Monsoon Parade—Queens

Queens flag

The consolidated city of New York comprises five boroughs (each a county): Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. Among these, the borough of Queens is blessed with The Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma Mandir, which stands in the neighborhood of Richmond Hill.

“Queens County,” we learn, “is one of the most ethnically diverse areas on earth. There are over 130 different languages spoken by its citizens, and in many neighborhoods hearing English is rare.” Richmond Hill is home to many Hindu temples, Muslim mosques, and Sikh gurdwaras that minister to the local, twice-exiled Indian communities from Caribbean lands like Trinidad, Guyana, and Suriname.

On August 2nd, a warm but stormy Sunday, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma (Śrī Śrī Hari-Haladhārī) went out on a parade through Richmond Hill. Outside the temple at 111-14 101 Ave., devotees chanted as Hari-Haladhārī were escorted from their altar to the van that would convey them to their chariot:

SunandaSunanda Dāsa, the temple president, playing drum, leads kīrtana

Mahesvara Carrying Balarama 1Maheśvara Dāsa, assisted by Nityānanda Dāsa, carries Balarāma from temple to the waiting van

Mahesvara Carrying Balarama 2
śvara holds The Holder of the Plow (Haladhārī)

Balarama in vanBalarāma in van, cradled by Bhūṣāra Dāsa

For the record, our taking out large marble Deities on parade created some controversy.  When the idea of this parade first occurred to Sunanda, he called to ask me, his spiritual master, whether it could be done. Was it bona fide?  At once I answered “yes,” and then I recounted a conversation I had in 1974 with Śrīla Prabhupāda himself on this very topic.

That year, I talked with Prabhupāda in his quarters in New Vṛndāvana and gave him an account of our recent Philadelphia Rathayātrā, with the largest cart ever.

Prabhupāda’s  response was enthusiastic. He extolled such parades as extremely important. The Deities, he said, can be taken out on parade four times a year. He mentioned Janmāṣṭamī as one such occasion. “Oh, Lord Jagannātha will go out then, too?” I asked. “No,” said Prabhupāda. “Not Jagannātha. Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.”

Surprised, I exclaimed: “The big Deities?”

He paused a beat and said “Yes. They can go.”

“Isn’t that risky?” I asked.

“Just be careful.” Prabhupāda answered.

He went on to say that when Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa come out in procession, the participants in front of the Deity car hold upraised poles or standards, made of silver or gold, surmounted by lion’s heads.

Then, returning to the earlier topic about bringing out big marble Deities, he said that some temples had special replicas of the altar Deities just for going out of the temple for festivals. He called them “vijaya-vigraha.”

But, he said again, the altar Deities themselves could be taken out, but one had to be very careful.

Having heard this from me, Sunanda went ahead with the festival plans. But soon, other ISKCON authorities registered objections to the marble Deities’ being taken out. By that time, however, the plans and preperations were too far along to change. We understood the concern for the safety of the Deities and planned to have vijaya-vigraha for next year’s festival.

In the meantime, we would take Prabhupāda’s “just be careful” very seriously. That’s why Sunanda and I were thankful for the help of Maheśvara—devout, highly experienced, and strong.

Mahesvara placing Balarama on chariotWith the care of a mother for her baby, Maheśvara places Haladhārī on the chariot

Suspension System 2Suspension system for Deities’ throne on the chariot

Suspension System 1

Manu constructed this remarkable suspension system for the Deities’ throne. A professional in this matter, Manu said the system is used to protect highly sensitive payloads (like electronics or explosives) from shocks.

Kirtan before ParadeKīrtana before the parade starts

Umbrellas Come Out 1The umbrellas come out

Umbrellas Come Out 2More umbrellas

This year we’ve undergone a monsoon season in the northeast United States. The Ratha-yātrā in Purī also takes place during the rainy season.

Gaura NitaiGaura Nitāi led the procession. These are the Deities of Akhilānanda Dāsa. He also provided the chariot for Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma.

Singing in the Rain 1Getting ready

Setting OffSetting off

Siva, Hanuman, GanesaOther divinities join the procession: Śiva, Hanumān, and Gaeśa

Lion-headed standardBearing the lion-headed standard (see conversation with Prabhupāda above)

Singing in the Rain 3“Singin’ In The Rain”

Singing in the Rain 2More “Singin’ In The Rain”

Walking on roadsProceeding on roads first washed clean by Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma

Candrasekhara SwamiCandraśekhara Swami wet, but, as they say, “smokin’”

AkhilanandaAkhilānanda adds brass

Richmond Hill Residents 2Richmond Hill residents watch under cover

Richmond Hill Residents 1Devotees of Lakmī-Nārāyaa come out to see the mobile Lords

Richmond Hill Residents 3More residents of the place sometimes called “New Guyana”

Richmond Hill Residents 4More residents watch from on high

Residents Bring OfferingsResidents along the way bring offerings for the Deities and distribute prasāda to the celebrants

HaryasvaHaryaśva Dāsa adapts completely to the aquatic environment, manifests appropriate form

MannequinsEven the mannequins gaze on Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma with unblinking eyes

Joyous conclusion 1A joyous conclusion

Joyous conclusion 3

Krishna-Balarama on altarKṛṣṇa and Balarāma return safely to their altar

A final note: Any pilgrimage to New York requires a visit to the Deities presiding in three boroughs:

Radha GovindaThe spectacular Rādhā-Govinda in Brooklyn

Radha MurlidhariThe merciful Rādhā-Murlīdhāra in Manhattan

Hari Haladhari on Balarama PurnimaThe playful Hari-Haladhārī in Queens

As of now, Staten Island and The Bronx still await their Lords. . . .


Filed under Addtional Writings

14 responses to “Monsoon Parade—Queens

  1. Tulasi-priya dasi

    This is the most ecstatic thing I’ve seen in a very long time. All glories to Sri Sri Hari-Haladhārī! All glories to the Queens devotees!

  2. Yasoda-dulal das

    Jai! Thank you for this inspiring post, Ravindra Svarupa prabhu! All glories to Sunanda prabhu and all the other devotees who pulled this off!

  3. Thank you for the beautiful photos of the Deities in your part of the world and the first of many processions with Them.

  4. Garga Rsi Das

    How wonderful it is to see Krishna, and Balarama, giving darshan to the spectators on Liberty Ave, Richmond Hill,Queens.I am getting new energy from seeing pictures of this parade.
    It is better for the world when we increase the parades for Krsna, Balarama,they are non different from
    Jagannatha, and Baladeva.
    Garga Rsi Das

  5. Muralidhara dasa

    Dandavat Pranams Prabhu
    Those were very inspiring photographs.The deities are very sweet and loving. There is now a good reason to come to New York.
    Muralidhara dasa

    • rsdasa

      Let us know when you’re coming! The “inspiring photographs” of the parade were taken by Sraddha Dasi with her brand-new Canon Rebel XSI. A good job.

  6. Raj Prabhu

    Hare Krsna! This divine parade has undoubtedly left me with memories to last a lifetime. Being quite fortunate to be a participant, I must say that it was a soul-stirring experience, that was saturated with the love of God. Initially, as I was venturing to get to the parade, I was somewhat discouraged by the rains. However, when I did get there and glanced at the merciful brothers: Sri Krsna and Sri Balaram, and their drenched devotees, everything changed. It was phenomenal. It is said that the best that showers is rain, and believe me, it was at its very best. Call me crazy, but the waters falling from the sky was different that day, it was like heaven’s nectar (if there is such a thing). It was cool, fresh and somewhat relaxing. It simply made me energized, inside and out. As such,I danced all the way to the temple, and even threw away my umbrella. I am forever grateful to my merciful Lord Shyamasundar, His eternal servant Srila Prabhupada, and all the pure devotees, for such a great time. Can’t wait until next year, when hopefully Sunanda Das Prabhu, and crew, will bring me closer to Krsna, with another mind-blowing parade. In addition, I don’t think I’d be bothered if it rained next year as well, considering the bliss that came with it this year! Hari Bol!!!

