First Northern Virginia Ratha Yatra

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Nisha Chopada: First Northern Virginia Ratha Yatra was hosted on 13th September, 2008 within Centreville Day Parade by ISKCON DC. On auspicious day of Haridas Thakur’s disappearance day, hundreds of people witnessed chanting of Hare Krishna. Lord Chaitanya (Lord Krishna’s incarnation) has predicted that His name will be chanted in every town and corner of the world. Due to Srila Prabhupada’s hardship, this prediction is certainly manifesting every day in different corner of the world. It was a great day, with clear skies. Weather was the most perfect. Previous day, a huge thunderstorm was predicted and there were good chances of parade being cancelled. Centreville parade organizer Cheryl mentioned that weather must have been cleared, because Hare Krishnas would be joining this year! Last year’s parade was cancelled due to bad weather.

Our main inspiration was to imitate Srila Prabhupada’s childhood ratha yatra, he celebrated, when he was only 5 years old. The cart was bit small. Deities did not have umbrella or fan. Krishna is so merciful, that despite being Lord of the Universe, he undergoes so much trouble. Deities looked happy and most beautiful, despite so much inconvenience. Lord Jagannatha along with Baladeva and Subhadra rode the chariot cart from Leland Road (Colin Powell Elementary school) to Historic Centreville district.

Around 30 devotees ecstatically chanted and danced along the path of parade. The holy sound vibration, cymbals and mrdanga captivated many observers. Many families were witnessing Indian culture for the first time. Their spontaneous reaction was to waive and sing. Jyotsna, 58 year old devotee, was a special participant from India. She has problem walking. Amazingly, she was able to walk a mile stretch without any problems. Such is mercy of Lord Jagannatha!!! Panghum langayate girim!!! HG Sankirtan Yagya Prabhu, disciple of HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami, created the cart, loaded and unloaded all setup and led kirtan!!! Such empowerment is only possible through Maha Prabhu’s mercy. Black, white, Indian and Spanish people joined in this Ratha Yatra. This parade was coordinated by Nisha Chopada, an aspiring disciple of HH Radhanath Swami.

After the parade and prasadam, book table was set up. Our booth was set up between Tae Kwondo, Obama Campaign, Stop Global Warming and jewelry booth. It was an interesting combination. One of the Obama booth guy, purchased Bhagvad Gita, he is already reading Kuran! Little girls enjoyed bindis (Gopi dots) and many western women tried saris on at this booth. Murari Mohini (JPS) an enthusiastic devotee from Bolivia handed many booklets. Interest in Yoga, India, Vedic lifestyle is increasing in US. We distributed about 50 small booklets and about 10 other books in 3 hours. All devotees made a resolution to do bigger and better ratha yatra next year!

Here is some feedback! Nice to see ISKCON Ratha Yatra in backyard. This is like going to grass roots. - Pani Bhushan (ACBSP) I will bring my extended family next time. They have so many nice free rides and nice family atmosphere. - Nita Patel We will take 2-3 booths next time - Radhika Mohan (RGS), Nanda Kumar (JPS), Nayana Manjari (JPS), Jyoti and Ashwini Agarwal We should pass freebies like other churches do. - Radha Sakhi Vrinda (IDS)

Website: http://iskcondc.org

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