Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
We have just completed the Lithuanian Rathayatra/Padayatra programme with His Grace Madhavananda prabhu from Bhubanesvara.
I arrived in Lithuania from Novosibirsk on the 14th. There was some anxiety as I had put Giriraja in my checkin luggage, and we had to transit in Moscow. Would my checkin luggage actually make it through between flights? Or would it end up somewhere in outer space, lost forever in the steppes of Russia?
Anyway, I was very happy to see the bag there when I finally made it through the immigration check at Vilnius airport, Lithuania. Giriraja was safe and sound,although in the future I’ll make a point of carrying Him with me. I had not done that this time as I had one extremely small piece of hand luggage, and it would be difficult to carry Giriraja discretely through the security checks without Him being inspected and even handled by the Russian security people. They are not the most delicate people in the world, and I didn’t want Giriraja to have a bad experience, or to run the risk of confiscation or something crazy like that, which has happened before to other devotees travelling with Deities.
When I got to the immigration desk, before retrieving my bag, the girl there inspected my passport very carefully. I go through Lithuania regularly, and she noticed the large number of Lithuanian stamps in my passport, and asked me what I was going to do there. I tried to be as nonchalant as possible and
said I was just visiting friends, but I could see she was not happy with how often I visit her country. I need a new New Zealand passport.
Ananda Caitanya and Syamananda prabhus met me at the airport, with a few other devotees. That evening we stayed at Bhaktin Vidya’s beautiful house near the airport, and then on the 15th morning we went to the Vilnius temple for Srimad Bhagavatam class, and then for the beginning of the Padayatra
What is involved is a Rathayatra every day in a different city, and on some days a second programme of harinama in another town. It was going to be an action packed few days.
We had a group of about 50 or 60 devotees with us, mainly householders who had taken their summer holidays at that time, to have a nice Krishna conscious family break. It’s something that should be done in other countries.
We first went for Rathayatra in Kaunas, the second city of Lithuania, with a population of maybe 500,000. It was one of the very first towns in the former Soviet Union where Krishna consciousness became established, and was the first place there in which Srila Prabhupada’s books were printed. At the time it was completely illegal, of course, but the devotees found the
manager of a Communist printing factory who wanted to make some extra money on the side, and he was willing to print Bhagavad Gita at night, after the factory closed.
So the work was going on, until one day the devotees found out the man was actually a KGB agent, and they assumed they were now going to be arrested, and everything would be confiscated. However, the man, even though KGB, really did want to make extra money, so he printed the Gita and the devotees were able to begin the first mass book distribution in the USSR.
So on June 15th about 70 or 80 devotees gathered at our ISKCON Kaunas temple and set off with Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra devi for the city’s main walking street, right in the heart of the centre. As usual the people’s reception of the programme was nice, and we walked with the Lord through the town for at least three hours before returning to the temple for lunch, and then going to our holiday resort for the night.
As I mentioned, we had Madhavananda prabhu with us from Bhubanesvara. He’s a wonderful devotee and is completely absorbed in Jagannatha consciousness and always ready to pour out some wonderful Jagannatha katha. He gave class regularly as we travelled around the small country and told some stories I had never heard before.
One day he told us a version of the story of how Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra manifested Their forms as we see Them in the Jagannatha Deities.
Krishna was in Dvaraka, and was constantly lamenting in separation from the Vrajavasis, to the point it was almost impossible to communicate with Him. A great discussion took place among the Dvarakavasis about what to do, and the conclusion was that Narada Muni should sing the glories of Vrajabhumi, and in this way Krishna might come back to normal consciousness. They all agreed, “yes, let us do that,” but there was still one problem. If Krishna returned to Vrindavana He would see the devastated condition of the Vrajavasis in separation from Him, and that would be too much for Him.
So what to do? Someone should go to Vrindavana first and tell the Vrajavasis that Krishna was coming, so they could recover and become joyful, so when Krishna saw them they would not be in the pathetic condition they were in now.
Who could go? Uddhava’s name was suggested. He was Krishna’s prime minster, so if he told the Vrajavasis that He was coming, surely they would accept it and become happy. But no, he had already been there some time before, when Krishna first left Vrindavana, and had given them Krishna’s messages. At that time he had told them all that Krishna would shortly return, but so far the Lord had not come back. So if he went and said the same thing again they would immediately reject his words. “Oh it’s Uddhava again with his tricky words! But we won’t accept what he says again this time. He’s unreliable!”
Then it was suggested that Balarama go, but He said they would not believe Him either, as previously He also went there and assured them that He would get Krishna to return, but when He came back and told Krishna how important it was that He personally go back to Sri Vrindavana Dhama, Krishna just procrastinated and didn’t go. So Balarama felt that if He went again the Vrajavasis would not take Him seriously, but rather think, “Oh, it’s the same old story again. We heard it all before!”
So then Subhadra volunteered to go and tell them that Krishna was coming. She had not been to Vrindavana since Krishna left, and everyone there would accept what she said.
So Subhadra prepared to go, but then Balarama said that He could not let His sister go alone, so He would go with her. Therefore the two of Them left for Vraja, with Balarama, as the older brother, in the lead. This is how the chariots go in Rathayatra – first Balarama then Subhadra.
However, when They arrived in Sri Vrindavana Dhama They were not prepared for what They saw. Everyone was practically dead in separation, and Srimati Radharani was in Nidhuvana in a comatose condition. When Baladeva and Subhadra saw Her They also become totally overwhelmed, and manifested Their
forms, as seen in the Jagannatha Deities.
It is a long story, but eventually Krishna also left on His chariot for Vrindavana and went to Nidhuvana where He had heard Srimati Radharani was. When He saw Her, and saw Balarama and Subhadra in Their incredible transcendental conditions and forms, He also became overwhelmed and attained His form as Jagannatha.
At that moment the breeze carried Krishna’s bodily scent to the nostrils of Srimati Radharani, and She came back to consciousness. However, Krishna was still unconscious. What to do? Srimati Radharani had some of Her gopi friends chant in Krishna’s ears, “Radhe! Radhe! Radhe!” and He came back to life again.
So this is the story Madhavananda prabhu told us, and this is one version of how Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra devi achieved Their amazing forms as the Jagannatha Deities – They are in the ecstasy of being reunited with Srimati Radharani and the inhabitants of Sri Vrindavana Dhama.
After Kaunas on the 15th we went to Mariampole and Alytus on the 16th, and then on the 17th to the capital city, Vilnius, and did a very nice Rathayatra there in the main part of the city centre, passing the parliament buildings, and doing harinama there for perhaps an hour. Then on the 18th we went to Panevesyz for harinama and then Siauliai for Rathayatra, and then in the evening to Palanga, the main holiday town of Lithuania, on the Baltic Sea.
We had a wonderful Rathayatra in Palanga on Saturday the 19th, and then on the 20th Ananda Caitanya prabhu and I came to Riga, in Latvia, where we are now.
Hoping this meets you well.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami