Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Festival of the Chariots on the Island of the Gods
By Ravinjay K.   |  Aug 27, 2014

ISKCON’s most awaited festival of Sri Jagannatha Ratha-yatra was celebrated on Sunday, the 24th of August of 2014 in Denpasar, Bali. 

Ratha-yatra, the Festival of the Chariots is originated from the coastal town of Jagannatha Puri, Odisha, India. The story goes back to the time when Krishna encountered His family and childhood friends while He was at Kuruksetra. The meeting resulted in them pulling Krishna back to Vrindavan. To this very day, this festival is conducted to allow everyone, no matter their location, age, religion or race, to pull the Lord of the Universe back into their hearts. Ever since 1967, ISKCON has successfully celebrated this festival in London, New York, Paris, Sydney, Moscow and many more cities and towns all over the world.

Denpasar, Bali’s provincial capital, got the opportunity to host this ancient celebration in 2014. “The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) for Indonesia has been celebrating this Ratha-yatra festival for 12 years in Bali.” Bala Krishna das, head of this year’s committee says. “Every year the festival changes its location, from different regencies in Bali and now, after a full circle, to Denpasar.”

Hare Krishna devotees from all over Indonesia gathered at the Bajra Sandhi Monument park in the heart of Denpasar to celebrate a two-day event. On the first day, the first ever “Prabhupada Festival” was held. Celebrating the ISKCON Founder-acharya’s gift of Krishna Consciousness to the world, the Indonesian devotees held a public guru-puja. Kavicandra Swami and His Subhag Swami also glorified their spiritual master and his contributions. “We need to encourage a united celebration for Srila Prabhupada”, Kavicandra Swami, GBC for Indonesia, comments.

A life-size murti of Srila Prabhupada and the large deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra stayed at the park for two days and one night in Their temporary altar. The deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra were brought all the way from our temple in East Java where local devotees carved the Deities made of locally produced neem wood. Each of these Deities weigh around 70 kilogramms. 

On the second and last day, over 2,000 people crowded the festival site. The huge park was lined with gift shops and vegetarian food stalls. Many people bought Srila Prabhupada’s books such as “Bhagavad-gita Menurut Aslinya” (“Bhagavad-gita As It Is”) and the newly launched “Ajaran Dewi Kunti” (“The Teachings of Queen Kunti”) from the Indonesian Bhaktivedanta Book trust.

An exhibition was also set up, displaying posters on the Vedic philosophy such as on “Karma”, “Samsara”, “Isvara”, “Bhagavad-gita” and many more. Three gigantic posters were also displayed. The first was a poster on Prabhupada’s Timeline, from his birth to the 50th anniversary of ISKCON in 2016. The second is a poster of success stories of devotees who actively distribute Prabhupada’s books. And the third is map of the world with pictures of ISKCON devotees from different countries. 

The Ratha Yatra chariot at the  Bajra Sandhi Monument

The Hare Krishna Food For Life team freely distributed hot porridge to over 1,500 people over the period of two days accompanied by kirtan and the distribution of pamphlets to promote the event. A small murti of Srila Prabhupada was also taken for morning walks around the park, accompanied with Kirtan, which further purified the atmosphere.

Leading up to the pulling of the chariots, traditional Balinese dances were performed to invite auspiciousness and to greet the guests. Guests from the Office of Culture for Bali Province also attended the event and applauded ISKCON for encouraging unity amongst all people to serve God, which is in accordance to this year’s theme of “sva-dharmena baliyasa” which means “to execute ones eternal activities, offering the results to the Supreme Personality of Godhead” (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.27.7). 

Over 1,600 people pulled the gigantic deities of Lord Krishna, Lord Balarama and Subhadra Devi on Denpasar’s main streets on a 4,4 kilometer route. The event attracted many journalists and photographers who, with the help of the ISKCON Communications Team, publicized the festival in 7 local newspapers and television stations. 

After the chariot was pulled, the devotees performed traditional Balinese & Indian dances, contemporary acoustic performances, traditional comedies and dramas depicting the glories of Lord Jagannatha.

Besides the island of the gods, this festival also made it to Medan, Yogyakarta, Lombok, Surabaya, Jakarta and many more town and cities in the country. Balinese devotees hope to make Ratha-yatra festivals bigger in Bali, focusing more on inviting the general public to attend.  They also would like to encourage more devotees from around the world to attend the next Ratha-yatra in Bali.

 * * * 

For more information on ISKCON in Indonesia, visit