ISKCON celebrates the Chariot Festival
The rath (chariot) was bedecked with flowers, paper lanterns and garlands of fruit.
And of course, images of Lord Krishna.
A four-wheel wooden chariot, nearly two storeys in height, it made its way slowly through the streets of Brisbane CBD on a Saturday morning in early May.
Built to resemble a temple, with a colourful red and yellow pillar made of cloth topped by a golden coloured dome, it carried the idols of Lord Krishna and Sri Prabhupada, founder of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness.
It was hand-pulled by over three hundred ISKCON devotees, who used thick strong ropes with much fanfare. The catchy tunes of Hare Rama and Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare filled the air.
With police escort and roads in the Brisbane CBD cordoned off, this was the grand celebratory occasion of ‘The Festival of Chariots’.
“The Festival of Chariots originated in Puri, Orissa over 2000 years ago and is now celebrated in every major city across the world,” Niti Sheth, one of the festival coordinators, told Indian Link.
It was marked originally at the Jagannanth Temple in Puri (from where the term ‘juggernaut’ comes) when the deities, to this day, are put in a massive chariot and taken for an annual tour of the city.
“This is one of the few times that we come out to the streets to really share the love. It’s all about giving. Our tagline for this year is ‘Joy of devotion”.
Where did the chariot come from?
“It has travelled all the way from ISKCON’s farming community in Murwillumbah from northern NSW,” Niti revealed. “We bring it up once a year for the festival. It also travels further south to Melbourne.”
For Radha Dasi, the pulling of the chariot holds a special significance. “We are remembering the Lord of the Universe today,” she said. “We are pulling this Chariot, so that Lord Jaganath (Krishna) can come and live in our hearts and can remain in our hearts forever.”
Winding through the streets of the CBD for over an hour, onlookers were in awe, trying to get a selfie or two. The Chariot was finally brought to King George Square, where a number of festivities were lined up for the day.
There was free food from the ‘Food for Life’ tent, interactive games for children, stalls selling sweets and treats, henna and a card reading stall that imparted Vedic wisdom.
A free-for-all event, the henna stall seemed to be quite popular with the Australians. Neha Attal, henna artist, told Indian Link, “Henna comes from the leaves of a plant, Lawsonia Enermis. The scientific reason behind applying it is, it reduces body heat. It is catching up real quick in Australia and people thoroughly enjoy applying henna on their palms or a tattoo.”
Indian Link also popped into the card reading tent to get an insight into a bit of Vedic wisdom. The card read by Ranganath Das said, ‘Know that all beautiful, glorious and mighty creations, spring from, but is a spark of, my splendour.’ It forms the basis of one of the songs Lord Krishna sang to Arjuna on the bloody battlefields of Kurukshetra, a religious war that was fought to safeguard the principles of religion.
Crowds thronged King George Square to revel in the festivities. Smiles, greetings, and enjoying oneself were the order of the day!