The 2015 Kolkata Ratha-Yatra held on July 18 is a festival that involves moving the deities Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Srila Prabhupada on a chariot or “Rath cart” along a four mile course of the main thoroughfares of Kolkata. This year the clear skies and sunny day drew at least a half million people out into the streets to view this over one mile procession of carts, floats, dancers, flag carriers, musicians and entertainers.

I was on the lead float that has a roof and is prepared for rain. This float, which is up to a half mile away from the first deity cart, is designed to make music that will pull people out into the streets from their homes and businesses because of hearing the heavy base beat music, and have them stay there as the parade continues. This is a very effective method that creates a great rush of people into the streets to dance and chant as the parade progresses. This is a cart of musicians, singers, electronic support staff and a whole lot of very large amplified professional concert speakers. Original and creative electronic music is played from a computer with a heavy bass beat and four to six singers with microphones sing the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra and other bhajans to this electronic beat. The result is excited crowds dancing and singing, and as this float moves forward they are there waiting for the next float or Rath cart.

My friend Ekalavya can be seen in several pictures and the video leading the singing with his highly trained professional voice. I was on the cart right before the parade started and we ended in the dark which is why I only have pictures of this cart and not the entire parade or the deities.




The Swayambhunath temple, is among the oldest religious sites in Nepal. According to the Gopālarājavaṃśāvalī Swayambhunath was founded by the great-grandfather of King Mānadeva (464-505 CE), King Vṛsadeva, about the beginning of the 5th century CE. This seems to be confirmed by a damaged stone inscription found at the site, which indicates that King Mānadeva ordered work done in 640 CE.

However, Emperor Ashoka is said to have visited the site in the third century BCE and built a temple on the hill which was later destroyed.

Although the site is considered Buddhist, the place is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus. Numerous Hindu monarch followers are known to have paid their homage to the temple, including Pratap Malla, the powerful king of Kathmandu, who is responsible for the construction of the eastern stairway in the 17th century.

The stupa was completely renovated in May 2010, its first major renovation since 1921 and its 15th in the nearly 1,500 years since it was built. The dome was re-gilded using 20 kg of gold. The renovation was funded by the Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Center of California, and began in June 2008.


This unique Buddhist monastery is just north of Durbar Sq. It was allegedly founded in the 12th century, and it has existed in its current form since 1409. The temple gets its name from the gilded metal plates that cover most of its frontage and it is one of the most beautiful in Patan. Outside of winter, look for the tortoises pottering around the compound – these are the temple guardians.

Entry is via an ornate narrow stone doorway to the east, or a wooden doorway to the west from one of the interlinked courtyards on the north side of Nakabhil.

Entering from the east, note the gaudy lions and the 1886 signature of Krishnabir, the master stonemason who sculpted the fine doorway with its frieze of Buddhist deities. This second doorway leads to the main courtyard of the Golden Temple; shoes and leather articles must be removed to enter the lower courtyard. The main priest of the temple is a young boy under the age of 12, who serves for 30 days before handing the job over to another young boy.

The temple itself is a magnificent example of courtyard temple architecture. Two elephant statues guard the doorway and the facade is covered by a host of gleaming Buddhist figures. Inside the main shrine is a beautiful statue of Sakyamuni (no photos allowed). To the left of the courtyard is a statue of Green Tara and in the right corner is a statue of the Bodhisattva Vajrasattva wearing an impressive silver-and-gold cape. Both are inside inner shrines.

Facing the main temple is a smaller shrine containing a ‘self-arisen’ (swayambhu) chaitya (small stupa). The four corners of the courtyard have statues of four Lokeshvaras (incarnations of Avalokiteshvara) and four monkeys, which hold out jackfruits as an offering. A stairway leads to an upper-floor chapel dedicated to a white eight-armed Avalokiteshvara, lined with Tibetan-style frescoes including a wheel of life. Finally, as you leave the temple at the eastern exit, look up to see an embossed mandala mounted on the ceiling.


Boudhanath (Devanagari: बौद्धनाथ) (also called Boudha, Bouddhanath or Baudhanath or the Khāsa Caitya) is a stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. It is known as Khāsti in Nepal Bhasa, Jyarung Khasyor in Tamang language or as Bauddha by speakers of Nepali.[2] Located about 11 km (6.8 mi) from the center and northeastern outskirts of Kathmandu, the stupa’s massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal.[3]

The Buddhist stupa of Boudhanath dominates the skyline. The ancient Stupa is one of the largest in the world. The influx of large populations of refugees from Tibet has seen the construction of over 50 Tibetan Gompas (Monasteries) around Boudhanath. As of 1979, Boudhanath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along with Swayambhunath, it is one of the most popular tourist sites in the Kathmandu area.

