Vrindavan, 2017.06.26 (VT): Ratha Yatra was celebrated lovingly yesterday in Vrindavan. Devotees braved the sticky monsoon heat dressed in their finest, to sing and dance with their beloved Jagannath. Each temple celebrated the festival in its own unique way.
Vrindavan’s main Jagannath Temple is situated on Parikrama Marg, in the area known as Gyan Gudri, which is the place where Uddhav conversed with the gopis and was blessed by them. Gyan Gudri is the centre of the Ratha Yatra celebrations in Vrindavan. Chariots from many different temples, such as the Jagannath Temple at Vishram Vat, converge here and do parikrama of Gyan Gudri before returning home.
Jagannath’s chariots were decorated in traditional Brajwasi style, covered with garlands of fresh flowers. Young Brajwasi boys, sitting on top of the chariots, enthusiastically threw juicy mangoes into the crowd as they went. There were no loudspeakers, only sadhus doing kirtan with khol and kartal. The children, men and women along the chariot’s path were full of smiles, and many distributed cool water and sharbat (a traditional flavored drink) to keep the devotees feeling fresh and energetic. It seemed that the festival was celebrated exactly as it was for hundreds of years, with pure Brajwasi joy and simplicity.
But the highlight of the celebration was the small chariots pulled by the children of the Gyan Gudri neighborhood. The children took the Ratha Yatra very seriously, decorating their carts carefully with colorful wrapping paper and flowers, and placing their beloved deities of Jagannath or Gopalji inside. They took their small chariots on procession around Gyan Gudri, some ringing bells and banging gongs. Their cute minature Ratha Yatras drew quite the crowd, and devotees took turns pulling the children’s chariots.
Meanwhile, in his temple, Shri Banke Bihari Lal sat in a chariot made of silver and gold, while at Shri Radha-Damodar, Radha-Madanmohan and Radha-Gopinath temples, Jagannathji was placed in a small moving chariot and taken for a ride around the temple courtyard.
At the Shri Radharaman Temple, Radharamanji sat in a gorgeous silver chariot drawn by silver horses, driven by a man made of silver. After aarti, Shaligram Shila was seated in an adorable little silver rath and taken on procession around Radharamanji’s jagmohan (outer part of the altar) by his Goswamis.
In Radhakund, the Jagannath Temple took their Lords on procession around Radhakund Parikrama, continuing their centuries-old tradition. Meanwhile in Mathura, Shri Krishna Janmasthan’s Ratha Yatra was their 36th annual.
In front of the chariot went the Janmasthan’s flag and a group of young men on horseback. A Gaudiya Kirtan Mandali sang and played the traditional
instruments while devotees danced in jubilation. Mathura residents showered flowers from the rooftops and distributed prasad to the devotees along the way. Starting from the Janmasthan itself, the procession moved through Deeg Gate, Mandir Ramdas, Swami Ghat, Rajadhiraj Bazar, Chatta Bazar, Tilakdwar, Kotwali Marg, Bharatpur Gate and Daresi Road, before returning back to Janmasthan.
The Gaudiya Math on Agra Road also held a major Ratha Yatra celebration, taking Jagannath Ji on parade around Holi Gate, Vishram Ghat, Bengali Ghat, Arya Samaj Road and back to their ashram on Agra Road. Other temples in Mathura also observed the festival.
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