“To the degree our service is unconditional and uninterrupted by ego or selfishness, it makes us happy, and it makes Krishna – God – happy, and it will make the whole world happy.” Radhanath Swami shared these words of candid and heartfelt realization with thousands during a talk on Park Street in Kolkata, India.
Radhanath Swami visited Kolkata (Calcutta) for the annual cultural-spiritual festival of Lord Jagannath’s Ratha Yatra, an event celebrated with festivity and joy every year since 1972. Ratha Yatra marks the event of Lord Jagannath, along with His brother Baladev and sister Subhadra, leaving Their temple and allowing Themselves to be drawn through the streets aboard gigantic and beautifully decorated carts, giving darshan to all the devoted attendees.
Traditional Odissi dance by the renowned Dona Ganguly, mass distribution of sanctified vegetarian food, tents displaying Vedic education and distributing literature, and a corner for kids are traditionally some of the exciting parts of the various camps erected around the celebration grounds. Over a million people participate in this festival that spans over nine days. Radhanath Swami addressed the crowd on the 13th and 14th of July, when over three hundred thousand people were attending.
This year, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, inaugurated the Ratha Yatra. Prominent Indian leaders from various walks of life customarily grace the festival. In the past, former cricketer Sourav Ganguly, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, industrialist Harsh Goenka of the RPG group, and actress Hema Malini include some of the noted guests who have attended and addressed the enthusiastic participants.
Radhanath Swami, along with his dear friends Jaya Pataka Swami and Bhakti Charu Swami, inspired the many thousands of enthusiastic festival attendees with their moods and words of loving devotion. Jaya Pataka Swami conveyed in his address: “Radhanath Swami is not only my dear friend, he’s also a spiritual power, attractive to the whole world, and we are very fortunate to have him here in this festival.” And Radhanath Swami, during one speech, congratulated the efforts of his dear friend Jaya Pataka Swami, who has not missed the festival once in the last 42 years: “His sacrifice and love is the foundation on which this festival is built.”
Radhanath Swami, remembering with gratitude the tireless efforts of his guru Srila Prabhupada, shared how the Ratha Yatra festival is now held in every part of the globe. Rome, Philadelphia, London, Moscow, Melbourne, Mumbai and many other prominent cities of the world annually host the celebration. Radhanath Swami explained that people, by their intrinsic spiritual nature, love to chant and dance, they love colors and decorations, and all enjoy eating a nice feast — and Ratha Yatra is a time when all these happen, while simultaneously providing profound, intimate experiences of bhakti yoga that can be relished by all participating in the festival.
The festival concluded on the 18th of July when Their Lordships Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra, rode aboard beautifully decorated carts, returning to Their temple.