Since 2016, the Berlin ISKCON Jagannatha Temple has been celebrating the traditional Ratha Yatra at the Brandenburg Gate in the middle of the government district of the German capital. The decision to hold the traditional chariot festival at the most famous symbol of German history was a strategic consideration. In a time in which more and more people in Germany get afraid of partly unknown religious communities and their rites, the Berlin ISKCON community wanted to set a sign and stand up for “More tolerance for lived religion in society”.
Lord Jagannatha’s chariot in front of the Brandenburg Gate – the symbol of Germany’s past and present.
This year the parade was a special challenge because strict COVID-19 precautions are required in the capital. Participating devotees had to wear masks and maintain a distance of 1.5 meters. Temple President Sadasiva Dasa expressed his enthusiasm for the discipline of the participants. He said they wanted to show society that “religion is not fanatical or dangerous, but part of life in German society.”
Deep meditation in front of Lord Jagannatha
After failing to celebrate a Ratha Yatra last year, the fifth anniversary at the Brandenburg Gate saw a record turnout. More than 900 participants in the procession and stage program celebrated with Sacinandana Swami, Kadamba Kanana Swami; Jayagaura Prabhu – a pioneer of Krishna consciousness in Germany, Radhika Ranjana, the Harinama Ruci group as well as the Samadhi Dance Group! In addition, thousands of tourists visited the landmark Brandenburg Gate, often inspired by the chanting and dancing of the Holy Name, to learn about ISKCON and Krishna Consciousness.
Sacinandana Swami and Jayagaura Prabhu – one of the pioneers of Krishna Consciousness in Germany and president of the Hamburg ISKCON temple.
“This was our biggest event in recent years – we are very happy that we were able to celebrate a Ratha Yatra under the difficult conditions of the Corona pandemic and thank you that so many devotees attended.” continued Berlin Temple President Sadasiva dasa. In addition to representatives of the various Indian communities of Berlin, devotees of other Vaishnava communities had also gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate to join in praising Lord Jagannatha.The procession went from the Brandenburg Gate to the newly built palace along the boulevard “Unter den Linden”. Lord Jagannatha, the Lord of the Universe, chooses the same route that the last German Emperor Wilhelm II regularly took to get from the Palace to the Hotel Adlon at the Brandenburg Gate. Here in Berlin, the spiritual ruler of the universe meets the history of the country.
Parade in Berlin in front of the “Alte Wache” near the Humboldt University
A stop of the procession is always made in front of the entrance to Humboldt University. There, in a short speech, attention was drawn to the importance of the Bhagavad-Gita for the Germans. Among other things, Wilhelm von Humboldt – the university is named after him and his brother Alexander von Humboldt – in 1825 and 1826 in publications at the Berlin Academy had expressed himself euphorically about the scripture discovered at that time by the German intellectual elite: “… the most beautiful, indeed perhaps the only true philosophical poem that all the literatures known to us have to show”.
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