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San Francisco Ratha Yatra 2002 - The Best In Years

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San Francisco Ratha Yatra 2002 - The Best In Years




USA, Aug 17 (VNN) — Tears of joy and chills of amazement overcame me as a stood in the midst of the Festival of India in Golden Gate Park. How could a festival of such ecstatic grandeur be the result of one individual? This festival is proof that His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is indeed Jagad Guru, as he single-handedly created a spiritual family of epic proportions. No matter what Vaisnava group one is following these days, we were all celebrating together at San Francisco Ratha Yatra only because of Srila Prabhupada's unlimited mercy on the world.


I was filled with anticipation and excitement the days before the festival as devotees began to arrive at Berkeley's New Jagannath Puri Dham from all over the world. I knew that kirtan would be reaching heights rarely achieved during any other time of the year. And I knew this would be mostly due to the presence of the Vaisnava Youth, who arrived in separate caravans; the Festival of India, Rit Dhvaja Maharaj and his army of Gurukuli boys; and a bus of Alachua teens, headed by Manu Dasa. A large group of us overtook Berkeley's Telegraph Ave on a Maha Hari Nam on Saturday afternoon. Then, Gaura Devi Dasi lead one of the most fired-up Gaura Arati Kirtans ever, and reaffirmed that some of the best kirtan leaders are women. After Prasadam, we engaged in more nectarean kirtan for the rest of the evening.


Being relatively new to the Hare Krishna movement (I joined 5 years ago), I am continuously blown away by the spirit of the Vaisnava youth. Having been born as devotees, kirtan is part of their nature. Their mridanga skills rank them as some of the best drummers I have ever heard, and when they dance, look out!


So, a Sunday sunny morning lifted my spirits as I headed to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. In previous years, the spirit of the festival was somewhat dampened by very cold San Francisco fog, but this year, the sky was clear.


Trivikrama Swami began a sweet kirtan as devotees finished up decorating the chariots. The crowd grew, and a few more prominent Sannyasis arrived, including His Holiness Ballabha Tirtha Maharaja, His Holiness Tripurari Swami, His Holiness Jay Advaita Swami, His Holiness Hanumat Prasaka Swami, His Holiness Visnu Swami, and His Holiness Radhanath Swami. (forgive me if I left anyone out.) Ballabha Tirtha Maharaj and Tripurari Swami swept in front of Lord Jagannath's chariot in a landmark gesture of cooperation to begin the procession.


During the parade through the groves and gardens of Golden Gate Park, I mostly played mridanga for Lady Subhadra's chariot, as the Vaisnava youth led. They danced with choreography of joy, waving their arms in the air and chanting "Caitanya!!! Caitanya!!!" Towards the end of the parade, I went to Lord Jagannath's chariot, and was submerged in a sea of saffron, in the midst of many sannyasis and Bramhacaris engaged in a thunderous kirtan.


As the parade ended, many of these devotees took to the festival stage, and Tripurari Swami led kirtan. Afterwards, the Vaisnava Youth from Alachua performed a transcendental play. I roamed around the site, and received blessings from many venerable Vaisnavas, including Tripurari Swami, and Radhanath Swami who peacefully sat together amongst a group of devotees. I felt insignificant and foolish as I sat before such spiritually advanced souls. Then, devotees performed a Maha Guru Puja for Srila Prabhupada, and many senior devotees led a kirtan that seemed to shatter through the material sky to Vaikuntha.


The spirit of Krishna Bhakti was much stronger this year than in previous years. Unity was present amongst the devotees. One visitor told me that devotees were much more friendly and helpful than in previous years. Thanks to the organization of New Jagannath Puri's leadership- Hari Vilasa Dasa (GBC), Rasaraj Dasa (pres.), Rajahamsa Das (VP), and Grantharaj Das (VP), as well as countless devotees, this Ratha Yatra was one of the sweetest.


Well, it is the day after Ratha Yatra, and I am savoring the memories. I went back to work today and never felt so much like a fish out of water in my entire life. Lord Jagannath Ratha Yatra Maha Mahotsava Ki Jai!!!!


Until next year,


Hare Krishna, Love, Bhakta Jerry


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This was the first time in almost 20 years that I attended the Rathayatra in S.F. It is such a wonderful setting for the festival.


