Sunday School Children of ISKCON Vizag (Andhra Pradesh) organize Ratha-Yatra
Posted August 8, 2004
Rathyatra preparations were going on in the city of Vizag. Since our center is small and we don't have Ratham for Lord Jagannath, there was not much activity taking place. On that quiet Sunday (June 13th) afternoon I was describing to the Sunday School kids how Rathyatra is celebrated in other ISKCON centres. They were very disappointed, asking why we didn't have one at our centre. As the discussion progressed they came up with an idea. "Mataji, why can't we have our own small Rathayatra, just like Srila Prabhupad had his own in the colony".
They approached Samba Prabhu (TP-Vizag) with this idea and he reluctantly agreed. He said he didn't know how practical it would be. He already had his ticket to attend Hyderabad ISKCON Rathayatra, and he was to attend a SIDC meeting the next day.
However, Samba Prabhu mentioned this to a congregation devotee (a jeweler by profession) that evening, when he came for the Sunday feast program. The devotee's response was, "Why not? Next to my shop there is an old temple and they have a small Ratham which is no more in use." So Monday morning at around 12.00 noon, our small wooden Ratham (8ft high) arrived in a small carrier. The tyres were all gone and it did need some fresh paint. The children were excited and they all offered some help. Somebody brought a carpenter, somebody brought a scooter mechanic and got the tyres done. One devotee did the repainting.
But another big problem awaited us: when we were ready with our Ratham, our Jagannath wouldn't go inside. He wasn't fitting in there with His brother and sister. The Ratham could accommodate any two among Them.
One congregation devotee who came that day for Sandhya arati said that he knew some temple where they had small Jagannath, Baladev, Subhadra Deities, but he wasn't sure if they would lend them. The next day, first thing in the morning I went with some of the Sunday School children and requested them. They agreed. Next the children requested our pujari prabhu to stitch a nice set of clothes for the small Jagannath and finally everything was ready.
On the 19th Morning Saturday, some of the children bunked their schools and were working on the ratham the whole morning. They blew lots of ballons and they made some Jaganath mask, some where writing "We love Jagannath" with a marker on balloons, and they also brought some caps.
I was happy seeing their excitement and Samba Prabhu arranged some Shenai (musical instruments playing band famous in South India). Some of the children's mothers offered to make ladoos, pulihara etc. We brought lots of bananas for distribution.
At around 5.00 in the evening we began our first Rathayatra with the traditional sweeping with golden broom, coconut breaking etc., and Lord Jagannath was finally riding in chariot along the sea coast of Vizag. (Our ISKCON center in Vizag is situated next to the sea). The Bay of Bengal in the east almost resembles Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannath. It was a small procession of about 150 children and their parents. The sounds of drums and the melodies of Shenai and kartals along the way made an esctatic procession.
In the evening breeze from the sea, the children chanting Hare Krishna Hare Rama were a delightful scene to watch. Pulling the chariot made the children very happy and joyful. The most amazing thing was that all the newspapers and cable channels' cameramen all came and took photographs. They were very much fascinated by children's Rathayatra - which was the smallest in the city. Next day all the newspapers carried colour photographs of our Sunday school kids pulling Lord Jagannath's chariot.
It was a wonderful sight - colourful balloons, Jagannath caps and mask, sweet kirtan - a Rathayatra conducted by little children. The parents were very happy and requested us to organize such a Rathyatra every year exclusively for children, because they don't get oppurtunity to pull big Rathams.
At regular intervals, the chariot would stop and one of the Sunday school kids would perform an arati. Children also distributed bananas, ladoo and Pulihara mahaprasad to the onlookers. The procession came to an end at around 7.00 p.m at our centre. Delicious feast prasadam was awaiting the children.
It was a memorable day for the children and they left the centre with beautiful memories. Lord Jagannath is so merciful. Jai Jagannath!
(Bhaktivedanta Sunday School (BSS) has been functioning for 4 years now. At present there are 65 students. The children come every Sunday and between 10 a.m to 12.00 noon they are taught Sloka recitation, Bhajan singing, Painting, Bhagavad Gita, Yoga, Dance etc.)