The Ecstatic Dancing of the Lord at Ratha-yātrā

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta: Madhya-līlā Text 1-69
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

The Ecstatic Dancing of the Lord at Ratha-yātrā

May the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, who danced in front of the car of Śrī Jagannātha, be all glorified! By seeing His dancing, not only was the whole universe held in wonder, but Lord Jagannātha Himself became very much astonished.

All glories to Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya and Prabhu Nityānanda! All glories to Advaitacandra! And all glories to the devotees of Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu!

All glories to the listeners of Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Please hear the description of the dancing of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu at the Ratha-yātrā festival. His dancing is very enchanting. Please hear of it with great attention.

The next day, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His personal associates got up in the dark and attentively took their early morning baths.

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His personal associates then went to see the ceremony of Pāṇḍu-vijaya. During this ceremony, Lord Jagannātha leaves His throne and gets up onto the car.

King Pratāparudra in person, as well as his entourage, allowed the Pāṇḍu-vijaya ceremony to be seen by all the associates of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His prominent devotees-Advaita Ācārya, Nityānanda Prabhu and others-were very happy to observe how Lord Jagannātha began the Ratha-yātrā.

The very strongly built dayitās [carriers of the Jagannātha Deity] were as powerful as drunken elephants. They manually carried Lord Jagannātha from the throne to the car.

The word dayitā refers to one who has received the mercy of the Lord. Lord Jagannātha has a number of stalwart servants known as dayitās.These servants do not come from very high-caste families (brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas or vaiśyas), but because they are engaged in the service of the Lord, they have been elevated to a respected position. Thus they are known as dayitās. These servants of Lord Jagannātha take care of the Lord from the day of the Snāna-yātrā up to the time the Lord is carried from the throne to the Ratha car. In the Kṣetra-māhātmya these dayitās are said to come from the śabaras, a caste that keeps and sells pigs. However, among the dayitās there are also many who come from the brāhmaṇa caste. Those dayitās coming from the brāhmaṇa families are called dayitā-patis, or leaders of the dayitās. The dayitā-patis offer food such as sweetmeats to Lord Jagannātha during the anavasara, the resting period after Snāna-yātrā. They also make the early morning offering of sweetmeats daily, It is said that during the anavasara Lord Jagannātha suffers from fever and that thedayitā-patis offer Him an infusion of drugs represented by fruit juice. It is said that in the beginning Lord Jagannātha was worshiped by theśabaras and was known as the Deity Nīla Mādhava. Later, when the Deity was established in the temple, the Lord became known as Jagannātha. Because the Deities were taken from the śabaras, all theśabara devotees were elevated to the position of dayitās.

While carrying the Deity of Lord Jagannātha, some of the dayitās took hold of the shoulders of the Lord, and some caught His lotus feet

The Lord Jagannātha Deity was bound at the waist by a strong, thick rope made of silk. From two sides the dayitās caught hold of this rope and raised the Deity.

Strong, puffed-up cotton pads called tulīs were spread out from the throne to the car, and the heavy Deity of Lord Jagannātha was carried from one pillow-like pad to the next by the dayitās.

While the dayitās carried the heavy Jagannātha Deity from one pad to the next, some of the pads broke, and the cotton contents floated into the air. When they broke, they made a heavy, cracking sound.

Lord Jagannātha is the maintainer of the whole universe. Who can carry Him from one place to another? However, the Lord moves by His personal will just to perform His pastimes.

While the Lord was transported from the throne to the car, tumultuous sounds were made on various musical instruments. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was chanting “Maṇimā Maṇimā,” but He could not be heard.

The word maṇimā is used to address a respectable person in Orissa. Lord Jagannātha was being respectfully addressed by Śrī Caitanya in this way.

While the Lord was being carried from the throne to the car, King Pratāparudra personally engaged in the Lord’s service by cleansing the road with a broom that had a golden handle.

The King sprinkled the road with sandalwood-scented water. Although he was the owner of the royal throne, he engaged in menial service for the sake of Lord Jagannātha.

Although the King was the most exalted respectable person, still he accepted menial service for the Lord; he, therefore, became a suitable candidate for receiving the Lord’s mercy.

Upon seeing the King engaged in such menial service, Caitanya Mahāprabhu became very happy. Simply by rendering this service, the King received the mercy of the Lord.

