One of the most popular events in the holy town of Vrindavan,India – where Lord Krishna appeared 5,000 years ago – is the celebration of Jhulan Yatra, the Radha-Krishnaswingfestival. In Vrindavan among the local villagers and inhabitantsthis festival lasts for 13 days. In Vrindavan this is one of thebiggest festivals of the year and Vrindavana is very crowded atthis time, literally hundreds of thousands of people fromsurrounding towns and villages visit Vrindavan over this period inthe auspicious sacred month of Shravana (July-Aug). Opulence orsimplicity, but often the swings are made of gold or silver.
In Sri Vrindavan for five days, in many of the 5000 temples there,the small Utsav-vighraha functional Deities (Vijay-utsav bera) aretaken from the altar and placed on an elaborately decorated swingin the temple room. After receiving the traditional arati worship,the Deities are pushed on Their swing. Membersof the congregationare invited to participate. Each person offers flower petals andpersonal prayers, and then pushes the swing several times as theother members chant Hare Krishna, Jaya Radhe Jaya KrishnajayaVrindavan, or Jaya Radhe, Jaya Jaya Madhava dayite in kirtan. Theatmosphere of this festival is especially sweet as everyone has thechance to intimately serve Radha and Krishna.
The same festival is observed in other parts of India too in thissacred month of Shravana. For example in Jagannath Puri, for thepleasure of Lord Jagannath’s utsav vighraha (Madan-mohan ji, thisfestival is celebrated from Shravana Shukla Dashami (10thTithi/phase of the Moon of the light fortnight) until Pratipada(1st tithi of the dark), a period of seven days. Sri Madanmohan,Jagannath’s representative deity (vijay utsav), as well as Laxmiand Vishwadhatri are placed on a decorative wooden swing onMuktimandap (Jhulanmandap). There, worshippers have a chance toswing the Lord, thus entering into His pastimes. On the day of thefull moon (Gamha Purnima or Jhulan Purnima), Lord Balabhadra’sappearance day is celebrated.
In Vrindavan it starts on the Tritya (third day) of the brightfortnight of Shravana and lasts until the full moon night of themonth. During this festival the Radha-Krishna Deities in thetemples are swung on aswing. Some of the main temples that thisfestival is celebrated at are the Banke Bihari Temple and theRadha-Raman Temple in Vrindavana, the Dwarkadish temple in Mathura,and the Larily Lal Temple in Varsana.
In our Iskcon temples we observe for five days in accordance withSrila Prabhupada’s instructions. So whether one observes for thefour days or for the seven, or thirteen days, the same festival isput on for the pleasure of the Lord and His loving associates.
This is a wonderful ceremonial function of Lord Krishna’s pastimesthat reflects practically how we are to render service to the Lordfor His pleasure.
At the time of the Jhulan Yatra festival it is Monsoon in India andthe air is thick, heavy and humid with the heat and the rains. Inthe midst of the rainy season, when fields and jungle have turnedshades of lush green and flowers are blossoming all around, thefestival of Hariyali Teej is celebrated.
These festivals are not in any way mere rituals, as they all havepractical service functionality to invoke loving servitude of thedevotees for the Lord. Lord Sri Krishna is the Supreme enjoyer anddoesn’t have to work hard like us in this world. Everything He doesis pleasurable, and He organises many situation in which He canincorporate us, His separated parts and parcels into His lovingservice which is our natural condition in the spiritual realm.
When Sri Krishna had his pastimes in rural Vrindavan with Hiscowherd friends together they lovingly tended the cows, andwandered in the pastures playing, frolicking, and feasting.Throughout the various seasons they all continuously enjoyed beingpart of Sri Krishna’s pastimes, and rendering loving service to Himas best they could.
Over the past few months as the climate had changed from VasantPanchami (Spring festival) where everyone dresses in yellow andgoes to the fields, performs fertility rites, and plants new crops,etc.) to Dola Purnima where scented powders and flowers are thrownon the body of the Lord playfully, and singing and dancing goes onfor His pleasure. Similarly all the other different festivals wereobserved where the friends of Lord Krishna would look after Hisexpress comforts or pleasure, go to the forest with Him, serve Himand have fun.
