Part 10 of "Essence of Pure Devotion"

Sri Jagannatha Ratha-Yatra

by His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Gosvami Maharaja

In the beginning Sriman Mahaprabhu for His first twenty four years acted as a regular householder in Sridham Navadvipa. He after that time, in the holy City of Puri in His role as a renunciate, began exhibiting the pangs of intense separation characteristic of high devotional moods. Apparently, although it was His mother's behest in Advaita Bhavan for Himself to reside in the holy City of Puri, in actual fact it was all His own very plan. Puri City is the Supreme Lord's natural abode. The other familiar names for this City are Purusottama, Sri Ksetra, Nilacala, Lord Sri Krishna at one time, informed Sri Mahadeva about His hidden realm Puri whose glories are understood by only a very few (Chaitanya Bhagavata Antya 2nd).

The Supreme Lord manifests in five pastimes in this universe namely, as the Supreme Lord in His original form (para tattva), His four immediate main expansions (catur vyuha), as the different incarnations (vaibhava), as the Supersoul in the heart of all living entities (antaryami) and lastly the Deity form of the Lord (archa). From the spiritual world, the Supreme Lord incarnates in different Deity forms (archa), together with His personal associates and complete with the original spiritual land, into this world (Bhauma Vaikuntha). Some known examples of these (archa avataras) incarnated transcendental forms of the Lord are Adi Keshava in Mathura City, Bindhu-Madhava in Prayag City, Lord Vishnu in Vishnu-Kanchi, Lord Hari as in Mayapura and likewise Lord Jagannatha in the holy City of Puri.

However, Sriman Mahaprabhu viewed this Deity of Jagannatha as non-different from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna Himself who is the origin of all incarnations. Merely seeing the Disc at the summit of the temple dome of Sri Jagannatha from far away, He began to envision a dark-blue boy playing on His flute. Later, in entering the temple and seeing Lord Jagannatha face-to-face, He, in His mood of contemplation of the impeccable three-ending beautiful form of Sri Krishna, rushed to embrace Him. During the time of the cart festival of Lord Jagannatha He, while observing the Deity, became overcome by the sublime sentiments of Sri Radha. The same Sri Radha had nursed similar sentiments on beholding Lord Krishna during the occasion of the solar eclipse at Kuruksetra many, many years ago.

Once, previously there was very rare eclipse of the sun in Kuruksetra. On that auspicious occasion, many wealthy, influential Kings came form other different places to congregate at this holy place of pilgrimage. Lord Krishna arrived there from Dvaraka with His chariot driven by servant Daruka in regal opulence. His huge army of soldiers riding on elephants, other soldiers on horses or with horses combined with chariots plus infantrymen. He, in His exhibition of incredible opulence, encamped at this holy place with well-adorned tents consisting of numerous canopies with costly bedsteads, silk cushions and other luxurious paraphernalia. From another direction, the residents of Vraja simultaneously arrived there torn in separation from their beloved Sri Krishna and yearning to see Him, waiting some distance no far away form His camp. Their only real motive to arrive in that place of pilgrimage was to meet the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna. Conversely Sri Krishna too had arrived there, one of His prime reasons being to pacify the love-pent emotions of the residents of Vraja. Then the traumatic meeting took place of Lord Krishna with His parents, Nanda Baba and Yasoda Ma accompanied by the other older residents, who had either nourished fatherly or motherly affection for Him. It was a very touching scene, for these simple villagers with their voices choked in their throats and with streams of tears issuing from their eyes began to embrace and kiss Him fervently on His cheeks. They had intended to speak many things but were prevented by their force of emotion and the only words that stuttered form their mouths was 'my Gopal'. These tears of love that emanated from their eyes drenched Sri Krishna from head to foot ad He too, was experiencing similar sentiments with tears in His eyes. This same type of touching moods are experienced on the devotee's final sweet reunion with the Supreme Lord.

On another side, Subala, Sridama and Sudama etc.. The bosom friends of Sri Krishna were anxiously waiting to meet Him. Thus, after offering obeisances to His tearful parents and the elderly residents, Lord Krishna approached His bosom companions who were in the loving sentiments of friendship. They all on that initial meeting, were reduced to a the similar pitiable state of speechlessness. His friends were having indignantly many things to protest in terms of their neglect by Lord Krishna, but the overwhelming ecstasy of the occasion stunned them to the state where they could only mutter "My brother Kanniah". While fondly embracing their long-last friend. Lord Krishna too, exhibited similar symptoms of ecstasy in friendship for He is "bhava-agrahi" reciprocating with each particular devotee according to his mood. How glorious is the love of the denizens of Vraja! Then the inevitable meeting with the cowherd maidens (gopis) took place. Their pathetic condition was hardly describable.! The crown jewel of the gopis, Srimate Radhika was swooning and fainting at every moment in pangs of separation, so much so that when the sakhis placed a swab of cotton at the base of Her nose, there seemed to be no apparent movement of the cotton indicating the symptoms of no life. Suddenly when the loud cry of "Oh Syamasundar" penetrated the very air Srimati Radhika couldn't withhold Herself anymore and became rejuvenated becoming conscious of Her main reason to arrive at that very place.

