Friday, September 21, 2007

Czech Republic's First Ratha-Yatra

The Ratha-yatra in Brno, Czech was a first for the Czech Republic. The group of devotees in Brno began holding regular weekly programs within the last year. After the Prague devotees planned to have Ratha-yatra in their city the last two years but abandoned them, being tired from the summer festival season, the Brno devotees decided three weeks ago to do one themselves in their city.
There was beautiful weather the entire time, sunny but not too hot.

Smita Krishna Swami began leading kirtana.

There were lots of young people in the crowd. Lots of onlookers took invitations for both the stage show after the parade and the devotees’ weekly gatherings.

The cooperative mood among the devotees, who numbered maybe fifty or so, impressed me very much. Some sang, danced, pulled
the cart, carried the sound system, and many distributed festival flyers, temple flyers, prasadam, and Srila Prabhupada’s books to the many people on the streets. On a few occasions, where we had a large crowd, the devotees addressed the crowd, explaining about the festival and inviting them to the program in the park.

I chanted, danced, and distributed flyers. I was so happy to see the large percentage of people who took the invitations, perhaps as many as 80%! The words for 'thank you', 'you're welcome', and 'I already have' in Czech are so much like the Polish ones it reminded me of the summer tour and I felt at home.

After the three-hour Ratha-yatra, there was a stage show in the park with included bhajanas and Bharat Natyam dancing. There was a feast afterwards.
The Ratha-yatra route was almost completely on streets where only pedestrians were permitted, other than an occasional service vehicle, and so there was not the necessity of having policemen directing traffic, a complication often present at Ratha-yatras. Only at the beginning and end, when we entered or left the park, could one or two traffic cops come in handy.
The whole event was very inspiring for me. It shows what cooperation and enthusiasm can do in Srila Prabhupada’s service, even if you are just starting and do not have many devotees. It reminded me of the early history of ISKCON, when devotees regularly started new centers and implemented our standard ISKCON programs like Ratha-yatra.