The story of the origin of Rath Yatra given by the Goswamis is practically unknown. As the gopis think and cry for Krishna, so He too was always immersed in their thought and would feel acute pangs of separation.
Once Krishna was deeply thinking of Srimati Radharani. Feeling intolerable separation from Her, He fainted. Soon Narada Rishi and Uddhava came there and saw Krishna lying unconscious. Since both Narada and Uddhava are very intimate devotees of the Lord, they could immediately understand that this condition came about because of intense pangs of separation from Radha.
Anxiously, they both debated how to get the Lord back to consciousness. Just then Balaram arrived there and the three of them deliberated what to do. Finally, it was agreed that if Narada Muni were to gently sing the glories of Vrajabhumi, then Krishna would regain consciousness.
Narada agreed, and said, “But I am worried about one thing. As soon as Hari wakes up don’t you know what He will do? In His mad condition, He will simply run to Vrindavan. So a chariot should be prepared to take Him there immediately.”
So Daruka, the Lord’s charioteer was told to keep the chariot ready and waiting.
Then the wise Uddhava said, “All this is fine. But just think. If the Lord goes to Vrindavan now, where the condition of the Vrajavasis is so pitiful – He will not be able to return. There will be no hope at all to bring Him back to Dwarka.”
Then Narada said to Uddhava, “O best among the wise, you are Krishna’s most trusted envoy and very dear to Him. So I think you should first go to Vrajbhumi and inform all of them Krishna is coming. Then they will prepare themselves to welcome Him.”
Hearing this, Uddhava became morose. He said, “You all know that Krishna already sent me once before to Vrajabhumi from Mathura. I went there as His messenger to give some consolation to Nanda Baba, Yashoda mata, the gopis and Radharani. I tried to comfort them and repeatedly told them that Krishna will return to Vrajabhumi soon. I gave them my word, but until now He has not gone. Now after so many years if I go again to Vrindavan, they will never believe me. Rather they will say ‘Here is that great liar who promised to bring Krishna back to Vraja’ and they will call me a cheater. So I don’t think I should go first”.
Then Lord Balaram, said feeling deep sorrow, “Narada, I would go at once to Vrajabhumi, but again like Uddhava, I too will not be believed. You know that I too went to Vrindavan and I have seen the condition of the Vrajavasis. I stayed there for two months and tried to tell them, ‘Please have faith. Don’t feel so much distress. Krishna will be coming soon.’ And still Krishna has not gone to them. Krishna always carries out whatever request I make. But He has not carried out this request. He only says, ‘Yes, I will go’ but He has not gone until now. So you tell me Narada, how can I go there and tell Yashoda mata again that Krishna is just coming. She will never believe me.”
Thinking about the condition of the Vrajavasis, Balaram felt great pain in His heart. He fell silent and began to cry.
At that time, Subhadra came there and heard the whole problem. “Alright” she said “I will go first to Vrajabhumi and sit on the lap of Yashoda mata and tell her ‘O maiya, Krishna is coming just now. The three of us started from Dwarka at the same time, but along the road many people had gathered to meet Him. So He is coming just after me. I have come in advance to give you the good news.’ I am a woman so when they hear from me that He is coming, they will put faith in my words.”
Uddhava, Narada and Balaram agreed unanimously. Subhadra’s chariot was prepared for the journey.
One chariot had already been prepared for Krishna and now another chariot was got ready for Subhadra. When Baladev saw that both Krishna and Subhadra were going to go to Vrindavan He also wanted to join them. So he said, “How can I not go when my dear brother and sister are going to Vrajabhumi. I will also go with Subhadra.”
Uddhava agreed, “Alright, both of you go first. We will arouse Krishna by singing Vraja lila katha and when He regains His consciousness, we will send Him along immediately.”
Balaram and Subhadra got onto their chariots and started for Vrajabhumi. First Balaram and then Subhadra proceeded. During the Rath Yatra, Balaram’s chariot starts first followed by Subhadra’s. Krishna’s rath goes last.
As soon as the two chariots started, Narada muni began to sing sweet Vraja lila katha while playing on his vina. When the transcendental vibration entered Krishna’s ears, His eyes opened and immediately He stood up in his enchanting tribhanga form. The three-fold vamshi-dhar posture is only to be seen in Vrindavan. It is not manifest in Dwarka.
But since He was in Vraja consciousness, He immediately asked, “Where is my flute? Who has taken my murli? Oh, this must be the work of those gopis.” Saying this He started to run to find His flute.
Just then He saw Uddhava and Narada standing there. “Hey Uddhava! What are you doing in Vraja? O Narada, you have also come here?" Then He looked around came to His senses. “Oh… is this not Vrajabhumi?”
