A Journey of Srila Prabhupada to America on board the ship Jaladuta
In this series of historical accounts, we present the journey of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedatan Swami Prabhupada to America on board the ship Jaladuta. This is a day-by-day narration of his voyage with references from the diary he maintained on board the Jaladuta, his biography “Srila Prabhupada Lilamirta” by his holiness Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, as well as his books, lectures and conversations.
August 13, 1965: Calcutta
On this historic day in 1965, Srila Prabhupada boarded the cargo ship MV Jaladuta from Calcutta embarking on a 35-day journey that would take him to the United States of America, where he would launch his mission to fulfil the order of his spiritual master and the vision of Lord Chaitanya to spread Krishna consciousness in every town and village of the world.
Following are the events of that momentous day.
Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita, Volume 1: Bhaktivedanta Swami took a taxi down to the Calcutta port. A few friends and admirers, along with his son Vrindavan, accompanied him. He writes in his diary: “Today at 9 a.m. embarked on M.V. Jaladuta. Came with me Bhagwati, the Dwarwan of ScindiaSansir, Mr.Sen Gupta, Mr. Ali and Vrindaban.” He was carrying a Bengali copy of Caitanya-caritamrta, which he intended to read during the crossing. Somehow he would be able to cook on board. Or if not, he could starve- whatever Krishna desired. He checked his essentials: passenger ticket, passport, visa, P-form, sponsor’s address. Finally it was happening. Srila Prabhupada boarded Jaladutta Cargo Ship and started for West for Preaching on the order of his Guru Maharaj.
For thousands of years, Krishna-bhakti had been known only in India, not outside, except in twisted, faithless reports by foreigners. And the only swamis to have reached America had been non-devotees, Mayavadi impersonalists. But now Krishna was sending Bhaktivedanta Swami as His emissary.
Srila Prabhupada later recollected during a Srimad Bhagavatam class in Vrindavan on Nov 6th, 1972: “And for a sannyāsī like me, I had so much difficulty to obtain the permission of the government to go out. So much difficulty. I remember all those… How, oh, with what great difficulty I got out of this country. And because I, some way or other, by Kṛṣṇa’s grace, I got out of this country, I could spread this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement all over the world. Otherwise, it was not possible. I wanted to start this movement from India, but I was not at all encouraged. I was not at all encouraged.”
August 14, 1965 : On Sail in Bay of Bengal
This was the 2nd day of Srila Prabhupada’s journey on board Jaladuta.
Srila Prabhupada wrote this in his Jaladuta Dairy: Today ship started at about 11 o’clock in the morning majestically. I do not feel any jerking whatsoever. But on reaching the Bay of Bengal, there is tilting of the ship and little rolling also. The roughness increased gradually on the upper Bay of Bengal and I felt sea sickness. There was vomiting tendency and dizziness and I felt uncomfortable the whole day and night. The sea was foamy all through. It appeared like a big plate of water extending to 40 square miles but factually it was endless so, today. It is a vivid example of God’s Maya because it appears like something but factually it is something else.
August 15, 1965 : On Sail in Bay of Bengal
This was the 3rd day of Srila Prabhupada’s journey on board Jaladuta:
Srila Prabhupada wrote this in his Jaladuta Dairy: Today in the morning I woke up and felt a little better but I felt no hunger. Took only a glass of lemon sikanjie [lemon drink: nimbupani] but the head dizziness is continuing. Up to 10:30 I was in the captain’s room, radio room, chatting with the officers. In the radio room they were despatching news to other ships. The captain’s room is full with nautical paraphernalia. I saw a chart of different appearancial(?) photo of the sea. The grades are 0 to 10 degrees and I think we are passing on the sea between 4 to 7 points the scene of the 10th point was furious and the 12th serious. The captain advised me to take more solid food.
