for The Guayana Chronicle on July 1, 2010
The Guyana chapter of the Hare Krishna Movement held its annual Ratha-Yatra festival in Georgetown on the 27th of June, with a Lord Jagannath parade through city streets, which culminated at the Merriman’s Mall with a cultural event.
Chanting the Lord’s name and dancing in exultation in the broiling afternoon sun, Krishna devotees drew the canopied Jagannath Chariot through the streets of Georgetown, starting at approximately 2:00pm in the vicinity of Guyana Stores Limited, through Avenue of the Republic, into Brickdam, through Church Street and onto the Merriman’s Mall tarmac where a grand cultural program was slated for 5:30pm.
Hundreds of Guyanese members were joined by more than 20 members of African descent hailing from the USA and Nigeria. Special guest of honour was His Holiness, Bhakti Vasudev Maharaja, who is from Bayelsa State, in Nigeria.
As a prelude to Ratha-Yatra, there have been several planned engagements for the chanting of God’s names and distribution of sanctified food in various parts of Georgetown and its suburbs by the visitors and local Hare Krishna devotees.
Ratha-Yatra is one of the biggest and most popular religious and cultural festivals held by ISKCON in all major cities around the world, and is attended by people of all walks of life.
Bhakti Vasudeva Swami joined ISKCON in 1984 and is renowned as a scholar of Leadership and Organizational Change (LOC). Last December, he was in India to present a paper at the 10th Summit of the Chief Justices of the World Conference/Symposium on Awakening Planetary Consciousness.
His Holiness has published widely in academic and secular journals over the years, and has to his credit 35 publications in specialty journals and books.
The learned Swami told the Chronicle that he has had unanswered questions all his life, but when he read the Bhagwat Gita, the answers to all his intriguing questions, such as the variegation to human existence, life after death, why mankind’s existence is predisposed to intolerance and prejudices, and why these things are irrelevant in the general scheme of things.
He said consciousness of Krishna illuminated his soul, and he became a fulltime devotee in February of 1984.
According to the Swami, his life transcended satisfaction, and became blissful and fulfilling, which made his parents very happy, to the extent where his father has now joined him in chanting the Lord’s name. He says his publications addresses social, political, economic and domestic issues from aspiritual, what he termed a VAISNAVA philosophical perspective.
Bhakti Antaryami Dasi, who hails from an Afro-American family based in Detroit, says that her brother-in-law introduced her to the Bhagwat Gita, which she eventually read to pacify him, because he was such a caring person.
She even accompanied him to the mandir, initially with no intent to join the movement but only to eat the prasadam.
However, the messages and the deities kept drawing her back like a powerful unseen force, and after experiencing many miracles in her life, she now absolutely trusts in, and has devoted her whole life to, the Lord.
Sister Antaryami says that she is now a Bhakti Yogi and a Jaggannath Pujari, is fully versed in Sanskrit, and is filled with a blissful and loving feeling that comes with trusting absolutely in Lord Krishna.
The mother of Krsnanandini Devi Dasi from Cleveland Ohio in the USA gave her a Bhagwat Gita to read when she was a 19-year-old student at the University of Chicago. She said the precepts and philosophies expounded by Lord Krishna resonated in her heart and provided answers that she had been looking for with formerly no success.
She became a devotee of Lord Krishna, and was initiated by no less a person than the founder of ISKCON, His Divine Grace, Swami Prabhupradha in 1972. Today, she is a member of the spiritual warriors in the Hare Krishna movement.
Sister Krsnanandini says that she has made a serious commitment to lead the life of a devotee, because Krishna Consciousness has immersed her in pure bliss, peace, has given her a direction and a purpose to life. The path, she says, unites everyone, because it transcends the material and physical and teaches that the journey does not end with physical death and that we all have a common Divine Father and that we are all sparks of God, and that our outer skin is merely a physical garment that is discarded with each birth, which is the most sublime message that could heal the soul of mankind and lead to world peace.
Ratha Yatra Festival has now become a calendar event in Guyana, and signifies the promises of Lord Krishna because, although Lord Krishna is the origin of the entire cosmos, he regularly descends to earth in the form of man, in order to bring balance to the scheme of things in the lives of humans.
Jagannath means ‘Lord of the Universe’, so participating in the Ratha Yatra festival is for everyone, because participation in this holy event is considered a blessing.