“Regarding Jhulan Yatra Ceremony, during these five days the Deities’ clothing should be changed every day, and there should be nice prasadam distribution and sankirtana as far as possible. If you are able to do it, a nice throne may be constructed on which the Deities can be placed. This throne may be swung gently during kirtana. That will be very good, and surely the Deities will enjoy the function.”
– Letter to Jayapataka, Los Angeles, 1 August 1969
For the last 33 years, an enthusiastic group of ISKCON Youth has worked together each year for an entire month before the annual Jhulan Yatra festival in Mayapur. In order to prepare for the festivities, these dedicated servants of Sri Sri Radha Madhava work day and night to ensure that the Divine Couple and Their associates will be well served during the 5 day festival.
The Jhulan Yatra team turn a dense forest of weeds and overgrown trees and plants into a magnificent flower grove decorated with winding pathways lit by lamps and fairy lights, colourfully lit waterfalls and ponds with fountains, blossoming flowers, trimmed bushes and multi-coloured lights. The breath-taking marvel of the grove is accompanied by an atmosphere surcharged with the boundless love and devotion of the Lord’s devotees, making it the perfect place for Their Lordships to enjoy many wonderful pastimes together and to engage the devotees in Their loving devotional service.
Every afternoon for the duration of the festival, a small group of devotees decorate a beautiful palanquin to transport Sri Sri Radha Madhava to Their flower laden bower for Their evening pastimes. It is also during this time that a different group of devotees make a brand new outfit for Their Lordships to wear when They go out for Their evening rendezvous. These outfits are made entirely of flowers, and decorated with peacock feathers and multi-coloured pearls and gems.
When Sri Sri Radha Madhava have donned Their flower outfits, They head out from the Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir on a beautifully decorated palanquin to Their secluded kunja, which is located near the ISKCON Mayapur Goshala. The Divine Couple are taken with a grand procession, led by blissful singing and dancing. As soon as They arrive, Their Lordships are greeted with the auspicious ululating sounds of the women, punctuated with the loud chants of “Jai!” and “Haribol!” from the remaining devotees assembled there.
Once Sri Madhava and Srimati Radhika are comfortably seated on Their jewel-encrusted throne, They are given a wonderful reception and are offered various refreshments. Devotees eagerly wait in long lines to get the opportunity to swing Their Lordships, and once the reception is done, devotees immediately rush in to swing the Lord of their hearts. All throughout the festival, delicious prasadam is served to the devotees who have finished swinging the Lord.
For the duration of Sri Sri Radha Madhava’s swinging pastimes, Their devotees worship Them with many sweet songs of glorification written by our previous acharyas, such as Srila Rupa Goswami, Krishna Das, Bhaktivinoda Thakura and others. The Lord is also entertained by a range of dances and dramatic re-enactments of various pastimes, all performed by the devotees for the pleasure of Their Lordships and Their devotees.
The last day of the Jhulan Yatra festival is the auspicious appearance day of Sri Madhava’s elder brother, Balarama, and is known as Balarama Purnima. On this day, the devotees are decorated with colourful powders and decorate others in the same way. To celebrate, the devotees take part in the breaking of clay pots filled with honey, gur and various types of sweets, while Lord Balarama’s favourite varuni drink is served throughout the night.
To conclude the night’s festivities, Sri Sri Radha Madhava are mounted on Their beautifully decorated palanquin and are taken to a small pukur, or pond, close to the entrance of Their kunja, and enjoy a display of lights on the water. Once the light show is finished, the Lord is then taken back to the temple, and is greeted with more displays of lights on the road, accompanied by the dramatic exhibition of devotees breathing fire. The procession is ecstatically tumultuous and is heard in all directions.
During the Jhulan Yatra festival, Their Lordships show Their mercy by engaging in many wonderful loving pastimes with Their devotees, and allow these devotees to intimately serve and express their love for Them through the medium of their prayers, home cooked offerings, songs, lamp offerings, dances and showers of flowers.