On Sunday 24th June, London’s streets will come alive with festive displays of music, singing, dancing and chanting as Rathayatra (the festival of the chariots) makes its way from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square.
Dating back 5000 years, the festival was brought from India to the West in 1967 by the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, His Divine Grace A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and is celebrated every summer in over 200 cities around the world. This year London will celebrate the 50th Rathayatra coming to the city. The first London Rathayatra was held in 1969. Six pioneering American devotees came to London to establish a the Hare Krishna movement and the chanting of the Hare Krshna Maha mantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Every year thousands of Londoners, pilgrims and tourists line the route of the chariots, which carry the deities from Hyde park. These deities are from London’s Radha-Krishna temple at 10 Soho Street. The festival is a grand procession of the deities of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Baladeva and Lady Subhadra. They ride in three enormous wooden chariots beautifully decorated and painted in vibrant colours, which will be pulled by hand through the streets.
The English word ‘juggernaut’, meaning a large truck or vehicle, originated from this festival. Jagannatha means ‘Lord of the Universe’ – Lord Krishna.
The joyous and exuberant festivities transform Trafalgar Square into a vibrant attraction for everyone. There will be tents showcasing traditional music, dance performances and exhibitions on the Vedic culture of India and mantra meditation. The family-friendly festival also promises stalls of face painting and henna for the children.
Over the years, the festival has grown in size to more than 5,000 people on the procession and 30,000 people in Trafalgar Square. 20,000 plates of prasadam (sanctified food) will be distributed. Visitors can experience music, dance, drama, mantra meditation and also be provided with a complimentary delicious vegetarian food. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.