By Gunacuda Dasi
Devotees of ISKCON Sri Sri Krishna Balarama Mandir, Bhubaneswar hold the annual Rathayatra festival on the same day as the Jagannath temple in Puri. ISKCON Bhubaneswar Rathayatra has the second largest attendance ,after the Puri rathayatra. This year the police were expecting over 1 lakh devotees to attend the festival starting from the ISKCON temple in Nayapalli and going down National Highway 5 . Traffic was diverted so that the large crowds of people could pull the three chariots of Sri Sri Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra devi safely to the Gundica temple.
The sweeping of the chariots was carried out by H.H Bhakti Gaurava Narayan Maharaja. Once the procession began, there was a large kirtan party in front of each chariot. H.H Murali Krishna Maharaja led the kirtan in front of Lord Baladeva’s chariot with a large group of enthusiastic local and international devotees chanting and dancing .
Lord Baladeva’s chariot was the first to move at around 2pm ,and all the chariots had reached Gundicha by 6pm where the road was filled with people waiting for darshan of Their Lordships. Sri Sri Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra devi were then taken into the Gundica where they would stay until the return ratha festival on the 18th July.
In the morning large crowds gathered at the Gundica temple for pravacan in Oriya ,and in the evening many hundreds of visitors came for evening arati then for the pravacan. For two nights H.H Murali Krishna Maharaja spoke. .Firstly on the subject of how and why Srila Prabhupada brought Rathayatra to the west ,and then on how Lord Jagannath is controlled by the love of His pure devotees. These talks were greatly appreciated by the large crowd who came to listen. This was followed by a cultural program of Odissi dancing , drama or bhajans.
Many Ratha yatras are held in Odisha, but ISKCON Bhubaneswar’s is one of the ,most popular with large crowds attending every year to get the blessings of the Lord.