Why Sri Jagannathdev’s Ratha Yatra is not conducted in Vrndavan or Nabadwip.
Sri Ratha Yatraya Sri Rupanuganuchintana
The Conception of Sri Ratha Yatra according to the Followers of Sri Rupa
by Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj
Published in the pen name of
Upadesaka Pandit Sri Krishna Govinda Das Adhikari Bhakti Kovinda
in Sri Gaudiya Darsan, Volume 13, Issue 1,
on Sunday, 24 August 1969.
This year in Sri Purusottam, although there was a larger assembly of devotees in honour of the occasion of Nava-kalevara, the Ratha Yatra festival was observed more or less without hindrance.
Since the Avatar of divine love Lord Sri Krishna Chaitanyadev revealed His Pastime of dancing and chanting at the Ratha Yatra of Sri Jagannath, the followers of Sri Gaudiya-darsan [the adherents of the Gaudiya Vaisnava worldview] have deepened their angle of vision into this Pastime. Taking shelter in Sri Krishna’s assuring words found in Srimad Bhagavatam—bhavatinam Mad-apanah [“Your surety of meeting Me”]—the residents of Vraja relish the festival of joy produced by the gopis reuniting with Sri Krishna after prolonged separation during the Pastime of the Lord’s journey from Sri Nilachal (Dvaraka) to Sri Sundarachal (Sri Vrndavan), representing Him journeying from Sri Dvaraka Dham to Sri Vrndavan. Like the satisfaction of eating after intense hunger, this grand meeting in Sri Vraja Dham with the gopis’ beloved after extremely long, extremely intense separation causes a flood of unprecedented and unparalleled nectar (rasa) within Vraja.
Following this, devotees who relish rasa, to develop their bhajan (service), have arranged the Pastime of Ratha Yatra in many places in a material form to uplift the public and side by side augment their own bhajan. Throughout Odisha, and in the examples of Mahes and others in Bengal, this is clearly evident.
Enactment of this Pastime is, however, not seen in Sri Vrndavan. Akrura brought a chariot to Vrndavan from Mathura and took Sri Krishna and Balaram away. The impression produced by this causes dreadful fear to arise in the hearts of the gopis at the sight of a chariot. Later, the morning after Sri Uddhava arrived in Sri Vrndavan in a chariot in the dark at dusk after being sent by Sri Krishna to collect news of the gopis’ well-being, intense fear and extremely intense sorrow was apparent in the words of the gopis at the sight of the chariot: “Has Akrura come here again to collect our flesh for the satisfaction of his departed master (for the sraddha of dead Kamsa)?” Thus, because the sight of a chariot causes extremely intense pain in the hearts of the gopis, this Pastime is not seen to be enacted in Vrndavan.
Many great souls who are adept in the Lord’s service are also known to reside in Sri Nabadwip Dham, which is nondifferent from Vraja Mandal. Still today, however, no such great souls have been seen to endeavour to enact the Pastime of Sri Ratha Yatra to develop their bhajan. What more, even at Sri Jagannath Ksetra within a part of Sri Nabadwip Dham (Saradanga, where a form of Sri Jagannath resides), we have never seen the custom of enacting Sri Ratha Yatra.
In this regard, it must be asked, is such an endeavour to gather the public in Mayapur of Sri Nabadwip Dham—the hidden form of Vrndavan—favourable to bhajan or preaching? Is it possible for those who are engaged in bhajan in the Holy Dham, those who are engaged in the practice of devotion on the basis of theological truths (sambandha-jnan), to see or try to see Dvaraka here and there within the Holy Dham? Consider, by organising a Ratha Yatra, can the Lord be taken from what is seen by great souls to be Gokula or Govardhan within Sri Nabadwip Dham to Saradanga in Jagannath Ksetra or Harihara Ksetra?
Thakur Bhakti Vinod made known the principle of “related means” regarding entering the Dham. Although Bhakti Vinod Thakur organised fairs and showed many other endeavours to gather the public to broadcast the discovery of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s birthplace as was favourable for preaching, he did not start a Ratha Yatra. And even amongst Visva Guru Bhagavan Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad’s tremendous, comprehensive, and diverse endeavours to spread the message of Sri Gaura, a Pastime of conducting a Ratha Yatra in Sri Gaura Dham was not shown. Is the reason for this that it is not a subject of interest for pure devotees who are interested in bhajan?
Certainly, according to the path of proper conduct, a Pastime of Deities travelling in chariots at any time here [in Sri Nabadwip Dham] is out of place. In this regard, Srila Prabhupad’s own expression is, “Pujala raga-patha gaurava-bhange [worship the path of love in a posture of reverence].”
Regarding the meaning of Ratha Yatra on the path shown by Sriman Mahaprabhu, Sri Rupapad’s vision is,
priyah so ’yam krsnah sahachari kuruksetra-militas
tathaham sa radha tad idam ubhayoh sangama-sukham
mano me kalindi-pulina-vipinaya sprhayati
[“O friend, I have met My beloved Krishna in Kuruksetra. I am the same Radha, and We are both pleased by Our reunion. Still, My heart desires to hear the fifth note of His sweet flute beneath the trees on the banks of the Yamuna.”]
This is the vision that augments the bhajan of the followers of Sri Rupa.
Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj’s explanation of the purpose of this article is found in chapter twenty-five of Affectionate Guidance:
Srila Guru Maharaj from time to time gave an article [to Sri Gaudiya Darsan magazine]. One such article was entitled Sri Ratha Yatraya Sri Rupanuganuchintana. This explained what the followers of Srila Rupa Goswami will think about the Ratha Yatra.
At that time, the Mayapur Sri Chaitanya Math started a Ratha Yatra, but that was very painful for Srila Guru Maharaj because it was offensive to the Rupanuga-chintadhara. This is very high siddhanta. Mahaprabhu explained that the meaning of Ratha Yatra is that Srimati Radharani takes Krishna from Kuruksetra to Vrndavan. But Mayapur is the birthplace of Mahaprabhu who is nondifferent from Krishna. So from Mayapur, where are they taking Mahaprabhu? They cannot take Krishna out of Vrndavan, nor can they take Mahaprabhu out of Mayapur. This is the thinking of the Rupanuga followers, and this was explained in that article by Srila Guru Maharaj. However, I did not give Srila Guru Maharaj’s name as the author because we knew that some other parties may try to contradict this thinking, and if a conflict will come, I shall face that, but I shall not push Srila Guru Maharaj to the front of any conflict. If I put Srila Guru Maharaj’s name and anyone will give any objection, that will be offensive for them, therefore I put the name of one of my godbrothers. We wanted to show everyone what is the proper siddhanta, but in the battlefield we shall not push our Guru to the forefront. I shall go to the battlefield if necessary, but not that I will make my Guru go there.
When the leap month on the lunar calendar, which occurs approximately every two years and eight months and is known as Purusottam Mas or Mala Mas, falls in the middle of the month of Asadh (June-July), in other words, when it falls between Snan Yatra and Ratha Yatra, then the festival known as Nava-kalevara (lit. ‘new-form’) is observed in which new Deities of Jagannath, Baladev, Subhadra, and Sudarsan are prepared from specially selected neem (margosa) trees and the existing Deities are buried. Nava-kalevara usually occurs at intervals of 8, 11, or 19 years, and in the last century, it was performed in 1912, 1931, 1950, 1969, 1977, 1996, and 2015.