Hari-kathaArticlesThe Ratha-yātrā festival

The Ratha-yātrā festival

Today is Ratha-yatra. Jagannatha-deva, Baladeva, Subhadra, and Sudarsana are now ready to go to Vraja. For a long time Krsna has not met with Nanda Baba, Yasoda, and the Vrajavasis. Krsna promised Nanda Baba in Kuruksetra that He would soon return to Vrndavana. He said, “I will just take everyone back to Dvaraka and then I will return.” Now the Dvaraka-lila ended in Prabhasa—the whole dynasty was finished. Krsna was alone. He sent Uddhava off in one direction, and Satyaki in another, telling him, “Go to Dvaraka and tell them that it will sink in seven days.” Alone, Krsna was thinking, “Now I will go back to Vraja.” Baladeva Prabhu hid, and thought, “I will go with Krsna.”

Subhadra-devi also came. She sent news to Vraja-dhama. “Quickly be prepared for Krsna’s return. Dvaraka-lila is finished. Krsna is always crying and suffering in separation from you. So you should quickly prepare everything, and then come to bring Him back.”

In Vraja-mandala, yesterday and the day before the Vrajavasis began preparing Vraja for Krsna’s arrival. Bhagavati Purnamasi told the Vrajavasis that Krsna would return. Baladeva Prabhu and Subhadra also sent news, saying, “Krsna wants to come back now. He is very shy. But we are arranging everything for Him to return.”

They arranged a chariot. The bulls thought they would pull the chariots. The horses and elephants from Dvaraka also thought they would pull Krsna. But Krsna said, “I don’t want to be taken by them.” In Vraja, the sakhas thought, “We will go and bring Krsna and Baladeva back. We will pull Him back to Vraja.”
The mothers and gopis of Vraja thought, “We will pull back Subhadra’s chariot.”

So the Vrajavasis came to bring Krsna to Vrndavana, and they all brought offerings, many fruits, drinks, sweets, flowers, sandal, and so forth. When Krsna came out to board the chariot, all the Vrajavasis were ready and waiting outside, singing beautiful kirtana. They gave Krsna many wonderful offerings.

How did Krsna come out to go to the chariot? The Vrajavasis carried Him in their arms with great affection. Krsna saw the Vrajavasis surrounding Him on all sides, dancing, weeping, and pressing forward on all sides to meet Him, touch Him, and embrace Him. They were calling out, “Come! Come!” And they presented Krsna all their offerings. Krsna accepted everything with great love, and said, “For a long time I have been hungry. In Dvaraka-puri they gave Me some things, but it had no freshness or sweet taste like the preparations in Vraja.”

The Vrajavasis always serve Krsna with ever fresh moods and offerings. In Dvaraka, every day Krsna would take the same offerings, and sleep in the same bed, but in Vraja, every day Krsna is offered fresh, unique bhoga, and every night He rests in a flowerbed in a new kunja made by the gopis. The gopis daily make beautiful, unique flower decorations—everything they do is very beautiful and unique. In Vraja everything is nava-navayamana—ever fresh.

Krsna thought, “After such a long time, Dvaraka-lila and Mathura-lila is over, and now I can return to Vraja.” But He was very shy. The Vrajavasis came and lifted Krsna up and carried Him to the chariot. They said, “Oh, You are very weak now. In Dvaraka, everything was taken away from You. Now You are dry, sick, skinny, and even blacker than before!” And they begin all feeding Krsna with soft, sweet butter, drinks, and sweets. Immediately, Krsna’s good health began to return.

Subhadra first departed for Vraja, and then Baladeva. They went ahead to check the condition of Vraja after 100 years of Krsna’s absence. But They saw that the Vrajavasis decorated Vraja and it appeared even more beautiful than it had before. After a long time of separation, meeting is even more sweet and beautiful.

It was the middle of summertime, and in Vraja it had been so hot in separation from Krsna. Now, hearing that Krsna was returning, fresh rainclouds covered Vraja and they shaded, sprinkled, and thus cooled the earth. As Krsna came, a light rain was falling. Tens of thousands of peacocks were all dancing to welcome Krsna. All the animals of Vraja waited at the border of Vrndavana with gifts to welcome Krsna.

Krsna proceeded forward slowly, sometimes stopping in the height of ecstasy. Krsna thought, “Are the Vrajavasis not upset with Me? Are they happy?”

