Monday, June 14, 2010

A Hug from the Lord

I can't even count how many Rathayatras I have attended over the years. But I will honestly say that this morning was the most blissful Rathayatra experience of my life.

At Brooklyn temple the night before New York Rathayatra, I overheard a woman speaking to another devotee about decorating the carts early the next morning. A desire sparked to life, and so I tracked the woman down for more information.

This summer I'm traveling with the young-girls Tour, Kishori Yatra, so I proposed the idea to the group. At last one twelve-year-old girl, Sita, volunteered to come with me, despite all of my warnings about waking up early and serving for hours. She never wavered in her determination to come.

Saturday dawned cold and blustery. After catching several subway trains and walking many blocks, we arrived at the street where the giant Rathayatra carts awaited us. Only a few devotees moved amongst the carts, tying flower garlands and hoisting balloons.

Sita and I jumped in... and got lost in service. When other women arrived, we conferred and laughed about the decorations.

When the giant deities of Jagannath, Baladeva, and Subhadra arrived, I felt overcome with awe to be so close to Lady Subhadra. Several of us women gathered around Her and gushed about Her beauty.  A thought occurred to me: in Puri, the pujaris allow pilgrims to receive a hug from the Deities.

So I asked! The pujari grinned and motioned me forward. I called to Sita to step forward and receive a hug from Lady Subhadra, too. Then with a breath of excitement, I proposed that we could receive a hug - or at least touch the feet - of both Baladeva and Jagannath!

Sita and I danced to Baladeva's cart. People were starting to gather for the parade - time was ticking until the pujaris would put away the ladders. So we scaled the steps, bowed before Lord Baladeva, and then touched the wood of His feet. I told Sita to pray to Lord Baladeva for strength and guidance, because He is the original spiritual master. The moment was magic as we knelt there in silence, so close to the glowing form of Lord Baladeva.

We offered out final respects, then dashed to Lord Jagannath's cart. The kirtan party was building, the music of mridanga and karatalas resounding off of the buildings.

Only minutes left!

We climbed the narrow steps, and in all that building whirl of energy, we bowed before Lord Jagannath. We reached under His skirt to touch His wooden feet. We then knelt in silent prayer.

"Pray to learn to love and serve the Lord and His devotees," I murmured to Sita. I felt such awe and peace settle over my heart to be so close to the Lord of the Universe. 

When Sita and I climbed down, I knew that she had also felt the unforgettable magic of the morning.

Decorating the carts - doing some humble, simple service - allowed us to come so close and receive so much mercy from the Lord.

Service, association, and prayer.

What else IS there in life?


Campaka said...

Oh, what a wonderful experience! Thank you!

In Love With Krishna said...

Beautiful post! :))

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