Ancient tradition celebrated in east Dallas

An ancient celebration in a modern city, Ratha Yatra is a spring festival honoring the god Krishna in the tradition of Krishna Consciousness. Participants filled the streets of east Dallas recently to take part in a spectacle of vibrant colors, dancing and chanting. Neighbors looked on as a colorful chariot was pulled through the streets and back to the Hare Krishna Temple.

Members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, also known as the devotees of Krishna, along with non-devotees flocked to the streets to celebrate the annual chariot festival on April 15.

As people walked, danced and sang, Dallas Police officers directed cars, spectators and people walking their dogs. Many waved to the crowd walking in front of the chariot. The event raised the curiosity of observers who wanted to know about the celebration.

For the devotees of Krishna, Ratha Yatra is more than a traditional celebration; it’s about serving Krishna, the supreme of all Hindu gods. “The celebration is about engaging in devotional service,” said Nitiananda Chandra, a member of the Hare Krishna Temple of Dallas.

When the chariot was returned to the temple, a festival was held on the grounds. Vendors served vegetarian food, sold books and displayed arts and craft made by the students of the TKG Academy, an elementary school for Hare Krishna students.

“This was a very auspicious day for all of us,” said Krishna Mangala, a Krishna devotee.

Ratha Yatra has its origins in ancient India as a celebration of the Hindu god Jagannath, also known as Lord of the Universe. It also represents the return of the Hindu god Krishna to his hometown of Vrindavan. It is believed that the Ratha Yatra festival began 5,000 years ago in the city of Jagannath Puri on the east coast of India.

The first Ratha Yatra festival held outside of India took place in San Francisco in 1967 when Srlia Swami Prabhupada established Krishna consciousness on the west coast. Today, Ratha Yatra is celebrated in 108 cities worldwide.