This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
Ratha Yatras (Hindu Festival of Chariots) have reportedly been planned in the three cities of Florida (USA).
Starting with Clearwater Beach on May 10, this annual parade will reportedly be held on the Daytona Beach on May 23 and Jacksonville Beach on August 15. It is like getting a taste of India and Hinduism without leaving Florida.
According to reports, Clearwater Mayor George N. Cretekos will be attending the Clearwater Beach festival and it will include “Free 5 Course Feast”, kirtan, cultural program and parade.
Meanwhile, distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, applauded efforts of the organizers and Florida community to realize these wonderful festivals, exhibiting the richness of Hinduism.
Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, further said that it was important to pass on Hindu spirituality, concepts and traditions to coming generations amidst so many distractions in the consumerist society. Zed stressed that 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.
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, this annual parade festival has reportedly been held annually in over 50 major cities in USA, Canada, Europe, etc., 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 will be held on July 18.
Rajan Zed points out that ancient Hindu scripture Katha Upanishad talks about the concept of chariot, where soul is the deity, body is the chariot, and intellect the charioteer. Skanda Purana glorifies Rath Jatra’s sanctity.