Leicester was awash with music, dance and chanting today, as the Hare Krishna movement held their annual Festival of Chariots procession.
Thousands of festival-goers from all over the country pulled a massive 90ft chariot carrying the Deities of Lord Jagannatha (Krishna), his sister Subhadra, and Lord Balarama from the City Centre to Cossington Park, accompanied with music, singing, and dancing.
The annual festival organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is the second largest festival of this type in country and has been running for 17 years. For the first time in its history the festival began at the newly acquired Hare Krishna Centre on Granby Street. To start off the procession Sir Peter Soulsby and community leaders smashed coconuts.
Pradyumna Das, President of ISKCON Leicester said, “Hare Krishna festival is about love, its about understanding our love that we have for god, and its about reviving, awakening that love for god and by calling out gods name we chant Hare Krishna”
“this festival adds to the many festivals that already happen in Leicester and what the Ratha Yatra festival adds is the colour with the big chariot and the procession, the singing, the music, the joy and the happiness of all the pilgrims and devotees and members of the community that gather to observe and to participate in the festival, so I think its a very important part of Leicester’s festival season now”
The traditional Jagannatha Ratha Yatra is a celebration over 5000 years-old, observed in the ancient holy city of Jagannatha Puri in Orissa, India, making it the oldest street festival in the world. Devotees believe that if they get the honour of pulling the ropes of the giant chariot, carrying Lord Krishna, known as Jagannatha – Lord of the Universe, then at the end of this life, they will be granted a place in the spiritual world.
One lady in the procession commented, “its full of joy, we’re celebrating, we’re happy, its welcome for everybody, you don’t have to be a particular faith, all you have to do is come, participate dance, sing, have prasadam and be a part of this”
A gentleman attending with his family said, “I think its wonderful, I think its wonderful to get everyone together, especially when its a nice day, to get everybody out chanting, dancing”
“its really exciting, its the first time we’ve ever left the temple and come out for this sort of ceremony, so it feels really like we’re in a spiritual world” said a lady who was at the front of the procession.