Every ISKCON festival is a preaching project. One of these festivals is the popular Rathyatra celebration. The Namahatta department of the Krsna Balarama temple annually organizes a Rathyatra festival in Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krsna, as well as in several other cities of Uttar Pradesh like Bharatpur, Hathras, and Hodal. The Namahatta department is also involved in other preaching activities like harinama-sankirtana, school preaching, collage preaching, corporate preaching, house programs, organizing festivals and so forth.
On average more than 10,000 devotees participate in the annual Rathyatra festival in Mathura. These participants include local Brajabasis, who attend in decorated traditional dress. Other participants include local and central government representatives, as well as politicians.
Preparations begin well in advance for the Rathyatra, as numerous devotees enthusiastically engage in preparing for the day when Lord Jagannatha, along with Lord Balarama and Lady Subhadra, come out of Their temple onto the streets to give Their darsana to all. In fact, Rathyatra is the original street festival. Mercy of the Lord in the form of divine prasadam is distributed at the start and the end of the Rathyatra.
The first Rathyatra in Mathura, was organized in the year 1996. About two weeks before the actual day, devotees go to the various places to perform harinama-sankirtana and distribute prasadam and leaflets about the festival. Big banners and hoardings are also put up, inviting everyone to attend the glorious event.
This year the Namahatta team is focusing, with great enthusiasm, on organizing the forthcoming Rathyatra festival for the 12th of July. Their Lordships will journey on Their grand rath throughout the many old marketplaces of the old city of Mathura, traveling for more than seven kilometres to reach Their destination in the new City.
The height of the grand Rath cart is 25 feet. A fitted hydraulic system is very helpful in lowering or raising the canopy, which allows the ratha to comfortably move through the narrow lanes. One day before the grand event, the Rath is decorated with paint and flowers by a dedicated team of volunteers.
On the day of the festival Lord Jagannatha, along with Lord Balarama and Lady Subhadra, are taken to Mathura in Their decorated vehicles. The festival begins with an arati ceremony followed by words of blessings from senior devotees and words of appreciation by prominent members of society. Then different teams of kirtaniyas, consisting of national and international devotees, lead the procession with transcendental kirtanas that infuse the surroundings with divine energy
Prasadam is distributed throughout the entire procession. Everyone receives that mercy, whether one is a shopkeeper or a pedestrian. With various jhankis (tableaus)the procession reaches its final destination, where a final arati ceremony is performed. Their Lordships then return to Their home.
The Namahatta team of devotees invites everyone to participate in this joyous festival in Mathura and help in our preaching efforts, thereby pleasing Sri Guru & Sri Gauranga.