As the temperature rises toward Summer the Chandan Yatra isperformed where from the Akshaya Tritiya for a period of 21 daysthe body of the Lord is anointed with scented sandalwood mixed withcamphor, musk, saffron. As the sandalwood is applied to the body itimmediately cools, but then there is a natural cycle that alsofollows with the heat naturally there is some perspiration, and asthe perspiration again mixes with the sandalwood it is dried andcooled by even the slightest breeze creating a pleasant feelinglike being covered with Talcum powder.
However, as the temperature increases just to be anointed withsomething cooling is not enough therefore on (or from for somesampradayas or temples) the Snan Purnima in the month of Jyestha(Trivikram Vaishnava mase) there is the ceremonial bathing of theLord called Snan Yatra. Although it has become especially festivein Jagannath Puri the actual event originates in Vrindavana withthe devotees bathing Krishna, and Balaram for their pleasure andthen taking bath themselves too. Actually at this time there is noother solace than to bathe in some kind of pleasing water. All thetemples of Vrindavan follow this festival, and many devotees followa trail of pilgrimage from one temple to the next from earlymorning to late evening when the temperature lowers to about 35-40degrees centigrade absorbed in the Snan rasa.
The next major interactive event is Rathyatra where the devoteessymbolically bring Lord Krishna(Jagannath) His brother Balaram andSubhadra maharani on high chariots, with beautiful flappingcanopies, back to rural Vrindavan after their spell inKurukshetra.
After this comes the Jhulan Yatra festival. Starting on the ekadasiof waxing moon of Sridhara month, many temples in Vrndavanacelebrate Krsna’s swing festival, some for one day, others for moredays. Traditionally many of the Deities of the Lord wears variousclothing with green in it over this period until the BalaramPurnima. Again it is a practical festive service that the devoteesprovide for the Lord. Monsoon is so humid, and the temperature isstill so hot despite the cooling rains. With so much water comingfrom the sky, on the ground, and just about everywhere the lastthing that anyone wants is more water to cool off. The opulence atthis time is to find a breeze, as the air is heavy with thehumidity of the rains. So the devotees arrange for the pleasure andsatisfaction of Krishna, Balaram, and Srimati Radhika by placingthem on a swing (Jhulan) and creating their own breeze from themotion.
It is a most pleasing and satisfying festival, with the swingsoften highly decorated with forest creepers, Jasmine (Malati) thathas newly blossomed in the season, and streamers of garlands.Sometimes they use a fine spray of rose water and direct it towardthe Divine couple of Radha and Krishna on Their swing.
Today in Iskcon temples all over the world by the mercy of his Divine Grace SrilaA.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad all the devotees and thecongregational members get the opportunity to come forward afterpurifying their hands and remember these loving interactions of SriKrishna with His devotees, and also assist in the direct personal service of the Lord by applying themselves topushing the swing.
On the last day of the Jhulan, on the Purnima (full moon)this comes Lord Balaram’s appearance day festival.
“Regarding Jhulanayatra Ceremony, during these five days theDeities’ clothing should be changed everyday, and there should benice Prasadam distribution and Sankirtana as far as possible. Ifyou are able to do it, a nice throne may be constructed on whichthe Deities can be placed. This throne may be swung gently duringKirtana. That will be very good, and surely the Deities will enjoythe function.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.1st August.1969. Letter to Jayapataka Swami. Letters book pg. 977.)
“So we have to practice this Krsna consciousness. Here, in thismaterial world, we have to work. Without work, you cannot maintaineven your family, your body. That is not possible. Sarira-yatrapite na prasiddhyed akarmana-. Krsna says (to) Arjuna that withoutkarma you cannot maintain even your body. So you have to work.Sarira-yatrapi te na prasiddhyed akarmana-. And this material worldmeans you have to maintain by working. And spiritual world means natasya karyam karanam ca vidyate. There is nothing to work, as Krsnahas nothing to work. He is simply enjoying What is called? Swing.So Krsna is enjoying, and Krsna’s associates are enjoying. Theyhave nothing to work. That is spiritual world. Cintamani prakarasadmasu kalpa vrksa: that is a different world. There is nomaterial body. Therefore there is no need of the material body.That is a different world. But in this material world we have towork. Trt’ya-karma-samj