Amsterdam Ratha Yatra

Shyam Gopal Das - September 1, 2004 12:32 pm

I have to admit that I had never attended a Ratha Yatra until last Saturday when I decided to go to the Amsterdam Ratha Yatra. I had no real idea of what to expect. Of course, I knew we would be pulling a cart with Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra on it and had read up a little bit before going to the Ratha Yatra. But I had no idea what the feeling would be. Being usually scared to go out publicly and chant the holy names, I was also worried what the public’s reaction would be.

The night before, I had traveled to my friends’ house, Lila Avatar das and Siromani dd, so we could leave together to Amsterdam. The next morning, we took a train to Amsterdam and met up with a friend of ours, Radha Madan Gopal dd at the Amsterdam Central train station. In the tram to the temple, we met a lot of Hindus who greeted us with Haribols. The environment appeared warm. We got off the tram and walked to the temple. The cart was ready and their Lordships had just arrived in a big Mercedes. We offered our obeisances (to their Lordships, not the Mercedes) and walked into the temple to see the recent reconstruction. The temple is not big at all, so it is always hard to get into or out of when a lot of people are there. But I got into the temple room after tripping over on some shoes. Sri Sri Gaura Nitai were standing on a new beautiful altar and the devotees had enlarged the temple room, making the front room quite a bit smaller. I walked out again and talked to some devotees. Lucky as I was they just started to serve prasadam and we ate a little bit while sitting on a street curb. Jayapataka Swami and Kadamba Kanana Swami arrived and the procession could take place. Four police officers escorted us through the city. Two on a motor cycle, one on a scooter and one on a bycicle. After pulling pretty hard, we managed to get the cart on the street and off we went.

We pulled Jagannath from the temple to the dam, which is the center of Amsterdam and a big square that is usually taken over by tourists and pigeons. The walk took us over three hours. One of the amazing things was that it had been raining all week, but this day the weather was friendly and sunny. And the forecasts said that it would rain the days after as well. So Jagannath took care of the weather and we took care of bringing Him to the dam.

I guess there were about a hundred people singing, glorifying the Lord and pulling the cart. It was quite a procession in the rather small Amsterdam streets that were shared with people on bicycles, in cars, and in trams. They all wanted to pas through at the same time as us, but the police gave us right of way. Jagannath never encounters a red light. At the same time, devotees were passing out nuts and leaflets to innocent bystanders who were surprised by the joy and loudness of the procession. I saw many people looking puzzled out of the trams, and many people quickly grabbing their digital cameras. Judging from people’s faces, some were surprised and others smiled. Nobody seemed really agitated by what was happening. The first hour of the walk was especially nice, the kirtan was good and everybody was still full of energy. The last two hours were kind of slow and everybody was more spread out. At one point during the walk, I realized how nice Ratha Yatra is. So many devotees congregated for the same goal, to bring Jagannath out on the streets, and how we should try to pull Krishna within our hearts. How much we wanted to be seen by him. And how much we should create a positive environment within our hearts.

After three hours, we arrived at the Dam and the whole square had been taken over by small stands selling books, incense, saris etc… Both swamis gave a short talk of which I only heard small bits, because I was catching up with some old friends who hadn’t walked. After the talks, free prasadam distribution started of which I remember the nice halava most. It was nice to see how many people unfamiliar with the philosophy ate some prasadam and appreciated what was going on at the small festival. The distribution went on for some time till everything had been eaten. In the meantime, two bands started to play, Christopher Max and later on, Village of Peace. Some fried panir with mayonnaise and ketchup were distributed as well at another stand.

I liked the whole idea of bringing people together this way with the bookstands where people could go if they were interested. The only thing I wondered about if people really knew what the festival was for once the bands started playing and the people started dancing. All in all, this was a very special day. My first Ratha Yatra, and this was definitely not the last.

Bhakta Ivar - October 14, 2004 1:15 pm

An initiated disciple of Swami in the Netherlands, this is good news!


How do you relate with the ISKCON centres, and how do they relate to you?



Shyam Gopal Das - October 14, 2004 9:41 pm

I don't have a lot of contact with iskcon centres as I live up north, but the responses that I got so far have been positive and a little bit protective. I think that in the netherlands many devotees in iskcon are not too obsessed with politics. But your experience may be different. It is just who you meet. But compared to other countries I find that devotees are more broadminded here. (as far as i could really know that)

Bhakta Ivar - October 15, 2004 11:23 am

Yes, there are quite a few broadminded devotees here. I think that has to do with the nature of Dutch people as well as ISKCON's history here (the falling away of the zonal Acarya Bhagavan Dasa). But you will find broadminded devotees everywhere if you hang around long enough. I had a great time in Sweden with Harikesa and his disciples.


I noticed that in Radhadesh Visnumurti prabhu sells several books of Tripurari Swami.


Where do you live? I live in Utrecht.

Bhakta Ivar - October 26, 2004 7:48 am


Ramakesava - October 28, 2004 1:02 pm

He's gone off to India. 3 weeks, I think?

Bhakta Ivar - October 29, 2004 1:58 pm


Jananivasdas - November 2, 2004 12:51 pm

shyam prabhu in india...heh! :D sounds crazy!!! gaura hari haribol!