    Raj (New York).

  7. Rajiv

    PAMHO Haribol,

    Sri Sri Hari Haladhari Ki Jai!!!

    On August 2nd 2009, Sri Sri Hari Haladhari literally went on parade and ‘showered’ everyone with their blessings. My family and I were in total bliss. The sweet nectar rained from the heavens and bathed everyone who were enjoying the Ratha-Yatra. We were blessed with the presence of Candraśekhara Swami and Rabindra Svarupa Maharaj. This has been the most ecstatic festival I have ever been to. I was present when Sri Sri Hari Haladhari was graciously and safely moved to the van to be transported to the site of the cart, as soon as Sri Balarama was moved there was a smile on His face. At this moment I thought to myself I am in the right place at the right time. All the hard work that was poured into making this happen was shown. Many thanks to those devotees that made such a truly wonderful event to happen. I hope that next year will be better and that Sri Sri Hari Haladhari allows us to take Them out again so that they can bless the public again. Being only 18 years old i can say that I hope they continue to bring them out year after year.
    This was just the parade, when the cart arrived the temple area was beautifully decorated to welcome those who were in the parade. The prasadam was as always first class, the sweet taste and aroma of it captured the mood of the festival. Then began the stage performances, the dancing was beautiful, the kirtan was excellent and the dramas totally captivated everyone. Most of the crowd stayed until 9 30 pm to the last drama!
    Please come join us in Queens, NYC at the Sri Sri Krishna Balarama Mandir home of Their Lordships Sri Sri Hari Haladhari on Sundays if you missed this event.

    Hope to see everyone that was there again next year along with many new faces. Until then keep chanting.

    Sri Sri Hari Haladhari Ki Jai!
    Sri Sri Krishna Balarama Mandir Ki Jai!

  8. Mithuna Das, Queens

    This parade was the greatest. With so many people having the opportunity get the Lord’s darshan, I felt that the purport of ” Vasudevam Sarva iti…..” was being fulfilled.

  9. Danil

    That is so inspiring!!! I’m from Russia, and this I was on 2 Ratha-yatras already, and by your mercy, Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, I took part in the 3rd one! Thank you SO much!

    Your servant, Danil

    ps: sorry for my english

  10. Tattvadarsana dasa

    Hari Bol Sri Sri Krsna Balaram Ki Jai.It is really great to see the success attained in pushing Lord Chaitanya movement.It has long been the desire of many to have a temple or preaching center in Queens.Thanks to the kindness of Sunanda who has given part of his house as the home of the Lord.And to all the devotees who have decided to support him.Lord Chaintanya and Srila Prabhupada will be pleased.Despite the rain ,I can see that everyone was in great ecstasy during the parade.Keep up the good preaching.Krsna blessings.

  11. My family and I were amazed to see the devotees chanting and dancing in the rain 7/2/09 will be a day we will never forget. Thats the spirit of real devotion. It was phenomenal! Keep chanting and be happy.

  12. My family and I were amazed to see so many devotees chanting and dancing in the rain. August 2nd 2009 we will never forget. Thats the spirit , thats real devotion. It was phenomenal!
    Keep chanting and be happy

    Hare Krishna

  13. Oh Krsna, I can’t believe my eyes to see in Queens ” one stormy day (8/2/09) two deities(sri krishna&balaram came out, and the devotees began to play, the rain was pouring, the devotees were dancing, what a wonderful sight to see. My whole family was there. We couldn’t have asked for more on that Ratha Yathra! I hope that the public was inspired by looking at the beautiful form of Krsna and Balarama. Keep chanting the Maha Mantra and be happy:
    Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare! Hari Bol

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s