches Vrndavana, and there she quarrels with Sri Krsna and His beloved gopis and makes Him promise that He will return quickly. After that she returns to Nilacala temple. Hera means ‘to search’, and because this pastime takes place on the fifth day (Pancami) it is called hera-pancami.
One day before the ratha-yatra the Gundica temple is washed clean so that Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra can reside there happily. The temple is first swept to remove dust and stones, and then it is washed with water and wiped dry with cloths. Sriman Mahaprabhu also used to clean Sri Gundica temple together with His associates while performing hari-sankirtana. The purpose of this pastime is to wash and dust one’s heart, which should become like a spotless temple fit for the Supreme Lord. He will never live in the heart of a devotee who still has desires for material enjoyment, heavenly happiness and liberation. This is one of the main aspects of the sri ratha-yatra festival.
Ordinary people cannot easily understand the meaning of the ratha-yatra celebration. However, the sri rupanuga Gaudiya Vaisnavas’ understanding of this subject matter is full of excellent siddhanta. They are very dear to Sri Sacinandana Gaurahari, who is Himself resplendent with the moods and lustre of Srimati Radhika. The vraja-ramanis were in deep distress because of separation from Krsna after He left for Mathura. While they were taking their beloved Krsna from Kuruksetra (Dvaraka) to Sri Dhama Vrndavana, they thought, “sei ta’ parana-natha painu, yaha lagi’ madana-dahane jhuri’ genu – today we are meeting with our beloved prananatha, after suffering for a long time in separation from Him” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 13.113). The vraja-ramanis are doing this only to serve and please Krsna, not for their own happiness. Those who have not realized this deep understanding of the sri rupanuga Gaudiya Vaisnavas are not qualified to participate in this great ceremony. They cannot serve Sri Jagannatha because they are attached to material enjoyment. As long as attachment for the material world is strong in the heart, then there can be no attraction or taste for darsana of transcendental Jagannatha. The main object of ratha-yatra is to engage the whole world in the service of Sri Jagannatha.
Sri Gaurahari, who is non-different from Sri Vrajendra-nandana, instructed the whole world by performing the pastime of cleansing Sri Gundica with His associates. Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti organizes this festival every year to give everyone a golden opportunity to participate.