CHENNAI Dec. 23, 2017: The Hare Krishna Movement Chennai celebrated the ninth annual Sri Krishna Balarama Ratha Yatra on December 23rd, 2017. The Ratha Yatra began at Elliot’s Beach in Besant Nagar with an inaugural ceremony at 4.30 p.m. Shri Stoka Krishna Dasa, President of the Hare Krishna Movement Chennai delivered the Welcome address.
Shri S. Gurumurthy, Editor, Tughlak magazine, Chief Guest inaugurated the Ratha Yatra. Speaking at the occasion, he said, ”Today America is considered a very powerful and rich country. I always wondered why Swami Vivekananda went to America. He knew that unless America follows the culture of India, Indians would forget their culture. He went there and tried to preach. From that time, many eminent people went to America including Prabhupada. But unlike other Swamis like Vivekananda, Prabhupada took the purest devotion in the form which was prevalent in this country for thousands of years. He didn’t change anything but presented it in the purest form. The reason he took the teachings to America is, even though America is seen as an ideal and advanced country by others, it required correction. It is getting into a very serious crisis today. 55% of the first marriages, 67% of the second marriages and 73% of the third marriages end in divorce in 10 years. 41% of the babies born in America are from unwed, school going mothers.
Therefore, our great saints thought that if America is seen as the reference for morality and culture for other countries, the whole world is going to be in a ditch. America requires to be corrected. That is why I hold this movement with high esteem for the sheer dedication it is able to infuse in all sections of the people, particularly the youth. The youth today require a direction. They have to be brought to the right path. All this television, media, political discourses de-stabilizes the mind of the youth and there is no way for the youth to be attracted to something positive and good. In fact a leading politician, whom I associate with, told that we are not able to get much young people for our political work, because there is nothing in the political parties which attracts the mind of the youth. When I asked Chanchalapathi Dasa what is going on in Iskcon Bangalore nowadays, he told me something which made me feel so happy. He said that there are at least 3000 youth below the age of 30 who are regulars in the Hare Krishna Movement. At least 1000 of them regularly attend the Sunday program. At least ten join the movement every year. For me, there is nothing more encouraging than this news. So this movement has great life in it, because of its sheer dedication. So many people pour their bhakti into the movement to create a very powerful consciousness which is able to attract so many people and it is to pay my respects and devotion for this kind of commitment that I came here.”
Shri Chanchalapathi Dasa, Senior Vice President, ISKCON Bangalore and Vice Chairman of The Akshaya Patra Foundation presided over the function. He said, “As I was hearing Shri Gurumurthy’s words on the current scenario of the world, I recalled that in the year 1952, Srila Prabhupada wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. In that letter he said, ‘The Socratic method of reasoning is so powerful, fundamental and universal, that it should not be confined to Athens only. In the same way, the message of Vedanta is powerful, fundamental and universal that it should not be confined to the Brahmins and Indians, but it should benefit all of humanity all over the world. And so please help me.’ It was not only Prabhupada’s message but it was the order of his guru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur that this message of Bhagavad-Gita should spread across the world. Not only his guru’s order but it is also the order of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who said, ‘This philosophy of Krishna Consciousness should spread in every town and village in the world’. That is desire of all the Acharyas and the Lord Himself. In the Puranas it is mentioned that, there will come a time in Kali Yuga when this knowledge of Bharata-Varsha will go all over the world and make people happy on the spiritual platform. That was the wish and ambition of Srila Prabhupada. During the last 10 years of his life when he had established ISKCON and travelled around the world, spreading Krishna Consciousness, he brought about a revolution, he brought about a movement. Prabhupada would go to other countries and tell them ‘Many times from my country, people have said to you: I come from India, which a very poor country. Please give us aid to build roads, feed the children and build homes. But I have come with a different message. I have come to tell you that I come from a very rich country called India – rich with knowledge, culture and heritage. And I have come to your country not to ask anything from you but to give you something which you don’t have.” If any thoughtful person has this knowledge of the Bhagavad-Gita and the other Vedic scriptures, it would transform their lives and make them very happy. When I was in Mangalore for inauguration of the Kitchen with a Bhumi puja, a family told us with pride and joy that they were the 21st Generation of the family who was entrusted by Adi Shankaracharya with the worship and maintenance of the temple of Mother Mookambika. Just like we feel connected to a family like that, Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita, ‘Mamaivamso jiva loke jiva bhutah sanatanah, manah sasthanindriyani prakrti stani karsati’, ‘All you living entities, don’t think that you are ordinary living entities, you are My part and parcel, you are related to Me. You are My children. Being My children, you should not be unhappy; you should not be suffering in this world. Please come back to Me. If you come to My world, you’ll experience unending spiritual happiness.’ But we have forgotten that relationship with Krishna and that is why all the Acharyas spread this message of Krishna to revive that relationship amongst the people. That is the message of Srila Prabhupada. That is why he introduced this Ratha Yatra festival all over the world. The processes of chanting the Lord’s names, eating prasadam, hearing the Lord’s pastimes, associating with devotees, participating in various festivals are all means of reviving that forgotten relationship with the Lord.”
Shri Thenthiruperai U.Ve. Aravindalochanan Swamy, Sri Vaishnava scholar was the guest of honour. He spoke about the pastimes of the Lord in relation to the Ratha Yatra, describing the Lord’s different names. He enlightened the devotees with the names of the Rathas of Krishna and Balarama, the names of the horses, charioteers, the rope, the wheel, the spokes and other details in connection with the Rathas of Sri Krishna and Sri Balarama. He also mentioned some great devotee Kings who were ready to sacrifice crores of rupees and one king was willing to sacrifice his whole kingdom to the woman who was selling Shenbaga Pushpam (Magnolia champaca) which the king wanted to offer to Lord Jagannatha. On that night, Lord Jagannatha appeared in his dream and said, ‘The intense Bhakti you had when you offered the flower to me, I’m not able to bear it on My head. Please keep it down.’ He said it doesn’t matter how many flowers you offer to the Lord. It’s only the bhakti you have to the Lord that matters. He quotes the Bhagavad-Gita verse “patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati tad aham bhakty-upahrtam asnami prayatatmanah”. In this way, he narrated other stories of the Lord and His devotees in relation to the Krishna Balarama Ratha Yatra.
Shri Kodandarama Dasa delivered the Vote of Thanks. Then the dignitaries proceeded towards the ratha where arati was performed for Their Lordships after which the pumpkin and coconuts were broken followed by the ceremonial sweeping of the Ratha route by the dignitaries.
The Ratha procession passed through the streets of Mahatma Gandhi Road, Indira Nagar and Thiruvanmiyur, to the accompaniment of ecstatic kirtan and dancing giving an opportunity for devotees in these localities to have darshan of the Deities of Lord Krishna Balarama and Nitai Gauranga. People enthusiastically participated and pulled the ratha. At designated places, the ratha stopped and devotees were able to offer archana, fruits and flowers for the Lord. Over 30,000 donnas of prasadam along with fruit juice was distributed to devotees all along the route of the Ratha Yatra.
The festival ended with an arati and prasadam for all devotees at the Hare Krishna Movement Chennai in Valmiki Nagar, Thiruvanmiyur at 9 pm. Several devotees from Bengaluru, Tirupati, Vizag, Bhilai, Mangaluru, Hubballi and Vijayawada also participated in the Ratha Yatra.