Chicago: On June 28, 2015 Hare Krishna devotees celebrated the 41st annual Chariot Festival organised by ISKCON. This year in Chicago, the Chariot Festival saw the participation of 5000 people, with 400 new attendees joining in the celebration. Team NewsGram too joined in this vibrant festival to catch a glimpse. The parade began at 11:30 AM at Daley Plaza (50 West Washington Street, Chicago) and concluded at 12:30 PM. The grand festival which comprised of ecstatic dancing, live music, vegetarian food, and meditation went on till 6 PM.
The organizer, Nityanand Pran Das introduced the festival. The Chariot Festival (traditionally known as Ratha Yatra) started with hundreds of people pulling a 36 foot tall Chariot in which the ancient deity form of Krishna is placed. This form of Krishna is called Jagannath (the origin of the word juggernaut – an unstoppable force) and is unique with big eyes and a big smile that will melt your heart.
One of the devotees, Yadhoda Nandana Das told NewsGram, “I came across ISKCON philosophy for the first time in 2007 and since then I am associated with it.” Yadavacarya Goswami Das, another devotee who is a native of Chicago got initiated at the age of 17. Ananda Vrindavan (now 52), a native of Philippines was only 9-years-old when she became a disciple.
Hare Krishna movement began flourishing worldwide since 1960’s. This is a 5000-year-old tradition which originated in India and is now celebrated all over
the world since the explosive growth of the Hare Krishna movement. About 108 countries all over the world have now joined in this celebration including Dublin, Belfast, Birmingham, London, Bath, Melbourne, Montreal, Paris, New York, Singapore, Toronto, Antwerp, Kuala Lumpur, Los Angeles (celebrated in coastal Venice, CA), Mexico, and others.
The concept of the chariot has been explained in the Kathopanishada in the following words –
Atmaanam rathinam viddhi shareeram rathamevatu Buddhim tu saarathim viddhi manah pragrahameva cha. (The body is the chariot and the soul is the deity installed in the chariot. The wisdom acts as the charioteer to control the mind and thoughts.)
The festival is also known as Gundicha Yatra, Ghosa Yatra, Navadina Yatra, Dasavatara Yatra, and by a variety of other names. Here, it started in 1974 and since then the ISKCON society has been celebrating this event with thousands of people participating every year.
Ruchira Jairam provided volunteer henna and face painting at the festival while Sundar Anand Das manned the book stall. “Looking forward for more such events,” Das remarked. He has been volunteering at ISKCON events for past 10 years.
SAN FRANCISCO, JULY 28, 2017: The 51st Annual San Francisco Rathayatra Parade will be held on July 30.
The “Festival of the Chariots” (Rathayatra Festival) involves a parade with people pulling three chariots by ropes throughout Golden Gate Park. It also includes free vegetarian feast, live music, ancient Indian dances, etc. Thousands of people have reportedly been attending these free festivities in the past.
This parade is organized by International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) Berkeley (New Jagannatha Puri). ISKCON Berkeley Temple, said to be one of the ISKCON’s oldest temples in the world, opens daily at 04-30 am with Mangal Arati and holds Tulsi ((Holy Basil, Ocimum tenuiflorum) Puja (worship) every day. Jagannatha Swami Dasa is the Temple President. According to ISKCON, Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or God.
It is popularly deemed important to pass on Hindu spirituality, concepts, and traditions to coming generations amidst so many distractions in the consumerist society. It has been stressed time and again that instead of running after materialism; we should focus on inner search and realization of Self and work towards achieving moksha (liberation), which is the goal of Hinduism. The Rathayatra Parade is thus organized annually to exhibit the richness of Hinduism.
Rath Yatra is said to be the oldest known parade in the world and it is believed that pullers of this Lord Jagannatha’s chariot receive immense spiritual benefit. Popularized outside India by ISKCON founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, this annual parade festival has reportedly been held annually in over 100 cities around the world since 1967.
The original Ratha Jatra is held on a grand scale in Puri (Odisha, India), where the presiding deities of Sri Mandira—Jagannatha, Balabhadra, and Subhadra—with celestial wheel Sudarshana are driven on the chariots to about two miles north Gundicha temple in an elaborate ritual procession, where the huge colorfully decorated chariots are drawn by thousands of devotees.
After a stay of seven days, the deities return to their abode in Sri Mandira. A glimpse of Lord Jagannatha on the chariot is considered to be highly auspicious and even a touch of the chariot is believed to yield benefits equivalent to several pious deeds. Many poets have written its glories. This year, it was held on June 25.
The practice of Rathayatra has recurring references in Hindu holy texts. Ancient Hindu scripture Katha Upanishad talks about the concept of chariot, where soul is the deity, body is the chariot, and intellect the charioteer. Skanda Purana also glorifies Rath Jatra’s sanctity.
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June 22, 2017: One of the four divine abode where legends still live on, the city of Puri in Eastern India arranges once in every year for the glorious voyage of the God in Chariot. The grand celebration of Rath Yatra will initiate on the June 25, Sunday while the return journey or Bahuda Jatra’ will fall on July 3rd, Monday.
Situated across the four corners of the India, Puri alongside Rameshwaram, Dwarka and Badrinath makes the four Holy dwellings Hinduism.
