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A large crowd of Hare Krishna devotees pulled three giant chariots through central London from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square chanting and dancing in the annual Rathayatra Chariots Festival.
The Rathayatra Chariots Festival in London over the years has grown to be a very large event, with more than a thousand devotees pulling the three giant chariots through the streets from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, chanting Hare Krishna and dancing.
Rathayatra started at the Jagannatha temple in Puri, Orissa on the Indian east coast, which was built around a thousand years ago, though the festival may be older. It celebrates the time when Krishna grew up on earth and when he became a great lord moved away from his childhood friends. These cowherds visited him and tried to kidnap him and take him back to their village on a cart.
Three deities are worshipped in the temple at Puri, and each is carried on a chariot. They are Krishna in the form of Jagannatha, his half-sister Subhadra, and Balarama her brother.
Jagannath means ‘Master of the Universe’ and his name and the chariots in the festival give us the word “juggernaut”.
The chariot festival first came to the west to San Francisco in 1967, and was brought to London by a small group of disciples from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (better known as the Hare Krishna) two years later. An effigy of the founder of ISKCON, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977) is also carried on one of the chariots in the festival.
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