Sri Sri Radha-Govinda's Jhulan Yatra

BY: SUN STAFF - 28.8 2023

Radha and Krsna on a Swing

July 27th is the start of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda Jhulana Yatra.

One of the most popular events in the holy town of Vrindavan, India - where Lord Krishna appeared 5,000 years ago - is the celebration of Jhulan Yatra, the Radha-Krishna swing festival. In Vrindavan among the local villagers and inhabitants this festival lasts for 13 days. In Vrindavan this is one of the biggest festivals of the year and Vrindavana is very crowded at this time, literally hundreds of thousands of people from surrounding towns and villages visit Vrindavan over this period in the auspicious sacred month of Shravana (July-Aug). Opulence or simplicity, everything is used in Vrindavan for the service of the Divine couple, so during this time you may see swings made simply, out of love, but often the swings are made of gold or silver.

In Sri Vrindavan for five days, in many of the 5000 temples there, the small Utsav-vighraha functional Deities (Vijay-utsav bera) are taken from the altar and placed on an elaborately decorated swing in the temple room. After receiving the traditional arati worship, the Deities are pushed on Their swing. Members of the congregation are invited to participate. Each person offers flower petals and personal prayers, and then pushes the swing several times as the other members chant Hare Krishna, Jaya Radhe Jaya Krishna Jaya Vrindavan, or Jaya Radhe, Jaya Jaya Madhava dayite in kirtan. The atmosphere of this festival is especially sweet as everyone has the chance to intimately serve Radha and Krishna.

The same festival is observed in other parts of India too in this sacred month of Shravana. For example in Jagannath Puri, for the pleasure of Lord Jagannath's utsav vighraha (Madan-mohan ji, this festival is celebrated from Shravana Shukla Dashami (10th Tithi/phase of the Moon of the light fortnight) until Pratipada (1st tithi of the dark fortnight), a period of seven days. Sri Madanmohan, Lord Jagannath's representative deity (vijay utsav), as well as Laxmi and Vishwadhatri are placed on a decorative wooden swing on Muktimandap (Jhulanmandap). There, worshippers have a chance to swing the Lord, thus entering into His pastimes. On the day of the full moon (Gamha Purnima or Jhulan Purnima), Lord Balabhadra's appearance day is celebrated.

In Vrindavan it starts on the Tritya (third day) of the bright fortnight of Shravana and lasts until the full moon night of the month. During this festival the Radha-Krishna Deities in the temples are swung on a swing.   Some of the main temples that this festival is celebrated at are the Banke Bihari Temple and the Radha-Raman Temple in Vrindavana, the Dwarkadish temple in Mathura, and the Larily Lal Temple in Varsana.

In this month of Shravana (which is during the rainy season), the clouds in the sky begin to make a thundering sound and extremely fine mist-like rain drizzles everywhere. The atmosphere is very beautiful and pleasant after the heat of the summer months, for at that time all the forests of Sri Vrndavana Dham begin to bloom. Many types of flowers on both sides of the Yamuna can be seen, such as beli, chameli, jui, and madhavi all begin to appear in bloom. The entire place becomes alive again and bumblebees look here and there chanting, "Radhe Radhe" and the cuckoos also call out, "Radhe Radhe."

The peacocks and peahens all call out "Keka keka." The sound Ke means: "Which male person has the ability to do a very wonderful thing? Srimati Radhika's maan (Her sulky mood of transcendental loving jealous anger), as well as Her shyness and patience, are like a very tall and immovable mountain. However, which male person, 'Ke,' can crush that mountain into powder so that there is nothing left? This person is none other than Sri Krsna." Ka means: "Which female person can do a very wonderful thing? There is a powerful, mad elephant named Sri Krsna-chandra whom no one can control. One person, however, by the goad of Her maan, can catch that elephant, bring Him under Her control, and then bind Him in the shackle of Her love. Who is that? It is Srimati Radharani." In this way the peacocks and peahens in their mystic calls glorify Srimati Radharani and Lord Sri Krsna.

In our Iskcon temples we observe for five days in accordance with Srila Prabhupada's instructions (HERE). So whether one observes for the four days or for the seven, or thirteen days, the same festival is put on for the pleasure of the Lord and His loving associates. This is a wonderful ceremonial function of Lord Krishna's pastimes that reflects practically how we are to render service to the Lord for His pleasure.