Unless one receives the mercy of the Lord, he cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead or engage in His devotional service.

athāpi te deva padāmbuja-dvaya-
prasāda-leśānugṛhīta eva hi
jānāti tattvaṁ bhagavan-mahimno
na cānya eko ’pi ciraṁ vicinvan
(Bhāg. 10.14.29)

Only a devotee who has received a small fraction of the mercy of the Lord can understand Him. Others may engage in theoretical speculation to understand the Lord, but they can not know anything about Him. Although Mahārāja Pratāparudra was very eager to see Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the Lord refused to see him. However, when Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu saw the King engaged in menial service for Lord Jagannātha, He became very happy. Thus the King became eligible to receive Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mercy. If a devotee accepts Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu as the universal guru and Lord Jagannātha as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Kṛṣṇa, he is benefited by the combined mercy of Kṛṣṇa and guru. That is stated by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in His instructions to RūpaGosvāmī. (Cc.Madhya 19.151)

brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja

The seed of devotional service fructifies and becomes a transcendental creeper. Finally it reaches the lotus feet of the Lord in the spiritual sky. This seed is obtained by the mercy of the Lord and the guru. By the Lord’s mercy one gets the association of a bona fideguru, and by the mercy of the guru, one gets a chance to render devotional service. Devotional service, the science of bhakti-yoga,carries one from this material world to the spiritual world.

Everyone was astonished to see the decorations on the Ratha car. The car appeared to be newly made of gold, and it was as high as Mount Sumeru.

In the year 1973 there was a gorgeous Ratha-yātrā festival in London, England, and the car was brought to Trafalgar Square. The London daily newspaper the Guardian published a front-page photo caption: “ISKCON Ratha-yātrā is rival to the Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square.” The Nelson Column is a very impressive statue of Lord Nelson and can be seen from a good distance. Just as the residents of Purī compared the Ratha-yātrā car to Mount Sumeru, the residents of London considered the car rival to the Nelson Monument.

The decorations included bright mirrors and hundreds and hundreds of cāmaras [white whisks made of yak tails]. On top of the car were a neat and clean canopy and very beautiful flag.

The car was also decorated with silken cloth and various pictures. Many brass bells, gongs and ankle bells rang.

For the pastimes of the Ratha-yātrā ceremony, Lord Jagannātha got aboard one car, and His sister, Subhadrā, and elder brother, Balarāma, got aboard two other cars.

For fifteen days the Lord had remained in a secluded place with the supreme goddess of fortune and had performed His pastimes with her.

The fifteen-day period of anavasara is also called nibhṛta, in honor of the solitary place where the supreme goddess of fortune lives. After living there a fortnight, Lord Jagannātha took permission from the goddess of fortune to leave.

Having taken permission from the goddess of fortune, the Lord came out to ride on the Ratha car and perform His pastimes for the pleasure of the devotees.

In this connection, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura comments that as an ideal husband, Lord Jagannātha remained fifteen days in a secluded place with His wife, the supreme goddess of fortune. Nonetheless, the Lord wanted to come out of seclusion to give happiness to His devotees. The Lord enjoys Himself in two ways, known as svakīya and parakīya. The Lord’s conjugal love in thesvakīya-rasa relates to the regulative principles observed in Dvārakā. There the Lord has many married queens, but in Vṛndāvana the conjugal love of the Lord is not with His married wives but with His girl friends, the gopīs. Conjugal love with the gopīs is called parakīya-rasa. Lord Jagannātha leaves the secluded place where He enjoys the company of the supreme goddess of fortune in svakīya-rasa, and He goes to Vṛndāvana where He enjoys the parakīya-rasa.Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura therefore reminds us that the Lord’s pleasure in parakīya-rasa is superior to His pleasure in svakīya-rasa.

In the material world, parakīya-rasa, or loving affairs with unmarried girl friends, is a most degraded relationship, but in the spiritual world this type of loving affair is considered the supreme enjoyment. In the material world everything is but a reflection of the spiritual world, and that reflection is perverted. We cannot understand the affairs of the spiritual world on the basis of our experience in the material world. The Lord’s pastimes with the gopīs are therefore misunderstood by mundane scholars and word-wranglers. The parakīya-rasa of the spiritual world should not be discussed except by one who is very advanced in pure devotional service. The parakīya-rasa in the spiritual world and that in the material world are not comparable. The former is like gold, and the latter is like iron. Because the difference between the two is so great, they cannot actually be compared. However, one can easily distinguish the value of gold by seeing the value of iron. One who has the proper realization can easily distinguish the transcendental activities of the spiritual world from material activities.

The fine, white sand spread all over the path resembled the bank of the Yamunā, and the small gardens on both sides looked just like those in Vṛndāvana.

As Lord Jagannātha rode in His car and saw the beauty on both sides, His mind was filled with pleasure.

The pullers of the car were known as gauḍas, and they pulled with great pleasure. However, the car sometimes went very fast and sometimes very slow.

Sometimes the car would stand still and not move, even though it was pulled very vigorously. The chariot therefore moved by the will of the Lord, not by the strength of any ordinary person.

As the car stood still, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu gathered all His devotees and, with His own hand, decorated them with flower garlands and sandalwood pulp.

Paramānanda Purī and Brahmānanda Bhāratī were both personally given garlands and sandalwood pulp from the very hands of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. This increased their transcendental pleasure.

Similarly, when Advaita Ācārya and Nityānanda Prabhu felt the touch of the transcendental hand of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, They were both very pleased.

The Lord also gave garlands and sandalwood pulp to the performers of saṅkīrtana. The chief two performers were Svarūpa Dāmodara and Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura.

There were altogether four parties of kīrtana performers, comprising twenty-four chanters. In each party there were also two mṛdaṅga players, making an additional eight persons.

When the four parties were formed, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, after some consideration, divided the chanters.

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu ordered Nityānanda Prabhu, Advaita Ācārya, Haridāsa Ṭhākura and Vakreśvara Paṇḍita to dance in each of the four respective parties.

Svarūpa Dāmodara was chosen as the leader of the first party and was given five assistants to respond to his chanting.

The five who responded to the singing of Svarūpa Dāmodara were Dāmodara Paṇḍita, Nārāyaṇa, Govinda Datta, Rāghava Paṇḍita and Śrī Govindānanda.

Advaita Ācārya Prabhu was ordered to dance in the first group. The Lord then formed another group with Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura as the chief man.

In the first group, Dāmodara Svarūpa was appointed chief singer, and the responding singers were Dāmodara Paṇḍita, Nārāyaṇa, Govinda Datta, Rāghava Paṇḍita and Govindānanda. Śrī Advaita Ācārya was appointed as a dancer. The next group was formed, and the chief singer was Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura.

The five singers who responded to the singing of Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura were Gaṅgādāsa, Haridāsa, Śrīmān, Śubhānanda and Śrī Rāma Paṇḍita. Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu was appointed as a dancer.

Another group was formed consisting of Vāsudeva, Gopīnātha, and Murāri. All these were responsive singers, and Mukunda was the chief singer.

Another two persons, Śrīkānta and Vallabha Sena, joined as responsive singers. In this group, Haridāsa Ṭhākura [the senior] was the dancer.

In the third group, Mukunda was appointed the chief singer. This party was composed of Vāsudeva, Gopīnātha, Murāri, Śrīkānta and Vallabha Sena. The senior Haridāsa Ṭhākura was the dancer.

The Lord formed another group, appointing Govinda Ghosh as leader. In this group the younger Haridāsa, Viṣṇudāsa and Rāghava were the responding singers.

Two brothers named Mādhava Ghosh and Vāsudeva Ghosh also joined this group as responsive singers. Vakreśvara Paṇḍita was the dancer.

There was a saṅkīrtana party from the village known as Kulīna-grāma, and Rāmānanda and Satyarāja were appointed the dancers in this group.

There was another party that came from Śāntipura and was formed by Advaita Ācārya. Acyutānanda was the dancer, and the rest of the men were singers.

Another party was formed by the people of Khaṇḍa. These people were singing in a different place. In that group, Narahari Prabhu and Raghunandana were dancing.

Four parties chanted and danced in front of Lord Jagannātha, and on both sides were two other parties. Another was at the rear.

There were altogether seven parties of saṅkīrtana, and in each party two men were beating drums. Thus fourteen drums were being played at once. The sound was tumultuous, and all the devotees became mad.

All the Vaiṣṇavas came together like an assembly of clouds. As the devotees chanted the holy names, tears fell in great ecstasy like rainfall from their eyes.

When the saṅkīrtana resounded, it filled the three worlds. Indeed, no one could hear mundane sounds or musical instruments other than the saṅkīrtana.

Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu wandered through all seven groups chanting the holy name,“Hari, Hari!” Raising His arms, He shouted, “All glories to Lord Jagannātha!”

Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu then exhibited another mystic power by performing pastimes simultaneously in all seven groups.

Everyone said, “Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu is present in my group. Indeed, He does not go anywhere else. He is bestowing His mercy upon us.”

Actually, no one could see the inconceivable potency of the Lord. Only the most confidential devotees, those in pure, unalloyed devotional service, could understand.

Lord Jagannātha was very pleased by the saṅkīrtana, and He brought His car to a standstill just to see the performance.

King Pratāparudra also was astonished to see the saṅkīrtana. He became inactive and was converted to ecstatic love of Kṛṣṇa.

When the King informed Kāśī Miśra of the glories of the Lord, Kāśī Miśra replied,“O King, your fortune has no limit!”

