RENO, Nev. (July 31, 2016) — The Universal Society of Hinduism on Sunday commended the efforts of the St. Louis area community for putting together a successful Rath Yatra (Festival of Chariots) that was held in Ballwin, Mo. on Saturday.
Organized by International Society for Krishna Consciousness, this Hindu chariot procession marched from Hindu Temple of St. Louis to Queeny Park in Ballwin, said Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism based in Reno. The festival included a chariot pulled by dozens of devotees over a mile using big ropes with playing of drums and cymbals along with Lord Krishna chants.
The celebrations also included a cultural program, kirtan, yoga, henna body art, meditation, free community vegetarian meal, arati and more, Zed said. The procession road was blocked for about an hour for the parade as a few hundred people participated in the celebrations, whose organizers included Dr. Ashok Kumar, Ramacarya Das, Narayana and others. Zed said it was clear that this festival exhibited the richness of Hinduism and that plays an important part with passing on Hindu spirituality, concepts and traditions to coming generations amidst so many distractions in the consumerist society.
“Instead of running after materialism, we should focus on inner search and realization of self and work towards achieving moksh (liberation), which was the goal of Hinduism,” Zed said.
Rath Yatra is said to be the oldest known parade in the world and it is believed that pullers of this Lord Jagannatha’s chariot receive immense spiritual benefit. Popularized outside India by International Society for Krishna Consciousness founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada the annual parade festival has reportedly been held annually in major cities of the world since 1960s.
The original Ratha Jatra is held on a grand scale in Puri (Odisha, India), where the presiding deities of Sri Mandira — Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra — with celestial wheel Sudarshana are driven on the chariots to about two miles north Gundicha temple in an elaborate ritual procession, where the huge colorfully decorated chariots are drawn by thousands of devotees. After a stay for seven days, the deities return to their abode in Sri Mandira. A glimpse of Lord Jagannatha on the chariot is considered to be highly auspicious and even a touch of the chariot is believed to yield benefits equivalent to several pious deeds. Many poets have written its glories. This year, it was held on July six.
“The ancient Hindu scripture Katha Upanishad talks about the concept of chariot, where soul is the deity, body is the chariot, and intellect the charioteer,
Zed said. “Skanda Purana glorifies Rath Jatra’s sanctity.”