At the time of the Jhulan Yatra festival it is Monsoon in India and the air is thick, heavy and humid with the heat and the rains. In the midst of the rainy season, when fields and jungle have turned shades of lush green and flowers are blossoming all around, the festival of Hariyali Teej is celebrated.

These festivals are not in any way mere rituals, as they all have practical service functionality to invoke loving servitude of the devotees for the Lord. Lord Sri Krishna is the Supreme enjoyer and doesn't have to work hard like us in this world. Everything He does is pleasurable, and He organises many situations in which He can incorporate us, His separated parts and parcels into His loving service which is our natural condition in the spiritual realm.

When Sri Krishna had his pastimes in rural Vrindavan with His cowherd friends together they lovingly tended the cows, and wandered in the pastures playing, frolicking, and feasting. Throughout the various seasons they all continuously enjoyed being part of Sri Krishna's pastimes, and rendering loving service to Him as best they could.

As mentioned at the time of Shravana month during the Chaturmasya, everything becomes lush and green again. The summer was dry, but now the rain has come and everything has come to life again. All the young brides are taken at this time from their mother-in-laws' homes by their brothers, and in turn they return to their fathers' home.

Consequently Srimati Radharani was still at Her in-laws' home in Yavat, because Her brother, Sridam, had not yet come for her. Much time passed and finally he arrived there on the full moon day, with some nice clothing and ornaments to pacify Srimati Radhika's mother-in-law, Jatila.

Seeing Her brother Srimati Radharani wept, "O My dear brother, why have you come here so late? Only a few days remain of this auspicious Shravana month. Why did you come late? Did you forget about Me?"

Srimati Radharani then very happily left Yavat and went to Varsana, (Vrsabhanupura), with Her brother; and there She met together with all of Her shakhis, Her intimate girl friends, as they had also returned to their maternal homes at that time. It was a very beautiful meeting and reunion, in the place of their childhood play pastimes.

Over the past few months as the climate had changed from Vasant Panchami (Spring festival) where everyone dresses in yellow and goes to the fields, performs fertility rites, and plants new crops, etc.) to Dola Purnima (Holi) where scented powders and flowers are thrown on the body of the Lord playfully, and singing and dancing goes on for His pleasure. Similarly all the other different festivals were observed where the friends of Lord Krishna would look after His express comforts or pleasure, go to the forest with Him, serve Him and have fun.

As the temperature rises toward Summer the Chandan Yatra is performed where from the Akshaya Tritiya for a period of 21 days the body of the Lord is anointed with cooling scented sandalwood mixed with camphor, musk, saffron. As the sandalwood is applied to the body it immediately cools, but then there is a natural cycle that also follows with the heat naturally there is some perspiration, and as the perspiration again mixes with the sandalwood it is dried and cooled by even the slightest breeze creating a pleasant feeling like being covered with Talcum powder.

However, as the temperature increases just to be anointed with something cooling is not enough therefore on (or from for some sampradayas or temples) the Snan Purnima in the month of Jyestha (Trivikram Vaishnava mase) there is the ceremonial bathing of the Lord called Snan Yatra. Although it has become especially festive in Jagannath Puri the actual event originates in Vrindavana with the devotees bathing Krishna, and Balaram for their pleasure and then taking bath themselves too. Actually at this time there is no other solace than to bathe in some kind of pleasing water. All the temples of Vrindavan follow this festival, and many devotees follow a trail of pilgrimage from one temple to the next from early morning to late evening when the temperature lowers to about 35-40 degrees centigrade absorbed in the Snan rasa.

The next major interactive event is Rathyatra where the devotees symbolically bring Lord Krishna (Jagannath) His brother Balaram and Subhadra maharani on high chariots, with beautiful flapping canopies, back to rural Vrindavan after their spell in Kurukshetra.

