West Papua - Jagannatha Ratha Yatra

By Harinarayana Das - 12.2 2017

Manokwari, West Papua, sees the first Jagannatha Ratha Yatra

(More photos here: https://goo.gl/fiiW20)

Day of art and culture of West Papua, Pebruary 6, 2017 was celebrated by cultural parades from all ethnic groups who live in that area. Arts and culture serves as an adequate medium to unite the people. Language in form of arts and culture is universal which everybody can understand. The varied colours of arts and culture makes the world a beautiful place. The cultural parade in Manokwari, capital city of West Papua, attracted many visitors. This also attracted devotees to take the opportunity to spread the glories of Lord Krishna in the land of Papua. The ratha yatra team worked with the Manokwari Hindu Parisad and participated in the cultural parade, pulling Lord Jagannath’s chariot on Ratha Yatra.

“I am so much satisfied with your successful performance of Ratha-yatra festival and I am awaiting to see similar festivals in all our other centers, including one in the prospective London center.” (SPL to Gurudasa, 16th July, 1968)

“Make the Ratha-yatra festival very great success. This will be a great introduction in your city and people will appreciate it and if we can introduce successfully this Ratha-yatra festival not only in San Francisco but also in New York and also in Montreal then it will be a great success of my mission in this country.” (SPL to Syamasundara, 4th May, 1967)

West Papua is located in the east part of the Indonesian archipelago. The name of Papua in the past was “Samudranta”, which indicates that the area of ​​Papua has been known by the Sanskrit speaking communities who lived in the archipelago of Indonesia, both in terms of geo-political and socio-economic and culture in a broad sense. One historian wrote, “In the first century AD, Hinduism and India’s influence spread across the archipelago and not just limited to Java and Sumatra, but also spread to the east including Papua. It may be said that the “tip of the island Samudranta” is the island of New Guinea. Apparently Indian sailors had been up here, as evidenced by the records of Indians who called Irian as Samudranta, which means island swept by seas. It is likely they’ve sailed in this area. “

“To implement this transcendental bliss to the people of your country there is immense work to be done ahead and this Ratha-yatra festival is only a bit of sample. If we get opportunity we shall be able to overflood your country with the waves of transcendental bliss, by the grace of Krsna. We can introduce various other ceremonials in connection with Krsna and His different expansions or incarnations in such a nice way that people are sure to be attracted by such things and become immersed in Krsna consciousness.” (SPL to Aniruddha, 7th July, 1968)

Doing Ratha yatra in Manokwari was not easy task for devotees since only few devotees live there. There is one small temple in Manokwari established by H.H.Bhaktiragava Swami. Since the temple is located in Manokwari, the temple is known as Sri Sri Radha Manohara temple. It located on the hill in the middle of a reserve forest. Only three brahmacaris stay there. His Grace Durasaya Prabhu, who donated the land for the temple, lives in the city. Organizing such ratha yatra was next to impossible for them. But what is impossible for the Lord? In his recent visits, H.H. Subhag Swami Maharaja always encouraged his disciples and followers to see a new place to do ratha yatra. Maharaj was really concerned about having ratha yatra in Irian Jaya.

“After all, Krsna is the master of all situations. In the beginning you may feel some difficulty but rest assured that Krsna is always with you and He will help you in all respects.” (SPL to Dayananda, Nandarani and Uddhava, 20th September, 1967)

Srigarbha prabhu and Gadadhara prabhu went to Papua to see whether there could be a chance to do ratha yatra. They did sankirtan book distribution and made friends with Local people. Then Sri Garbha prabhu flew to Manokwari, West Papua. As Srila Prabhupada stated in his letter that “The more we face difficulties the more we draw the attention of Krsna. So in that way we shall be prepared to meet all kinds of difficulties in our preaching work. Such attempt gives us a lift on our progressive march in Krsna consciousness.” (SPL to Upendra, 22nd April, 1970)

Srigarbha prabhu also met Mr. Kabul, a local hindu friend there and inquired information about festivals organized by the government in Manokwari. The District Hindu Parisad did not give much response so they went to the Province Hindu parisad to propose the idea that devotees would like to organize ratha yatra under the flag of Hindu parisad. Surprisingly, the leader of province Hindu Parisad, Mr. Ida Bagus Candi, joyfully accepted the proposal and then he informed Srigarbha prabhu that the devotees were most welcome to participate in the parade with the Chariot. Srigarbha prabhu then informed the news to the Ratha yatra team to make preparations. The first thing to do was to prepare the chariot. The ratha yatra coordinator then called upon the devotees for assistance and the result was very encouraging… many would not be able to attend the festival but everyone extended all help they could to make the event most successful.

The rata yatra preparations started three month before with the construction of the chariot. The chariot was made by Brajanagar prabhu in Jember. On completion it was shipped to Papua. The chariot team Ragava Pandit prabhu and Bhakta Edi went to Papua two weeks before the festival. Until a week before the festival the shipment did not arrive. It made the devotees worried whether it could be assembled in time or not. Bhakta Edi also got a bad news from his hometown that his father passed away. He became morose. Then the chariot arrived. Bhakta Edi made up his mind and with full determination told the devotees that he had to put his sadness aside. He prayed to Lord Jagannatha that he could complete assembling the Lord’s chariot. Amazingly the work finished in two days faster than usual as generally it need at least a week to complete the chariot. It was the Lord’s will that He would give His mercy to the people of Papua.

“Regarding Ratha-yatra, this must be done at any cost. I may go or not go, that is not important. But Ratha-yatra festival, as you have already made program somehow or other it must be done.” (SPL to Syamasundara, 26th May, 1969)

After assembling the chariot, Tapana Misra prabhu announced to the devotees about the ratha yatra. It was just two days before the festival. By the mercy of the Lord, somehow the ticket to Papua that is usually expensive became cheap and about 15 devotees and Lord Jagannath deities flew to Papua.

