A lecture given by HH Kadamba Kanana Swami during a Ratha Yatra in Durban (South Africa, July 7th, 2007).
So I think today’s Ratha Yatra was quite extraordinary. For one thing, we had the longest parade ever! I have heard that sometimes Lord Krsna in His holy dhama’s is expanding the dhama and shrinking the dhama for His own pastimes. Because, imagine, Lord Krsna, He leaves in the morning with His cowherd boyfriends and He’s wandering all over the dhama, and when we go there and when we go visit these places, we go by car and it’s exhausting! You drive from Mahavana to Gokul, you drive to Nandagrama, you do Varsana, Radhakunda and Govardhana; and by the time you get back, you’re knocked out from the drive! So imagine Krsna walking everyday! How could He possibly walk these distances? Well, we know that the dhama shrinks and expands. It is described that Akrura, he left Mathura on the way to Vrndavana to meet Krsna and Balarama, and he travelled from the morning to night. Now, you still see horse carts in India called tonga’s. Nowadays less than before, but you still have tonga’s these horse carts with these little horses and loaded up with many many people with heavy luggage and then poor little horse has to pull all that somehow or other, it’s legs crooked and so on. And such a little horse with a load and everything takes 45 minutes!
Now Akrura, came in a chariot with powerful horses-many-and it took him from morning till night from Mathura to Vrndavana. Is this a true story that Akrura went or is it a mythology? That might be one explanation, but that’s not our explanation. The Dhama is like a lotus that opens and closes, thus it shrinks and expands. So I think today, Lord Jagannatha just made the road longer. I don’t know if you noticed it- it was looong! There was no end to it! And it wouldn’t stop! I know why He did it- because Lokanatha Maharaja was late! There was no doubt about it! Lokanatha Maharaja was late and Lord Jagannatha just really wanted to receive his offering and hear his kirtana.. Finally Maharaja arrived just at the right moment, exactly there- at the highlight, at the finale- there he was! So a transcendental arrangement without a doubt!
Yes, I think that according to the schedule I was meant to speak about Lord Jagannatha, I can look it up but I think it’s fine to speak about Lord Jagannatha because Lord Jagannatha is so closely connected to our movement. It’s not just that Srila Prabhupada had a childhood Ratha Yatra and that he saw that they were performing Lord Jagannatha and then in this way Srila Prabhupada developed some attachment to Jagannatha Rata Yatra and therefore became so fond of it that he later on introduced it all over in the western world…Rather, it is explained…as we heard many times …,that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was in the mood of separation of Srimati Radharani. But it must be understood that Lord Jagannatha Himself is also in separation, equally so. It is said that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was the Gaura viraha vigraha or the form of gaura, the golden form of Lord Caitanya in the mood of separation; whereas Lord Jagannatha is the Krsna vihara vigraha. He’s also in that same mood of separation, equally so.
So therefore this Ratha Yatra, which is being enacted here, is inevitably part of Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement. There’s no question that Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement could be without Ratha Yatra because Ratha Yatra in Jagannatha Puri is where Lord Caitanya is spending the latter portion of His life. It is said that after Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu took sanyassa at age 24, Lord Nithyananda brought Him with a trick back to Santipura and there He met all His friends and relatives, even His mother came. So in those days, it really wasn’t looked upon as proper that a sannyasi would return home. So Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “What will I do? It will not look good. I somehow or other in a moment of foolishness took sannyasa. How could I leave my mother? But now that I’ve done it, how can I stay home?” So then, He asked His mother what to do. So His mother asked Him to go to Jagannatha Puri and to stay there because it is said that Navadvipa and Jagannatha Puri are like two rooms in one house and because the residents of Puri are always coming to Navadvipa and the residents of Navadvipa are always going to Puri, so therefore Mother Saci thought, “In that way I’ll get some news about Nimai.” So she sent Him there. But that was only the external reason. That was the external arrangement the Supreme Lord made so that His eternal pastimes could take place because the relationship that exists between Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Jagannatha is eternal.