The Stupa is on the ancient trade route from Tibet which enters the Kathmandu Valley by the village of Sankhu in the northeast corner, passes by Boudnath Stupa to the ancient and smaller stupa of Cā-bahī (often called ‘Little Boudnath’). It then turns directly south, heading over the Bagmati river to Patan – thus bypassing the main city of Kathmandu (which was a later foundation).[2] Tibetan merchants have rested and offered prayers here for many centuries. When refugees entered Nepal from Tibet in the 1950s, many decided to live around Boudhanath. The Stupa is said to entomb the remains of Kassapa Buddha.


The Pashupatinath Temple (Sanskrit: : पशुपतिनाथ मन्दिर) is a famous, sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Pashupatinath is located on the banks of the Bagmati River 5 kilometres north-east of Kathmandu Valley in the eastern city of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. This temple is considered one of the sacred temples of Hindu faith .The temple serves as the seat of the national deity, Lord Pashupatinath.This temple complex is on UNESCO World Heritage Sites’s list. This “extensive Hindu temple precinct” is a “sprawling collection of temples, ashrams, images and inscriptions raised over the centuries along the banks of the sacred Bagmati river” and is included as one of the seven monument groups in UNESCO’s designation of Kathmandu Valley as a cultural heritage site.  The temple is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams (Holy Abodes of Shiva) on the continent. Kotirudra Samhita, Chapter 11 on the Shivalingas of the North, in Shiva Purana mentions this Shivalinga as the bestower of all wishes. One of the major Festivals of the temple is Maha Shivaratri on which day over 700,000 devotees visit here.



Ritudvip is the birthplace of Brihaspati and the school where Caitanya Mahaprabhu attended is there, as is a tree that is reputed to come from where Mahaprabhu put a wooden pen in the ground. Interestingly, the tree is unidentifiable by the botanist community.

Sri Sri Gaura-Gadadhara dieties reside at Champhatti. The beautiful life-sized at Champahatti were installed and worshiped by Dvija Vaninatha, the younger brother of Gadadhara Pandita. They are over 500 years old. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura established this temple. This very special place lies in the south-western portion of Koladvipa and is non-different from Khadiravana forest in Vrindavana where Lord Sri Krishna and Balarama had many pastimes and used to rest. There was a great festival at house of Vaninatha, where Sri Gauranga showed his opulence of love. In Champahatta village there is a forest of Campaka flowers, which the Gopi Campakalata comes here to pick.

Sarvbhauma was a gigantic pandit of the day. His readings knew no bounds. He was the best naiyaik of the times, and was known as the most erudite scholar in the vedanta philosophy of the school of Sankaracharya. He was born in Nadia (Vidyanagar) and taught innumerable pupils in the Nyaya philosophy in his school there.

Lord Rama performed pastimes there and is the home of Sri Vrindavana Das Thakur. Vrindavana Dasa Thakura or Brindaban Das (1507-1589 ce) was the author of the Chaitanya Bhagavata, the first full-length biography of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu written in the Bengali language. Vrindavana Dasa is considered by Gaudiya vaishnavas as the vyasa of Chaitanya’s pastimes, since he was the first to reveal that Chaitanya was God himself and not just an incarnation of Godhead.

Vasudeva Datta Thakur had a beautiful voice and was also well versed in the sangita-shastra. He was one of the chief associates of Mahaprabhu, participating in sankirtan in the home of Srivasa and the streets of Nabadwip. Mahaprabhu enjoyed his association because of his vaishnava qualities.

An important branch of the Sri Caitanya tree, Sri Saranga Thakura (Saranga Murari) lived in Mamagacchi, Modadrurnadvipa (Navadvipa). Staying under a bakula tree, Saranga Thakura worked hard every day to please his worship able deity. Single handily he would collect fruits, vegetables and firewood. He would also beg rice, cook, bathe, dress, and feed his lord. After a full day of deity service saranga would cross the ganges river to join Mahaprabhu’s hari-nama sankirtana party in Mayapur.during one visit, Lord Gauranga noticed that Saranga’s beloved bakula tree was drying up and almost dead. Lord Caitanya embraced the tree with his beautiful golden arms. Completely rejunvenated, the tree burst forth with green leaves and fresh super fragrant flowers. To this day, devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu worship this special kalpa vrksa tree of Sri Dhama Mayapur.