on Aug. 8, 2009
LOS ANGELES, CA - The Temple of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) at Watseka Avenue here, just off Venice Blvd. conducted its 33rd Annual Festival of the Chariots Parade on August 2, which started at the Santa Monica Civic auditorium and ended on Venice Beach.
In the morning the Deities were taken from the temple to Santa Monica and were installed in three beautifully decorated chariots of which the towering canopies were splendidly draped in yellow, green, red and blue. Along the sides, balloons swayed in the gentle breeze wafting through the compound of the City auditorium, lined with several hundred feet of garlands of marigolds and carnations giving the divine vehicles a spectacular look. Hundreds had gathered by 10 am to participate in the Ratha-Yatra and serve their Lord Krishna by helping haul the chariots along the streets of Santa Monica and Venice to its allocated spots on the beach.
The lead chariot carried the Deity of Lord Jaganatha, followed by one which housed his sister Subhadra and the final one in which was placed the Deity of his brother Baladeva. Many of the local TV stations were also on hand to take in and pass on the magnificent sight to millions of viewers on their newscasts.
Following the blowing of conches the parade started in real earnest led by motorcycle police escorts going south on Main Street from downtown Santa Monica. The weather cooperated wonderfully with the sun hidden behind a thick marine layer to make it a cool morning for the earlier part of the parade.
It took a few joint heaves on the ropes by the two rows of devotees to get the huge 40 ft high and 25 ft long chariots with 6ft steel wheels to get moving but once the momentum was established they were drawn comfortably down the streets accompanied by chants of “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna- Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama – Rama Rama Hare Hare.” As it proceeded the number of dancers and percussionists kept increasing and by the time it arrived at Venice Beach about 2000 devotees had joined the yatra.
At the beach two stages had been set up and throughout the day there were several hours of bhajans, many cultural programs and discourses. Booths at the site provided books, publications, videos and CDs on Vaishnava and Vedic culture, vegetarianism and reincarnation and suggestions for living clean happy lives.
Vendors also provided products for religious and cultural use. An estimated 40,000 people visited the venue and participated in the various activities and over 15,000 were provided a free vegetarian feast during the afternoon. For the children there was a huge enclosure with several kinds of programs to hold their interest and learn a few useful things.
Present at the event was ISKCON’s Director for Communications, Anuttama Dasa who talked to India Journal about the growth of Krishna Consciousness. He said he is pleased to note the significant increase in congregational participation around the world compared to the time when it started in the 1960s. This had come about because those who had originally joined the fold were now encouraging their families to become part of the movement too. With life styles seeing such rapid changes towards modernization he conceded that the monastic lifestyle of the devotee had seen some modification and alteration and many were living in a more conventional family oriented surrounding.
Speaking of the environment, Dasa added that the ISKCON movement bodes well for the ecology of the planet. Its spiritual principles, he pointed out, lead to the understanding of one’s nature, which will automatically instill in one the desire to take care of one’s brothers and sisters, become concerned for the well-being of animals and become protective of the delicate balance of nature.
The best way to save this planet is to become religious, he
concluded, which in turn teaches one to be natural and not do anything
which will in any way harm the environment.