It is said that Jagannatha Puri is on an equal status as Dvaraka dhama. Still, although in our movement we are highly respecting Dvaraka dhama, still we are not really spending so much time in Dvaraka dhama. But these three dhama’s- Vrndavana, Mayapura and Jagannatha Puri- theses are very principle and very important to us. We say it many times in the prema-dhvani prayers: Vrndavana dhama ki, Jaya! Sridhama Mayapura ki, Jaya! Jagannatha Puri dhama ki, Jaya! We say it, we say it. So, why? Why? Why not Dvaraka dhama? Some say Dvaraka Jagannatha Puri Dhama, that also is said. That’s fine, but still the Gaudiya vaisnava’s are worshipping particularly in these three dhama’s. Why? Well, we so know that once we serve Krsna, one’s experiencing great separation from the residents of Vrndavana that Lord Krsna shows ecstatic symptoms and we know that at that time the limbs of the body of the Lord disappeared into His body. We have been ecstatic today but not to that extent as yet. Although certainly, some of us danced and went beyond the intellectual platform to the spontaneous platform; still, when Lord Krsna displayed ecstatic symptoms it became so extraordinary that His body began to transform: His eyes became big and round, His limbs withdrew within His body and He took that form that looks exactly like Lord Jagannatha!
So it is said that, it was on the day of Snana yatra actually, the day that we are observing Snana yatra that Lord Jagannatha for the first time or Lord Krsna, for the first time appeared in that form of Lord Jagannatha. And it is since that time that the Lord is being worshipped like that. So yes, yes, Jagannatha Puri is non-different from Dvaraka and yet we should understand that the mood in which Lord Jagannatha is being worshipped there is the mood of Krsna in separation from the residents of Vrndavana. It’s not the Krsna who is absorbed with His 16108 queens in Dvaraka in just as many palaces, but rather, Krsna who is in separation from His topmost devotees. In the Brhad Bhagavatamrta, the discussion comes up because there’s also in part one, a description about Krsna going through separation of the residents of Vrndavana in Dvaraka and at one point the question is asked: Why Krsna has16108 wives? And the answer that is given is because Krsna has 16108 gopi’s! So He married 16108, so that they would remind Him of His 16108 gopi’s. Because Krsna, although certainly captivated by the devotion of His queens in Dvaraka, still couldn’t forget them within a second; just remembering the residents of Vrndavana.
So in Jagannatha Puri, Krsna is particularly in that mood- Lord Jagannatha. In the Caitanya Caritamrta we find a description about the Ratha Yatra and in the end the chariot arrives. Lord Jagannatha gets to the Gundica temple, He gets to that point. It is called balala dikhi. He comes to balala dikhi and when He comes to balala dikhi. Lord Jagannatha is looking to the left. And on the left side there is a brahmana village and He looks there; He turns His eyes then He turns His eyes to the right and He looks at the gardens of the Gundica temple. So these gardens of the Gundica temple are non-different from Vrndavana. Therefore this Ratha Yatra in Puri actually signifies how Lord Jagannatha goes back to Vrndavana. But we should understand the eagerness and the desire of Lord Jagannatha to go to Vrndavana. That part should be there. So this is…I wanted to kind of highlight this part because we don’t hear it every Ratha Yatra. We often hear about Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the mood of Srimati Radharani but we do not hear about Krsna in the mood of Jagannatha, in that ecstatic mood of separation.
So we’re dealing with Krsna who is beyond Himself, who has lost control of Himself, who is no longer coherent, we deal with Krsna who is just overwhelmed by ecstatic symptoms. We see the same in Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Jagannatha Puri. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, after He took sanyassa, He travelled for 6 years around South India and then He stayed another 18 years full time in Jagannatha Puri. Out of these 18 years, for the first 6 years, He was intimately associating with all His devotees from Bengal, who came every year for Ratha Yatra. And at that time Lord Caitanya was displaying the most amazing ecstasies. Then in the last 12 years, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went deeper and deeper into theses ecstasies and it just got out of control. It got out of control, it became something that He could not control Himself nor anybody else could control.
