By Sukhada Dasi
Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balaram and Subhadra devi chose a brilliant blue-skied day dotted with white clouds for Their tour of St. Augustine on Sat., Mar. 23, 2014, showering mercy on everyone who gazed Their way. The Deities were dressed in ornate colorful outfits and the cart was especially lovely with garlands galore. Devotees celebrated Their long awaited appearance with spectacular dancing, melodious kirtan, and a variety of performances. Bhadra Prabhu introduced the mayor of St. Augustine, Joe Boles, who heartily welcomed the Hare Krishnas and announced that our parade was “the oldest parade in the world.” He encouraged us to continue our tradition yearly, and especially invited us to participate next year when the city marks its 450th anniversary as the oldest continually occupied European settlement in the United States (1565 to 2015).
Many tourists joined the parade, assisting the devotees to pull the cart through the city. The parade wove through the town and ended up on the ocean where those who watched from their vehicles were also benedicted. Once Their Lordships returned to the plaza, Yadunandana dasi gifted everyone with prasadam from the numerous offerings. The ecstasy continued as well over a hundred devotees, twirled, jumped, and chanted up and down St. George Street in a harinam. It was a phenomenal experience. Spectators were stunned, spontaneously reaching for their cameras and enthusiastically accepting books and prasad from the merciful devotees. Devotees invited people from the crowd to join in and the parade grew along with the bliss.
When everyone returned to the plaza they were treated to a multi-course feast served to everyone free of charge. The entertainment was superb, and included: a ballet performance, Bharat-Natyam dancing, bhajans, and an incredible play of Lord Chaitanya in the Jharikanda forest.
March 23 in St. Augustine marks a day we won’t forget any time soon. The presence of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama, and Subhadra Devi created a heavenly transcendental atmosphere. It was one of those days you wished would never end! Everyone agreed-there’s just nothing like Ratha Yatra. Don’t miss the next one! In Florida we organize eight Ratha Yatra festivals every year. We were in the big Spring Parade at Tallahassee on March 29. Upcoming festivals are: Miami April 26; Clearwater Beach May 3; Daytona Beach May 24; Tampa June 29; Jacksonville Beach Aug. 23 and Gainesville in the University of Florida Homecoming Parade in the Fall.
We would like to invite all sannyasis and any other devotees to please grace these occasions.