A Rath Yatra is an excursion in a chariot joined by the general public. Otherwise called Chariot Festival, this is a standout amongst the most anticipated Hindu celebrations of the nation. It ordinarily alludes to a parade (travel) of gods, individuals dressed like gods, or basically religious holy people.
The festival and perception of the Puri Rath Yatra Festival go back to the time of the Puranas and the depictions of the same can be found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana and Kapila Samhita.
The acclaimed celebration in the time of June or July begins when the chariots of Lord Jagannath joined by his senior sibling Balabhadra and sister Devi Subhadra is conveyed out onto the Main Street of Puri known as Bada Danda. The Chariots are then taken to the Shri Gundicha Temple to their aunt’s home where the divinities are honoured nine days stay and are presented with sweet pancakes. On their way back to the Temple, the gods are offered Poda Pitha when their chariots stop at the Mausi Maa Temple. This sweet is a sort of prepared cake that is intended to be devoured by the poor people.
The Rath Yatra at Puri is a huge occasion in the whole composition that is seen by various travellers both outsiders and Indians. Amid the Rath Yatra, Puri is hued in the clearest shades of sheer satisfaction and pleasure and is rushed with aficionados who wish to pay their respect to the gods and look for their endowments.
HAPPY RATH YATRA TO ALL!
– by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter: @Nainamishr94
Australia, March 3, 2017: In 2011 Census, Hinduism emerged as the fast growing religion in Australia. The factor behind it is largely the migration.
Reverend Albert Lange rechristened himself as Bhakta Dasa in 1979 was disillusioned with Christianity, thus, converted into Hinduism.
“I was an atheist before I found my truth in the Hare Krishna movement,” he said.
Mr Dasa is now the national communications director for International Society for Krishna Consciousness, ISKCON Australia.
5000-year-old Hinduism religion has drawn many Australians like Mr. Dasa.
Hinduism in Austrlia:
Meanwhile, Census watchers, predict that Hinduism will overtake Islam (2.7 per cent), despite the increase in the number of Australians nominating Islam as their religion (from 2.2 per cent to 2.6 per cent of the population).
The rationale behind this phenomenon is many Indian settling in Australia. In last two decades past June 2014, there’s been four fold increase in Indian residents.
But, native Australians are also gravitating towards Hinduism, stated Mr Dasa.
“The Hindu way of life, with vegetarianism, karma and spirituality as its tenets, has never been more popular in the western world,” he said.
Rath Yatra or Chariot festival is the highlight of Australian Hindu Calendar.
The adorned idol of God Krishna, or Jaggannath (Lord of the Universe) is seen in the festival. He steps out of the sanctum of his temple in Albert Park onto the streets of Melbourne. In order to symbolise the reestablishment of the connection with the God, the ropes of his cart are pulled by thousands of devotees.
This year the festival drew more than 25,000 people to the Catani Gardens of St Kilda, reflecting Hinduism’s rising popularity in Australia.
Food such as prasadam (religious offering), Indian dance and music performances and Bhagwad Gita readings, attracted many non-Hindus to the event.
ISKCON temple is one of the many temples that cater to the religious needs of Hindus in Melbourne. Of the 51 Hindu temples in Australia, 19 are located in Victoria, belonging to different sects of Hindus that worship gods such as Ganesha, Durga, Hanuman and Shirdi Sai Baba.
Makrand Bhagwat, from the Hindu Council of Australia, says the number of temples in Melbourne has been gradually increasing over the years, exhibiting a proportional increase in the Hindu population of the state.
Australia’s biggest and one of its oldest Hindu temples- Shiva Vishnu temple – was laid in 1988 in Carrum Downs, in Melbourne’s south-east. Situated on almost six hectares of land, the temple is visited by more than 100,000 people a year.
The temple was built by the Hindus belonging to India and Sri Lanka predominantly, the temple offers religious accommodation to the migrants coming from southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as Fiji.
“We just needed a place to worship,” says Sivananthini Krishnamoorthy, a migrant from Sri Lanka who has been a part of the team that saw Shiva Vishnu temple take shape from scratch in a small shed.
Mrs Krishnamoorthy spoke that the Hindu temple at Carrum Downs is beyond a place of worship for the community in Melbourne – many Caucasians also visit and are learning Vedic Hindu scriptures in Tamil.
“Something that I never did as a child even in Sri Lanka,” she said.
She says that the temples of Melbourne had helped her family to reinvigorate a connection to their culture and tradition.
The Hindu temples of Melbourne come under the ambit of the Hindu Organisation of Temples Association that involves in many interfaith activities and provides spiritual services to Hindus across Australia.
The temple also becomes a spot for celebrating Diwali, Holi and New year also for naming ceremonies and weddings. Traditionally it is a first stop for Hindus on the arrival of a baby, or when moving into a new house or buying a car. Students and job seekers often flock there before a major exam or interview.
The Hindu Council of Australia liaises with government, while catching on to other organisations and institutions, for seeking fair representation of Hindus in the media.
Adding Hinduism as a religion option in the 2016 Census was done by the council says Mr Bhagwat.
“[The council], along with its partner organizations, ran a campaign in our networks to encourage the Hindu community to exercise this option,” he said. “We are very keen to see the outcome of the 2016 Census…and pretty confident that this [growth] trend will continue.”
– prepared by Sabhyata Badhwar of NewsGram. Twitter: @SabbyDarkhorse