August 16, 1965 : On Sail in Bay of Bengal near to Sri Lanka
This was the 4th day of Srila Prabhupada’s journey on board Jaladuta:
Srila Prabhupada wrote this in his Jaladuta Dairy: Today early in the morning I saw that the ship is plying on the surface of the sea almost on 0 degree of waves. Yesterday night was comfortable and although I did not take my lunch, I took a little chara-murki [puffed rice:chidwa] with milk. The ship ran all the night yesterday smoothly and the sky although not very clear there was moon light in the night. In the morning there was sunshine but after 11 the sea became a little more rough showing foamy waves from distance. After passing the latitude of Trichinopoli we experienced a dark cloud subsequently raining all over the sea. The siren sounded on account (of) hazy vision to warn other ships coming from opposite direction. At about 12 noon it is raining heavily and the ship is stopped moving occasionally sounding the siren. There is constant sounds of thunderbolt. This is the first time I am experiencing heavy rains in the midst of deep ocean. From 12 noon we are passing through cyclonic weather. The ship is tilting too much. I felt sea sickness all day and night. At 3 p.m. the ship turned towards Ceylon coast and we are now in the Ceylon water.
August 17, 1965 : On Sail at Sri Lanka (Ceylon)
This was the 5th day of Srila Prabhupada’s journey on board Jaladuta.
Srila Prabhupada wrote this in his Jaladuta Dairy: Today morning the sky is scattered with cloud. The ship is going toward western side. I feel a little bit well after passing my stool. The ship is running against wind current. The sea is little rougher. At 10:30 we saw the south coast of Ceylon with a white light house. Two ships passed from the opposite side. Some daring fishermen were fishing in small boats. From distance they appeared to be almost drowned in the water but next moment they appear to be safely working. There is sunshine but the sky is not clear. The captain informed me that by next six hours we shall reach Colombo port. The hilly southernmost Ceylon coast is said to be 4 to 5 miles away from our ship. This means the fishermen were fishing in small boats 5 to 10 miles away from their native coast. Certainly very daring job. At about 2 p.m. we have now turned towards northern front. The sky is cloudy but we are forwarding steadily. Today I was better than other three days. At 3 p.m. the Colombo city became faintly visible from the ship. The colour of water in the India ocean is different from that of Bay of Bengal. The ship reached exactly at 4:30 in the port but the management of Colombo port could not receive the ship for want of berth and then it is anchored on the shore waiting to enter the port. At about 9 p.m. the ship was escorted by the Pilot and we entered the dockyard but there were many ships from various countries including passenger and cargo ships. At night the dockyard ships assumed a brilliant spectacle on account profuse light. We rested the whole night the ship being anchored. Next morning barges loaded with goods arrived near the ship.
August 18, 1965 : On Sail at Colombo
This was the 6th day of Srila Prabhupada’s journey on board Jaladuta.
Srila Prabhupada wrote this in his Jaladuta Dairy: Today I felt quite normal and the sea-sickness completely removed. The ship remained silent the whole day on account of hazy sky and only a few loads of goods were admitted. I wanted to see the Colombo city but I could not make any arrangement. The ship was standing at the midstream and I did not like to go alone.
August 19, 1965 : Colombo and in Arabian sea
This was the 7th day of Srila Prabhupada’s journey on board Jaladuta.
Srila Prabhupada wrote this in his Jaladuta Dairy: Today I informed my situation to Captain Pandia and he was very kind to take me to the shore in a motor launch. We dropped at Elizabeth gate talked with some Ceylonese clerks and then in a taxi we went to the office of Narottam&Pierera Co. The manager Mr. Banka was a Gujarati gentleman and he received us well. He arranged for me a good car to go round the city. The office quarter was quite busy and many foreign offices and renowned Banks were there. I saw the Governor General’s House, the Parliament House, the Town Hall (and) one very nice sea-side Hotel and passed through very nice clean roads, bazars. The city appeared to be nice and clean and the small bungalows nicely decorated. It appears that people although not very good looking they are not uncultured neither they are tasteless. The city is quite up to resembling an Indian city like Madras and Poona. The buses and taxis were clean to see. The bus stands almost crowded like that of the Indian cities. The offices conducted almost in Indian style. The culture and civilization is Indian cent per cent but artificially India and Ceylon is divided. We are starting for Cochin at 6 p.m. The ship started at 7 p.m., the pilot being late in reaching the ship. It ran for the whole night and next day up to 3:30 p.m. and reached the coast of Cochin. The ship is standing on the coast of Cochin without entering the dock.
