Whenever Krishna entered the city of Dvaraka after being absent for some time the residents of the city would be so enlivened by His return they would observe wonderful festivals. The whole city would be decorated with the gifts of nature. Columns of banana trees containing bunches of fruits and flowers, and betel nut trees with leaves and branches were seen here and there. There were also decorations of the green leaves of palms, coconut trees, mango trees, and fruits, flowers and leaves and the streets and lanes of the cities and towns were all wet with scented waters prepared by distilling flowers like rose and keora. Such places, along with the marketplace and public meeting places, were thoroughly cleansed.
The holy festival days like Ekadasi and Janmastami are the mother of devotion for those devotees who respect them.
-Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
When Lord Ramacandra returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana all the citizens placed burning lamps in the windows and on the roofs of the houses and buildings of Ayodhya so the Lord would be able to see His way back. This event is now celebrated as Diwali.
The process of reception according to Vedic rites is not at all dry. The reception was made not simply by decorating the roads and streets as above mentioned, but by worshiping the Lord with requisite ingredients like incense, lamps, flowers, sweets, fruits and other palatable eatables, according to one’s capacity. All were offered to the Lord, and the remnants of the foodstuff were distributed amongst the gathering citizens.
Rathayatra is a festival that celebrates the meeting between Lord Krishna and the residents of Vrindavan that happened many years after Krishna seemingly left Vrindavan. Lord Krishna was so astonished to hear of the ecstatic love that the residents of Vrindavan had for Him, that He took the form of Lord Jagannatha, with wide eyes beholding His devotees love. This festival represents the desire of the devotees to serve Lord Krishna in His original form as a cowherd youth, in His own personal abode of Vrindavana-Dhama. By pulling the ropes of the Lord's chariot, the devotees are pulling Krishna back to Vrindavan, to serve Him in the mood of the Vrajavasis. This festival is now held all over the world by the devotees of ISKCON, such as this Rathayatra in London, England.
© 2016 ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry