The Car Festival of Sri Sri Jagannath Deva

The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)
July 1930

THE Car Festival of Sri Sri Jagannath Deva was celebrated on the 28th of June. It proved to be a day of heavy rain. The devotees of Sri Purushottam Math in pursuance of the example and teaching of Sri Chaitanya Deva performed the due observance of the auspicious occasion by the chanting of Kirtan in front of the moving Car of Sri Sri Jagannath Deva. The Kirtan party was led by His Holiness Tridandi Swami Srimad Bhakti Vivek Bharati Maharaj who towered head and shoulders above the vast assemblage of pilgrims and whose moving and sonorous voice reached every ear. His Holiness sang the verses of the Chaitanya Charitamrita. These verses were made by Shri Swarup Damodar on the occasion when Shri Chaitanya Deva instituted the chant before the Car, to express the thoughts of the Lord Himself in regard to the function. The words of Swarup Goswami should be appreciated by our readers in the original in the pages of Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita. No translation can do them justice. It is my intention to submit for the sympathetic consideration of devotees certain thoughts suggested by those verses as to how Sri Chaitanya requires us to regard the Car festival.

Sri Chaitanya is delighted to find Sri Jagannath Deva on the move in His Car from Neelachal to Sri Gundicha. Sri Chaitanya is not satisfied with the dress, the country or the occupation of the Lord at Neelachal. The worship of Sri Jagannath Deva at Neelachal does not satisfy Him, At Neelachal the Lord is surrounded by pomp and power. He is served by kings and warriors in the manner that is appropriate in such surrounding. But it leaves the heart bereft of the service of its Beloved.

Sri Chaitanya wants the Lord to appear in His heart and accept the worship of His heart which is obstructed by the display of the Majesty of the Lord of the Universe. Sri Chaitanya wants to worship the Lord, as the denizens of Braja worshipped Him, in perfect confidence in the ordinary relationships of life. That would be natural and far more congenial to the innermost disposition of the heart.

But the Lord is His own Master. He is also the Lord of the Universe. He can, indeed, be loved with the whole heart. He is so perfectly loveable that is not possible not to love Him. But it is not similarly possible to have Him always sufficiently near for the purpose of serving Him in the intimate relationships of domestic life. But the heart is not satisfied by rendering only distant homage to the King of Kings, Who can be properly approached only by the formalities of reverence. The King as King has no equals and no superiors. He can have only subjects. There can be for this reason no unreserved intimacy between the King and His subjects. The very atmosphere is unsuitable for the exercise of the personal relationships. The Office is the object of all homage rendered ostensibly to the Person Who holds it. The person in office can have no individual requirements or predilections. He has also to submit to be served by a uniform round of official formalities.

At Neelachal Sri Jagannath is hedged round by all the impassable barriers of an elaborate and formal worship from day to day. He is not permitted to be served according to the particular aptitudes of particular persons. It is of the nature of obedience extorted by force. The people of this world would not even serve their Lord unless they were forced. They are inclined to serve the Lord in expectation of rewards and through fear of punishment. Such persons have no occasion to be dissatisfied with such arrangement. The contented subjects of the Great King of Kings live in perfect peace and happiness under His most benign government. They are secure in the enjoyment of all felicity under the protecting care of the Lord. They have reason to be extremely grateful to Him for this and to adore Him with sincere good will, loyalty and obedience. The power of the Lord is so great and so irresistible that even the most wicked find it convenient not to openly transgress His laws.

But these subjects have other and dearer relationships of their own. In fact they really serve the king only for the sake of those relationships. The King is loved as the protector of those interests. The King Himself is not those interests. No one of His subjects ever seriously wants the King to be a member of His family. He is not sufficiently known to them to inspire such longing for His inclusion into the domestic circle. Moreover the King would be uncomfortable in the home of a subject who cannot be expected to supply his royal needs with his limited resources. A loyal subject would not, therefore, properly enough like to see the King reduced to his own less dignified condition. So the very arrangement does not permit of any other healthy relationship than one of distant and reverential loyal homage. Neither can a perfectly loyal subject properly desire any other kind of relationship.

Sri Chaitanya is prepared also to render all this homage to the King. But He is not satisfied with this, He is willing to have the Lord in His home in order to serve Him in the ordinary domestic relationships unobstructed by the etiquettes of the Court or the Harem. He finds it impossible to be on a footing of such real intimacy with the Lord when He is constantly waited upon by Kings and Warriors, Queens and Maids-in-waiting, and by all the pomp and circumstances of Royalty. These are no doubt His due and those people are most fortunate who have an opportunity of serving such a King. Neither do the denizens of Braja resent the assumption of the royal state by their Beloved Who has to ignore His relationships with them for the purpose.

But the denizens of Braja can never forget Him. They also cannot leave Braja and migrate to His Kingdom to live there as His contented subjects. They long very much to have Him in their midst in Braja to live with them in unreserved intimacy in that happy rural surrounding. They want to love Him as a private person in every form of intimate relationship and not merely to serve His Majesty. They can be content with nothing less than this, because He is truly the Life of their very lives.

Sri Chaitanya is, therefore, delighted when He finds the Lord moving towards Sri Gundicha which is no other than the heart of the devotee.