Both Uddhava and Narada gently explained to Krishna what had happened, “Hey Prabhu, we knew you would run straight to Vrindavan, therefore we have already prepared your chariot. Please get into your chariot and go to Vraja.”
Then Krishna, who is always thinking of Radharani became intoxicated like a drunkard. The sweet mellow of Srimati Radharani is like intoxicating liquor. He was immersed in the thought of Radha’s madhurya rasa and swayed unsteadily.
With much difficulty, Narada and Uddhava caught hold of Him and put Him on the chariot. So when Lord Jagannath comes to the chariot during the Rath Yatra festival, He is in that same intoxicated condition, swaying and shaking this way and that.
In Jagannath Puri one can see how He is carried to the chariot in this condition.
Then Narada ordered Daruka to drive the chariot to Vraja and the chariot drove off swiftly.
In the meantime, Baladeva and Subhadra’s chariots had reached Vrajabhumi. Arriving in Vrindavan, Baladeva saw that all the inhabitants were almost on the verge of death, steeped in acute misery, in separation from Krishna.
Looking at the state of His beloved Vrajavasis, the eight-fold symptoms of mahabhava manifested on Balaram’s body, shedding tears, perspiration, goose-pimples, trembling, etc. That is the form of Prabhu Balabhadra in Puri – mahabhava prakash.
The same transformation took place in Subhadra also. So she could not go to Yashoda mata because she was overcome by ecstatic rapture.
In the meantime, Srimati Radharani’s condition was gradually worsening. She was in a highly advanced state of spiritual ecstacy known as adhirudha mahabhava. She was unconscious and in a dying condition, but not able to die. Her sakhis constantly checked to see whether She actually breathed or not.
The whole of Vraja was in extreme anxiety over Radha’s condition. “She cannot survive any longer. She will give up Her body” they said.
She was lying with Her head resting in the hands of Lalita in Nidhuvan. All her sakhis and manjaris were around her shedding tears. They could not understand what to do.
Just at that moment, Krishna’s chariot reached Vrajabhumi. By Yogamaya’s arrangement, Krishna appeared there in Nidhuvan where Srimati Radharani was laying as if dead. Krishna ran to Her crying, “Radhey, Radhey, please give me your lotus feet. I want to put my head at your lotus feet!”
Completely overtaken by ecstatic bhava, He gazed with large dilated eyes at the form of Radharani. His arms and legs contracted and He fainted. This is the form of Lord Jagannatha – He is like a log of wood floating in the ocean of radha-bhava.
When the breeze blowing over the transcendental body of Krishna touched the body of Radharani, it acted like magic. Radharani’s life was saved. Lalita devi whispered in Her ears in a sweet voice, “Madhav has come”. When She heard this, Radharani slowly opened Her lotus-like eyes to see Her beloved Shyamasundara.
This was the medicine She needed to regain Her life and She sat up. Seeing Krishna lying unconscious in a tortoise-like form, eyes wide open, Srimati Radhika told Her dear friend Vishakha devi, “Please help Nagar”. And Vishakha devi knows very well what medicine to give.
In a sweet low voice, she started to chant the name, “Radhey, Radhey” in Krishna’s ears. Hearing this, Krishna regained His consciousness and opened His eyes. Krishna looked at Radharani and Radharani looked at Shyamasundara. Through their eyes they united with each other in heart and soul.
SIGNIFICANCE AND BENEFITS OF RATHA-YATRA
500 years ago, the festival became the center of the pastimes of Lord Caitanya, who is Krishna Himself playing the role of a great devotee. Each year Lord Caitanya danced and chanted in the Ratha-Yatra festival along with His associates.
Baba used to say that the mere darshan of the Lord’s chariot is supremely auspicious and can destroy the negative karmic reactions of many lifetimes.
By engaging in the act of pulling the Lord’s Rath, His devotees in the mood of Radha-dasyam, perform the act of taking Krishna back to Vrindavan – back to Srimati Radharani.
The special benefits one can derive in participating in this festival are immeasurable:
** By seeing the most merciful form of Lord Jagannatha, mainly recognizable by His two large round lotus eyes, one will make rapid spiritual progress and gain instant purification.
** if anyone just sees the Ratha Yatra chariot passing and stands up to receive the Lord, he can purge all sinful results from his body.
** if anyone follows the Rath when the Deities pass in front or from behind, even if he is born of a lowly family, he can achieve opulence equal to that of Lord Vishnu.
** By engaging in dancing and chanting during the Ratha Yatra parade, one can uplift one’s soul beyond all meditations.
** By performing any activities to help making this festival a success, one is granted the full blessings of the Lord.
** By donating one’s time, effort or money - One’s home, family and friends will be fully blessed forever.
Sri Jagannatha jiu is jai !!
Sri Balabhadra jiu ki jai !!
Sri Subhadra devi ki jai !!