“The faith increases in Krsna consciousness by our voluntary increase of serving Krsna. Serving Krsna is unlimited and He can accept our unlimited service, and award us unlimited transcendental pleasure in the unlimited service of the Lord. That is the meaning of unlimited.” (SPL to Brahmananda, 20th February, 1968)

Arriving in Manokwari the devotees helped Raghava prabhu prepare the chariot. Some other devotees prepared the flower garlands, and other devotees prepared bhoga and prasadam. Local children who live near the temple also came and gave a hand to prepare decorations for the festival. One of the local boys, on his own, brought sugarcane for Jagannatha. Local Cristian priest came forward to help. It was simply wonderful how Jagannath Himself was sending these local people to help because our devotees were worried that there was very less devotees to help them out. On February 5 a fire sacrifice was held to invoke auspiciousness. On the day of the festival, February 6, other groups of devotees arrived and directly helped decorate the chariot. The chariot was pulled by a truck to the place where the participants of the parade gathered. It was very difficult to obtain flowers in Manokwari so the devotees brought flowers from Bali. The chariot was beautifully decorated. Because of limited time, the chariot was not equipped with horses. Devotees did harinam sankirtan in that place. Many people watched with curiousity. At 11 am Lord Jagannath, Lord Balaram and Subadra devi arrived and They were placed on the chariot. Suddenly, clouds gathered in the sky and it rained heavily. All participants ran to find shelter from the rain. At 12 noon coconuts were offered to the Lord. After the rain stopped, many people took pictures in front of the chariot.

At 2 pm the parade started. One by one the participants walked on the main road of Manokwari. They showed their cultural performances. The Lord’s chariot then entered the road pulled by devotees, local Hindus and local people. They danced in front of the chariot. Children, women and men…all sang hare Krishna mahamantra joyfully. Sridar prabhu lead the kirtan and made people dance and sing along. On the way where the chariot passed, people who heard the Maha Mantra Hare Krishna tried to follow the melody of the song. They sang Hare Krishna Mahamantra even though they found difficulty to chant it. The chariot of The Lord also captivated the audience. In the start point the doom of the chariot worked properly but when it was pulled downed it got stuck and could not rise again. Raghava pandit prabhu who was in-charge of the chariot became frustrated and tried hard to fix it but nothing happened. After two hours dancing and singing, the Lord arrived in the finish line. Suddenly the doom of the chariot rose up. All devotees chanted “Haribolo” and more people were amazed to see the grace of the Lord on the chariot. All officers on the stage of honour stood up and gave a big applause. The devotees and Mr. Ide Bagus handed Bhagavad-gita to the governor of West Papua. The governor accepted it happily.

H.H. Subhag Swami Maharaj on his recorded class for ratha yatra papua said that he was very happy to hear that devotees were organising ratha yatra in Papupa. Maharaj also said that this carnival would be ateended by many people and everyone should come to the festival to see Lord Jagannath, pull the chariot and offer their happiness in devotional service to Lord Jagannath. Srila Prabhupada also said that everybody should work together for the satisfaction of Lord Jagannath. This was our success in this life prabhupada said that “I have many compliments about this ratha ayatra. Srila Prabhupa was happy to see all of you distributing prasadam, Srila Prabhupada’s book, and distributing the mercy of Lord Jagannth. Devotees already did ratha yatras in many town and village in Indonesia. This is the sign that the flag of Lord Jagannath fly everywhere. This is Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission that everybody in village and town will know Lord Jagannath, Baladeva, and Subadra devi and let the society know mahamatra Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare hare and there will be no anxiety in this world. Maharaj also expressed his gratitude to all devotees who worked hard to organize Papua ratha yatra.

Sri Garbha prabhu and Gadadhara prabhu did book distribution and people were also happy to have Srila Prabhupada books. Srigarbha prabhu said that people were eagerly asking for book about Krishna. They already know Krishna from TV program. Other devotees also distributed prasadam. In short of time devotees run out of prasadam. Arriving on the field, of Manokwari field the devotees closed the kirtan by praying to Lord Nrasinga then all devotees honour prasadam. Everyone was joli because they could serve lord Jagannath as much as they could.

“The distribution results from the Ratha-yatra are very nice. There is no question of profit. Distribution is the first consideration.” (SPL to Yasomatinandana dasa, 11th July, 1976)

The next morning, leader of Hindu Parisada, Mr. Ida Bagus visited the devotees before leaving Manokwari in Sri Sri Radha Manohara temple. He expressed his gratitude to the devotees. He also gave a souvenir to the devotees and hoped that devotees would come again to Manokwari. The Devotees also presented books to him.

We hope that Prabhupad is pleased and bless the devotees who organize such a wonderful Ratha-yatra. Srilaprabhupada mentioned in his letter that “ I thank you all very much for making the rathayatra festival so successful. Please convey my gratitude to all the boys and girls who participated in this great transcendental service.”(SPL to Upendra, 4th July 1968).

Our ever grateful obeisances are due to HH Kavichandra Swami and HH Ramai Swami, the GBCs of Indonesia, for their support and guidance to always look for new avenues for sankirtan. Our humble obeisances to HH Subhag Swami for always reminding us of the importance of the Sankirtan movement of Mahaprabu and inspiring us with the dedication of Sriman Jayananda Prabhu, for bringing us closer to Srila Prabhupada and keeping us united in family of ISKCON. Our gratitude to Leader of Manokwari Hindu Parisad.