ISKCON devotees received a “Second Place for Marching Units” award for their participation in LA’s annual Kingdom Day Parade at a ceremony at the Radisson Hotel near downtown Los Angeles this February 13th.
ISKCON has participated in every Kingdom Day Parade—a January event honoring human rights icon Martin Luther King Jr—since 1995.
“That first year, our contribution was a basic Harinam chanting party of one hundred devotees,” recalls Ratnabhushana Dasa. “Madhudvisa Dasa and Devadahiti Dasi worked with them all for a couple of weeks in advance, choreographing the dancing including a ladies’ group dressed in colorful Bharat Natyam outfits. It was quite simple, but our presentation won us an award—the same one, in fact, that we won this year.”
ISKCON LA maintained the same model for several years, before upping the game significantly when Ratnabhushana built a beautiful Ratha Yatra cart to add to the parade. This would following the chanting party carrying Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra, as well as a kirtan band playing harmonium, bass guitar and an amplified mridanga drum.
Today, ISKCON’s contribution to the parade is much the same, and devotees have become a mainstay of the event.
“I was concerned about the turnout this year because rain was forecast, but nevertheless a solid group of devotees from LA and San Diego attended,” Ratnabhushana says.
As predicted, rain did fall, lightly at first and then “in buckets.” Yet although drenched to the bone, devotees continued to chant and dance with enthusiasm.
“Several devotees encouraged the spectators to dance with them, and many did, just as they do every year,” says Ratnabhushana. “We were greeted with a lot of cheers and friendly waves and retained our energy despite the cold and rain when we reached the judging stand and television cameras near the end of the parade.”
“This is the United People of the Spiritual World,” announcers read as devotees approached the judge’s stand. “This group is part of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. They are working to keep Dr. King’s dream alive by uniting all people, all races, all religions, on the spiritual platform.”
Later, Ratnabhushana Dasa received the Parade’s second place award in the Marching Units category on behalf of all the devotees, including Krishna Bhavana Dasa, who first had the idea to participate in the parade back in 1995, and who still files ISKCON’s application.
“Someone once asked me why the Hare Krishnas participated in the King parade,” Ratnabhushana said in his acceptance speech. “I replied that we appreciate that Dr. King had a spiritual vision which allowed him to look past the barriers of race and see all people as equal under God.”
Ratnabhushana added that while most of today’s celebrities are just musicians, actors or athletes—many of whom do not exhibit good character— he felt that a man like Dr. King was a much more worthy role model.
Shaking Kingdom Day Parade founder Larry Grant’s hand, Ratnabhushana asked if he could give him a garland of flowers which had been offered to ISKCON Los Angeles’ presiding deities Sri Sri Rukmini Dwarakadisha, as well as a copy of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad gita As It Is.
Grant graciously accepted both, saying, “Because you gave me this nice “Lei,” I am going to take my picture with you.” The only other group he had taken his photo with was the color guards.
As Ratnabhushana returned to his seat, Grant commented, “We welcome you, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, because after all, this is an International parade.”
Please visit www.lalive.us to view a webcast of ISKCON’s Kingdom Day Parade contribution, as well as to watch KNBV TV coverage of the 2006 parade.[ angeles ] [ los-angeles ]