After this comes the Jhulan Yatra festival. Starting on the ekadasi of waxing moon of Sridhara month (Sravan mase), many temples in Vrndavana celebrate Krsna's swing festival, some for one day, others for more days. Traditionally many of the Deities of the Lord wears various clothing with green in it over this period until the Balaram Purnima. Again it is a practical festive service that the devotees provide for the Lord. Monsoon is so humid, and the temperature is still so hot despite the cooling rains. With so much water coming from the sky, on the ground, and just about everywhere the last thing that anyone wants is more water to cool off. The opulence at this time is to find a breeze, as the air is heavy with the humidity of the rains. So the devotees following in the footsteps of the shakhi friends of Srimati Raharani arrange for the pleasure and satisfaction of Krishna, and Srimati Radhika by placing them on a swing (Jhulan) and creating their own breeze from the motion.

Indeed due to the humidity there is little air movement, the only way to gain relief from the heat is to phyisically move in the thick water laden air. So Her shakhi friends made a nice jhulana (swing) for Her and Her beloved. Traditionally they always make the swing on a kadamba tree and not on a tamal tree. The significance of a kadamba tree is that it carries the complexion of Srimati Radhika with its yellow flowers and the tamal tree has a blackish complexion of Sri Krishna. The tamal tree is not very powerful, but the kadamba tree is very strong and beautiful. This also signifies the superiority of Srimati Radhika – She can control Lord Krishna by Her love.

jhula jhule radha damodara vrndavana men
kaisi cchayi hariyali ali kunjan men

["Sri Sri Radha-Damodara are swinging on the swing in Vrndavana. Oh friend, how very green the kunja is!"
(Jhula Jhule Radha Damodara, verse 1)]

In Braj they sing this verse in kirtana at the time of swinging Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. It describes how Lord Krishna has come and is waiting at the swing with folded palms for His beloved to come. Srimati Radhika is in maan, sulking, and Her shakhis try to persuade Her to come by saying, "Please give up your sulky mood and come at once to your beloved Sri Krishna. He is waiting for You."

Jhulan is a most pleasing and satisfying festival, with the swings often highly decorated with forest creepers, Jasmine (Malati) that has newly blossomed in the season, and streamers of garlands, some of gold or silver. Sometimes they use a fine spray of rose water and direct it toward the Divine couple of Radha and Krishna on Their swing. In this way we are observing Jhulana-yatra and remembering the sweet pastimes of the Divine couple Sri Sri Radha and Krishna.

Today in Iskcon temples all over the world by the mercy of his Divine Grace Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad all the devotees and the congregational members get the opportunity to come forward after purifying their hands and remember these loving interactions of Sri Krishna with His devotees, and also assist in the direct personal service of the Lord by applying themselves to pushing the swing in seva (service).

On the last day of the Jhulan, on the Purnima (full moon) this comes Lord Balaram's appearance day festival.

Jhulan references:
"Regarding Jhulanayatra Ceremony, during these five days the Deities' clothing should be changed everyday, and there should be nice Prasadam distribution and Sankirtana as far as possible. If you are able to do it, a nice throne may be constructed on which the Deities can be placed. This throne may be swung gently during Kirtana. That will be very good, and surely the Deities will enjoy the function." (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.1st August. 1969. Letter to Jayapataka Swami. Letters book pg. 977.)

"So we have to practice this Krishna consciousness. Here, in this material world, we have to work. Without work, you cannot maintain even your family, your body. That is not possible. Sarira-yatrapi te na prasiddhyed akarmana-. Krishna says (to) Arjuna that without karma you cannot maintain even your body. So you have to work. Sarira-yatrapi te na prasiddhyed akarmana-. And this material world means you have to maintain by working. And spiritual world means na tasya karyam karanam ca vidyate. There is nothing to work, as Krishna has nothing to work. He is simply enjoying What is called? Swing. So Krishna is enjoying, and Krishna's associates are enjoying. They have nothing to work. That is spiritual world. Cintamani prakara sadmasu kalpa vrksa: that is a different world. There is no material body. Therefore there is no need of the material body. That is a different world. But in this material world we have to work. Trt'ya-karma-samj<anya avidya-karma-samjanya trtiya aktir isyate. This material world means you have to work and adjust things for your maintenance. That you cannot escape. But still, we have to become Krsna conscious" (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 10th August 1976. Srimad Bhagavatam 3:22:21. Tehran, Iran.)

"Radha and Krishna may be swung in this way, but you may avoid swinging Lord Jagannatha like that."(A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 5th Jan. 1973. Letter to Jagdish. Letters book p.2220.)