Like in Caitanya Caritamrta, Antya lila, we see how He saw the ocean, thought it was the Yamuna and He just floated away in the ocean, and in His ecstasy all the limbs in His body became loose and the bones were lying in the skin disconnected and His body became much longer and it became completely white while floating in the water for a long time. So He was already tall. So the body was about 3m tall because all the bones had become loose. This fisherman is pulling this ‘white creature’ in his net. He thought he had a big catch, “The catch of my life!” He pulled it in. it was this huge white form! He touched it and immediately became overwhelmed by something. He thought it was a ghost, he was getting possessed and he was calling out, “Nrsimha! Nrsimha! Nrsimha!” As he called out Nrsimha, after all Lord Caitanya is also Nrsimha Caitanya, so therefore it got only worse! The more he called out Nrsimha, the more he became overwhelmed. And therefore, he was just jumping up and down calling, “Nrsimha! Nrsimha!” He could not stop and that is how the devotees found him actually. They found him on the beach and they could see, he must know where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is. Mahaprabhu has disappeared, the devotees were looking everywhere. They didn’t know that He had disappeared in the ocean but they looked everywhere, they considered it, and they were afraid that now they had lost the Lord. But no, they simply looked everywhere and when they saw this fisherman, they realised he had been in contact with the Lord. No one could be so ecstatic. “ A ghost! A ghost! A ghost! Nrsimha! Nrsimha! Ghost!”, in between chanting he could say it was a ghost and they calmed him down, “It’s not a ghost, it’s Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu!”
“No!”, the fisherman said, “I’ve seen Him many times. I know Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. It wasn’t Him.”
“No, no, no, no”, the devotees said,” Sometimes when He gets ecstatic, His body transforms.”
So anyway, they brought them to the Lord and when the devotees loudly chanted in the ears of the Lord He returned to consciousness. So it was getting a problem. So Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would stay in the ghambira, in the house of Kashishwara Pandita there in a room (which can still be visited today) he was staying and at night, they would lock the room. If you look at Mahaprabhu’s room you will see that it has a few small windows with bars in front and a door in other words it’s totally enclosed. There’s no way out of that room. At night the devotees would close the gate to the house, and then also the gate to the temple. First the house, the temple, and then they would close the gate to the wall- 3 gates closed and still He got out! Sometimes Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His ecstasy couldn’t find the door and while looking for the door, He would just scrape His face on the wall. In the morning the devotees would see His face, it was too much- the ecstasy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu! At one point, there was one devotee; he was appointed as the pillow of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. His name was Shankar Pandita, he became the official pillow of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu at night was put to rest by the devotees and then, with His head on the lap of Shankara Pandita, who was the pillow of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Whenever Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would move, he would wake up! In this way, the devotees managed to keep Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu a little bit, a little bit controlled. But in this way, His ecstasy was just constant- 24 hours a day. In those last 12 years in Jagannatha Puri, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was just beyond Himself!
And we can understand that Lord Jagannatha is Krsna in that same mood- beyond Himself! It is said that once when Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was beyond Himself, that His limbs disappeared into His body and it is said that He became like a big ball! At that time He was in the cowshed and the cows were sniffing at this big ball. ‘moo…’ and getting very ecstatic, ‘moo…’ I think it is because of that the cows are saying ‘moo…mmm…it smells so nice.’ We would say, ‘mmm…’ when we smell something wonderful. So these cows, they were very, very ecstatic to have Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in their midst. And when the devotees came and they saw that Mahaprabhu looked like that, they were shocked! Shocked! And they all chanted and chanted, then Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu- His limbs came back out of the ball, then He just took His normal form and He was saying, “Why did you call Me back? I was just in Vrndavana.” He was just in Vrndavana witnessing pastimes between Krsna and the gopi’s. He said, “Why did you call Me back?” He said, “ I was just in Vrndavana and then I heard this really loud chanting…” And they brought Him back. So in this case the chanting was a disturbance! Anyway, we see that Lord Caitanya displayed such extraordinary ecstatic symptoms and Krsna also displayed such extraordinary ecstatic symptoms. And these two manifestations of the Lord therefore are very, very deeply connected.