August 20, 1965 : On Sail in Arabian sea
This is the 8th day of Srila Prabhupada’s journey on board Jaladuta.
Srila Prabhupada wrote this in his Jaladuta Dairy: Today the captain arranged for a meeting on board the Jaladuta on account of Janmastami day and I spoke for an hour on the philosophy and teachings of Lord Sri Krishna. All the officers attended the meeting and there was distribution of Prasadam. The matter was radiographed to Smt. Sumati Moraji in Bombay. The ship is stranded on the Arabian Sea about 4 miles away from the coast. We are in this position from 3:20 p.m.
August 21, 1965 : On Sail and Cochin
This was the 9th day of Srila Prabhupada’s journey on board Jaladuta.
Srila Prabhupada made no entry in his Jaladuta Dairy for this day. It was the seventieth (70th) birthday of Srila Prabhupada, observed (without ceremony) at sea. The ship arrived at Cochin on this day, and Srila Prabhupada’s trunks of Srimad-Bhagavatam volumes, which had been shipped from Bombay to Cochin, were yet to be loaded.
August 22, 1965 : On Sail and Cochin
This was the 10th day of Srila Prabhupada’s journey on board Jaladuta.
Srila Prabhupada wrote this in his Jaladuta Dairy: Today at about 10 a.m. we are now in the dockyard of Cochin. The dock is peculiar because it is by nature full of small islands. Some of the islands are full with nice hutments formerly known as British Island. I saw my books from Bombay arrived in five cases and the agents loaded them on the ship at 4 p.m. The agent M/s Jairam & Sons kindly sent their car for my driving in the city. Out of the group of islands two big islands joined by an iron over-bridge are known as Cochin and Ernakulam. The iron over bridge was constructed by the Britishers very nicely along with railway lines. The railways line is extended up to the Port. There are many flourishing foreign firms and banks.
It is Sunday, the bazar was closed. I saw a peculiar kind of plantain (banana) available in this part of the country. The island known as Coachin is not an up to date city. The roads are like narrow lanes. The part of the city where the foreigners are residing are well situated. The buildings, factories, etc. all big and well maintained. The Mohamedan quarters are separate from the Hindu quarters as usual in other Indian cities. The part known as Ernakulam is up to date. There is a nice park on the bank of the gulf and it is named Subhas Bose Park. It is good that Subhas Babu is popular in this part of the country. I saw the Kerala High Court and the public buildings, the High Court being situated in Ernakulam it appears that the city is capital of Kerala. This Official Bhadra 31 days 1887 Saka part of India resembles Bengal scenario and the city Ernakulum also Cochin appears to me like old Kalighat or Tollygunge area of Calcutta. The culture is Indian as usual.
August 23, 1965 : On Sail in Arabian sea
This was the 11th day of Srila Prabhupada’s journey on board Jaladuta.
Srila Prabhupada wrote this in his Jaladuta Dairy: Today Annada Ekadashi, We started towards Red sea on the western front at about 12:30 noon. The sky was almost clear and there was sunshine since the starting of the trip from Cochin port. We are floating now on the Arabian sea. My sea sickness again began. Headache, vomiting tendency, no hunger, dizziness and no energy to work. It is continuing. There are sometimes showers of rain but for a short time. There was a fellow passenger in my cabin. He is also attacked with sea sickness. The whole night passed.
August 24, 1965 : On Sail in Arabian sea on the way to Red sea
This was the 12th day of Srila Prabhupada’s journey on board Jaladuta:
Srila Prabhupada wrote in his Jaladuta Diary: Today at about 1/30 p.m. I enquired from wheel-room that we have come only 400 miles off the Indian coast. My sea-sickness is still continuing. I take my meals once only but today I could not take my full meals also although I was fasting yesterday. I (am) feeling uncomfortable.