This December, devotees in Klang, Malaysia, celebrated their Ratha Yatra festival, one of twenty across the country.
Preparation for the traditional cart festival honoring Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra begins months in advance, with Klang’s small congregation saturating the town with promotional pamphlets. The resulting support from townspeople, especially the shops in Little India, funds the event almost entirely.
“We worried that such a small congregation could pull off such a big festival,” says community member Jeyanthy Pillai. “Only one key person with a couple of helpers handled each major department. But with their enthusiasm and determination, they made it happen.”
The unpredictable tropical weather was also a concern, with heavy rain falling in Kuala Lumpur 45 minutes away. But amazingly, Klang remained dry and balmy on the day of the procession.
Devotees cheered as the chariot carrying Jaganath, Baladeva and Subhadra arrived, majestic and decorated with gerbera and pom-pom flowers. It was accompanied by two other chariots carrying deities of Radha Krishna and billboards of Krishna’s ten incarnations respectively.
Special guest Bhanu Swami swept the road in front of the chariots according to tradition, before breaking open the ceremonial coconuts. Fire-crackers were then set off, honoring the local belief that their noise scares away all evil spirits and misfortunes.
As the carts rolled away down the parade route, Jeyanthy Pillai prayed to Jagannath that he would return in time to see the show by the children of Gopal’s Fun School, which had to start at 8pm to honor their bedtime. “Usually the chariot spends hours in Little India and returns late,” she explains. “But I prayed that just this once it would be back earlier, because the children had sacrificed all their holiday plans to practice their Krishna Nursery Rhymes, Bhagavad-gita sloka recitals, Vaishnava songs, dance and two dramas.”
Jeyanthy struggled to get the thirty children dressed and made up on time. Just as she was completing the finishing touches, she heard the sound of fireworks and loud chanting. Along with the children, she rushed out to see a large crowd welcoming Jaganath, Baladeva and Subhadra. Jeyanthy checked the time. It was 8:15pm.
“One devotee told me that this was the first time their Lordships had returned so early in the past 10 years,” Jeyanthy says excitedly. “Jagannath had returned just in time to see his little devotees’ performance!”
But first came speeches from Bhanu Swami, Co-GBC for Malaysia Prabhavishnu Swami, and Janananda Goswami. “The Lord of the Universe comes out just to give His mercy to unlimited people regardless of their race, creed or color,” they said, explaining the essence of Rathayatra. “And all this has been made possible by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.”
Jananda Goswami added, “ISKCON Klang has the best Ratha Yatra in Malaysia,” eliciting a huge round of applause from the crowd.
Finally the moment the children had prepared so much for arrived. The childrens’ sweet voices and acting, set against a stage decorated with trees, birds, monkeys and little butter pots, captivated many hearts. The two plays, “The Little Butter Thief” and “The Brahmana and the Cobbler” received especially enthusiastic reviews.
And all the while, Lord Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe, looked on with his huge benevolent smile.