Therefore we understand that this Deity form of Lord Jagannatha is our Deity! It is especially the Deity of our sampradaya. It is not just that this is some ancient culture from Jagannatha Puri and that there was a particular type of worship going on with a particular tribe of people. If you read historical narrations about Lord Jagannatha, then you may read how initially the worship of Lord Jagannatha was being performed by tribals, which is true. The sabara’s who were tribal’s in a sense, who were not having Vedic standards. They were herding pigs and well, when you herd pigs, why do you keep a herd of pigs? Just to take the milk? Or other reasons why you keep a herd of pigs? So yes, they were keeping pigs. That was what they did and at the same time they are worshipping Lord Jagannatha. Well, Lord Jagannatha has been worshipped by fishermen. It is said that even in Jagannatha Puri, the fishermen have 4 hands. The demigods see them all with 4 arms. We may not see but the demigods’ see and those who are great realised souls, they can see.
So we can understand that here in Jagannatha Puri, yes, these Sabara’s, they were taking care of pigs, worshipping Lord Jagannatha. So sometimes it is said tribal’s were worshipping and then later when Maharaja Indradyumna through his brahmana Vidyapati and so on, became involved (we’ve heard that story and if you haven’t heard, you have to wait another time!) but Vidyapati became involved and they say, historians recognised that Vidyapati was a historical figure and they say…so at that time the brahminical culture came in and then you had a mix of these two. So this is still visible because in Jagannatha Puri they still have panda’s who are coming from the origin of the Sabara’s and generally they are very big and strong. Therefore it is particularly this group that is engaged in carrying Lord Jagannatha with silken ropes and cushions and they have to push Him up a ramp, which is not easy, somehow or other get Him on the cart. To get Lord Jagannatha on the cart in Puri is a major, major issue, a major thing.
In one year they had 12 such very powerful personalities called dayita’s. They are given the mercy. The daita’s are given the mercy to carry the Lord although they are from this Sabara class. And they’re carrying the Lord up the ramp and on this particular occasion, a whole group of them, they were struggling and Lord Jagannatha fell backwards right on top of them and they were lying there with the Lord on top and they didn’t quite know how to go further from that point on because He’s heavy, He’s quite heavy! So one brahmana came and said, “Lord Jagannatha, Lord Jagannatha, this is not really the time to take rest! Lord Jagannatha, get serious! Lord Jagannatha, it is time to mount your chariot! So please co-operate!”
So such are the pastimes that are going on. So the daita’s are still there and they are very strong and powerful panda’s and they can be seen like that in Jagannatha Puri.
So although historians might think that here is a question of cultural mix, of what was once tribal worship and then became mixed with Vedic culture and although there may be some remnants that indicate that, we know that that’s only external. We know that Lord Jagannatha is eternal, that Lord Jagannatha again and again manifests this form, that Lord Jagannatha again and again performs His transcendental pastimes again and again, yuga after yuga, kalpa after kalpa, again and again He appears, again and again this Ratha Yatra being performed, again and again for eternity in this material world. So what is taking place here is not an ordinary thing and definitely this Ratha Yatra is very much the property of the movement of Lord Caitanya. Even the panda’s in Jagannatha Puri don’t realise that, but one day that will become apparent. Here are your questions.
1. Question: Could you please explain to us the pastime of Lord Jagannatha getting sick?
Answer: In his speech on the chariot during the procession Lokanatha Maharaja was mentioning that, that in India right now, lord Jagannatha is sick, that He’s ill, he has a cold and a fever and so on. And it’s really not going well and therefore there is no darsana, no darsana, the altar is empty. Lord Jagannatha is not on His altar. He’s in bed and He gets different medicines, constantly resting and the doctor has ordered no visitors! Only those who immediately take care. No visitors, strict bed rest. This is going on right now, in India. So Lokanatha Maharaja was mentioning to us that we are very fortunate that here in South Africa, Lord Jagannatha is healthy, not sick at all and rather He is manifesting Himself to His devotees.
