A sea of over a 100,000 people gathered to join the annual Jagannath Ratha Yatra Festival at Shivaji Park, in Mumbai, India on 7th January. The Jagannath Ratha Yatra (cart festival of Lord Jagannath) is a centuries-old festival which takes place in Jagannath Puri, India. It celebrates the return of Krishna (Jagannath) along with His brother and sister (Balarama and Subhadra) to Vrindavan, the place of the pastimes of His youth. Organized by the Radha Gopinath Temple the festival featured a 25-ft tall chariot that bore the forms of Lord Jaggannath, Balaram and Subhadra for the procession. A youth group from The Radha Gopinath Temple has been holding this event for the past six years.
The procession was launched by Radhanath Swami offering the worship to the deities and then the procession began it’s route accompanied by kirtan through the streets of Mumbai to Shivaji Park, Mumbai’s largest park, famous for it’s historical gatherings. The entire park was decorated with lights and a stage was prepared to host the event from which Radhanath Swami addressed the crowd. Below is an excerpt from his talk.
“I express my sincerest gratitude to all of you for sparing your very precious time to be with us tonight to celebrate Jagannath’s Rath Yatra. It is mentioned in the scriptures by Lord Krishna to Shri Narada that “you will find me wherever my devotees come together to remember me and chant my names and glories”. Today thousands of us have come together for the purpose of remembering God. In this day and age where there is so much conflict, hatred, greed and ego even in the name of religion, we have come together to honor Lord Jagannath. Jagannath means the Lord of the universe, the father, the mother of all living beings. Vedanta Sutra states “Janmady asya yatah”, that the absolute truth is one from whom everything and everyone emanates.”
“Real religion is that which awakens unconditional, unmotivated love for the Lord from within our hearts. The love for God, which is dormant in the heart of all living beings, can be awakened by chanting of holy names of the lord.”
“Srila Prabhupada very simply explained the meaning of Ratha Yatra. He said that Ratha Yatra is the meditation on bringing Krishna back into our hearts. Krishna resides within the heart of all living beings, but we have forgotten Him. The real purpose of spiritual life is to make our heart a suitable home for God to reveal Himself to us. If we are inviting God to reveal himself in our hearts it must be clean. But if our hearts have accumulated the dirt of lust, envy, arrogance, greed, anger and illusion then He will not be happy to reveal His home within our heart. The purpose of every great spiritual path in this world is to help one another to honestly and sincerely clean our hearts, to cultivate the character of humility, charity, love for God and compassion to all beings.”
“I want to thank all the wonderful people who have arranged this festival. They have worked so hard to create this wonderful experience for all of us. It is a practical example of how to serve by keeping God as a center of our life, irrespective of our qualification or position in society. The Great Maratha warrior, Chatrapati Shivaji, whom this park was named for, protected his people fearlessly, yet his heart always aspired to find shelter in the association of the great saint – Tukaram. If we chant God’s names in saintly association, we can learn to live in a spirit of service.”