New Govardhana is an ISKCON farm at Eungella near Murwillumbah in Northern New South Wales, Australia. Each year the devotees at New Govardhana hold a Ratha Yatra festival and many other devotees and well wishers come from all over the region to join in the celebration.
Initially the 2009 festival was planned for June, 21st. Storms and heavy rains caused the devotees to change their plans and set the new date of July, 5th. For me this was a great stroke of luck as that was that day I had been planning to visit.
The entrance to New Govardhana crosses a creek and the road rises gradually up a steep hill to the temple. The devotees start the festival at the bottom of the hill near the buildings just over the bridge.
We heard the mrdangas start beating out a familiar rhythm and the devotees began chanting the Holy Names to welcome Jagannatha , Baladeva and Subhadra to the celebration. Srila Prabhupadas’ life size murti also surveyed all from the chariot.
As the crowd grew the chanting echoed louder up the rise and across the valley. Everyone took their places around and before the cart. The sound of the conch came low and deep and loving hands gripped the ropes pulling the chariot into motion. The chanting and dancing grew in intensity. Hare Krishna.
People from all around had come to watch, take darsan, and participate. Everyone was smiling and clapping, many devotees dancing and all were singing. All the way along the route a devotee used a branch of tulasi leaves to purify the path of the chariot by sprinkling water on the road.
As the hill grew steeper those pulling on the ropes had to lean into the tasks to draw the large chariot up the rise, all the while drawing the Lord of the universe into their hearts.
The crowd was diverse. Everyone was there, devotees, friends, fathers, mothers, children on foot and in prams. Many people taking photos and videos of the event, including me.
As the hill grew steeper still, devotees pushed from the rear, some leaning on the spokes of the wheels to give extra traction. The ropes strained but the chariot moved slowly and surely on.
At the top of the hill, by the temple, the parade pulled to a stop. Srila Prahupada, Lord Jagannatha and his brother and sister were taken into the temple to hear a talk by Mukunda swami. The celebration continued with kirtan and adoration of the deities.
Later in the evening moved to the open air Prasadam hall.Sitting on mats in rows they waited patiently until the volunteers began to distribute the mercy of Lord Krishna in the form of sanctified food.
Then we all remained as long as possible speaking about Krishna and his pastimes as Lord Jagannatha until the night fell with an incredible sunset.
[ ratha-yatra ] [ yatra ]