This August 1st to 5th, youth at ISKCON’s headquarters in Mayapur, India organized Julan-Yatra, a traditional swing festival described by the poet Kavi Karnapura as “The perfect object of meditation for those desiring a taste of devotion.”
At 4:45pm on the first day of the festival, devotees carried small forms of Mayapur’s larger Radha-Madhava deities in procession to a lake on the property. Thousands of colorful lights illuminated the lake, and in its center—connected to the mainland by a bridge—was a pavilion bedecked with winding flower vines. On it was a large crystal swing, profusely decorated with flowers, upon which the devotees set Radha-Madhava.
The deities remained there until 8:30pm, as devotees chanted songs in their praise, fanned them with peacock feather and yak-tail fans, offered lamps, and took turns swinging them. At 8:30pm, they were returned to their temple, and the chanting continued.
On each day of the event, Radha-Madhava were offered different dress outfits made entirely from flowers by women and children from the local community. Each day, different devotees lead the chanting. And each day, thanks to kind donors, prasadam food was served to all.
A special treat was reserved for the fourth day of the festival, when the deities were offered a beautiful outfit made from peacock feathers.
The last day of Jhulan Yatra, however, was the grand finale and the most elaborate. The appearance day of Lord Balarama—Krishna’s elder brother and a source of spiritual strength for Vaishnavas—was celebrated on the same day, and many more devotees crowded onto the lake pavilion.
Alongside the swing festival, youth organized a traditional Balarama’s appearance day game for the community’s children: each child donned a blindfold and got the chance to try and break a hanging “honey pot” with a stick. The game is a re-enactment of Krishna and Balarama’s childhood games, focusing on Balarama’s famous love for honey. To avoid the sticky mess of real honey, however, the pot was filled with laddhus and other Indian sweets instead.
As darkness descended, the festival came to a close, and a gorgeous firework display lit up the night sky.
As well as Mayapur residents, devotees around the world also had a chance to participate in the festival and its meditation of loving devotion to God, as the entire five-day event was broadcast live on Mayapur.tv.