Had an awesome day yesterday!
2:30am: Wake up
4am – 5:25am: Travel to temple
5:25am – 6:50am: Deity paraphernalia service
6:50-7am: Gobble down maha-sweets as a award to myself for the morning activities
7am-7:10am: Checking out my friends iPad out
7:15am – 8:45am: Deity greeting, Guru Puja, Bhagavatam class
8:45am-9:30am: Massive breakfast prasadam (rice, zucchini curry, puri, coconut chutney, tomato chutney & halva)
9:30am – 10:45am: Bus & train travel to Liverpool where the Ratha Yatra would be held.
As i get out of the train station and look for directions to the carpark where the event would be held, someone touches me on the shoulder and says, “Hari Bol!”
I turned around and its Sri Prabhalad prabhu, the wonderful devotee and kirtaneer. I was so happy to see him there. Every time i see him, i am reminded of my early days of ISKCON where his kirtan would sustain me. Together, we make our way to the venue using Google Maps. We almost got lost before a devotee came looking for him. A short walk and we were at the venue – a car park.
The car park were full of devotees! There was s stage and an altar. Prasad and book distribution counters were being setup. Thick waft of Vrindhavana incense filled the underground park and passed into the street outside. Prabhus in dhotis, others in western wear (me included), matajis in super colourful indian attire and kids running around – the place looked, felt & sounded like a temple!!
Sri Prahalad prabhu got into action right away adorning himself with a harmonium. A prabhu held out a mic for him. Young boys on karatalas and mridangas joined in. Lord Jagannath, Baladeva and Subadra got into Their carts. The local Council members stood in front with a coconut in their hands, ready to smash them to the ground. They looked amused as they were told they would be doing this! Once that ceremony was done, the cart was signalled to move. Devotees cheered, onlookers gathered by the pavements and kirtan was in full swing.
A devotee came running towards me and said, “Prabhu, come quickly! We need a person to carry their Lordships and Their palanquin!”. I couldn’t believe my luck! I had the same opportunity when the Ratha Yatra was opened at the St. Kilda Festival, some 6-7 years ago! There were 4 boys resting the palanquin on their shoulder but it was slightly slanted because i was short compared to the others! So after some 10 mins of walking, i was replaced by someone with the right height that matched everyone else. Yet, i was happy and thankful for the opportunity. The rest of the trip, I continued to walk with Them lest i might get an opportunity again.
Basically, we went along the streets circling the carpark. Storekeepers and their customers spilled onto the street to watch the procession. Some smiled and some looked confused. It seemed to me that they had no idea what was going on. To them, it looked liked some Hindu festival. I wish many of them were given handouts about the significance of the event, invited to pull the ropes and perhaps ask them to join us for the lunch prasad afterwards.
Speaking about prasad, this was on the menu – big pooris, tomato chutney, green salad, rice, eggplant & paneer subji, water & cordial. It was nice – everyone were hungry! There were some stage shows but i didn’t stay back for them as i was so sleepy by now. Walked back to the bus stand, and took a 1.5 hr trip back home.
I couldn’t help thinking that as Lord Jagannath travels across the streets with the gigantic ropes, a large cart and plenty of devotees, He is actually riding on the road on our hearts. May He continue to give us this privilege year after year!
Here are the video highlights: