Jhulan Yatra

jhula jhule radha damodara vrndavana men
kaisi cchayi hariyali ali kunjan men

“Radha-Damodara are swinging on the swing in Vrndavana. O friend, how very green the kunja is!”

After the excruciating heat of the summer, the monsoon clouds gather in the sky and thunder heralds the arrival of the rainy season. The hearts of all are fill with joy to be finally relieved of the heat. Peacocks start dancing, the birds sing with great jubilation and all the animals frolic in anticipation of cool showers falling from the sky. When the rains finally arrive, the forests are brought back to life.The bright colors of the freshly washed forest make for a beautiful scene that is soothing to the eyes and heart. The trees become lush with newly sprouting leaves and flowers, and honey bees hover over the blooms to drink the nectar from them. The lakes fill with fresh, cool water and lotuses bloom in every pond and lake, filling the air with a sweet aroma. The nectarean honey oozing from the beehives intoxicates those who drink it and fresh fruits as sweet as honey hang from the trees in abundance. In this way the most enchanting forest of Vrndavana, which is the pastime place of Radhika Ramana, looks breathtakingly beautiful in the monsoon season, making all the gopis and Krsna eager to enjoy beautiful pastimes in the flowering groves of Vraja.

In India, traditionally, at this time of the year, the married girls go to the houses of their parents with their brothers, who come to pick them up. Hoping to meet Krsna, without the interference of the ever suspicious and crooked Jatila and Kutila, Srimati Radharani eagerly waits for Sridama to come and take her to Varsana. But when he does not come at the beginning of the rainy season, she gets anxious and expectantly gazes at the path coming from Barsana, hoping for Sridama to come any moment to get her. When he at last arrives bringing various gifts for Jatila and Kutila to please them, Radharani expresses her sorrow to her brother, asking him why he came so late. She then happily goes to her parent’s house,, filling the hearts of Vrshabhanu Maharaja and Kirtida-devi with tremendous joy.

After Srimati Radhika’s arrival in Vrshabhanupura, all the sakhis make arrangements for the swing festival by hanging a beautiful swing on a kadamba tree in the forests surrounding the palace. There are descriptions of various swings given in the bhakti-sastras. There is a standard swing that Radha-Syamsundara sit on together, then there is another swing which they sit on two seats facing each other, and there is also a special lotus shaped swing with 8 petals on which all the asta-sakhis sit with Radha Krsna in the middle. In this way they make various preparations for their swing festival. When Syamsundara comes to the place designated for their rendezvous, the sakhis implore Srimati Radhika to sit on the swing. There is a famous Brijwasi bhajan about this:

radhe jhulana padharo jhuka aye badarajhuka aye badara, ghir aye badara

O Radha, go and sit on the swing. Low rain clouds have come and filled the sky.

Being thus requested by her gopi friends, Rasesvari Sri Radha ascends the jewel studded swing decorated with flowers, and Rasaraja Sri Krsna starts swinging Her. With a desire to be embraced by the most enchantingly sweet Radha, Sri Krsna starts swinging Her really forcefully. Fearfully, She calls out to Krsna, who climbs onto the swing.  Immediately, Srimati Radhika tightly embraces Him, making him drown in an ocean transcendental bliss. All the sakhis take great pleasure in seeing the tricks Sri Hari uses to become favored by His beloved’s embrace.

Remembering all these transcendental pastimes of the ever youthful Divine Couple of Vrndavana, all the temples in Vrndavana set up a beautiful jhulana for the pleasure of the deities, and devotees get the opportunity to render service to the Divine Couple by swinging Them. In Jagannatha-puri also, the utsava-murti of the temple, Sri Madana-mohan, is brought out and swung on a beautiful, decorated swing.

In Iskcon Vrndavana, this festival is celebrated for five days, in the month of Sravana, starting on the second Ekadasi of the month and ending on Balarama Purnima. The deities’ gorgeously decorated swing is brought out into the courtyard.Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara, Lalita and Vishakha enjoy being swung by the devotees eager to serve them. The devotees also prepare various delicious food stuffs for their pleasure, and arati is offered while they are comfortably seated on the jhulan. The devotees come one by one to swing the deities, and even visitors are given an opportunity to participate in the festival. All the while, constant kirtana is performed, making the overall experience unethereal, and the whole scene a window into the spiritual world.