On December 28th, 2016, a balmy day in the bustling tourist city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, traffic came to almost a standstill as “Harmony of the Seas”, the largest cruise ship in the world, pulled into the harbor. Locals and visitors alike flocked to the port district to observe the impressive dimensions of the ship. Hundreds of cruisers stepped off the ship to explore the Boricua shore. Unbeknownst to the gathering crowds, they were about to witness a joyous procession of singing and dancing starring their lordships, Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra! The 3rd annual San Juan Ratha Yatra took place in Paseo la Princesa, in the area of Old San Juan.
The colonial-style buildings and ocean views complimented the beautifully decorated chariot. The melodious voices of guest kirtaniyas Agnidev Das, Bhadra Das, and the Mayapuris resounded as the joyful devotees responded in turn. Devotees handed out flyers, passed along the ropes of the cart so that guests could pull the cart, and distributed prasadam treats. Crowds turned to observe the parade and several onlookers were invited to dance in front of the deities, between the cart ropes. As the Ratha Yatra cart made its way around the Las Raices Fountain in the plaza’s center, the deities faced the open seaside, and the kirtan came to a joyous roar.
The passengers of the “Harmony of the Seas”, the largest cruise ship in the world, had the chance to witness the joyous Ratha Yatra procession in San Juan.
The procession culminated near the stage tent, where local devotees were explaining the pastime of Lord Jagannatha’s parade to the crowds. Books and pamphlets were distributed at the nearby tables. Visitors were encouraged to accept a plate of free, sanctified vegetarian food at the prasadam tent just a few feet away and take a seat to enjoy the entertainment. Ganga Sheth, renowned Odissi dancer, performed a dance to the bhajan by Vasudeva Ghosh, describing Lord Gauranga as non-different from Krishna, who is non-different from Jagannatha. She also danced to an original song written by Mike Ferrera, who performed alongside the Mayapuris.
Local San Juan devotees performed a play to illustrate basic philosophical tenets of Krishna consciousness. A final kirtan, led by Mayapuris, included local musicians and dancers onstage, culminating joyously with the applause of the crowd. ISKCON Governing Commissioner Virabahu Das was present to greet visitors and answer questions, as well as offer appreciation to the organizers who worked so diligently to put on the festival, including Bhadra Das and Jaya Sita dasi.
Puerto Rico is certainly primed for sharing Krishna-consciousness. The cultural diversity, receptivity and natural inclination toward religiosity found here, as in many Latin American countries, provides an ideal environment to share our processes of devotional service. Any and all who are inclined to experience Ratha Yatra in this tropical paradise are encouraged to reach out and find a service for this year’s festival.
Puerto Rico Ratha Yatra is set to take place again between Christmas and New Year at the end of 2017. For information on this coming year’s Ratha-yatra in Puerto Rico and those in North and Central Florida, please visit Bhadra Das’s web site: www.festivalofchariots.org.[ puerto-rico ] [ ratha-yatra ]