Lord Jagannath’s Chariot Festival (Rath Yatra) was celebrated in Gothenburg by singing devotional songs, changing mantras and dancing in religious ecstasy. The chariot was adorned with the idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and their sister Subhadra, and it was pulled and pushed up and down Avenyn by devotees of Hare Krishna or International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) – a denomination of Hinduism that is popular in the West.
Govindas the temple-cum-restaurant of ISKCON in Gothenburg organized the chariot festival to mark the celebration of Lord Jagannath’s Rath Yatra.
The chariot resembling like a Hindu temple started its journey at Stenhammarsgatan the little side street next to the Poseidon at Götaplatsen, and journeyed up to Trädgårdsföreningen the Botanical Society of Gothenburg and took a turn back to Götaplatsen.
More than 100 devotees sang and danced, and also distributed sweets (prasadam) to the passers-by and bystanders and onlookers.
Gothenburgers demonstrated their secular credentials by taking photographs, accepting sweets, and some stood solemnly until the chariot passed by as a mark of respect, and no unpleasant incident was happened.
The 3-hour-long journey paused on its way to give an opportunity for people to see the idols for it happens only once a year like in Puri in the eastern Indian state of Odisha.
Pradeep Sriraman is an IT consultant from India who has come to Sweden on an assignment, and is living in Gothenburg. He said he felt blessed to take party in the chariot festival for he is a theist. He said, “Yesterday I just saw the post in Facebook, so, it made me to join the Rath Yatra.”
Rath Yatra is a defining feature of Hindu temples, says Darepalli Ravi Kumar from Hyderabad in India. He came to attend the festival along with his mother. He said, it was a great opportunity to participate in the chariot festival that too in Sweden, and seek the blessings of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Subhadra.
Raju Prasad Yadav came with his family, and also helped the organizers in making the event successful. He said that the chariot festival is an ancient festival from time immemorial. He noted that this festival in the West was the result of ISKCON founder Srila Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada. “Fortunately, today is the day in 1967 he started the rath yatra in San Francisco from then on we are celebrating.”
Lord Jagannath’s Rath Yatra is one of most popular festivals in Hindu calendar and the Indian city Puri receives millions of tourists and pilgrims for the festival.
“As every year Lord Jaganatha, Lord Baladeva and Srimati Subhadra come to Gothenborg and give their Darshan to the crowd. It is a very auspicious event so please take the opportunity to join us when we walk up and down the Avenue and distribute the Holy Name and Sweet balls to the people. The Ratha Yatra festival is a very big event in India and even here in Sweden the Lord gives us the possibility to serve him,” said Govindas. After the festival, the temple hosted a prasadam (feast without a price to pay) to the devotees as a gesture of goodwill.
Rain was predicted during the day but during the chariot festival there was no rain, but it came with hailstones after 8 pm. Some parts of Gothenburg received a downpour and others saw hailstones hitting the roofs and pavements.