BY UTTAMA CAITANYA DASA
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – Most of the times we don’t know what in store for us. It was virtually pouring cats and dogs from early morning of Saturday, 3rd January. The was no sign of the sun. A dreary change of weather from the previous sunny days. Is the 28th wet affair? Many feared so.
A few firsts have been recorded this year. For the first time, three chariots have been arranged for Their Lordships in Kuala Lumpur. Secondly, the route was entirely in Brickfields. Thirdly, we are using the Kandiah Hall for the first time as well.
A lot of work and preparation went into the festival and the devotees were anxious that the weather shall not wreak havoc.
Some major technical complications had to be sorted till the eleventh hour that included the parking of the chariot, the power supply for the chariot and the police permit. Somehow the battle seemed endless. It was sweet though.
The procession was planned to begin at 4.00pm. Some 100 devotees braved the drizzle and waited. We are almost set to move. Their Lordships. Sri Sri Jagannatha-Baldeva-Subhadra have already taken Their respective regal seats, as if they beautifully showering benediction to the devout and desolate through the tiny drops of rain.
Srila Prabhupada’s murti was placed on Lord Baladeva’s chariot. He is our expert navigator, naturally. His Holiness Bhaktivrajendra Nandana Swami conducted the opening arati.
Three kirtan groups were enthusiastically chanting the Holy Names. The Klang Yatra were given the task to pull and lead Lord Baladeva’s chariot; the Bengali devotees, Sri Subhadra’s chariot; and the rest, Lord Jagannatha’s chariot.
Off we went at 4.30pm first moving along the Palm Court apartments and Sri Vinagar Temple. Murphy’s Law strikes – the first chariot’s power cable snaps because the chariot moved too fast forward. It was taking a while to sort out. So we decided to move on without lights for a while.
The next unexpected hurdle – the overhead pass opposite Pines Apartment. We assumed the last chariot would pass through bearing in mind the bridge was 16 feet and 8 inches in height (at least the board says that) and Lord Jagannatha’s chariot was suppose to be 15 feet in height. But no. Lord Jagannatha had other plans. The top spire was an obstacle. Finally, it had to be removed through a daring feat.
The weather was perfect now. By Lord Krishna’s mercy. Oblivious to all the hiccups, the devotees were all in bliss.
The police’s refusal to allow us through the main thoroughfare of Brickfields (i.e. Jalan Tun Sambanthan) was a letdown. The shop operators were a little disappointed. Maybe, next year!
By now the crowd had swelled to about 600 devotees.An added attraction was the distribution of 1000 packets of free prasadam (mee hoon) to the public by the Food For Life team. Eager devotees and children with wide smiles on their faces were handing out packet prasadam to the public. Who would refuse? On top of that more than 5000 mini prasadam packets were also distributed.
As the evening sun was setting, the real majesty of the chariot came to light. The brilliance of the bulbs made the chariot glow in the dark. The Deities were also wonderfully illuminated for the public to have nice darsan.
The procession went along Jalan Thambi Abdullah, Jalan Padang Belia, Jalan Scott, Jalan Sultan Abdul Samad and finally back to Jalan Tun Sambanthan before reaching Kandiah Hall at 9.30pm.
The avid sankirtan devotees were gleefully distributing hundreds of books along the way. Srila Prabhupada’s programme was fulfilled – congregational chanting of the Holy Names, give-away of prasadam and distribution of books.
A few hundred people were eagerly awaiting at the hall to receive Lord Jagannatha. The stage was decorated beautifully for the pleasure of their Lordships with lots of flowers devotedly arranged by our devotees.
More than 300 bhoga plates were ready in place for offering. As soon as the Deities were seated on the stage altar, the bhoga offering was made.
His Holiness Bhanu Swami spoke on the glories of RathaYatra and Malaysia’s record-breaking number of chariot festivals. Next, His Holiness Bhaktivrajendra Nandana Swami elaborated on the glories of the Holy Name. Finally, His Grace Simheswara prabhu shared Srila Prabhupada’s Ratha Yatra pastimes from the early days of ISKCON in US.
After the arati, it was time for the stage events. Two dramas and a dance were showcased much to the delight of the 300 odd audience who stayed glued to the seat despite the late hour.
Meanwhile, wonderful prasadam was being served to guests. An estimated 1500 devotees and guests attended this event that included devotees from New Zealand, Australia and Singapore.
We thank all the wonderful devotees and friends whose immense support and service made this festival a success. A wonderful, transcendental was to begin the new year – a spiritual juggernaut!
Sri Sri Jagannatha Ratha Yatra Mahotsava ki, jaya!!!