This last weekend was Ratha Yatra in Toronto and it was incredible. There are thousands of pictures that will be floating on Facebook as well as on other posts. Just wanted to post a loud "Haribol!" and "Jaya Jagannatha" for the hundreds of devotees and volunteers that make this happen every year.
Whether it be the outside volunteers, the cooks, the cutter uppers, the servers, the kirtaneers, the chanters & dancers and the youth organizers to the performers, cleaner uppers, sankirtan warriors, booth staff and so many more, it was an incredible amount of service to please Srila Prabhupada and the Lord of the Universe, Lord Jagannatha. In addition, Madhua Prabhu as well as the ISKCON kids on the Krishna Culture Festival are a shining example of dedication and service to Srila Prabhupada. They are doing gruelling back to back service as they make their way to Thunder Bay an 18 hour plus drive from Toronto to set up for another Festival of India tomorrow.
All glories to all the devotees!
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
For the last 4 days we have been taking a look back at Ratha Yatra from a couple of decades back.
I am going to leave this post short since I am only in the office for a few hours today as many devotees are partaking in the pre-Ratha Yatra festival event today at Yonge Dundas Square in Toronto.
My sister Minakshi did manage to get this converted from a VHS video tape and uploaded on YouTube. There were 3 varieties of this commercial. A short one for quick commercials, a longer semi-infomercial style one which we uploaded and another longer version that gave the media some more background and video footage pertaining to the festival.
Just another quick look back...
We will wrap up the series tomorrow since the big day is on Saturday!
Thanks for letting us share some of these special memories as it has really gotten us into a Ratha Yatra mood.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada. Without his mercy there would not be a Ratha Yatra in Toronto.
Jaya Jagannatha! Jaya Baladev! Jaya Subhadra!
For the last 3 days we have been taking a walk down memory lane and sharing what Ratha Yatra became 20 years ago. It was a build up from the late 80's to the early 90's and 1992 was the last year my sister, Minakshi and I were involved in organizing Toronto Ratha Yatra.
On the first post we covered Ratha Yatra was stepped up to 3 carts with organized kirtans, active devotee involvement in the festivities and showcasing ISKCON's global presence. In the second post we showed the innovation of having floats to showcase cultural aspects of Festival of India along with core ISKCON activities which was backed up by books, prasadam and kirtan. Yesterday we posted about the festival on the island and concepts used to make folks comfortable and to learn as they strolled through the vedic village.
So in today's post, we are going to share some of the media/advertising components and an article which indicated some of the "results".
A unique aspect of the campaign was that we got a lot of pre-festival coverage and this was more important since it would drive the mainstream to come to Ratha Yatra. Some of the most memorable pre-festival coverage was:
~ The Toronto Star, Canada's largest circulation newspaper featuring a picture of Srila Prabhupada being "garlanded".
~ A CTV local affiliate (CFTO) taking television coverage of the carts being assembled and focusing on the giant wheels that would roll Lord Jagannatha down Yonge Street.
~ A live over the phone CBC radio interview from the "Festival of India kitchen" with recipe and quantity of halva being prepared was the topic the interviewer could not get over.
Pre-festival coverage was backed up with separate advertising campaigns. One targeted the "Indian" community and another targeted the "mainstream" public. Some highlights included:
~ A full page ad at the primary spot, the very back page of the Toronto Star. Ads also ran in the Toronto Sun and other smaller local newspapers.
~ A extended TV commercial which we are converting from VHS and should be able to post this week. This was used in very targeted campaigns and we cut a longer information video allowing media to take footage from there.
~ An Indian campaign that included plastering local events and temples along with advertising on their well viewed weekend morning TV shows.
Finally, it was important to get the media out the day of the event. Of course, we had newspaper coverage the next day but what was ecstatic was that all 3 of the major local channels of the time gave extensive coverage on the evening news. All I can remember is being totally exhausted that evening and trying to keep my eyes open and one after another we saw coverage of Lord Jagannatha's Ratha Yatra. The best part was CTV (CFTO) news anchor ending the broadcast saying something like 'we will leave you with the colours from today's Festival of India'.
Although exhausting those years still hold some of the best memories of serving vaishnavas and Srila Prabhupada's mission.
Jaya Jagannatha! Can't wait to see the Lord of the Universe on Saturday morning!
All glories to Srila Prabhupada! Without his mercy there would not be a Ratha Yatra in Toronto or other international locations across 6 continents. This picture along with an article appeared in the Toronto Star "A" section on Friday, July 17th, the day before Lord Jagannatha came out on the streets of Toronto.
This ad appeared on July 12, 1992 at the back of the entertainment section. When you opened up the overall newspaper it was the very back page. We finagled a deal at the last minute with a manager and this was designed in a few hours to meet the pressing timeline. It is still one of my favourite ads.(It is too big too scan so a bit of an angle shot).
This is a time when colour printing was expensive and things were not digital. (You needed camera ready art). The memorable item here was the a Muslim printer who I used in the past for business sat with us for hours and took all the printing orders. He kept insisting that we should print in larger volumes. When we asked how much, everything was no charge. This is how Lord Jagannatha opens everyone's heart and reminds us of the mercy of Namacarya Srila Haridas Thakur.
