On the auspicious day of “aashaadh shukla dvitiya” (the second ay of the waxing fortnight of the month of “aashaadh” in the Hindu calendar – “aashadi beej” in Gujarati), ISKCON Baroda organized for the thirty-first consecutive time the Jagannath Rathayatra (mahotsav) festival.
In the morning of the festival, large numbers of citizens of Baroda – who are naturally devotees of Lord Krishna (as here in Gujarat worship of Lord Krishna as “Ranchodji” [“one who gave up the battlefield”] and “Srinathji” [“the beautiful Lord”] is an old and very popular tradition) came to ISKCON Baroda’s Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar Mandir for darshan of Their Lordships, the presiding Deities here, and for darshan of Sri Sri Sri Jagannath, Baladev and Subhadradevi, and Sri Sri Gaur Nitai.
Also, many political leaders of Baroda came for “darshan arati” (“Deity greeting”) at 8 AM, when Their Lordships were decorated with a new dress.
Amongst them were the Honorable Mayor of Baroda, Smt. Jyotiben Pandya, Sri Jitubhai Sukhadiya, local MLA (member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly) and Minister of State in the Gujarat Government, Sri Bhupendra Lakhawala, also Minister of State and Baroda (old) city MLA, a number of leaders and elected members of the Baroda Municipal Corporation, from both the ruling BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and the Congress Party who were present at the temple.
Later on Baroda Police Commissioner Satish Sharma, IPS, and Baroda Municipal Commissioner Sri Ashwini Kumar, IAS, visited the temple for darshan of Their Lordships.
Their Lordships left the temple at 1 PM, after Rajbhog arati, for the Baroda Railway Station, the traditional place of the commencement of the Rathayatra parade.
Horse carts, decorated for the occasions, brass bands, and a number of ISKCON devotees from all over India were at the head of the parade.
Several senior ISKCON devotees participated in the Rathayatra, including Bhakti Vikas Swami, Mahaman Das ACBSP, President of ISKCON Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Murlimohan Das, President of ISKCON Vijayawada, Satchidananda Das, President of ISKCON Vallabhvidyanagar, Radha Ranjan Das, Co-President of ISKCON Kanpur, Narahari Das, Guesthouse Manager, ISKCON Juhu, Surangi Mataji, also from ISKCON Juhu, Sachiputra Das, Manager, Govinda’s Restaurant and preacher, ISKCON New Delhi, and devotees from Chandigarh, ISKCON Juhu’s Talasari farm, and devotees from far away Vellore, in Tamil Nadu.
The Rathayatra procession began after arati performed by Bhakti Vikas Swami and the ceremonial sweeping of the road with a golden broom by Honorable Mayor of Baroda Smt. Jyotiben Pandya, at around 3 PM. Collector of Baroda district, Sri Vinod Rao, IAS, was present as the Chief Guest at the inauguration of the procession.
Member of Parliament from Baroda, Sri Balkrishna Shukla (BJP), sat on the cart with devotees for the first kilometer of the procession.
The procession followed the traditional route from the Baroda Railway Station through Sayajiganj – in front of the Maharaja Sayajirao University to Sayajibagh, Kalaghoda, Salatwada naka, Kothi char rasta, Raopura Main Road, Jubilee Bagh, Sursagar, Dandia Bazar, Khanderao Market, Raj Mahal Road, Madan Zampa Road to Pattargate, R.C. Desai Road crossing, Kevdabagh and terminated somewhat earlier than usual this year at the Baroda High School, opposite the Polo Ground at around 6:30 PM.
A large kirtan party, headed by Thakurdas of ISKCON Chandigarh, performed ecstatic kirtan in front of Lord Jagannath’s Rath throughout the procession. Bhakti Vikas Swami also led kirtan during the procession.
Hundreds of devotees greeted the Rath cart with traditional offerings of sweets, sprouted mung beans, and “kala jamun” fruit (a sweet sour large size purple berry fruit that is seasonal during Rathayatra, in Gujarat and much of India), mangos, coconuts, and flower garlands at various places throughout the procession.
Various groups greeted the cart, including prominent businessmen, several business associations, the Vishva Hindu Parishad, Swami Bharat Maharaj of Santram Mandir, the Mahant of the Ramji Mandir on Madan Zampa Road, pujari and devotees of the Ganesh temple nearby Kevdabagh.
Muslim community leaders and members from Macchipeeth, Raopura, and Dudhwala gali near Nyaya Mandir, also greeted the Rathayatra, offering flower garlands to Their Lordships.
Behind the Rath, as has been the tradition all of these years, “halava” prasad was distributed from the back of trucks to the members of the public.
Annually ten thousand kilos of halava prasad is prepared in pure “deshi” ghee.
After the conclusion of the procession, back at ISKCON Baroda, a “bhandara” (open distribution of foodstuffs offered to the Lord) was organized. Prasad was prepared for thirty thousand guests.
Full plate meals of prasad (bhojan) was distributed to the general public. Prasad was prepared for thirty thousand, and consisted of puris, mixed subji (spiced vegetable preparation), chola (spiced chickpeas), kadi (spiced yoghurt sauce), rice, phul wadi (a savory made by deep frying spiced and sweetened chickpea flour), and halava to one and all.
Nityananda Ram Das, Vice President of ISKCON Baroda was the main organizer of the festival. ISKCON Baroda congregational devotees, including IYF leaders Nartaka Gauranga Das, Damodar Chaitanya Das and the IYF devotees, Bhakti Vriksha leader Mantresh Gauranga Das and bhakti vriksha devotees participated in organization of the Rathayatra as well as book distribution throughout the procession.
Special thanks are due to Sri Dhirubhai Patel and his group as well as Sri Mayurbhai Shah for overseeing the “bhandara” prasad distribution. Also thanks to Sri Gopal Shah of Dwarakesh Farsan, Baroda Railway Station, for organizing the preparation and distribution of halava prasad. He has been doing this service almost since the inception of the Rathayatra.
Thanks to Sri T.R. Gaur of M/s. Dhruv Transport for help in repairing the Rath (cart). The steering of the cart, which had broken down due to a cracked bearing last year, held up without a problem throughout the Rathayatra.
Special thanks to donors Sri Shivlal Goyal, Sri Dinesh Dalal, Sri Rajesh Agarwal, Sri Girish Chovatia, Sri Narendra Vyas, Sri Rasikbhai Kotak, Sri Kiran Patel, Sri Kamal Agarwal, Sri Manish Patel, Sri Purushottam and Sri Ramavatar Agarwal, Municipal Councilor Sri Chandrakant “Batu” Srivastav, Smt. Chandrika Patel, and M/s. Dhuliram Pedawala.