Sri Jagannath Ratha Yatra

Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math in Puri Dham

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*Ksirachora Gopinath*|*Saksi Gopal*|*Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya*
*Haridas Thakur*|*Cleansing the Gundicha Temple*

Diary 4-10 July 2005 by Malini Devi Dasi

We finally arrive at the Gundicha Temple. Unfortunately for the Westerners, again entry is forbidden to non-Hindus. It is certainly a cause for meditation on humility as again and again one must stand outside, paying respects from a distance. The Indians go inside, brooms and water pots in hand, to re-enact the Pastime of Mahaprabhu and His associates in the cleansing of the Gundicha Temple.

The crowd presses to enter and help clean the Gundicha Temple.

An opulent lunch Prasadam awaits us: really wonderful festival style varieties of sabji, dhal, rice, and sweets. For the afternoon and the next morning no plans are made. The devotees may spend the time as they wish until it is time to get together for the Ratha Yatra festival next afternoon....

8th July 2005 - Jagannath Ratha Yatra, Puri, 3rd Day

This is an experience I will never forget, especially because of the circumstances I find myself in, quite unexpectedly.

Somehow or other, all the Westerners have some sickness or ailment in the time we are in Puri, so I am pleased to be 'proud' and able to help them out - but Krishna tolerates no pride, and the day of the Ratha Yatra I wake up with terrible stomach problems. The night before we took Jagannath Prasadam (His first 'proper' meals since He has been 'ill') so I guess the purification process is taking place!

I feel very weak and not sure my stomach will be pacified in time. I think of nothing except lying where I have been all day, closing my eyes, and praying to Srila Gurudev for some mercy. "Alone I am nothing, I have no strength by myself. Only by Your divine mercy may I go see Lord Jagannath, for whom I have been yearning for so long...."

At around 1:30pm, I go to the nat mandir, and as I stand there while the kirttan begins, my knees feel like jelly from fasting, dehydration and the stress my body has just undergone. I feel like I will not survive the crowd, but undeterred I follow, one footstep after another, and as we walk, the blood flows into my head and I feel a little better. However I still don't have enough energy to chant. Still I am grateful that I can somehow go and see Lord Jagannath's lotus eyes and sweet smiling face.

To have come so close and miss it is not even a consideration. I joke that if I will have to be carried away on a stretcher, then I will admit defeat. Although my body is battered, I have no fever and my psychological state is fine! Gurudev must have heard my prayers though, because from this moment, my stomach problem subsides completely and I only have to deal with a little weakness.

We take all back streets to the Jagannath Temple, on to about half-way towards Gundicha. It appears quite manageable so far, until we take a side-street out into the main road, right into the midst of it, a plunge into a sea of people. Us women are more or less ushered towards the middle of the group, with the men protecting as we move like a shoal of fish protecting each other in that immense sea.

Inside the Gundicha Temple compound, people throw water from their clay pots onto the walls, often handing to the pandits to do it inside the actual temple where the 'Jagannath Assan' is. They then scrub with their brooms, consisting of a few strands of tough straw bound together at one end.

Outside, some pull out grass from between the ancient floor tiles, while others scrub and scrub with their brooms. Everywhere is wet. Pilgrims circumumbulate the temple, cleaning simultaneously... so many people and so much activity is there!

The Indian segment of our Sankirttan party finally re-emerge, having partaken in the above mentioned activities, and they'd also had some kirttan and a lecture. Just behind Gundicha is Nrsimhadev's Temple, where we have the fortune of entering right in to touch the Deity's feet.

From here it is only a short walk to Indradyumna Sarovar, where Sriman Mahaprabhu enjoyed water sporting Pastimes with His associates. I am very impelled to take a full dip rather than some water on my head, and enter the cool water, sari and all....

After visiting Gundicha, the devotees go to Nrsimhadev's Temple and to Indradyumna Sarovar.

Fortunately, though I am not aware of it at the time, this is our last stop for the day, and I am ushered into an overcrowded rickshaw commissioned by Sripad Acharyya Maharaj, to return to the temple.

Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Nabadwip
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