Submitted by Prahlada, with additions from Radha Madhava and Madhuha
On Saturday May 24, early in the morning we arrived in downtown Baltimore. It was Memorial Day weekend and downtown Baltimore was packed. Immediately upon arrival, we started setting up. By 9:00 am the tent frames were all assembled, and we took a short break to honor Ekadashi Krishna Prasadam. After honoring the wonderful Krishna Prasadam, we resumed our devotional service. By Krishna's causeless mercy and all the devotees hard work, we finished setting everything up on time. Upon completion of the setup many curious residents and tourists arrived at the festival site and saw the beautiful displays: “Who Is Prabhupada”; “The Science of Reincarnation”; “Vegetarianism—The Higher Tatste”; “The Illustrated Bhagavad-Gita”; and the world famous crowd-stopping diorama—“Changing Bodies”. Hare Krishna.
Even though all the devotees were completely exhausted from working all day, they performed a wonderful Kirtan. Many people joined in And participated in the Hare Krishna Kirtan by chanting, clapping, and dancing in ecstasy! During the Kirtan devotees passed out Srila Prabhupada's transcendental books, Japa Meditation Kits, and invitations to the Ratha-yatra. After a wonderful day, we were all eager to experience more-of-the-bliss, that the next day of this festival will hold!
On Sunday May 25, devotees were busy getting things ready for the main festival. Many Matajis were decorating Festival of India’s new High Peak Tent, that Lord Jagannatha Lady Subhadra and Lord Balarama would come to, after Their parade through downtown Baltimore, with fresh flowers and painting auspicious decorations on the ground around the festival site. Other devotees were preparing to serve prasadam for 20,000 plus people.
We finished, just in time for the Ratha-yatra! The Ratha-yatra cart was nicely decorated with balloons and fresh flower garlands. At around 12:30 pm Lord Jagannatha Lord Baladeva Lady Subhadra and Sri Sudarshana arrived. We all felt very fortunate to get their amazing darshan! After their arrival the pujaris did an arotik ceremony to Their Lordships and then, by the grace of Lord Jagannatha the parade started. During the parade we noticed that the Mrdangas and Kartals could be heard from many blocks away! Upon arrival at the parade we all joined the Kirtan! While we went down Baltimore's Light St many marveled at the Lord's beautiful smile, the gigantic Ratha-yatra Cart, being pulled by thousands of devotees and the wonderful Hare Krishna Kirtana. People loved the Ratha-yatra parade, many people waved, some people joined in pulling the cart, some people joined the Kirtan, clapped and spontaneously danced in ecstasy! Hare Krishna! At around 2:30pm the parade ended at Waterfront Park where Festival of India’s beautiful multi-colored tents filled with exhilarating exhibits were setup. It was an oasis of mystical Vedic culture in the materialistic concrete jungle called downtown Baltimore. Around the festival site hundreds of people were reading Festival of India’s exhibits presenting the deep and rich science of Krishna consciousness, as Srila Prabhupada has left for all of us in his transcendental books. One could also find many booths selling Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental books; a “Questions and Answers” booth, a “Henna and Face Painting” booth and a “Childrens Theater” booth. There were also several booths serving very opulent prasadam, rice, curd subji, halava, and puris! Sri Krishna Maha-Prasadam Ki Jaya! On the main stage devotees chanted the Holy Names of the Lord: Hare Krishna, in ecstatic Kirtans, classical Indian dances and drama depicting Lord Krishna's lilas. At around 7:00 pm the festival started winding down. This festival was the 12th annual Ratha-yatra in downtown Baltimore and each year it just keeps getting better and better! All glories to the Devotees at ISKCON Baltimore for putting on such a wonderful festival and also for inviting Festival Of India. I would like to thank ISKCON Baltimore's temple president H.G Nila Madhava Prabhu for all his help and expert guidance. I would also like to thank all of our friends from the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area who helped us set up and take down.
Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada