Ratha Yatra Youth Wave in Cameron Highlands

BY JAI SITA RANI DEVI DASI
VIDEO BY MULAKARANAM DASA
PHOTOS BY ISKCON MALAYSIA DEVOTEES

CAMERON HIGHLANDS, MALAYSIA – For the first time, a Ratha Yatra or Chariot Festival was held in Cameron Highlands. Malaysia’s largest and best-known hill resort, once the retreat of 19th century British settlers and today easily reached by road from Kuala Lumpur. Here, a mile above sea-level, stretch the cool rolling vistas of Malaysia’s green bowl, whose fruits and vegetables feed the nation’s cities. It has a charm of its own with its Tudor architecture style buildings, strawberry farms, vegetable markets, fresh flowers, tea plantation with its soothing greenery and breathtaking scenery.

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In Malaysia alone there are over 30 Ratha Yatras in a year. This new location chosen by the ISKCON Malaysia Youth Council was a refreshing change for Malaysians. They managed to gear up youths from all over Malaysia here for the day. A crowd of approximately 1,500 devotees gathered for this festival. They paved their way through the small town Brinchang in Cameron Highlands, singing, dancing, distributing packets of prasadam, books as they moved along. Each youth was encouraged to sell one set of three books. A total of 362 books were distributed during the procession. The new mascots donning the masks of Lord Gauranga and Nityananda were quite a hit amongst the people there. Smiling and dancing all the way, they charmed many hearts.

The Chariot Festival ended in a local Subramaniam temple where sumptuous prasadam were served and the crowd was entertained with musicals, drama and videos.

Very soon there will be one Chariot Festival every week in Malaysia and the healing period after Snana Yatra will probably get shorter……The urge to distribute His mercy will overcome His recovery period!!!

Learn more about this festival

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Q. What is Ratha Yatra?

Ratha Yatra is a huge festival for Lord Krishna and His devotees. An extraordinary chariot festival that originates in Jagannatha Puri on the east coast of India and dates back over 2,000 years.

Everyone chants Hare Krishna and dances in ecstasy as Krishna in His most merciful form of Jagannatha is pulled along on a huge wooden cart.

At the end of the procession, there is a big gathering of devotees with feasting, stalls and spiritual entertainment.

Q. What is the origin of Ratha Yatra?

Ratha Yatra has been held for many hundreds of years at Jagannatha Puri in Orissa, on India’s East coast.

Millions of pilgrims come to the festival and new carts are built each year.

The original inner meaning of Ratha Yatra is very beautiful.

In His time on this Earth, Krishna grew up in Vrindavana, and had great loving friendships there with all the residents, including the cowherd boys and girls.

When Krishna grew up, He became a King and moved away from His childhood friends.

After many years the residents of Vrindavana came to see Him. But He seemed so different to the mischievous cowherd boy they all knew and loved.

So they kidnapped Him and tried to bring Him back to Vrindavana on a cart.

Being with Krishna like this they felt simultaneous loving emotions of closeness and separation.

The Ratha Yatra festival is a modern expression of this pastime.

Q. Who is Jagannatha?

Jagannatha is the worshippable form of the Lord for this present age, the Kali yuga!

This is according to various Vedic literatures including Srimad-bhagavatam and Sri Chaitanya Caritamrta.

There are two causes for his unique appearance.

First is the story of how Krishna appeared to King Indradyuma and ordered him to carve a deity from a log he would find washed up on the sea shore.

King Indradruma found an old brahmin carpenter to carve the deity, but the carpenter insisted that he not be disturbed while he was carving the deity.

The king waited anxiously outside his room, but after some time, all sound stopped.

Indradyumna worried what had happened, and opened the doors – to find a half-finished deity and the carpenter gone!

The second reason for Lord Jagannatha’s appearance is the story of how Krishna was eavesdropping on the gopis as they spoke amongst themselves of His pastimes. And of how much they loved him.

As Krishna listened, His hairs stood on end, His arms retracted, His eyes grew larger and larger and He smiled broadly in ecstasy.

That is why Jagannatha looks as He does. With great big round eyes and a huge smile from ear to ear.