So, what is actually the story about Lord Jagannatha getting sick? Well this fever pastime is mentioned in the Narada Purana, Utkal Khanda.. The actual standard for the worship of Lord Jagannatha is that two weeks before Ratha Yatra ,the bathing ceremony of Lord Jagannatha takes place. All the devotees are bathing Him with enormous quantities of water and subsequently the Lord catches a cold, He catches a cold.Usually it gets serious and it is well known that Lord Jagannatha at that time gets a fever. (Now it appears as I am speaking that some people in the audience also start to catch a cold, they are suddenly puttting on warm clothing. Is it a suggestive story? ) So Lord Jagannatha then remains in strict seclusion for 15 days, this period is called anavasara. During that time Lord Jagannatha is not staying on the altar but remains in seclusion in separate quarters, where he is attended to by the dayitas the descendants of the sabaras.
In Mayapura we also have a Jagannatha temple and many special things have happened over the years with these Deities of Lord Jagannatha. And Pankajangriyi, one of the transcendental twin brothers in Mayupura pujari’s, he tells many stories about Lord Jagannatha. O one of the stories that he tells, he says, “ It was the time after Snana Yatra and Lord Jagannatha was supposed to have a cold and it was said that He was getting really sick. And some even said that He is having a fever.” So the pujari was having some doubt, ‘ Does He really get a fever?’ That night, that evening they could hear noise coming from the Deity room, ‘ Brrr….’ Yes, Lord Jagannatha’s teeth were rattling! Rattling with fever! Rattling with freezing fever! And the devotees quickly prepared certain herbal medicines for Him to bring down the fever of Lord Jagannatha. It is like that, Lord Jagannatha actually gets ill.
Some say that it’s not true, that it’s only an excuse that during that they are painting Lord Jagannatha, they’re just painting Him so that they get Him ready for Ratha Yatra and that He looks really at His very best and so on. But that’s only the external side. That may be going on as well, but the Lord is after all the Supreme Lord, He can fulfil many purposes at the same time. So no problem for the Lord. To be sick and to rattle His teeth, although we don’t see Lord Jaganntha’s teeth, He has, and He rattle’s them in fever to show His devotee’s that He really is ill and He really needs care and at the same time He allows Himself to be painted, get ready for the Ratha Yatra. Yes, so this is part of the system of worship because the tradition of worship came partially from the Sabara tradition, partially from the brahminical tradition; so the standards for the worship of Lord Jagannatha are different. In Puri during the anavasara period the Deities are offered ceratin fuit juices, herbs and roots. Not only is Lord Jagannatha getting ill and is He being re-painted simultaneously, but Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada explained that during these fifteen days, the Lord is enjoying svakiya pastimes(conjugal rasa within marriage) along with the Goddess of Fortune in a solitary place. Then the day before Ratha Yatra the Lord takes permission from His wife the leave and then reappears on the altar in his Nauvayauvana Vesa, His ever youthful form.
Question from audience: Why do they bathe Lord Jagannatha if they know that he’s going to get sick?
