Ratha Yatra in Melbourne

About one week ago we had a Ratha Yatra in Melbourne to co-incide with HG Bhurijana Prabhu’s visit to Melbourne. Bishvajit and his family a currently members of the Melbourne congregation but originally they came from Orissa where the great Ratha Yatra occurs each year in Jagannath Puri. For most of the year Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra remain hidden away from westerners who are not allowed into the temple. Generally the only contact we can get is Jaganatha’s Maha Prasada particularly his famous Jagannatha Tongues which are made in enormous quantities. However once a year Their Lordships go on a procession down the main street of Jagannath Puri so that anyone, even those who are unqualified, can see Them.

Jagannath's temple in Puri

In 1967 Their Lordships extended their travels from the streets of Jagannatha Puri to San Francisco to become the first deities to be installed in ISKCON. The appearance of Jagannath in San Francisco is described in Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta as follows.

One day Malati hurried into Srila Prabhupada’s apartment, took a small item out of her shopping bag, and placed it on Prabhupada’s desk for his inspection. “What is this, Swamiji?”

Srila Prabhupada looked down and beheld a three-inch wooden doll with a flat head, a black, smiling face, and big, round eyes. The figure had stubby, forward-jutting arms, and a simple green and yellow torso with no visible feet. Srila Prabhupada immediately folded his palms and bowed his head, offering the little figure respects.

“You have brought Lord Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe,” he said, smiling and bright-eyed. “He is Krishna. Thank you very much.” Srila Prabhupada beamed with pleasure, while Malati and others sat amazed at their good fortune of seeing Swamiji so pleased. Prabhupada explained that this was Lord Jagannatha, a Deity of Krishna worshiped all over India for thousands of years. Jagannatha, he said, is worshiped along with two other deities: His brother, Balarama, and His sister, Subhadra.

Later that same year the devotees held the first Ratha Yatra in the West by putting the deities of the back of a truck and driving it through the streets of San Francisco.

Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra.

Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra.

Now, 42 years later, we had a Ratha Yatra festival at Bishvajit’s family’s home. While we didn’t get the 1,000,000+ crowd that they get in Puri we still managed to fill two rooms of the house while HG Bhurijana Prabhu was giving class with a life video feed to the second room. Due to the weather the Ratha Yatra was held before the class. It was a very beautiful affear. The deities were dressed nicely and placed on a nicely decorated cart. To the sound of kirtan Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra were then taken around the small street around their house. They even had a smaller cart for the children to take around.

Kids rath cart.

The kids' rath cart.

One thing that really struck me is the quality of Krishna Conscious children we have in Melbourne. I remember back to my younger days when i went to church with my family. Practically none of the children were able to sit still for anything what to speak of a 20min sermon. To keep them somewhat entertained they had a talk specifically for children, then Sunday school started before the sermon and in the meanwhile there was always a box of toys or some colouring books at the back where they couldn’t to too much damage to peoples ears. These children on the other hand managed to sit through a class that went for most of an hour on deep philosophy. While on the retreat they sat through a class that went for 3 hours and still managed to coherently answer questions about it. This says something about the attractiveness of Krishna consciousness compared with other religions and the purifing effect that has on peoples’ minds.

Jagannatha tongues. Hot and soaked in honey.

Jagannatha tongues. Hot and soaked in honey.

After class came the main attraction. Prasadam. It is said that in Mayapur one is purified by chanting the holy names of the Lord, in Vrindavan one is purified by the dust, and in Puri one is puri-fied by the prasadam. Thus we all embraced the spirit of Puri. Unfortunately the the puris were only there in spirit.

June 21, 2009 at 7:11 am Leave a comment

The Aussie Spirit.

Last weekend the ISKCON Hare Krishna Temple in Melbourne participated in a fundraising event for the Victorian Bush Fire Appeal. Sometimes the pseudo-spiritualists put on events such as the Mind Body and Spirit Festival to promote alternative medicines, tarot, numerology, crystals and so on. Last weekend they put on such an event called the Aussie Spirit Festival.

Our Stall

Our Stall

It was by far the quietest festival I have ever been to. Our temple often gets more visitors to mangala arati than went to the festival. This made me think about what makes up the “Aussie Spirit”. One quality of the Aussies that came to mind was their love of the outdoors. In this case the festival very much demonstrated the Aussie Spirit. Practically no one paid the $10 to come inside to see the festival or buy our prasadam. Everyone prefered to stay outdoors.

The Lunch Rush.

The Lunch Rush.

This brings up another aspect of Australian culture. We don’t like paying excessive fees. Small ones are ok but once they get bigger we start grumbling. In fact a large impetus for Australia becoming independent from England was the high fees for mining gold. They eventually became so high that there was a large fight between the gold miners and the English army in Ballarat. Even today the flag flown by the rebel gold miners still appears in practically every workers union rally. I can’t think of many Australians who would pay $10 to see a practically empty hall with a few exhibitors around the edge and then fork out another $10 for a feast plate.

Lady in black sees the entry fees but the coffee guy is in ecstasy at the sight of customers.

Lady in black notices the entry fees but the coffee guy is in ecstasy at the sight of customers.

Of course this meant that we had no customers and were therefore forced to participate in one of Australia’s favourite pastimes – bludging. Australians love bludging so much that Rupert Murdoch, the founder of New Corp, expressed concern that Australians may make the “bludger” our national icon(1). Prabhupada said that we should add Krishna to all our activities. I figured the best way to utilise my bludging in Krishna’s service was to chant while I bludged. Everything was setup so nicely that I didn’t even need to get up to see if we needed more kofta balls, I could sit in the hallway see in their refection on the glass of the bain marie. I managed to chant almost 32 rounds.

Vivek getting into the Aussie Spirit.

Vivek getting into the Aussie Spirit.

By about 11am we had had enough. The matahjis had already preached to everyone who was going to come and two had already left. But it wasn’t until about 5:30pm that the first stall holder gave up and started packing up to leave. This started a free for all to get out as fast as possible with little or no regard for the official closing time. This again brings to mind a pivotal point in the development of the Aussie spirit – Gallipoli. The British, with dreams of conquest, sent the Aussies into a hopeless blood bath by dropping them off at the bottom of a cliff so that the Turks could shoot at them with machine guns. In the end, despite the British wanting them to stay and die some more, the Aussies decided to leave. Although definitely not ordinarily bludgers they properly utilised the Aussie bludger enginuity (afterall why shoot a gun when you can get a leaking can of water can do it for you) and thus escaped without lossing a single person. The Turks woke up the next morning to the sound of gun fire but not a single Aussie was left on the beach. Similarly by the official closing time we had all left.

Everyone has gone AWOL.

Everyone has gone AWOL.

Aussie Spirit Ki Jaya!!!

April 23, 2009 at 6:15 am 1 comment

On Easter, at Bendigo…

Just after after 2 tiring days, catering prasadam at the Bendigo Easter festival, I have just managed to set up the long pending blog of my own. And here it is for the world ! Thanks much to Manoj prabhu.

P.S : The above short article was written by Manoj himself. Thanks ! Stop helping me !

April 12, 2009 at 10:52 am Leave a comment


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