The article speaks for itself. The results were amazing. More and more people were getting exposed. The box is back at home now and I am in the office but I am going to take a look at what page 20 said but if memory is correct it talks about the 11 course prasadam feast to tens of thousands based on actual plate count and other island happenings.
Over the last 2 days we have been taking a walk down memory lane. On Saturday we posted pictures of Ratha Yatra from 20 years ago complete with the carts, kirtan parties and the display of ISKCON "Around the World". Yesterday we posted memories of how Vedic FLOATS were introduced displaying kirtan, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, traditional dance, Lord Rama and little Vaishnavas in costume.
So Ratha Yatra has to end at some point and in Toronto it ends when the world's longest road, Yonge Street meets Lake Ontario. So the parade ended there and then the rest of the weekend festivities were on the island. If you don't believe me, then check out Srila Prabhupada, Lord Jagannatha, Lord Baladev and Subhadra Maharani arriving in style on a yacht to bless the Island.
In tomorrow's post we will share some of the niche and main stream advertising we used. This along with a heavy PR/media campaign resulted in a lot of pre-festival hype and coverage including radio and television interviews as well as newspaper articles.
It not only resulted in many more people from the main stream public as well as Indian community coming to watch the "parade" but also many flooding the island. At that time we would have to cross a pedestrian bridge as we walked from the ferry to the spot. At the crescendo in 1992 there would be a sea of people crossing that bridge and entering through the "gateway" and then into the festival village. The concept would be that they could enjoy drama, kirtan or dance on one of 3 separate stages or explore the village complete with helpful tour guides at each tent.
Of course, much of the credit goes to Madhua Prabhu and the Festival of India team that has tirelessly done this service for decades as they tour North America and nicely display the philosophy and ISKCON.
For many years when Lord Jagannatha would arrive on the island They would sit on covered tables under a tent. One of the innovations was to build a temple for the Lordships which we did locally in Toronto. The darshan was enhanced with a constant havan as mantras and shenoy merged with kirtan.
The stages of course had HH Bhaktimarga Swami presenting dramas, various kirtaneers doing harinam and making the crowds ecstatic and then various dances and performers. Even Joanna Das, a popular performer even today at Ratha Yatra was performing 20 years ago. Her picture is below from an article we got in the Globe & Mail, a National newspaper in Canada.
The years are running into each other but one memorable year we had the troupe from Manipur at the festival under the leadership of HH Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami with devotees performing martial arts and synchronized mrdanga and kartal playing. Of course we always had some outside dignitaries say a few words praising Ratha Yatra. As the festival winded down on Sunday, we would have a "parade of saffron" where the 1/2 dozen plus sanyasis present would each say a few words before the final kirtan.
I only brought the 1992 box to the office and cracked it open and fishing for photos and clipping and scanning them as I go. I am sure there is a lot more in the other boxes as well as at New Remuna Dham.
I have not seen this stuff in 2 decades and it is great to be able to share this with other devotees...
Srila Prabhupada with Lord Jagannatha, Baladav and Subhadra arrive in style to the island.
The festival grounds. The village concept utilizing shade, trees, seating areas and different zones made it friendly to stroll and explore. Madhua Prabhu/Festival of India crew ki Jai!
Some of the beloved kids from ISKCON Toronto!
What is near and dear to Srila Prabhupada is near and dear to all of his followers. Our very own Janardan Prabhu doing book stall duty. Sankirtan yajna ki jai!
I was saving the articles and coverage for another post, but I had to throw this excerpt in. Of course we had extensive stage programs but this is unique since it bridges 20 years. The same Joanna Das continue to perform at Ratha Yatra and she will be there this year as well. This is her 20 years younger as covered in the Globe & Mail.
So in yesterday's post I started our trip down memory lane to share some nectar from 20 years ago.
The pictures focused on the actual Ratha Yatra carts. Before the late 80's and early 90's, many years, only 1 cart would be used for Ratha Yatra. During this period it consistently transformed to 3 carts rolling down Yonge Street with Jagannatha, Baladev and Subhadra. In addition there was a lot of focus on "populating each cart" and having organized and pleasant kirtan parties in the mood of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with nicely vaishnava attired devotees chanting, dancing and pulling each cart. In addition, there was a focus on creating a theme for each year as well as having banners identifying the procession, each cart and showcasing Srila Prabhupada's movement, ISKCON.
However, the idea was to take Ratha Yatra to the "next level" and further showcase ISKCON. So innovative Krishna Conscious FLOATS were introduced.
On one hand we wanted to show ISKCON core activities of harinam/kirtan, book distribution and prasadam distribution, thus floats displayed...
~ a Mahaprabhu float with Chaitanya Mahaprabu towering on the float with villagers from Navadvipa dancing
~ a Sankirtan float with Ajamil Prabhu and other kirtaneers doing bhajans and harinam as well as a "Globe" and books & languiages.
