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Calcutta Ratha Yatra Was Indeed Highly Successful
By Bhakti Caru Swami

Dear CHAKRA,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I just came across Mr. Deepak Vohra's article suggesting my report on the Calcutta Rathayatra was inaccurate. Antardwip Prabhu from England informed me about it. In a situation like this CHAKRA should have brought it to my notice sooner, in order to enable me to reply. I do not read CHAKRA that regularly.

In response to that article on CHAKRA, I am sending the following reports from some of the newspapers. I also am attaching a few pictures that had adorned the front pages of some leading newspapers clearly broadcasting the success of this festival. At the bottom I have made some additional comments which will be of interest.

I can assure everyone with all sincerity that I just mentioned as I personally perceived and I tried my best not to deviate from the truth, knowing well that in this age 'dharma' is standing on that leg only, and I don't want to deviate from that path. With all sincerity I want to declare that I don't have any intention to deceive anyone with false propaganda.

The Prabhat Khabar, a Hindi newspaper, featured an article dated 24 June 2001, entitled, “Rathayatra Began with Much Fanfare.” 

In the article, the following was reported:

“Amidst loud chanting of 'Jaya Jaya' and great happiness and enthusiasm, ISKCON's Ratha yatra began at about 3 pm today from Central Avenue near Central Metro Railway Station and went up to the Planetarium near the Maidan…”

“There were huge crowds of people assembled by the sides of the roads to see the festival. ISKCON devotees performed kirtan with mrdangas and kartals… There was great enthusiasm to pull the ropes and there was a lot of to pull the ropes and there was a lot of commotion to pull the chariots.”

The paper went on to say, “There was massive distribution of prasadam from the chariots… Western devotees were the center of attraction of the parade and to control the crowds the police had to put in a lot of endeavor.”

In the Pratidin [Bengali], on 24 June 2001, an article appeared entitled: Ratha Yatra Festival Observed in Great Pomp and Festivity

The newspaper reported: “Because of bad publicity ISKCON could not arrange a famous dignitary to inaugurate the festival, nonetheless that did not reduce the enthusiasm and festivities. Western lady devotees wearing Harinama chadars were pulling the ratha. There were huge crowds of people assembled to see the raths being pulled from the beginning at Central Avenue to the end of the Maidan. During the procession Jagannatha prasadam was distributed to the people.”

Similarly, the Asian Age printed an article on 24th June 2001, entitled: Mayapur goes One-up on Kolkata

Caption to the picture showing the ISKCON devotees receiving Lord Jagannath under police supervision: “In safe hands: A city police officer hands over the idol of Subhadra to ISKCON's Mayapur authorities on Saturday."

The article reads: "The Calcutta High Court let Mayapur, rather than the city-based ISKCON Revival Movement, organise the Ratha yatra; the first time this has happened. . .

“The Rathayatra started at 1 pm from Central Avenue and ended in front of Victoria Memorial. Thousands of devotees took to the roads with prayers and devotional songs, sweeping the roads with brooms all through.”

The Asian Age reported on 25th June 2001, in an article entitled “HOLY NAME:

“An unidentified foreign devotee chants Hare Krishna along with other Indian devotees while watching the Ratha Yatra in Kolkata on Saturday. Hundreds of thousands of people celebrated the Ratha Yatra…”

In a way it is true that, unlike other years, we could not get some very important personalities to inaugurate the Rathayatra, but that was because until the day before the festival we were not sure whether we will be able to conduct the Rathayatra or not. The police gave ISKCON the permission to conduct Rathayatra, instead of Adridharan dasa. Adri contested that decision of the police in the High Court, and although the judge of the High Court gave the decision in favor of ISKCON 11 days prior to the Rathayatra, Adri appealed to the Division Bench of the High Court against that decision, and it was only the day before the Rathayatra the Division Bench upheld the decision of the judge.

In such an uncertain situation how can one invite a very important person to inaugurate the festival? Nevertheless, we did manage to get two judges from the Calcutta High Court to inaugurate the festival.

During the seven-day program the important persons that came as honored guests included the mayor of Calcutta, Mr. Subrata Mukherji; the chairman of the Human Right's commission, Mr. Mukul Gopal Banerji; the ex-principal of Scottish Church College (where Srila Prabhupada studied). That is only to name a few.

If any of our critics had been present in Calcutta during that time then they would have seen how ecstatic the mood of that festival was. They would have personally seen how hundreds of thousands of people came to attend that festival everyday, chanted and danced in ecstasy, honored Krishna prasada and went back to their respective homes with Srila Prabhupada and Lord Jagannath's mercy at the end of the program.

Most probably it will be interesting to note that when the court instructed Adri to hand the Rath Cart to us the day before Rathyatra, we found that the cart was deliberately damaged simply to sabotage the festival. One can well imagine what kind of consciousness it takes for one to act in such a way. Obviously he did not consider that the festival was of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Who is omniscient. He obviously did not consider that the Lord saw what had done and in due course of time the Lord will judge that person. I really feel concerned about that miserable individual who was responsible.

Your servant,
Bhakti Caru Swami

© CHAKRA 18-July-2001

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