By Basu Ghosh Das
On Monday, July 16, 2007, ISKCON Baroda once again, for the twenty sixth year running, observed the annual Jagannath Rathayatra festival on the “Rathayatra day”, the Second day of month of “Aashaadh”, during the fortnight of the waxing moon (shukla paksh).
As per local tradition, the Rathayatra festival was inaugurated by the Mayor of Baroda, Sri Sunil Solanki, as well as the District Collector, Sri Rajiv Topno. Many other political leaders of both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress party, including the “leader of the opposition” in the Baroda Municipal Corporation, Sri Chirag Jhaveri, were present at the inauguration ceremony at the Baroda railway station at 2:30 PM. The Mayor and other dignitaries symbolically swept the road in front of the Rath as the Raja of Puri does at Jagannath Puri.
This year, the Rathayatra procession seemed to be larger than ever! Right from the Railway station itself, large crowds of members of the public surrounded the Rath, joined in pulling the carts and also joined in the ecstatic kirtan where a large number of devotees were participating. Devotees from Ahmedabad, Vallabh Vidyanagar, Vrindavan, Chandigarh and Ludhiana participated.
Sriman Bhaktivinod Prabhu, Co-President of ISKCON Chandigarh, Sriman Murlimohan Prabhu, President of ISKCON Vijaywada, and Sriman Krishnanam Prabhu from ISKCON Pune headed the group of visiting devotees.
About 1 Â˝ kilometers from the Railway station is the “Koti Kacheri”, the location of the District Collector’s office. It was at this place that Baroda Police Commissioner Sri P.C. Thakur, personally joined the Rathayatra and walked along with the Rathayatra for the next 6 kilometers, until the end of the procession! It was the first time that the Police Commissioner himself walked such a long way in front of the Rath of Lord Jagannath!
The people of Baroda enthusiastically lined the roads in the tens of thousands to receive the Deities have “darshan” (sight) of Lord Jagannath’s Rath throughout the six and a half kilometer procession. They brought various offerings to Lord Jagannath of flowers, fruits, sweets and offered arati to the Lord with traditional ghee wicks.
It should be mentioned that the procession was accorded special security status and a larger number of Police personnel accompanied the Rath cart throughout the procession as well as three hundred and fifty members of the “Home Guard”, the local Civil Defence force, who were also on special duty for Rathayatra.
More than 10 tons of “halava” prasad was distributed to the public from trucks that followed Lord Jagannath’s rath. This year, all of that “halava” prasad was made from 100% pure ghee from “Jhamkambhalia”, a town located near holy Dwaraka Dham in the Saurastra part of Gujarat, that is famous for it’s ghee production.
The Rathayatra procession included a number of horse and camel carts which preceded the Rath through the main streets of the town. There were also colorfully dressed actors portraying scenes from Mahabharata and Ramayana on view in the carts.
The Rathayatra concluded opposite the Polo Ground at around 7:30 PM.
The Rathayatra was very well covered by local “cable” TV, FM Radio, and the local newspapers. Pictures of the Rathayatra and pictures of the various newspaper articles, in English, Hindi and Gujarati, accompany this report.
In the evening, after the conclusion of the Rathayatra, 15,000 persons were served full prasad dinner (mahabhojan) at Hare Krishna Land, here at Baroda.
ISKCON Baroda thanks the local Government and Police authorities for their participation and cooperation in helping make the Rathayatra peaceful and successful. We also thank our many local donors, life members and supporters who contributed towards making the Rathayatra festival possible once again.