Mahebourg Boat Festival
ISKCON Mauritius’ annual Rathayatra at Mahebourg, in the south-east of the island nation, featured a unique offering that truly befit the tropical setting – a boat festival in a vivid blue lagoon.
The festival took place over the weekend of December 15thand 16th. At least 10,000 people attended the two-kilometer Rathayatra procession on Saturday afternoon. Passing right through the center of Mahebourg, it ended on the beachfront, on the edge of a five-kilometer wide lagoon.
The crowd stayed on for the extensive program at the seaside, with kirtan, classes, questions and answers, free prasadam distribution, cultural performances, cooking demonstrations, childrens’ programs, a temple tent in which the Jagannatha Deities presided, and many other activities.
The devotees have renamed the lagoon ‘New Manasi Ganga’ after the famous pastime lake at Govardhana Hill in India,” says Bhakti Chaitanya Swami, who also attended. “After the arati, stories of Radha and Krishna’s pastimes there were recited to the devotees.”
Sri Sri Radha Golokananda continued to cruise the lagoon for two hours before returning to the beach, where devotees peformed a big Ganga Puja arati for New Manasi Ganga.
Everyone then returned to the festival site on the mainland, where programs carried on late into the night.
For many, however, the highlight was the boat festival on Sunday afternoon. Small Deities of Radha Golokananda, the Jagannatha Deities and Sri Sri Gaura Nitai rode on a large, elaborately-built swan boat, complete with a blue and gold dome, around the vast lagoon.
They were accompanied by about 400 devotees in some thirty or more smaller boats. While arati was performed, and Lokanath Swami led an ecstatic kirtan, everyone circumambulated the swan boat in their own vessels, carving their way through the sparkling waters.
Bhoga was offered to the Deities and then distributed from boat to boat, while the devotees offered flowers and other items for Their Lordships’ pleasure.