Flowers festival Surabaya, Indonesia, meets Jagannath in Ratha Yatra!
21 May, 2016, the annual Carnival of Surabaya city, also famous as the annual Flower Festival, was one special offering to Lord Jagannath. This year marked the third ratha yatra festival in Surabaya and as all the other ratha yatra festivals being celebrated in all the major cities of Indonesia, this too was no less special.
"Make the Ratha-yatra festival very great success. This will be a great introduction in your city and people will appreciate it." (SPL to Syamasundara, 4th May, 1967).
Following the instructions of our previous acaryas under the directions of Srila Prabhupada is the foundation of our lives and therefore organizing ratha yatra festivals in a country like Indonesia is a humble means to please Srila Prabhupada. It is challenging and at times appears to be an almost impossible uphill task that devotees come almost to the point of giving up the whole idea. Who would travel hundreds of miles by flight, by car, train or even ship to attend ratha yatra in a place so far away from the cozy comforts of home? The results of such a challenging task is so much rewarding that devotees become so much blissful and ecstatic. And they are able to percieve that Jagannath is always upto doing something wonderful....just to inspire His wonderful devotees.
Various departments of Surabaya Government authority along with many other art communities participated in the carnival and somehow, amazingly, Lord Jagannath also decided to follow the carnival with third Ratha Yatra in Surabaya city. Surabaya, being a multi-ethnic community, is home to people of Indian Origin, Chinese, Buddhists and many other people of different faiths. Attractive arrangements of different flowers was the main feature of the carnival but the real attractive feature here were the people coming from so many different communities yet working together peacefully. More attractive than all others was the presence of Lord Jagannath in the carnival. And more attractive was the reciprocation of Lord Jagannath with His devotees. Devotees try whatever little they are able to do for the pleasure of Jagannath and in return, the Lord Himself would give His devotees overflowing bliss.
The organizers of the Carnival this year passed a resolution that each float could be accompanied by a maximum of 75 persons only. Hearing this many devotees changed their mind to come to Surabaya ratha yatra. Still around a hundred devotees joined the parade with Jagannath with no complaints from the authorities. HH Kavicandra Swami joined the devotees sometimes leading kirtan inspiring them all the way throughout the parade.
"For the present you endeavor to make Ratha-yatra festival grand and successful. You should arrange the procession and procedure so nicely that all the neighborhood people may be attracted to join the procession." SPL to Upendra, 1st June, 1968
Lord Jagannnath, along with His brother Balarama, and His sister Subadra devi took a long journey from Jember to Surabaya to join the parade. The chariot also came along from Jember. Many devotees from other parts of Indonesia also came to join the Ratha yatra, doing whatever seva they could do for the pleasure of the Lord.
The Ratha-yatra started at 7.00 am. The chariot was pulled to the place where all participants were to gather. The route of the festival started from Tugu Pahlawan (Hero Monument) - Kramat Gantung - Gemblongan - Tunjungan - Gubernur Suryo - Yos Sudarso- Walikota Street Mustajab - Jaksa Agung Suprapto Street - Taman Surya.
After arriving at Tugu Pahlawan, the devotees did kirtan while waiting for the parade to commence. When the devotees started pulling the chariot the kirtan lead by Sesa das Prabhu and the singing Mahamantra started filling the air. The visitors at the parade were happy to hear the Maha Mantra and joined with devotees' chanting and dancing even though they belonged to other faiths. And Jagannath again did something wonderful to inspire the devotees. Some of the onlookers expressed their amazement upon seeing a chariot so wonderful, fully decorated with ample amount of flowers and whose dome could be raised up and down. On another occasion, a girl from another faith came up to our devotees and said, "Oh! Who are there seated on the chariot? I can see one beautiful girl there and beside her I can see a very handsome young boy. They are looking so beautiful." The devotees were left utterly amazed and at a loss of words.
At the finish line of the parade, Agastya Muni prabhu, on behalf of the devotees had a chance to present a flower garland from Lord Jagannath to the Mayor of Surabaya. The devotees also distributed the prasadam and Srila Prabhupada's books along the parade.
His Holiness Kavichandra Swami took part in two of the ratha yatras just to inspire the devotees. Maharaj along with His Holiness Ramai Swami, both GBCs of Indonesia, are immensely instrumental in developing the sankirtan strategies in Indonesia. We are extremely grateful to both Maharaj for their continued guidance and inspiration. Our humble obeisances to H.H. Subhag Swami for inspiring us with the life and dedication of Sriman Jayananda Prabhu, for helping us realize the importance of Srila Prabhupada in our lives and keeping us united in family of ISKCON. Subhag Maharaj always encouraged the devotees saying it is Jagannath who is doing everything. We are simply instruments in His hands. All the credit goes to Jagannath. All credit goes to Srila Prabhupada. We also offer our humble gratitude to all our wonderful devotees who worked tirelessly to make this festival successful. Jai Jagannath. Jai Srila Prabhupada.