Two Rathayatras organized by ISKCON Ahmedabad, India on Friday March 19 and Saturday March 20 saw the Ratha cart carry deities of Sita, Rama, Lakshman and Hanuman as well as the more traditional Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra deities.
The move was in honor of Rama Navami, the March 24th appearance day of Lord Rama, God’s form as the ideal king.
Friday’s Rathayatra began in the “old section” of Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, leaving from the front of the Ranchodji temple at Sarangpur at 5:00pm.
Sri Lavleshbhai and other trustees of the temple inaugurated the procession by sweeping the road in front of the Rath in supplication to Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe, following the ancient tradition set by Gajapati Maharaj, the king of Puri, Orissa.
Jasomatinandan Dasa, ISKCON’s zonal secretary for Gujarat, inaugurated the function by offering arati to the deities of Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra. He also addressed the crowd from atop a ladder in front of the cart, before spending some time with local cable TV reporters.
Speaking in Hindi, USA-born Deena Bandhu Dasa of ISKCON Vrindavan addressed the gathering next, while ISKCON Baroda temple president Basu Ghosh Dasa recited the first verse of the Jagannath Astakam prayer and then led everyone in a call and response chant of “Sri Rama, Jaya Rama, Jaya Jaya Rama.”
The procession, including locals and devotees from the Gujarati cities Surat, Baroda and Vallabh Vidyanagar, as well as a large international group from Russia, Ukraine and the USA, then set off. Jasomatinandan, Deena Bandhu, and Nityananda Ram Dasa of ISKCON Baroda led the kirtan, chanting enthusiastically for long periods of over one hour each.
Also participating in the parade were ISKCON Vallabh Vidyanagar temple president Sachidananda Dasa, ISKCON Surat vice president Vrindavan Dasa, and Damayanti Dasi, a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada visiting from Hawaii.
Thousands of residents of Ahmedabad’s “old section” watched the procession as it passed through narrow streets from Sarangpur to Khadia, Panch Kuva, and Ahmedabad Railway Station, before returning to the Ranchodji temple at around 9:00pm. Devotees distributed books and prasadam food packs to the onlookers throughout the parade, while a feast was served to all upon arrival.
On Saturday, a second Rathayatra—this one following a longer route in the “developing” Western area of Ahmedabad—began at the Bhuyangadev Hanuman temple at 5:30pm.
Rakesh Karsanbhai Patel, Vice Chairman of the large cosmetics and soaps company the Nirma Group, inaugurated the function by sweeping the road in front of the Ratha cart.
Braving extremely hot, unseasonal temperatures, a large group of devotees assembled for the parade, including new arrivals from ISKCON Rajkot.
The procession headed from Bhuyangadev on to Subhash Chowk, Swaminarayan Gurukula, Ahmedabad’s famous “Drive-in” road, Sunrise Park Society, Vastrapur fountain, Judges Bungalow Road, Devashish school, the S.G. Highway, and finally on to ISKCON’s Sri Sri Radha Govindadham temple.
Arriving at 10:00pm, all participants were served a delicious prasadam feast.
To see more photos of the Rathayatras, please click here