By Geetha Patil
Special to INDIA New England
BOSTON-After a long hiatus of 17 years, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, known as ISKCON or Hare Krishna movement, arranged a historic festival, the Ratha Yatra (chariot procession) of Lord Jagannatha on the major streets of Boston. The event, which was attended by thousands of people on Saturday, also marked the 50th anniversary celebration of ISKCON. (Photos by Geetha Patil)
Lord Krishna devotees and others came from all over New England region. The Ratha Yatra Parade proceeded from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm down Boylston Street, started from Massachusetts Avenue and culminated at the Boston Common Park, where the festivities of live devotional music (Kirtan), singing dancing, and henna continued with enthusiasm and all the religious fervor in the midst of a free vegetarian Prasadam feast prepared by the devotees of Lord Krishna.
The ISKCON Boston has been celebrating this festival for three decades now with some pause on having grand procession on the major streets of Boston in between. This attractive and inspiring annual Ratha Yatra involved carrying of deities Lord Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra on a richly decorated chariot for a journey.
This procession created a sight no different to that which happens in Puri, India. The procession was accompanied by the groups of musicians who were singing devotional songs, playing traditional drums, dholaks, and various other instruments, a wide-range of chanting, devotional singing and dancing by the Krishna devotees.
This 2016 event marks a big year for the ISKCON, a bhakti movement led by Swami Prabhupada who introduced spiritual science to the West in the form of devotional service to Krishna, as it turns 50 this year. ISKCON was formally established as a non-profit in 1966. This movement has been growing steadily ever since and spreading the message of spiritual knowledge, peace, and eternal bliss through chanting and singing of the holy names of the Lord Krishna, and distribution of vegetarian sanctified food.
A two thousand year old festival of Jagannatha Ratha Yatra was performed in more than 100 cities all over the world with love and devotion that promotes good omens for universal peace, harmony, and good will among all the living creatures. The belief behind this special festival is that a glimpse of Lord Jagannatha on the chariot is considered to be very auspicious as many saints, poets and scriptures have repeatedly glorified the holiness of the Ratha Yatra by saying that even a touch of the chariot or the ropes with which the chariots are pulled is enough to confer the results of several pious deeds or penance for ages.
The Boston event was attended by many, including Subhag Swami, ISKCON Mayapur in West Bengal India; Latha Mangipudi, State Representative Nashua, NH; Sanjay Kaul, Vice President, Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA); Kanchan Banerjee, President, Global Indians for Bharat Vikas (GIBV); Ravindra Mahadev, Financial Advisor, The Mahadev Group, a financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.
“It was the most wonderful experience of my life. I have never seen a gorgeous procession like this before. There are no words to express my joy with these wonderful devotees of Krishna and Indian vegetarian food. I will definitely never forget my time with this event,” said an attendee, who asked not be identified.