To show Krsna the Vrajavasis’ blissful mood, Mahaprabhu danced in great ecstasy in front of Jagannatha’s chariot. Mahaprabhu showed that, “Yes! The Vrajavasis are overjoyed! The Vraja-devis are not shy today. They are dancing and singing in the street!”

Before the Vraja-devis were shy in front of their elders and thought, ‘How can we show our love to Krsna in front of Nanda, Sunanda, Abhinanda, and Vrsabhanu, Subhanu, Brhadbhanu, Mukhara, and all our elders?’ Before, Mukhara would take a stick and warn the gopis, ‘Where are you going? Don’t go to see that black snake. He is very poisonous. Don’t look at anything black.’ The gopis would say, ‘But our hair is black?’ ‘Cover it! This black color is very attractive and will bewilder you.’ Mukhara would watch over the gopis day and night, with her white hair, and white body, and she would always warn the gopis to beware of black cheaters. And she would follow behind the gopis and watch their movements. But today Mukhara was also young and dancing. She said, “Okay, you are going, I am also going.” And she went dancing along with the gopis. No one was disturbed, with a dry or downcast face.

Today, all the Vrajavasis were laughing and smiling. But sometimes, suddenly, tears would spring forth and they would fall down weeping for a time, before rising again joyfully. The powerful affect of a hundred years of separation from Krsna, combined with the ecstasy of Krsna’s return, caused tidal waves of emotions in their hearts, so that sometimes they jumped high up in the air, danced buoyantly, burst into laughter, or fell on the ground and wept. Sometimes they would laugh and weep simultaneously, thinking, “Krsna is coming home!” And then, the next moment, thinking, “Will He leave again tomorrow?” But then one Vrajavasi would say, “No, He won’t leave. Where would He go? There is no Dvaraka to return to. It has sunk in the ocean and the Yadu-vamsa has all been destroyed. And all the queens were kidnapped by gwalas. Now Krsna is free from everything. He is no longer bound by the opulence of Dvaraka. He is now coming back forever to Vraja!”

Krsna now appeared like a young kisora, like Madana-Mohana or Madana-Gopala. The sakhas all jumped on the chariot with Him and began dancing and ringing bells and singing. The Vrajavasis decorated themselves with turbans, flowers, and ornaments, and they all began dancing and singing. Even all the animals began dancing and singing.

With a Vraja mood, Jagannatha therefore comes from the Sri Mandira to Gundicha-mandira. Gundicha-devi decorated the entire street and pathway to her palace, just like the Vrajavasis decorated the pathway home to Vraja. Seeing this, Jagannatha came to Sundaracala, with the festive mood of the Vrajavasis.

In the eternal transcendental world this chariot festival is also proceeding. Today, Krsna goes from Nandagoan to Varsana. He promised to annually go for Radharani’s birthday to Varsana. Vrsabhanu Maharaja thought, “My daughter daily goes to Nandagoan, so sometime She will have a rest day, and Krsna will come to Varsana, and we will bathe and serve Him here.”

Some days before, Vrsabhanu Maharaja came to Nandagoan and invited Nanda Baba, Krsna and Baladeva to come and stay at Varsana for one month, but Nanda Baba said, “We can only stay for one week.”

“Please stay for at least two weeks,” Vrsabhanu Maharaja replied.

“My son will forget me if He stays too long in Varsana and I will lose Him,” Yasoda Mata said.

“Please, you also come.”

“I must stay and clean the kitchen and household.”

In Nandagoan, everything is good and new. But Yasomati wants everything to be completely fresh. On the other side, Kirtida wants everything to be new for Krsna’s arrival. So she does not want to keep any old sheets, cloth, or anything—everything will be fresh and new. To prepare for Krsna’s stay in Varsana, everything is cleaned, and new decorations and preparations are made. And in Nandagoan, everything is also cleaned and decorated. Mahaprabhu participated in this cleaning and preparing. He wanted to learn this process and also to inspire others how to have this service mood.

Vrsabhanu Maharaja himself began this preparation with his brothers, Subhanu, Bhanu, and Brhadbhanu, along with Kirtida, Mukhara, and the other residents of Varsana. They decorated the cows with gold on their horns and silver on their hooves. And they gave them new silk chaddars on their backs, and beautiful necklaces and garlands. Without seeing this vision, you cannot believe how wonderful it is.

Mahaprabhu gives the proper mood and chance to enter this transcendental realm and service.

