to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga
Saraswat Math's Puri Pilgrimage
The Parikrama party left our Puri Math and made its way down the back streets, going around the Jagannath Mandir to avoid the large crowds right in front of the temple. We came out some way down the main road that the Deities would travel. Before us were hundreds of thousands of devotees and three large chariots forty-five feet high with sixteen wheels on each cart.
Our Kirtan party moved forward towards the chariots and stopped just in front of the first cart which was Baladeva's. The mood was very pleasant as we chanted the Lord's Holy Name. Then all of a sudden the pujaris upon the cart started to clang their brass gongs and bang their kettledrums, which signalled the thousands of people on the ropes in front to start pulling the cart forward.
In front of the devotees was a wall of police to move the crowd out of the way. It was total mayhem with the police charging at us, swinging bamboo batons, shouting and shoving everyone very aggressively. None were spared from their attack, not even the sannyasis.
Then the chariot stopped as suddenly as it began and the crushing surge of the crowd subsided, much to the relief of our parikrama party that had been a little scattered by this stage. We managed to regroup at a safer distance from the cart while Sripad Tirtha Maharaj and Sripad Acharya Maharaj led an ecstatic Kirtan under the glorious banner of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math.
There were more intense moments as everyone swelled around in a massive tide of people while a tremendous humidity and heat prevailed only to be relieved periodically by water being sprayed over the crowd. Eventually Baladeva's and Subhadra's chariots moved off and down the road, then only Sri Jagannath's chariot stood before us. This was quite surreal because everyone had gone into a kind of trance state by this stage with all the different Gaudiya Vaisnava groups and pilgrims moving around each other with Sri Jagannath's harmonising spirit guiding us all in Harinama Sankirtan.
I could feel those beautifully large lotus eyes staring down at me in the mud and a gorgeous smile of pure Bhakti washing the wounds of past samskaras. At the end of the day, after many hours the chariots finally reached their destination outside the Sri Gundicha Mandir whereupon the next day they shall enter to take rest for seven days before returning to the Jagannath Mandir.
Feeling exhilarated and intense, full of love and devotion I could not sleep normally this Ratha-yatra night of the new moon.
With full dandabat pranams, I offer to the Vaishnavas this very inadequate recollection of a divine event.
Dispatch and pictures by Tusta Krishna Prabhu of Australia
Additional two pages of pictures with captions, received 18th June 2004