BY JEYANTHY PILLAI
KLANG, MALAYSIA – In Malaysia, the festival deities Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama and Lady Subhatra travel throughout the country to give their blessings and mercy to the people at large. There are over 20 Ratha Yatras in Malaysia and the grandiosity and pomposity increases every year. We are also very lucky to get many sanyasis who visit our country during this period. Their presence enhances the festival mood and their purity fills our hearts.
Preparing for the Ratha Yatra takes months of planning. Being a small congregation the devotees in Klang depend largely on the donations that were given by the people in this town to finance this chariot procession. Pamphlets had been distributed during the Damodara month informing people in this town about the chariot procession and collection has been done ever since. The support we get from the shops in Little India is tremendous.
I wondered how such a large chariot procession is organized by this small congregation. There was only one key person with one or two helpers handling the needs in each major department. But the enthusiasm and determination of each one of them was simply amazing. The energy that they had was contagious. It got all of us going. Somehow, they pulled it off and devotees from different congregations around Malaysia helped out.
The other thing that worried us was the unpredictable weather. Being in an equatorial climate, the rain showers come as they like. There had been news of landslides around the country due to the heavy downpour. It was raining cats and dogs in Kuala Lumpur which is about 45 minutes drive away. Amazingly, the weather was excellent and really conducive for the procession in Klang on this day.
HH Janananda Gosvami who was one of the sanyasis that was invited, has been in Malaysia since ISKCON’s early days here. He said ISKCON Klang started off in the house of our current temple president, HG Kalidas Charan in 1985. It was through his efforts that ISKCON Klang is what it is today. This very humble and simple person has imbibed his mood to every devotee here. One can see him welcoming all devotees during the Sunday Feasts with warmth and humility exuberating through him. This sure has rubbed on to everyone here. Mahatma Gandhi once said that “You have to be the change you want to see”. The deep meaning of this quote seems so clear to me now. HG Kalidas changed our hearts by his humility and simplicity.
I had planned the stage program for the children of Gopal’s Fun School. The kids were excited and were enthused by the idea. We had Krishna Nursery Rhymes, Bhagavad-gita sloka recitals, Vaishnava songs, a dance and two dramas chartered out. They came for every practice during the weekends and public holidays sacrificing all their holiday plans. I missed seeing Lord Jagannatha so much and the thought of having to stay behind to dress up the children and not go for the chariot procession made my heart sink. When their Lordships arrived from Ipoh where another Ratha Yatra had just taken place, the deities looked ever so blissful. Lord Jagannatha especially looked very happy. I said my prayers and told Him to return quickly so that He can see the children perform. Normally, their Lordships spend hours in Little India and take their own sweet time to come back. The plan was to start the show by 8pm regardless of the arrival time of the chariot so as not to keep the children waiting. However, I didn’t want the children to miss out on the procession, so I told them to follow the chariot for a short distance and then return to the temples so I could work on their dressing.
The chariot looked majestic. It was decorated with gerbera and pom-pom flowers with many different kind of ferns. The new addition this year were the mandarin oranges and pineapples to the chariot. And what a send off it was. After the traditional breaking of coconuts and sweeping of the road by HH Bhanu Swami, loud sounds of fire-crackers were heard. It’s a popular belief of the Chinese that the exploding noise of the firecrackers will scare away all evil spirits and misfortunes. There were also two floats accompanying the chariot. One was carrying Lord Krishna and Srimati Radha Rani, The other had billboards displaying the Krishna’s ten different incarnations, dasavatars.
We returned after a short walk to the temple. Some of the key helpers who were supposed to help me were missing. They must have forgotten about me and followed the chariots. My heart sank. I had 30 children to dress up and I wondered how I was going to make it. As the time drew closer, more devotees turned up to help.
Just as I finished putting on the make-up and finished dressing the last of the children, we heard the sound of the fire crackers followed by some explosion and loud kirtans. We rushed out and saw a large crowd and fireworks welcoming Their Lordships. I checked the time. It was just a quarter past 8pm. HG Ram Gopinath told me that this was the first time Their Lordships returned so early in the last 10 years. My heart skipped a beat, Lord Jagannath had returned just in time to see his little devotees’ performance. I just couldn’t believe it. The children were so happy to see Their Lordships and greeted Them to the temple in their costumes. The children dressed up as Narada Muni, Maha Vishnu, Radha and Krishna, the monkeys, gopas and gopis let the way. Then the arati was done and bhoga was offered to Their Lordships.
Speeches were next in store. HH Bhanu Swami spoke first followed by HH Prabhavishnu Swami, Co-GBC for ISKCON Malaysia and HH Janananda Gosvami. The essence of Ratha Yatra was told to the audience. The Lord of the Universe comes out just to give His mercy to unlimited people regardless of their race, creed or color. And all this has been made possible by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Three most essentional things that is promoted by ISKCON are Dancing and Chanting of the Holy Names, Prasadam Distribution and Books Distribution. HH Janananda Gosvami also said ISKCON Klang had the best Ratha Yatra in Malaysia and their temple is very beautiful temple with absolutely gorgeous deities.
Finally the children’s much awaited moment arrived. They performed beautifully. The stage was decorated with trees, birds, monkeys and little butter pots. Their sweet voices and acts captivated many hearts. The dance to HG Vishnu Caitanya’s latest CD on Yasomati Nandana was a knockout. This was followed by the drama “The Little Butter Thief” and “The Brahmana and the Cobbler”. Both received raving reviews as well.
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As I was packing all the things after the stage performance, my son, Vinodh came rushing into the room I was in carrying a big garland. “Mum, the pujari gave me Lord Jagannath’s garland!” he said excitedly. I was thrilled. The Lord actually sent His garland to me through my son. The Lord reciprocates to the inner desires of His devotees. I now firmly belief that….