Sri Jagannath Ratha Yatra
Diary 4-10 July 2005 by Malini Devi Dasi

We see three cars still near the Jagannath Temple, and move towards them, chanting and dancing.

The party performs Sankirttan all the way into the crowd waiting for Baladev, Subhadra and Jagganath's cars.

Baladev's car is the first to come. Slowly, slowly to start, and then a sudden rush. People run, falling over each other, trampled on and picked up again. Some of our party also fall over but no harm is done. During this stampede I see that the rope pulling Baladev's car is extremely close, like two feet from my outstretched arms trying to grasp at is as I am dragged away, in the flow of the human sea.

Once we come to rest in a side street, I realise why it all happened. We were right in the middle of a mob desperately hoping for some mercy from pulling that rope. I almost cry from the intense emotion, stifling back tears, when I realise that I'd been so close but just missed it. Two devotees had led me to the side street, out of the way of the crowd, but I call above the din that I am not deterred by the crowd, I will NOT go home, and I want to stay right here and see Baladev, whose car is only a couple of metres away from where we stand!

kabhu sukhe nrtya-ranga dekhe ratha rakhi'
se kautuka ye dekhila, sei tara saksi

Lord Jagannatha and Lord Balarama sometimes stopped the car and happily observed Lord Chaitanya's dancing. Anyone who was able to see Them stop and watch the dancing bore witness to Their Pastimes.
(Cc Madhya 13.179)

I cannot explain the emotion that is running through me. They are trying to protect me because I am unwell, however in these moments I completely forget myself and all I can think is "Baladev!" His car stops beside us for a few long minutes, and I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes from this strange feeling of being in the midst of all that chaos, right near the car, so much mercy. Thank you, thank YOU! But I don't allow myself to cry in case the devotees think I am too unwell and send me home!

I hear someone say, "That's as 'bad' as it gets," and it turns out to be true. We re-locate our party, which has diminished considerably in size due to the stampede, despite our very visible banner, as everyone fled in all directions.

We chant to welcome Subhadra's car coming along, which is better managed by the crowd this time. She too halts right beside us for a while. Mmmm....

Subhadra's car in red and black causes less of a commotion as the crowd is better prepared, and she also gives us the mercy of stopping right beside us.

One Prabhu appears, filled with an amazing energy, with the ecstatic news that he had pulled both cars for some time. I don't know what happened, but suddenly I feel like I must do this for Jagannath, so I tell him I would like to go with him when he goes for the next one. He hesitates, "Too much people," but the anticipation of seeing Jagannath fills me with an extraordinary strength I couldn't call my own.

Some would say I am adrenalised from the energy of the crowd, or because it was not so hot anymore, but I can only put it down to an incredible amount of mercy. Maybe it was some test to see how badly I wanted to see Him, or some karma leaving me, but now it appears that He is satisfied to loosen me from my physical burden for a while.

rathera sajani dekhi' loke camatkara
nava hemamaya ratha—sumeru-akara

Everyone was astonished to see the decorations on the Ratha car. The car appeared to be newly made of gold, and it was as high as Mount Sumeru.

sata sata su-camara-darpane ujjvala
upare pataka sobhe candoya nirmala

The decorations included bright mirrors and hundreds and hundreds of camaras [white whisks made of yak tails]. On top of the car were a neat and clean canopy and very beautiful flag.

ghaghara, kinkini baje, ghantara kvanita
nana citra-patta-vastre ratha vibhusita

The car was also decorated with silken cloth and various pictures. Many brass bells, gongs and ankle bells rang.

lilaya cadila isvara rathera upara
ara dui rathe cade subhadra, haladhara

For the Pastimes of the Ratha-yatra ceremony, Lord Jagannatha got aboard one car, and His sister, Subhadra, and elder brother, Balarama, got aboard two other cars.
(Madhya 13.19-22)

I somehow drag myself along, not quite able to participate fully at this stage, but so grateful to be there, hoping Jagannath will recognise the effort, especially praying that I won't have to leave. It is crowded like you cannot imagine, the mass undeterred from the rain that had been falling all morning.

vaisnavera megha-ghataya ha-ila badala
kirtananande saba varse netra-jala

All the Vaisnavas came together like an assembly of clouds. As the devotees chanted the holy names, tears fell in great ecstasy like rainfall from their eyes.
(Madhya 13.49)

The sea of bodies is creating an unusual heat and the 2:30pm sun is creating steam from the morning rain, there is no breeze and the environment is taking its toll on me. Every so often some devotees will pour water on my head as I hold it down to the ground for want of blood to my brain.

Baladev's car in red and green comes quickly, causing a stampede, then halts right beside us.

Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Nabadwip
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