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

There are Deities of Krishna and Vasudev here, but non-Hindus are not particularly welcomed although there are no signs or security. The pandits, who are busy carrying huge amounts of Prasadam to and fro within the temple prefer us to remain outside the main temple, in the grounds.

The Lingaraj Temple is only a few minutes away, but here non-Hindus are strictly forbidden, with several security personnel at the gate. We are getting quite used to this by now, although it feels strange since we are actually following this culture and worshipping the same God.

The Lingaraj Temple of Lord Siva in Bhubaneshwar.

Some more hours on the bus finally bring us to Nandan Kanan, the largest and most famous zoo in India. This is where we will stop to cook lunch Prasadam.

Sripad Acharyya Maharaj takes most of the devotees for a leisurely walk around the compound to look at a various array of animals: elephants, Bengali tigers (white ones too!), rhinos, snakes, deer, peacocks, monkeys..., while the other devotees do the wonderful service of preparing a sumptuous meal that is ready just as we return.

Sripad Acharyya Maharaj leads the way as the devotees observe the wonders of different bodies in which jivas may appear on this earth.

Some appear more human-like than others....

Back near the bus, Prasadam is ready to be served.

This is to be our last substantial stop before arriving in Nabadwip, expected for lunch time the next day, except for another roadside Prasadam stop in the evening. It is therefore nice to be able to take a shower in this place, since about 20 hours of being on the road still lay ahead of us. The shower situation is much like the Ksirachora Gopinath experience, except this place is bigger and less crowded. Also I feel more confident this time, on arranging a 'gamcha shower' under a single tap, and feel happily refreshed afterwards.

The evening stop is five or six hours later, and quickly managed. I sit and write until Prasadam is served, quite charmed by the little temple reflecting on the small lake on the roadside where we stopped. It is almost invisible in the darkness compared to the bright lights that assisted many cooks from various coaches, as well as stall-keepers, to perform their duties. From near the water's edge, if you fortunately stumble across the lake like I did, it is amazing how crickets' songs fill your ears as the stars shine brightly above, and you could almost forget where you are - just meters from the highway!

As I expect, I sleep not a wink during the night. This was my main concern when I was contemplating catching the bus or otherwise, as I can never sleep in road vehicles at all, and I had found it very exhausting on the way to Puri. But this time, most of the journey is already complete, and no more visits are planned until reaching the Nabadwip Temple.

I have become very grumpy in the morning in comparison to my jolly good humour throughout the day on the bus yesterday. Tolerance levels do tend to fall when you have slept six hours one night then been in a coach with no sleep for more than 24 hours, with about five left to go, but we all survive it and it is well worth it. There is something more to the experience to doing a pilgrimage in austere conditions, in a large group of devotees together. Although I speak little Bengali and they almost no English, we communicate with smiles and even some affection has developed.

Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Nabadwip
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