The King and Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya were both aware of the Lord’s activities, but no one else could see the tricks of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

Only a person who has received the mercy of the Lord can understand. Without the Lord’s mercy, even the demigods, headed by Lord Brahmā, cannot understand.

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was very satisfied to see the King accept the menial task of sweeping the street, and for this humility, the King received the mercy of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He could therefore observe the mystery of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s activities.

The mystery of the Lord’s activities is described by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. Lord Jagannātha was astonished to see the transcendental dancing and chanting of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and He stopped His car just to see the dancing. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu then danced in such a mystical way that He pleased Lord Jagannātha. The seer and the dancer were one and the same Supreme Person, but the Lord, being one and many at the same time, was exhibiting the variegatedness of His pastimes. This is the meaning behind His mysterious exhibition. By the mercy of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the King could understand how both of Them were enjoying each other’s activities. Another mysterious exhibition was Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s simultaneous presence in seven groups. By the mercy of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the King could understand that also.

Although the King was refused an interview, he was indirectly bestowed causeless mercy. Who can understand the internal potency of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu?

As Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was playing the part of a world teacher, He did not agree to see the King because a king is a mundane person interested in money and women. Indeed, the very name “king” suggests one who is always surrounded by money and women. As asannyāsī, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was afraid of both money and women. The very word “king” is repugnant to one who is in the renounced order of life. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu refused to see the King, but indirectly, by the Lord’s causeless mercy, the King was able to understand the Lord’s mysterious activities. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s activities were exhibited sometimes to reveal Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and sometimes to show Him as a devotee. Both kinds of activity are mysterious and appreciated only by pure devotees.

When the two great personalities Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya and Kāśī Miśra saw Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s causeless mercy upon the King, they were astonished.

Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu performed His pastimes for some time in this way. He personally sang and induced His personal associates to dance.

According to His need, the Lord sometimes exhibited one form and sometimes many. This was being executed by His internal potency.

Indeed, the Personality of Godhead forgot Himself in the course of His transcendental pastimes, but His internal potency [līlā-śakti], knowing the intentions of the Lord, made all arrangements.

It is stated in the Upaniṣads:
parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate
svābhāvikī jñāna-bala-kriyā ca

“The Supreme Lord has multi-potencies which act so perfectly that all consciousness, strength and activity are being directed solely by His will.” (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.8)

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu exhibited His mystic power in presenting Himself simultaneously in each and every saṅkīrtana group. Most people thought that He was one, but some saw that He was many. The internal devotees could understand that the Lord, although one, was exhibiting Himself as many in the different saṅkīrtana groups. When Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu danced, He forgot Himself and was simply absorbed in ecstatic bliss. However, His internal potency arranged everything perfectly. This is the difference between the internal and external potency. In the material world, the external potency (material energy) can act only after one endeavors at great length, but when the Supreme Lord desires, everything is performed automatically by the internal potency. By His will, things happen so nicely and perfectly that they appear to be carried out automatically. Sometimes the activities of the internal potency are exhibited in the material world. In fact, all the activities of material nature are actually performed by the inconceivable energies of the Lord, but so-called scientists and students of material nature are unable to understand ultimately how things are happening. They evasively conclude that everything is being done by nature, but they do not know that behind nature is the potent Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is explained inBhagavad-gītā:

mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ
sūyate sa-carācaram
hetunānena kaunteya
jagad viparivartate

“This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kuntī, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” (Bg. 9.10)

Just as Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa formerly performed the rāsa-līlā dance and other pastimes at Vṛndāvana, Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu performed uncommon pastimes moment after moment.

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s dancing before the Ratha-yātrā car could be perceived only by pure devotees. Others could not understand. Descriptions of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s uncommon dancing can be found in the revealed scripture Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.

Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa expanded Himself into many forms while engaged in the rāsa-līlā dance, and He also expanded Himself when He married 16,000 wives in Dvārakā. The same process was adopted by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu when He expanded Himself into seven forms to dance in each and every group of the saṅkīrtana party. These expansions were appreciated by pure devotees, including King Pratāparudra. Although for reasons of external formality Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu refused to see King Pratāparudra because he was a king, King Pratāparudra became one of the Lord’s most confidential devotees by the Lord’s special mercy upon Him. The King could see Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu simultaneously present in all seven groups. As confirmed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, one cannot see the expansions of the transcendental forms of the Lord unless one is a pure devotee of the Lord.

In this way Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu danced in great jubilation and inundated all the people with waves of ecstatic love.

Thus Lord Jagannātha mounted His car, and Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu inspired all His devotees to dance in front of it.

Translations and Purports Pasted from: Causless Mercy

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