As the morning sun smiled at everyone with a clear blue sky after a brief shower, Their Lordships Jagannath, Baladeva, Subhadra in Their Chariot on Sunday, the 13th of May, paved Their way along with thousands of devotees from the KICC Grounds towards the ISKCON Nairobi Temple with much pomp and fervor. This is the year’s greatest festival.
The magnanimous event of Rath Yatra Festival, Nairobi 2012, was endorsed by many Sannyasis, senior devotees and other devotees from all over East Africa and overseas too. Their Lordships Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra were adorned by an exquisite blue dress and adorned completely with garlands of fragrant flowers. In their alluring blue attire the deities of Lord Jagannath Baladeva and Subhadra were mesmerizing all. With all the Kirtan, dancing and rejoicing going on, Bhakti Madhurya Govinda Swami from America, enthusiastically exclaimed, “This is not an ordinary event, or an ordinary party, its God’s party. People in this world like to party! Why? Because God also likes to party! You don’t have to do much in Krishna Consciousness; you just have to join God’s party”.
This was soon followed by Bhakti Vishwambhar Madhava Swami from America, who declared, “Lord Jagannath likes to give His darshan to everyone as He comes in his chariot with His brother Baladeva and sister Subhadra.” Bhakti Narsimha Swami of South Africa, succeeding him, asserted, “Jagannath loves blessing us, so He is today coming forward and blessing us all over the world, in each and every place... so Jagannath loves all of us and we should learn how to love Him back...”
After these enlivening words from the sannyasis, the offerings of light and flowers began. Several families and devotees together did the venerations. There were two sets of chariots for Lord Jagannath on the roads of Nairobi this year. One chariot was exclusively for the children, followed by the magnificent chariot of Lord Jagannath being pulled by adults.
The preparations for Rath Yatra had begun a couple of months ago with the arrival of Kundal Krishna Das from India. He encouraged the devotees by giving a series of seminars on the Lord and His devotees’ teachings all around Kenya. This energized the devotees to work hard and make the Rath Yatra a grand carnival of the year.
The locals crowded around the path and were chanting and dancing along with the devotees. Some of the devotees were distributing books, water and sweets to the people around. All the people were trying to get a glimpse of the Lord in His majestic chariot.
Many eminent personalities, journalists, businessmen and school children participated in the festivities. The chariot rolled on and covered the whole city centre in a span of three hours, with a massive entourage of devotees chanting the Hare Krishna Maha-Mantra and singing “Jai Jagannath”. Nearing the ISKCON Nairobi Temple devotees were a bit relaxed and soaked completely in Lord Jagannath’s mercy and in the nectar of the Holy name. The devotees were pulling the ropes of the chariot with exhilaration and awe, gratitude and piety, and with love and respect.
As the chariot reached the temple the devotees now eagerly circled the chariot waiting for some Prasadam from the chariot. The priests, Sannyasis and other devotees at the chariot were throwing the Prasadam, like flowers, garlands, sweets and peanuts at the devotees. With loud roars and cheers, the devotees were grabbing on to the Prasadam. Soon the deities were taken to the Temple hall from the chariot and the Kirtan Party continued to chant and dance. After 4 hours of rejuvenating festivities, the devotees headed for lunch Prasadam where they sprawled on the floor and on the chairs.
Just like a nicely choreographed group dance, the devotees and the ISKCON East African Management together co-operated and synchronized their services so accurately that the whole Festival succeeded. Rath Yatra is a treat for all senses- it is a festival infused with loving sentiments for the Lord and an amazing opportunity for purification of the soul.