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Over 25,000 people participated in the 37th London “Ratha-yatra Carnival of Chariots” last Sunday 17th July 2005.
The annual Hare Krishna festival was a colourful display of London’s multicultural and multi-faith community. Three 40-foot high colourful chariots carrying the deities of Lord Jagannatha, Lady Subhadra and Lord Balarama were hand-pulled by a 5,000 strong procession, from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, accompanied by singers, musicians, and dancers.
At Trafalgar Square, where the procession came to an end, the three chariots were lined up against the British Gallery, while festival-goers participated in a cultural and educational fair. A colourful host of tents offered music, food, multi-media exhibitions, face-painting, and a `try-a- sari’ experience.
On stage, onlookers were treated to a performance from the Nitai Dance Group, as well as classical Indian dance, and devotional music by the Hare Krishna Festival Troupe. Free Indian vegetarian meals were distributed to all the revellers.
Londoners and tourists alike mentioned how uplifting the festival was, especially after the trauma news of the London bombings. “I came with my girlfriend, and it’s so nice to see the colours and smiles on everyone’s faces,” said one London man.
The traditional Jagannath Ratha Yatra is a celebration over 5000 years- old, observed in the ancient holy city of Jagannath Puri in Orissa, India, making it the oldest street festival in the world.
East meets West
This ancient festival was brought to the western shores by His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The first Ratha-yatra festival outside of India took place in San Francisco in 1967. This festival came to London in 1969, where it has been faithfully observed every year for the last 37 years attracting more than 15,000 people.
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