We just arrived in Kolkata yesterday evening. We are staying at the house of Rasaraja Gopala Dasa and his family. The Ratha Yatra is starting at the Kolkata temple which Srila Prabhupada originally stayed in for which I was the first temple president. Kolkata is the birthplace of Srila Prabhupada. Therefore, it is a tirtha, a place of pilgrimage for us, because Prabhupada appeared here. Our Ratha Yatra festival will go on for nine days. First day for procession, seven days at the sight and one day for return Ratha procession. Some of our Nama-Hattas have Ratha Yatras on the outskirts of Kolkata.
We inaugurated the Baladeva and Subhadra Ratha alone but the Jagannatha Ratha was inaugurated with the chief minister along with me and Bhakti Charu Swami. Sudarsana Cakra was on Subhadra's Ratha. Vaisnavis lead the kirtana every year in from of Subhadra's Ratha and men lead the kirtana in front of Baladeva's and Jagannatha's Ratha. Different groups danced in front of Lord Jagannatha. Russian girls from Mayapur, schoolgirls from Kolkata. There were Kathak, Manipuri, Bharatanatyam, and Odissi dances. The main Kolkata Ratha Yatra is organized by ISKCON and the chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee came. She came surrounded by various stars and starlets. First, Mamata Banerjee and her associates went on Jagannatha's Ratha and offered arati. She then chanted some mantras and wished everyone auspicious life by the mercy of Jagannatha. She also praised ISKCON. She said something about loving Lord Jagannatha. Then she came down and stood by one of the ropes. She also spread some sandalwood pulp on the pulp, sprinkled some scented water on the path and on the people. The last dancing group was about 20 girls and one man. Some of the stars that came with Mamata, three of them, went and danced behind the Odissi dancers. I was thinking how fortunate they were to be dancing in front of Lord Jagannatha. Then the sannyasis, chief minister and her movie star friends offered coconuts with camphor to wish the Lord a pleasant journey. We sweeped the road with a golden broom. Then we pulled the rope. Then we put the rope down and we all left. There were massive crowds. As we left, they pulled Baladeva, Subhadra and Jagannatha. In India, Baladeva goes first. I talked about how Lord Krsna had predicted in the puranas that he would send someone 5,000 years after the Kali Yuga began who would spread the Sanatana Dharma and the chanting of Hare Krsna all over the world to usher in a 10 000 year golden age period within Kali Yuga. How the people in Kolkata should be so proud that Srila Prabhupada appeared in Kolkata and spread love of Krsna all over the world and the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha mantra.
Your well wisher always,