Wednesday, May 11, 2016

News - 2016 Ratha Yatra Festival in Saint Augustine, Florida

On April 9, 2016, the quaint Florida costal town of St. Augustine hosted the Lord of the Universe, Jagannatha, along with His sister Subhadra and brother Balarama, for Their traditional, annual Rathayatra parade and festival. The weather was perfect, the townspeople curious and friendly, and the devotees jubilant to be participating in the first Rathayatra of the year. The mayor of St. Augustine, Nancy Shaver, was delighted to attend. She said, “The Festival of Chariots is a moment of joyful peace for me, I am invited to attend many programs but this festival gives me inner peace.” She was given Kurma’s cook book & she said “I will definitely try using the recipes.” She inaugurated the event by breaking a fresh coconut before the Rathayatra cart, and the procession began. Seven mridung as accompanied the lead kirtan singer, as Adikarta das played a harmonium and a newcomer played a base drum. The Harinam party, flanked on both sides by the thick ropes of the Rathayatra cart that was being pulled by many hands, walked through St. Augustine’s main streets as Lord Jagannatha and His divine family members watched with wide-open eyes. The Rathayatra procession was followed by a feast, free to all comers, and then the devotees sent off on a roaring hari-nam through St. Augustine’s elite shopping district. The Vaishnavis from Gainesville’s Krishna House were in the front of the hari-nam party, dancing together in a spontaneously choreographed step. Sri Vrindavan devi and her team of book distributors offered Srila Prabhupada’s books to all takers. Happily, there were many takers. The color, the gaiety, and the uplifting mood induced many, many people to stop and listen, watch, photograph, and wonder, and make this festival a sweet success.

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