In the conversation of Raya Ramananda with Sriman Mahaprabhu, the loving sentiments of Srimati Radharani have been termed the topmost of all spontaneous devotional practices. These highest sentiments contain a transformation of moods which enrich and nourish each other. The loving mellows which are torn asunder by mutual separation is called "vipralambha" and that of direct conjugal loving mellows, "sambhoga." The conjugal loving mellows are nourished by that of love in separation, both are existent for the proper transaction of loving mellows. Sriman Mahaprabhu while dancing ecstatically in front of the cart of Lord Jagannatha manifested the same loving sentiments which were possessed by Srimati Radharani. She, at Kuruksetra, after many years of being separated, had experienced an overpowering bliss in the reunion with Lord Krishna. The wise Svarupa Damodar understanding the heart of Sriman Mahaprabhu during His ecstatic dancing, began to sing this couplet:

sei ta parana-natha painu
yaha lagi madanadahane juhuri genu
As Svarupa Damodar sang this chorus, Sriman Mahaprabhu began to dance ecstatically in front of the cart with great vigor while the cart began to move slowly forward. Sometimes Sriman Mahaprabhu would make a show of dancing to the back of the chariot which would make Lord Jagannatha reluctant to move forward and the chariot would come to a stand-still. When Sriman Mahaprabhu again went forward, the Supreme Lord Jagannatha would also begin to trudge slowly forward. (CC M.13/118-119).

The mystery of this pastime has been explained by Sri Srila Prabhupada in his commentary. The reason why Sriman Mahaprabhu went backwards was to test whether His moods, which represented the original sentiments of Srimati Radhika, were the reason for the movement of Lord Jagannatha, or whether Lord Krishna (Lord Jagannatha) had other motives in mind. To solve this doubt, He acted as if He was going backwards. Sri Jagannatha apparently understanding this action of Sriman Mahaprabhu, stopped His own movement to wait for Him. The reason for that being without the presence of Srimate Radhika, the conjugal loving mellows in Vraja does not reach its par-excellence. Lord Gaurasundara, in realizing the non-movement of Lord Jagannatha was due to the superior devotional potency of Srimate Radhika, became joyful and lunged in front of the cart with great bliss while Lord Jagannatha abashed came trudging slowly behind. Here, when Lord Caitanya was exhibiting the moods of Srimati Radharani for Sri Krishna, Lord Jagannatha Deva, too, was unable to ignore these intense loving moods of Lord Gaurasundara. In this way, the loving moods of Sriman Mahaprabhu towards Lord Jagannatha and in turn the reciprocal sentiments of Lord Jagannatha began competing with each other but the intense loving moods of Sriman Mahaprabhu which were similar to Srimati Radharani's own moods, won in the end being more greater. While dancing, Sriman Mahaprabhu began to intone a verse which depicted somewhat the love reunion of the usual hero and heroine in ordinary literature. Nonetheless, Srila Rupa Goswami, detecting the exact devotional sentiments in the heart of Sriman Mahaprabhu, composed the following verse:

priyah so' yam krsnah sahacari kuru-ksetra-militas
tathaham sa radha tam idam ubayoh saqngama sukham
tathapy antah-khelan-madhura-murali-pancamajuse
mano me kalindi-pulina-vipinaya sprhayati
Meaning: "Hey companion, I did meet our beloved Sri Krishna in Kuruksetra today. I am the same Radha and we had met with usual feelings of ecstasy. Nevertheless, My mind is yearning to be with Lord Krishna by the forest groves on the bank of Kalindi River and to hear Him blissfully playing His melodious fifth note on His flute."

