Over one thousand devotees attended a ceremony for installing impressions of the sacred feet of Lord Chaitanya, his associate Nityananda Prabhu and his brother Shri Vishwarupa in Pandharpur, India this January 14th. Organizers of the event were delighted since only two hundred people had been expected for the installation, which took place in a newly constructed sandstone monument—called an “umbrella kutir—”on the banks of the Chandrabhaga river.
The ceremony’s date was significant, as it was on this day 500 years ago that Lord Chaitanya—the 15th century saint worshipped by Vaishnavas as Krishna Himself—took sannyasa, the renounced order of life.
The location was also important. During the South Indian tour Chaitanya Mahaprabhu went on shortly after taking sannyasa, he visited Pandharpur to search for his elder brother Vishwarupa, who eventually passed away there. Nityananda Prabhu also spent some time in Pandharpur—making it an essential place to immortalize with the installation of the three Lords’ lotus feet.
Performing the abhisekha bathing ceremony for the installation were senior ISKCON devotees Lokanath Swami, Param Gati Swami, Sikhi Puchha Dhari Dasa and Sarvabhauma Dasa. Many local leaders also attended the event, including legislative assembly members Bharat nana Bhalke and Sudhakarpant Paricarak, Pandharpur sub-collector Gopichand Kadam, and Vitthala Rukmini temple committee members B. N. Utpat and Balasaheb Badve.
After an arati ceremony and kirtan chanting, a delicious prasadam feast cooked by the ISKCON Pandharpur devotees was served. But the festivities were far from over. With their bellies full, devotees immediately headed to the city of Pandharpur for its first ever Ratha Yatra festival.
The beautifully decorated red, yellow and blue cart carrying Lord Jagannath, Baladeva, and Subhadra Devi rolled down the busiest streets in town, an impressive sight at nearly forty feet high.
Thousands thronged the streets to catch a glimpse of the cart and pay their respects to their Lord. Populated largely by devotees of Krishna, Pandharpur is known as the city of Lord Vitthala, a form of Lord Krishna during his Dwarka-based pastimes. Pandharpur is also connected to Krishna’s Vrindavana pastimes, as footprints of the Lord, his cows and his friends can be found embedded in the rocks of its Gopalpur area.
Pandharpur citizens expressed their appreciation of the Rathayatra, with one giving his blessings for future festivals, “This is amazing and beautiful; you must do this every year from now on.” Devotees danced and sang for hours, until Lokanatha Swami, still chanting, led them back to a large tent, or pandal, on the banks of the Chandrabhaga river for an evening program of spiritual entertainment.
Participants felt that the day was a perfect way to celebrate Lord Krishna’s pastimes in both Dwarka and Vrindavana, as well as Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s 500th anniversary of taking sannyasa.[ india ] [ ratha-yatra ]