Cardiff's First Ratha Yatra



Cardiff is to host its first ever "Ratha-yatra festival of Chariots" when it comes to the heart of the capital on August 20, 2005. Hundreds of pilgrims and devotees will hand pull the 40-foot high colourful wooden chariot carrying the deities of Lord Jagannatha, Lady Subhadra and Lord Balarama from City Hall to Coopers fields. The giant chariot will be accompanied by a procession of singers, musicians, and dancers.

"Cardiff will be pulsating to Indian spiritual sounds with instruments from across the globe," averred the Iskcon spokesperson. At Coopers fields, where the procession comes to an end, revellers will participate in a cultural and educational fair, delving into the spiritual heart of India.

The square will be decorated with colourful host of tents offering music, food, literature, sari wrapping, face painting and other displays. On stage, festival-goers will be entertained by dance, drama and music. A free sumptuous Indian vegetarian cuisine will also be offered to devotees.

Praghosa Das, leader of the Hare Krishna Movement in the United Kingdom says: "This festival will be East-meets-West experience and everyone is welcome. The traditional singing, dancing, free vegetarian food, the sheer exotic pageantry will make it a fun day out for the whole family," he adds.

Cradiff has a sizeable number of Indian-origin families and there already is much excitement about the Yatra. The locals are being informed that the traditional Jagannath Ratha Yatra is a celebration over 5000-year-old, observed in the ancient holy city of Jagannath Puri in Orissa, India, making it the oldest street festival in the world.

Devotees believe that if they get the honour of pulling the ropes of the giant chariot, carrying Lord Krishna, known as Jagannath- Lord of the Universe, then at the end of this life, they would be granted eternal service to the Lord in the spiritual world.

Bhaktivedanta Swami, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, brought this festival to the West. The first Ratha-yatra festival outside India took place in San Francisco in 1967. The festival came to London in 1969, where it has been observed every year for the last 37 years attracting more than 25,000 people.

"This year, it's the first time the festival has come to Wales and we hope it will become an annual occasion for everyone," said the organisers.


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