Krishna faithful descend on Juhu from across globe

Annual Rath Yatra brings swarm of believers from New Orleans to Mumbai. Faith and Mosambi juice push sandalwood-coloured procession.

Mumbai, January 21: An IIT engineer. A Mumbai builder’s family. A retired American sales officer from New Orleans. These were just some of the 10,000 people who converged at Juhu to find salvation in religion.

For hours on a warm Friday afternoon, the 9-km stretch from Juhu’s International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) temple to Andheri’s Lokhandwala rang out with joyous chants of ‘‘Hare Krishna, Jai Jagannath Jai Jagannath Swamy…’’

Devotees both young and old, male and female, preacher and professional, marched on, to participate in the annual Sri Jagannath Rath Yatra festival.

Clad in sandalwood-coloured kurtas and dhotis, beads adorning their necks, they pulled the lavishly designed chariot—with conical ‘kalashas’ on top—of Lord Jagannath (Krishna), his brother Baladev (Balram) and sister Subhadra.

A group of Pune students, who had arrived days before, had tattooed the entire stretch in colourful, floral patterns. A team of medics tailed the procession in their Maruti van, while the owner of the local Amar Juice Center arranged for free mosambi juice for the devotees.

The procession, which began at around 2.30 pm, after the ‘maha aarti’, included Mahasinda Das (58), a white American from New Orleans—‘‘The black sheep in his family,’’ he chuckled.

Das broke away from his family of ‘atheists’ to become a believer in Krishna—the ‘God of All’, he insisted. It has brought him ‘‘spiritual peace’’, liberating him from the mental chaos that plagued him.

Then there’s Swamy Satvik (50), a French national and now full-time ISCKON preacher based in India. With him is a young skeptic being introduced to the faith.

An interesting conversation follows.

“Why should salvation mean the end of births—isn’t more better?’’ asked the sceptic cheekily. The Frenchman can handle it: ‘‘Each birth is full of inevitable sufferings, like a jail term. Do you want more time behind bars?!”

The youth persisted. ‘‘Why must we suffer?’’. “Because we care for our body, which is transient, and not the enduring soul,’’ was the reply he got.

Mukunda Das (38), an IIT graduate, now a PhD scholar. He knew why he was there: ‘‘To balance the material and the spiritual.’’ The banter and the chants continued. Asked about the kind of money spent on the event, ISKCON’s media pointman Yadav Haridas (40) said, ‘‘We spent a few lakhs, which came from our funds and voluntary sponsorships.’’

He would rather talk about ISCKON’s ongoing ‘Heaven on Earth’ project. Worth Rs 24 crore, it will add facilities like a 40-bed guest house, a multimedia centre and a Vedic Samskara Hall to the Juhu temple-complex.

He addded that donations ‘‘only from Indians’’ are welcome, while a message on a board curtly informs you: ‘You are chosen by the Lord for this project.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
Express News Service, India
Jan. 22, 2005

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)