‘Jagannath Puri’ Style Rath Yatra Celebrated In Austin At Radha Madhav Dham Temple
By Sunita Lal
Just a few weeks ago on June 29, more than a million devotees congregated at the holy city of Jagannath Puri in Odisha, India to participate in the annual Rath Yatra (festival of chariots).
The Jagannath Rath Yatra is a huge Hindu festival in which the deities of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balbhadra and Subhadra are carried in a procession to the Gundicha temple, about a mile away, where they reside for nine days.
A similar festival is celebrated at Radha Madhav Dham in Austin, TX, one of the largest Hindu temples in North America.
Every year, the presiding deity, Shree Raseshwari Radha Rani, is taken out in a grand chariot procession that is reminiscent of the Jagannath Rath Yatra.
This year too, amid great devotional fanfare, on Sunday July 6th , Shree Radha Rani was brought out in a beautifully decorated chariot to visit the holy places of Braj that are represented within the 200-acre picturesque grounds of the Ashram.
The excitement began early in the morning, as hundreds gathered all over the country to attend this festival. Both young and old, dressed up in colorful festive attire, joyously waited to welcome Radha Rani.
Gracefully seated on a pearl-white and gold chariot decorated with sparkling fabric, jewels and fresh flowers, Shree Radha Rani arrived amidst the exuberant sounds of drums, conches, cymbals and a shower of marigold flowers, as the sounds of “Radhey Radhey, Radhey” permeated the air.
Reminiscent of Radha Krishna’s descension on this earth planet 5,000 years ago, when Radha Rani would often ride in Her chariot, accompanied by many Gopis, and Shree Krishna would welcome and glorify Her, a magnificent dance was performed depicting Lord Krishna’s welcome of Shree Radha Rani.
This was followed by Arti, after which the chariot proceeded forward, with hundreds of devotees following the procession in devotional merriment – walking, singing, and dancing along the way.
The chariot stopped at a few holy places along the route, where beautiful leelas (pastimes) of Radha Krishna were enacted, enthralling the hearts of the audience and bringing to life glimpses of Radha Krishna in Vrindavan for devotional meditation.
A few hours later, as the chariot started its return to the temple, one could tell from the soaring levels of excitement and the increasing sounds of drums and bells, that the Rath Yatra was reaching its climax.
It was a sight worth capturing, as everyone danced in joyful exuberance, and the ashram grounds reverberated with the echoes of “Radhey Govind” and “Hari Bol.”
Even the sun seemed to be joining the crowds, as it danced with the clouds, disappearing and then re-appearing in the skies.
Even though the Rath Yatra concluded at noon, the festivities inside the prayer hall continued with cultural programs and leela performances.
This was followed by an eloquent talk by one of the senior preachers of the temple, Siddheshvari Devi Ji, who explained the Divinity of Shree Radha Rani’s s personality by quoting from the Vedas to explain that “Shree Radha Rani is the highest entity of all, because She is the one worshipped by the Lord of the Universe, Shree Krishna Himself.”She went on to further explain that while “both Shree Radha and Krishna are one – one soul, one intellect – they appear in two forms only to perform leela’s and distribute Divine love to all souls.”
The annual Rath Yatra gave many wonderful memories for participants who came from all over the country to participate in this huge event. “An experience of a lifetime”, were the words of many as they filed out of the prayer hall to enjoy the lunch mahaprasad. It was a day of devotional revelry, a day of intimate darshan, a day one had to witness to believe…
For videos and photos of this event go to www.radhamadhavdham.org or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/radhamadhavdham.