The sakhis and manjaris thought, “Krsna is coming. We will clean and decorate not only Vrsabhanu Maharaja’s house, but also Vilasa-gara, Dana-gara, Mor-kuti, Mana-gara, and all the other lila-sthalis.”

Krsna promised, “I will stay for one week. I cannot stay for two weeks.”

But when Vrsabhanu Maharaja requested Him again to stay longer, Krsna agreed to stay for nine days. Why nine days? The eight sakhis have eight special kunjas. So He will spend time in one day in each kunja, and in the ninth day He will spend His whole time in Radha-kunja. These nine kunjas are all prepared in Sundaracala, as they are in Varsana. Mahaprabhu prepared these kunjas and inspired the bhaktas to develop their internal moods. And He bestowed anuraga.

Ordinary servants do not have this anuraga. They think, “How much hard work will I have to do?” But if someone has pure love, then he can serve incessantly. Krsna will then come in the kunja. So Sundaracala is like the palace of Vrsabhanu Maharaja.

By Mahaprabhu’s mercy and Gurudeva’s mercy, we can be engaged in internal and eternal service. For nine days, Krsna and the sakhas eat and dance with great joy in Varsana. They all wear new turbans and silken outfits. Madhumangala tells Krsna, “Has Your father or grandfather ever given You such nice cloth? Just see how fragrant it is!” When Madhumangala ate a laddu and balushai, he began to dance in the prasadam lines back and forth. “Hey! Do you not know any proper etiquette?” Krsna told him. “Sit down!” “Oh! Simple cowherd boy, You have never eaten such wonderful preparations as these! Just smell and taste this prasadam!”

If you have never taken Jagannatha prasadam, you cannot understand how wonderful that prasada is! It gives so much energy and enthusiasm.

Radharani’s suka comes and walks in the prasadam lines, saying, “This is Radharani’s place. Please take prasadam peacefully and respectfully. Don’t dance and cause a disturbance. We will go to the dance hall afterwards.”

The sakhas looked to see who was instructing them like this. Radharani’s suka is very intelligent and looks over everything. He is Radharani’s intelligence superintendent. Suka has a heartfelt connection with Srimati Radharani, so he gave the nectar of Radharani’s blessings and love in everyone’s ears and hearts. He would describe what preparations were coming next, and how everyone should honor more and more of the prasada.

In Caitanya-caritamrta, Kaviraja Gosvami described how Mahaprabhu would arrange so much prasadam for the bhaktas in Balagandi-udyana. Lord Jagannatha takes so much prasadam in the street here, arranged by all the sakhis and manjaris. And in the evening, all the bhaktas and sakhas take prasadam there. How much is arranged? It is unfathomable. We would annually arrange this feast nearby the Nrsimhadeva temple and all the dayitas and pandas would come and take prasadam and would be overjoyed. This is Radharani’s bhoga in Varsana, made with Her own heartfelt love. Therefore, how special it is!

So, today is Jagannatha’s ratha-yatra, His chariot festival. This festival is famous all over the world and indeed, all over the universe. Even Brahma, Siva, and all the demigods, gandharvas, kinnaras, raksasas, naras, and vanaras come and participate in this festival. All over Vraja this festival is celebrated and prasadam is distributed, as well as all over the universe, in the abodes of the demigods, and in Goloka, Vaikuntha, and the other spiritual realms, this festival of Krsna coming to Varsana is celebrated. This is Vrsabhanu Maharaja’s festival and Radharani’s festival.

Now Krsna is very happy. He is no longer worried that Abhimanyu will take Radharani and sell Her to Kamsa in Mathura. Before, Jatila and Kutila had planned to move to Mathura after Radharani married Abhimanyu and to live nearby Kamsa’s palace. They thought, “If we stay in Vraja, Krsna will always cause trouble. He will always come and disturb Radhika.” But Vrsabhanu Maharaja sent so many gifts to Jatila and Kutila, that from morning to evening they were only opening the countless gifts. Seeing them all, they became surprised and, overwhelmed, agreed, “Every year we will send Radhika to Varsana and She will stay there for nine days and then return to Yavata.”

We should endeavor to enter these deep meanings and this confidential pathway. We can then understand something and progress forward on the path of Vraja-bhakti by the mercy of Guru and Vaisnavas.

[CC-by-NDNC Bhakta Bandhav]

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