Srila Krsnadas Kaviraja has written an account of this in his Caitanya Caritamrta:

kanaha gopa vesa kanaha nirjana Vrndavana
sei bhava, sei krsna sei Vrndavana
also vraje tomara sange yei sukha asvadana
sei sukha-samudrera iha nahi eka kana
Sriman Mahaprabhu was in the sentiments of Sri Radhika who was wanting to take Lord Krishna to their own natural residence of Vrindavana, now began to utter this verse whilst dancing:

ahusca te nalinabha-padaravindam
yogesvarar hrdi vicintyam agadhabodhaih
samsara kupa patitottarana avalambha
geham jusamapi mansy udiyat sada nah
The gopis prayed: "Oh Lord possessing a lotus navel, for those who have fallen on the pit of material existence, their only way to extricate themselves is the shelter of Your divine lotus feet. Your transcendental form is realized by the yogis in the deep recesses of their mind. May that transcendental form appear within the minds of fallen householders like us!."

tomara carana mora vraja-pura ghare
udaya karaye yadi tabe vancha pure
Srila Krsnadas Kaviraja has given an extraordinary purport for the above verse. The heart of Srimate Radhika is immersed in the loving sentiments of Vrndavana Dhama. There, only the pure desires of satisfying the senses of Sri Krishna exist and nothing else. In the moods of pure conjugal loving mellows, not a trace of the mood of awe and reverence (opulence) can exist. For this very reason, Srimate Radhika did not in the least appreciate the regal splendor of Lord Krishna with all His the camels, horses, servants and costly apparels. "Oh Krishna! If You actually love me then all this fancy opulence which diminishes pure conjugal love should be given up and resuming Your youthful form as a cowherd boy, You should come to Vraja with Me. There, in the lonely forest groves by the banks of the Yamuna River, under the Kadamba tree You should reenact Your extremely charming three-fold bending posture, playing on Your flute. Please grace this forlorn servant of Yours freely by Your merciful glance. Only in Your granting Me Your pure devotional service will the proof of Your deep love devoid of any falsity, by which I will consider Myself most fortunate."

Hence, in the hearts of the simple cowherd maidens whose hearts were saturated with natural devotion, there was no place for instructions on the acquiring knowledge or mysticism. The same love-stricken cowherd maidens were in the attempt of taking Lord Krishna from Kuruksetra to Sri dhama Vrndavana-the transcendental place where spontaneous loving dealings are eternally going on.

This is the explanation of the Ratha-yatra pastime of Lord Jagannatha from the main temple which is synonymous to the opulence of Kuruksetra, to the Gundica Temple which represents pure devotion of Sridham Vrindavana.

In Srimad Bhagavatam (10/82/45), the Lord says:

may bhaktir hi bhutanam amrtatvaya kalpate
distiya yad asin mat sneho bhavatinam madapanah
"The highest ambrosia for all living entities is My devotional service, Oh Gopis your deep love and affection that you feel for Me is the only way for you to attain Me."

Ultimately, the natural spontaneous exhibition of devotion only is that which attracts Lord Krishna to the devotee. The actual means for moving the cart is this rope of pure devotion. In Vaishnava tantra it is mentioned that:

mathura dvaraka lila yah karoti ca gokula
nilachala stitah krsnastu eva carati prabhuh
"Whatever types of pastimes that Lord Sri Krishna performed in the different regions of Mathura, Dwaraka or Gokula were all executed in full measure in the place called Nilachala (Holy City of Puri).

The Vedas informed us (Rg Veda 10 section 3/144). The wooden Deity of Lord Jagannatha which is present in the land of Purushottama is self-manifest and completely transcendental, though seemingly to be made of daru, wood. One should take shelter of this supreme Lord )Daru Brahman) and by proper worship to Him, attain the spiritual world of Lord Vishnu.

Srila Vrndavna Das Thakura has termed Sriman Mahaprabhu as the moving Jagannatha. It is this very Lord Jagannatha who has appeared in the material world in the guise of a renunciate and has declared the potency of the Holy Names to be able to give all perfection to everyone. Therefore those with an intelligent frame of mind will take to the chanting of the Holy Names. This is the way to worship the Supreme Lord Jagannatha and achieve the spiritual world. The highly devotional song 'Gita-Govinda' is favorite of Lord Jagannatha. The Lord Sriman Mahaprabhu, in His pastimes of relishing the spontaneous loving mellows, is also inviting all of us likewise to follow His path to achieve the highest bliss. For pursuing these highest mellows, there is only one way for proper qualification which is taking complete shelter of the chanting of the Holy Names.


Publisher: Sripad B.B. Bodhayan Maharaja
Sri Gopinatha Gaudiya Matha

This book was printed on the conjunction of the 100th Advent Day of Sri Gurudeva,
Nitya lila pravistha om visnupad paramahamsa astottara sata
His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Pramode Puri Gosvami Maharaja

18 Padmanabha 512 Gaurabda
7 Aswin 1405 Bangabda
24th September 1998 Kristobda

Re-typed by Puru Das Adhikari, March, 2003
The Bhaktivedanta Gaudiya Matha, Sri Sri Radha Govindaji Mandira II
134-06 95th Ave.
South Richmond Hill, NY 11419

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