Every year, in the month of Shravana, which heralds the beginning of the rainy season, devotees offer Jhulan Seva to Sri Sri Radha Krishna at thousands of temples all over the world.
Five thousand years ago Lord Krishna enacted His pastimes of childhood and early youth in Vrindavan. The mood of the Holy place was steeped in sublime devotion to the Lord. The inhabitants of Vraja knew nothing but Krishna. Their lives were centered on Him. The cowherd damsels, the Gopis, were especially attached to Him in divine love. And the crest jewel of the Gopis was Srimati Radhaarani.
This is a festival related to the onset of the rainy season. It is the month of Shravana, which falls between July and August. The blazing summer has ended and the rains have just begun. The atmosphere is humid and windless. The fine showers of Shravna have made the whole landscape of Vrindavan verdant. The arid vista of summer is replaced by lush greenery. The forests of Vrindavan are abloom with Beli, Chameli, Juhi and Madhavi flowers. Bumblebees flutter about and the cuckoo birds rent the air with their sweet calls. Peacocks respond to the rumbling, thick clouds, with plaintive cries and outspread wings.
The sakhis (girlfriends) of Radha in Vrindavan have prepared a beautiful swing thick with varieties of flowers on a strong kadamba tree in the forest. Their desire is to invite Radha and Krishna to sit on the swing and to swing the Divine Couple so They may enjoy a nice breeze in the still, humid air of Shravana.
This loving pastime of the Divine Couple and Their wonderful associates that form the sublime character of Vraja, are commemorated every year in the month of Shravana in Radha Krishna temples all over the world.
Jhulan Yatra is celebrated starting from the eleventh day (ekadashi) of the bright fortnight (shukla paksha) of Shravana Masa up to the full moon day (purnima). That makes it a total of five days of the festival of Jhulan Yatra.
Temples set up ornate wooden or metal (sometimes golden or silver) swings well decorated with flowers and place the utsava or festival Deities in them and have a five – day festival in which devotees offer the service of swinging the Deities with a rope of flowers attached to Their swing. The festival usually commences in the evening, when the Deities are brought from Their altar to the swing where a special Arati is performed for them. Then to the accompaniment of beautiful Vaishnava Bhajans appropriate to the occasion, devotees one by one offer the swinging service to Their Lordships. It is a touching moment. It stirs deep feelings of devotion in their hearts and inexplicable bliss envelopes their being
It was the desire of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada that ISKCON Temples celebrate Jhulan Yatra
Letter to Jayapataka — Los Angeles 1 August, 1969: “Regarding Jhulanayatra Ceremony, during these five days the Deities’ clothings should be changed everyday, and there should be nice Prasadam distribution and Sankirtana as far as possible. If you are able to do it, a nice throne may be constructed on which the Deities can be placed. This throne may be swung gently during Kirtana. That will be very good, and surely the Deities will enjoy the function.”
Letter to Giriraja — Los Angeles 8 June, 1972: “The deity program must be improved very gorgeously. Flower garlands should be expanded, and all expenditures for the deities must be expanded without any miserly contemplation. Our temple should be so gorgeously decorated that we shall excel all Bombay temples. This is my idea. Try to fulfill it. When they hear that we decorate our deities so gorgeously, people will throng, and on festival days especially, like Janmastami, Jhulana Yatra, etc. So four or five devotees should be always engaged in deity worship.”
At the Vrindavan Chandrodaya Mandir, The Utsava Deities of Sri Sri Radha Vrindavanachandra are placed every evening for the five days of the festival in a beautifully decorated Swing and offered Jhulan Seva (swing service) by devotees. The bhajan (devotional song) called “Radha Krishna Giti” is sung while the service is offered.
Holding gorgeous festivals is an important element of Deity worship. It is understood that, we – those who reside in the material universe, have forgotten our eternal spiritual nature of loving relationship with Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We wander the universe in different bodily forms sufferings the pangs of material existence. Yet, it is our spiritual nature to never suffer. The Krishna Consciousness movement begun by Srila Prabhupada offers sublime spiritual methods like the holding of Jhulan Yatra to revive in us our eternal spiritual consciousness – Krishna Consciousness – by which may return to the Supreme Abode of Krishna – Goloka Vrindavana, where we all actually belong.