I attended a three day festival leading up to Rathayatra up at Audarya ashrama. The idea behind the festival was to bring devotees together to hear and chant about the significance of Rathayatra and to gather enthusiasm for the coming event. Tripurari Swami invited many devotees to attend the festival. Over 80 devotees attended the festival at the ashrama. Many senior vaishnava's attended, including: Bhakti Balabha Tirtha Maharaja, Jayadvaita Swami, Radhanatha Swami, Malati devi dasi, Kalki dasa, Agnideva dasa, Uttamasloka dasa and many others as well.


There was so much wonderful Krsna katha that I could fill this thread recounting the various lectures. Each speaker helped bring the devotees newer and newer appreciation of what we are involved in and helped to develop an intense desire in each of us to serve the Lord. Of particular note (to me) was a talk given by Tripurari Maharaja wherein he spoke about Rathayatra on three levels: Krsna lila (kuruksetra), Chaitanya lila, and Srila Prabhupada's lila. In brief, he recounted the meeting of the residents of Vrndavana with Krsna at Kuruksetra and the mood of the gopis and Radharani in particular of wanting to meet with Krsna in Vrndavana. The mood is depicted wonderfully in various paintings wherein you see the gopis pulling on the ropes of the ratha cart, pulling Krsna back to Vrndavana. In Maharaja's lecture he focused his attention with regard to Chaitanya lila on the eternal kirtan in Srivasa angam and the desire of the devotees to see the Lord give up his Sanyasa and come back to Navadvipa. With regard to Prabhpada's lila, Maharaja spoke about his early childhood pastimes with Rathayatra and his intense desire from his youth to go to Puri during Rathayatra. He also spoke about Malati devi dasi's finding a small Jagannatha deity in an Indian store in S.F. in 1967 and presenting him to Srila Prabhupada and asking him if this figure had anything to do with what he was talking about. Srila Prabhupada did a full dandavat to Jagannatha and began to offer very wondrful prayers. He asked Malati if there were two more of these figures to which she replied, "there are two barrels full of them". Srila Prabhupada explained that he meant two others that were similar but slightly different figures. Malati went back and obtained the figure of Baladeva and Subadra the next day. Srila Prabhupada asked one of his disciples (sorry I forgot his name - any of you who remember can add it in another post if you feel inclined) to carve larger deities. According to Malati the first Rathayatra held in S.F. was in October of 1967.


At the Rathayatra festival I spent most of my time in front of Lord Jagannatha's chariot. Agnideva led the kirtan for most of the procession. The Lord looked so beautiful up on the chariot and all the devotees were anxiously pulling him - madly trying to bring him down off his throne and take him back to Vrndavana. The kirtan was simply ecstatic. I stayed with the kirtan party throughout the procession up to the alter as they brought the Lord's down from the chariot to their altar in the park and then onto the stage and back to the altar for the arotik. After the arotik I wandered around the festival site and met with various devotees I hadn't seen for years, took prasadam and simply reveled in the blessings of the day - a day to be with Krsna and his devotees and a day when Krsna comes out to give his blessing to one and all regardless of qualification, affilitation, ideology, sex, color, species etc.

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What a wonderful report, Audaryalila! Please pleae do feel this thread, if you feel inclined and have the time. Also I loved the report from Bh Jerry, and I remember reading a really ecstatic article by him some months ago on some site about harinam. Different reporters bring out different angles of vision, which hints at the unlimitedness of the glories of the Lord. I loved your descriptions of the Rahtayatra lecture by HH Tripurari Maharaj, as well as the focus, as you always do, on the beauty of unity in all our wonderful diversity.

A friend phoned and said she went half the way of the parade but, being disabled, walked back to get her car, intending to drive it to the site where all the pandals are. She figured the parade would be over by the time she fot the car there. But on seeing that the kirtans and procession were still going strong, daring devotee that she is, she drove right around the blockades in the park, in full view of uniforms, some of whom, one pointing and saying something to another. But they didn't stop her. I thought that was so cool. So she drove with her young kids in tow behind Balaram's cart! And also got to take fantastic photos (as she always does, of Rath fests) from that vantage point, especially the ones showing all three carts, like when they round a bend. I can just picture it. If I can get her to send me copies I will post the pictures here. I asked, but it's the kind of thing that may have to wait on a visit from either one of us to the other. I just think it's great how Krishna let her have this way of participating in the procession.

Post more nectar please, little bits, big bits, anything!

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