Jhulan Yatra: The Festival of Swings
by Gauranga Darshan Das
Devotional festivals open the doors to unparalleled pleasure for one and all, hence they bear great significance in traditional India. They are not mere rituals performed by sentimentalists, instead, they are heartfelt expressions of gratitude and love of the devotees. They provide opportunities for us to offer practical services to the Lord who mercifully appeared as a Deity, thus invoking our eternal feelings of servitude unto Him.
Travel back to your childhood. Do you remember how you would run straight to the swing in the play park? Your body tossing around, your belly tickling and a smooth breeze hitting your face was an experience that made the swing your best playmate.
Among the various festivals celebrated in Vedic India, is Jhulan Yatra or the festival of swings. This winsome festival is observed across several regions in the country. In Vrindavan, this celebration charges up the festive mood and is marked with great grandeur. Imagine swinging Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Krishna on a charming jhula bedecked with fragrant blossoms, isn’t this beautiful monsoon festivity sure to melt the hearts of even the stonehearted?
Celebrated in the month of Sravana (July – August), this festival is observed for five, seven or thirteen days. Most temples observe this festival for five days from Pavitra Ekadasi to Sravana Purnima, the full moon day. This Purnima is especially significant as it marks the appearance day of Lord Balarama, the elder brother of Lord Krishna. Traditionally, the Deities of Radha and Krishna can be found predominantly dressed in green right through the festival.
The holy land of Sri Vrindavan dham is of exceptional prominence among all the places of pilgrimage because Lord Krishna performed His most enchanting childhood pastimes there. In the month of Sravana, the sky is covered with thundering rainclouds accompanied with bucketing downpours. The ambience appears pleasant and beautiful as the fragrance of wet earth wafts across. Just after the hot summer, when the forests of Vrndavan begin to bloom, hosts of colorful flowers on the either sides of River Yamuna emanate sweet fragrance and are a breathtaking sight. Further, the melodies of the cuckoos and buzzing of the bumblebees add to the beauty of the loving chants of “Radhe Radhe” in Vrindavan. In a setting surcharged with the love and affection of the devotees, Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Krishna are joyously swung by Their beloved devotees in Vrindavan. As the graceful motion of the swing creates a cool breeze in the humid atmosphere of monsoon, the Divine Couple enjoy this sweet service, and only to heighten Their pleasure, the devotees also present beautiful kirtan. The Jhulan Yatra is especially celebrated with great pomp at the Banke Bihari Temple, the Radha-Raman Temple in Vrindavan and the Larily Lal Temple in Barsana among many others.
This festival of swings is also celebrated across numerous Vaishnava temples across India in the month of Sravana. At Jagannatha Puri, Madan Mohanji and the utsava deities of Lord Jagannatha, along with His consorts Laxmi and Viswadhatri celebrate Jhulan Yatra for seven days starting Sravana Sukla Dasami. One of the most important daily services offered to Lord Balaji at Tirupati is Dolotsava or Unjal seva during which, the Lord along with His consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi is swung on the Jhulan.
Opulence or simplicity – both can be used in the service of the Lord. The swing is sometimes made of gold, silver, wood or simple creepers. Whatever may be the content of the offering, the Lord affectionately accepts the loving intent of the devotee. By swinging the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort, thus offering Them pleasure, the devotees experience boundless spiritual joy.