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LORD RANGANATHA'S PROCESSION
On the day of the Festival of Garuda, thousands of people gathered in SrT Rahgam to see the Deity. At the temple gate a huge crowd had assembled, for on this day Lord Rahganatha comes out of the temple and rides around the city on a palanquin in the form of His carrier, Garuda. Drums were re¬sounding and flags were flying, as rows of brahmanas chanted hymns from the Vedas to make the occasion doubly auspicious.Suddenly the looks on the faces of the waiting crowd became even more expectant, as the chant¬ers of the Vedas began to move forward and a pro cession emerged from the inner courtyard. First came a brilliant red banner, held aloft on two long bamboo poles and emblazened with the marks of the conch, disc, and Vaisnava tilaka. Behind the brahmanas came several decorated elephants, all wearing tilaka on their fomeads, moving forward with a majestic gait, and waving their trunks from side to side. Behind the elephants came a proces¬sion of bullocks and horses, all gaily decorated and carrying large drums across their backs. Then all the people felt a thrill of delight as a party of devo¬tees emerged, chanting the holy name of Lord Hari and accompanying the chanting with various drums and cymbals.Immediately behind the klrtana party came Lord Rahganatha Himself, riding on the back of Garuda with His eternal consort, LaksmTdevT. The palan¬quin was born aloft by hundreds of devotees, while priests fanned the Lord with many c&mara whisks and expert singers sang bhajans praising His glori¬ous pastimes. On seeing the emergence of the Lord from His temple, the throng of people gath¬ered around the gateway let forth a great shout of joy.In front of the gate a pavilion had been con¬structed, and the Lord rested there a while before continuing on His journey. At this time hundreds of devotees took the opportunity to present their of¬ferings to Him—coconuts, bananas,plantains, and sweetsmelling camphor lamps. After some time the procession moved on once more, and the sound of the brahmanas chanting the Vedic hymns could be heard in all directions.As.the Lord moved through the streets, house¬wives appeared at the doors and windows along the way to give fruits, flowers, and betel nuts to the priests for offering to His lotus feet. When the offer¬ings had been made the prasada was returned to the women, and they were blessed by having their heads touched by one of the Lord's helmets. As the procession moved on and on, everyone's eyes were fixed on Lord Narayana and LaksmTdevT, their hearts filled with devotion.