Chariots Coming to Venice

By Greta Cobar

The Hare Krishna Festival of the Chariots is the world’s oldest religious observation, and this year marks the 36th such celebration in Venice. Called Ratha-Yatra, the festival is a celebration of the Deity Jagannath. People attend the festivities to catch a glimpse of Jagannath, whose statue only comes out of the Temple during this festival.

“Birth class determines who may or may not enter the Temple in Puri,” according to Sthavira-Bhakti Dasa, a Hare Krishna Pujari, or priest. The statue of Jagannath from the Temple in Culver City is brought out for the parade in Venice.

Although similar celebrations are held throughout the world, the largest of them all takes place on the East Coast of India, at the Temple in Puri, and is attended by three million people. Three richly decorated chariots commemorating the annual journey of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balarama and their lady Subhadra are pulled through the streets of Puri. Those chariots are five times bigger than the ones we have here, in Venice.

This year the Hare Krishna Festival of the Chariots takes place on Sunday, August 5, with twenty thousand free vegetarian food plates, music, dancing, and parading.