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

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Lord Jagannath’s Mercy in the Desert at the ISKCON Phoenix Ratha-Yatra
By SyamaMohinī Devi Dasi and NamaPriya Devi Dasi   |  Feb 17, 2024

On February 10th, hundreds gathered in Phoenix, Arizona, for the annual Jagannatha Ratha-Yatra parade hosted by ISKCON of Phoenix. In addition to the procession, a festival was held at the Steele Indian School Park, which included book distribution, yoga and meditation, henna and face painting, children’s activities, cultural programs, dance presentations, and the distribution of 1,000 plates of prasadam. Though inclement weather threatened the event, it was marked by a special divine touch.

As we got closer to the event, the weather conditions were not suitable at all for holding the festival, as strong winds and heavy rain were expected. Some devotees in the congregation started keeping a close tab on the rain prediction for that day. Others decided to wait for the Lord’s action and encouraged others to do the same. Nevertheless, the organizers had to be ready with a “Plan B.”

Since rain continued pouring throughout the night, last-minute changes were made. But at the break of dawn, as the team of devotees was finishing the assembly of the chariot, we received the message,” The rain has stopped!” Indeed, it stopped just as the Deities had arrived; the cold breeze was the prelude to the shining sun waiting for his master to take His place on His chariot. What was most interesting was that the rain stopped just in the area of the festival and continued to pour in the surrounding area. The cold morning began to warm up as devotees were arriving at the festival grounds to get the various booths ready. We were very grateful to Ratna Bhushan Das for his help and guidance in teaching our devotees how to assemble our chariot.

By midmorning, devotees assembled in front of the chariot to welcome The Lord of the Universe, Lord Jagannatha, along with His sister Subhadra Devi and His brother, Lord Balarama. The Deities looked beautiful in Their new outfits and flower garlands, or rather, the Lord enhanced the beauty of the garments and garlands. Flowers and flags decorated the chariot as well, and the atmosphere was charged with a special energy. Everyone was talking about the miracle that we were all experiencing. Lord Jagannatha had made the arrangements to clean and purify the venue, followed by beautiful sunshine and the rays falling right on Their Lordships.

Devotees began offering aarti, singing Sri Jagannathastakam, and then it was time to pull the chariot. As devotees pulled the cart, an ecstatic kirtan led the parade alongside beautiful ladies dancing and maneuvering their colorful fans. From young to old, everyone had an opportunity to pull the chariot. Meanwhile, at the festival grounds, other devotees were happily assisting visitors who were navigating the various booths.

When the chariot carrying Their Lordships was back at the festival site, They were welcomed with a variety of offerings (chappan bhoga) prepared by devotees and well-wishers of our congregation. Devotees made an impromptu setting in front of the chariot, and bhajan/kirtan continued throughout the day.

Various performances took place during the cultural program, including beautiful dancers and children singing. This year, devotees were grateful for the presence of a special guest, Caru Das, Temple president of Spanish Fork, Utah, with his wife Vaibhavi, who served as MC and participated in the cultural program as well. 

We could see many children and adults having Lord Jagannatha painted on their faces, ladies happily showing off their mehendi, and children having a blast coloring and playing games in the children’s area. We had a blissful experience at the japa table; the Mahamantra so touched a first-time attendee while the parade was underway that once he was at the festival grounds, he visited the japa table and chanted two rounds of the Mahamantra. In the end, the gentleman asked if he could keep the japa beads he had been chanting on because he wanted to keep on chanting. We answered a lot of questions, and books were distributed to guests. Just see The mercy of Lord Jagannatha. Our Boutique and Yoga tables were equally busy.

People who visited our Information, Child Protection Volunteer, and Intimate Partner Abuse Prevention booths were impressed to see the variety of programs we have for women, children, and families focused on “Investing in our Community.”But the booths that got the majority of visitors were the prasadam and Radharani’s kitchen, Over 1,000 plates of prasadam were distributed.

From Damodar lila we learn, “Although He is beyond the reach of all senses, His mother endeavored to bind Him to a wooden grinding mortar. But when she tried to tie Him up, she found that the rope was too short- by two inches.” The two inches represent the devotee’s endeavor and Krsna’s mercy. The Lord is bhakti-buddha (conquered by bhakti); we feel that on Ratha-Yatra day, the Lord reciprocated and blessed all the devotees. Krishna responds when we call Him with our sincere heart, with the right intention, when we pray for others, “My Lord, these devotees have been working so hard; please help them.” When we are placed in such challenging circumstances, it promotes humility and surrender to the Divine will. We were not looking at our convenience or inconvenience; we all had one purpose in mind – to serve the Lord for His pleasure and for the benefit of all. Thus, there is a beautiful reciprocation between the Lord and His devotees. This was the most memorable Ratha-Yatra event ever! “Always remember Krishna. Never forget Krishna.”

To follow the ongoing service of the ISKCON of Phoenix community, please visit their website, or follow them on FacebookInstagram, and YouTube where you can find clips from the event.