Answer: aha, why are we bathing Lord Jagannatha if we know He’s going to get sick? Well, we must because it’s an injunction in the scripture. In the Narada Purana it is mentioned that King Indradyumna received instructions to make arrangement for the bathing of the Deity, followed by the 15 day anavasara period. So it’s prescribed in the scriptures. Then again one might say, ‘ Well, but this rule we shouldn’t follow because if the Lord gets sick, by our so call devotional service, how can that be called devotional service, that should rather be called devotional disturbance.’ So maybe we should not bathe the Lord. Well I cannot disagree with you; I think if you would decide not to bathe the Lord on that premise, that He would be displeased with you. But still, we are following the scripture and we are following our acarya’s and we are following Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We see that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to the Snana yatra ceremony of Lord Jagannatha. He Himself went. We cannot just do things on our own judgement, we look at the example, He understood better then we do, what is pleasing to Lord Jagannatha. Everything we do, we do according to Mahaprabhu’s example , Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu set the standard for the Gaudiya vaisnavas. So He went to Snana yatra. When Lord Caitanya went to Snana yatra and when they were bathing Lord Jagannatha, the water coming from the body of Lord Jagannatha was splashing in all directions! In all directions! There were many drops glittering in the sun and yet, the water coming from the body of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu who was dancing before Lord Jagannatha, was even more! But they were not bathing Him! Those were tears of ecstasy flying in all directions! And everyone was amazed, how can so many tears come out of anyone’s eyes. So Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself was part of the Snana Yatra ceremony and therefore we’re also performing. Although we know Lord Jagannatha is getting sick, of course we also know that in one sense sickness is something to do with the material body and not the spiritual body. So we know that although the pujari heard the teeth rattling of the Deity and that was real, at the same time we know that Lord Jagannatha’s body is spiritual. So how could he get sick? Because birth, death, old age and disease- are part of material life. So in one sense we can understand that this being diseased is a lila of the Lord, His pastime. You know how it is, sometimes you want to be sick so that you get that special care! Like I had one disciple and he had to go into the hospital for a minor operation,.. minor.., and he said he enjoyed it very much. He said he got so much special attention from the people, everyone one was coming to visit him and they were all so nice to him. He said he really liked it very much.
So Lord Jagannatha is like that also. He really likes it if He gets pampered and special care at that time when He is in His anavasara. So in one way, it’s a special type of rasa which he doesn’t ordinarily gets, so He enjoys it.
2. Question: How do you get detached from something you are already deeply and materially attached to?
Answer: By using it for Krsna. Because then at one point, Krsna would become more important than that thing. You know what I mean? It’s like, that’s the idea. Today I saw a really fancy car and it had a number plate: 4 U KRSNA! And I was looking at it and I was thinking, ‘Sure!’ What can we say, right! Sure! But if you then get the chance in such a car, I don’t know who’s car it is, sorry please don’t mind my comment! I don’t know who is driving this car with the plate 4 U KRSNA! But if you get the chance to drive Lord Jagannatha in that car, then there is the possibility that eventually you get more attached to Lord Jagannatha than to the car. That’s the idea!
3. Question: When Lord Jagannatha is in Vrndavana, does He have the same mood as He is in Jagannatha Puri feeling separation from His Vrndavana devotees?
4. Question: And what actually happens when the Lord returns to Vrndavana
Answer: In the book “Embankment of Seperation” Sripada Gaura Govinda Maharaja is describing how the form of Jagannatha became first manifest in Vrndavana. At that time Krsna came on His chariot from Dvaraka to Vrndavana and stopped at Nidhuvana, where Srimati Radharani was in a state of near death due to intense separation. Krsna ran there and called out radhe dehi pada pallava mudaram, “Oh Radhe please place your lotus feet on my head”. Krsna became overwhelmed by ecstatic symptoms, he became like a tortoise, His limbs disappeared in to his body. This is when Krsna took the form of Lord Jagannatha!
The wind carried the fragrance of Krsna‘s body to Srimati Radharani,who became revived and saw her Pranavallabha, Her most beloved Lord, her life and soul.
In the Caitanya Caritamrta it is described how chariots come to the end of the route during the Ratha Yatra procession , the Lord Jagannatha looks towards the left and sees a brahmana village and on the right he sees the gardens of Gundica, which represent Vrndavana, there the Lord is deeply absorbed in his return to Vrndavana. But on the fifth day the Goddess of Fortune come out of the temple on a palanquin and her servant beat the servant of Lord Jaganntha with sticks. The Goddess of Fortune wants her husband to return home. This is the Hera Pancami festival. ‘Hera’ means to ‘see’ so she comes to see! Then on the eight day is the Ulta Ratha the return journey and Lord Jagannatha again leaves Vrndavana and returns to Dvaraka.