We backed up the float with real life book distribution as devotees dove into the crowds with pre-packed sankirtan bags and tousands upon thousands of mini zip bags with burfi and nuts with the maha mantra and festival info enclosed.
On the other hand, we wanted to display the cultural aspects of Festival of India and ISKCON. Thus floats displayed...
~ Live Bharata Natyam dance with a swan background
~ Ramayan complete with Lord Ram, Sita Maharani and of course Lakhsman and Hanuman with a forest background.
Last but by no means least, we had a Children's float. A colorful display of children in various vedic costumes sitting on a large tiered float. This was showing the importance of children in ISKCON. Althhough Minakshi and I did not have kids at the time, we felt it was very difficult for those little legs to walk the whole Ratha Yatra. This way we could show the children nicely and they were comfortable. We also ensured well hydrated and supervised.
My dad was very active in the fund raising aspect and we were blessed to meet really nice people. There was one company that we went to "rent" the flatbed trucks from. Instead of allowing us to rent them, he shut his business for the weekend and him, his sons and relatives were honoured to personally drive the trucks and the only thing they would accept in return was mahaprasadam. I still remember dhoti flying, walkie talkie in hand riding the outside board of their large truck cabs as they slowly made their way down Yonge Street.
We only have a few photos that kind devotees provided to us after the Ratha Yatra. The official photographs and memorabilia must be somewhere at New Remuna Dham...but this will give a nice flavour.
Through advertising and a media campaign the parade was made a core feature so people would line up and be enthralled with a nice procession before their eyes and then HE would come....Lord Jagannatha of course :-)
Thanks again for sharing with me as I look back 20 years ago. I am feeling much older now but for the record I am still in my 30's :-)
Live Bharat Natyam dance on Ratha Yatra floats on Yonge Street. Many performers were ISKCON Youth at that time.
Mahaprabhu rides the float as Navadvipa villagers dance on the float.
Swan dance. The floats were decorated. This one had a swan and lotus concept. Lord Ram's had a forest.
Each float had the cab and bed decorated. This was the children's float and thus the mainstream friendly clown face :-)
A bit blurry but devotee children in vedic dress and costumes on a tiered. cake relaxing as they make their way to the Harbour front.
I am excited that one week from today, Lord Jagannatha will be rolling down Yonge Street giving mercy to the folks of Toronto. I am also feeling a bit old coming to the realization that it has been a full 20 years since I organized Ratha Yatra with my sister, Minakshi, the rest of our family and the devotees of New Remuna Dham.
From the late 80's to the early 90's we were tasked with organizing Ratha Yatra for ISKCON Toronto. I was a teenager back then and since I graduated University when I was still a teen I was already running a company and travelling for business. But when summer would come along and a lot of that would have to ground to a halt and the focus would be all about Lord Jagannatha and how to please Srila Prabhupada.
So on this personal site, I would like to take a bit of a trip down memory lane and 20 years later share some pictures, articles, thoughts and maybe even a video, if we can transfer it from VHS (okay...now I am feeling really old. Some of the kids are probably saying, huh, what is VHS :-) We will share a few memories every day over the next few days...
Srila Prabhupada and Lord Jagannatha were very merciful to allow us to do this service and it gave us the chance to work very closely with HH Bhakitmarga Swami, Jagdish Goswami, Janardan Prabhu and so many other devotees.
Thank you for letting me share.
Lord Jagannatha on His chariot, looking down on the kirtan and chariot with horses that will alert Torontonians that "He is coming"
We had placards made shown some of the places where Srila Prabhupada's temples were established on every continent around the world. It had a definite impact on parade viewers, participants and the media. It also reminded devotees that we are part of Srila Prabhupada global family and he has indeed established the INTERNATIONAL society of Krishna Consciousness.
Organized kirtan was very important. In CC it is described how Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had organized kirtan parties around the Ratha Yatra carts in Jagannatha Puri. This is Subhadra Maharani's cart. Every cart was packed...
Just see Lord Jagannatha's devotees! These carts came from Philadelphia and we raised enough Laxmi to purchase them. These carts were from Devi Deva Prabhu, a pioneer of Ratha Yatra at New Remuna Dham who was influenced by Sriman Jayananda Prabhu himself.
This is not from the days of digital photography and thousands of shots. But just see how many devotees. One of the personal requests we would make was that not only were core devotees from in and out of town in Vaishnava dress but that they would not be skirting the sidewalks but rather dancing in front of the carts to show Srila Prabhupada how proud we are to be part of his family.
This is Jagdish Prabhu (then Goswami and GBC) who we were very close with and grew up knowing. He was astonished with what Ratha Yatra had become. In this shot Ramanada Roy Prabhu. In 1992 as we got off the ferry, he put his arm around me and showed the sea of people going over the bridge. He was astonished, but then asked will we have enough prasadam? Krishna made all the arrangements.
Festival of the Chariots. "ISKCON Around the World" was the theme of 1992, the last year we organized Ratha Yatra. 20 years is a big difference. My father with the bull horn, walking. The bull horn was given to him to lead RY years before by Jagdish Today he can hardly walk but is still at the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada, trying to serve Lord Jagannatha.