Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ratha Yatra - ISKCON Otawa

The Festival of Ratha Yatra is a commemoration of a pastime of Lord Sri Krishna during His advent 5000 years ago in India. During a lunar eclipse, Lord Sri Krishna along with His elder brother Sri Balaram and their younger sister Srimati Subhadra, together in Their chariots, traveled from Dvaraka to Kurukshetra.

According to Vedic culture, whenever there is an eclipse, people take bath in sacred rivers for purification since eclipses are considered contaminating. So Sri Krishna along with His family members went to Kurukshetra (a sacred place) for sacred bath. The Gopis (inhabitants of Vrindavan and dear most devotees of Sri Krishna) receiving this news, went there to see Him with the ultimate desire of taking Him back to Vrindavan, Krishna’s most beloved home.

This Festival has been observed for thousands of years in Jagannath Puri, India. During this Festival, the deity forms of Lord Jagannatha (Sri Krishna, the Lord of the Universe), Baladev (Sri Balaram) and Subhadra are paraded through the streets in magnificently decorated chariots (rathas by millions of devotees lovingly re-enacting the scene that took place 5000 years ago when Krishna was personally present. During this procession, the atmosphere is filled to capacity with the transcendental sound vibration) of the Lord’s holy names in the form of the Hare Krishna maha mantra and Jagannatha’s mercy is freely distributed to everyone in the form of His maha prasadam (sanctified food).

Five hundred years ago, the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna appeared as Lord Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (the actual inaugurator of the chanting of Krishna’s holy names) and again participated in this festival while he resided in Jagannatha Puri. Lord Chaitanya predicted that His name will be spread to every town and village in the world by one of His dear most devotees.That extraordinary devotee, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Founder of the Hare Krishna Movement) fulfilled this prediction. Srila Prabhupada at a very advanced age came to the West on the order of his spiritual master to preach the message of Lord Chaitanya to all. In 1966, He established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in New York, which since its inception spread Krishna Consciousness all over the world. He staged the first ever Ratha Yatra festival in the west in 1967 in San Francisco, USA, and since then it has spread to every major city on the planet.

Due to the mercy and guidance of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, this festival can be appreciated by millions of people around the world in places such as Bombay, Delhi, London, Paris, New York, Melbourne, Toronto, Durban, Mexico City and so many other cities across the globe. Srila Prabhupada said that the Lord of the Universe is not limited to the people of Jagannath Puri only, since this would not do justice to the meaning of His name (Jagannatha: Lord of the Universe). All peoples, irregardless of caste, creed, colour, ethnicity or location should be given the unique opportunity to receive God’s causeless and infinite mercy through this festival of Lord Jagannatha.

For over 30 years, Ratha Yatra festivals have been held in major cities across Canada, including Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. This year, Canada’s capital, Ottawa, will hold its 3rd annual Ratha Yatra festival on June 16th. Join us in chanting the holy names of Krishna (Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare) along the parade, and more activities, including Jagannatha prasadam, to follow at the park. Jagannatha Swami Ki Jaya!
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