Unfortunately nearly all of the 200 rathayatras around the world have been cancelled including London. This is the first time there has not been a London Rathayatra since it was started in 1969.
The London chariots are not only used in London, but throughout the summer at rathayatras in Birmingham, Leicester, Cardiff, Brighton, Dublin and Belfast, and also Budapest (Hungary) and Paris. All these rathayatras have been cancelled this year.
As you can imagine, the chariots get a lot of wear. Myself, and a small team of devotees are taking advantage of this downtime to do much needed maintenance. Restoring worn paintwork, replacing cracked or broken timbers, and making new canopies. We built Jagannatha’s and Baladeva’s chariots in 2004. I was fortunate enough to have been invited to help build what is now Subhadra’s chariot in 1982. This was used for all three Deities until we got permission for two more in 2004.
There is an interesting story about how that permission came about. In 2000 I was asked to manage the festival. Previously from 1984, I had been looking after the chariot. We started fundraising for the festival that year, and to our surprise we more than covered the expenses. The next year the same thing happened, and the next. I was beginning to wonder, “What does Jagannatha want? He’s sending all this laxmi.” The next year, the Dept of Culture, Media and Sport held a consultation meeting for all the users of Trafalgar Square. They unveiled a model of the square with the top section joined to the National Gallery by a terrace. I thought to myself that this would be an ideal place for 3 chariots. Previously the square was an island with 4 lanes of traffic on all sides and we had to put the chariot next to Nelson’s Column where there would be no room for 3 chariots. The next thing that happened was the police asked us to come for a meeting to discuss how many chariots we would be having. “How many chariots?” This was very strange. Usually we had to approach them. For the previous 3 years I had been joking with the police inspector about having 3 chariots on the plea that it would make the procession more manageable. Of course, it wouldn’t. But that was the running joke. And every year the inspector would say “No. There is too much chaos with one. I will never give permission for 3.” So, myself and my good friend Parama Karuna went to meet with the inspector. He asked, “How many chariots are you having this year.” I said, “Well, one.” He replied, as if it was his own idea, “I think you should have 3 because it will make the procession more manageable”. We nearly fell off our chairs. So Jagannatha set up the whole thing. He sent the funds, arranged for Trafalgar Square to be changed to accommodate 3 chariots and changed the mind of the inspector!
Jaganatha’s chariot has now done 10 rathayatras nearly every year since 2004. That’s almost 160 in total! As well as building chariots for Jagannatha and Baladeva in 2004, we also rebuilt the 1982 chariot in 2006, which is now Subhadra’s.
Of course, all this maintenance work requires funds and we want to use the best quality materials for the Lord. The chariots are kept at our dedicated storage and workshop facility in Hatfield just north of London. We also have our own truck, which is 15 years old and needs replacing. Many parts are wearing out and it no longer complies with London emission regulations.
Today I am humbly appealing to you for your help. This is a rare opportunity to serve Their Lordships Jagannatha, Baladeva and Lady Subhadra by making an offering to the Lord’s Chariots.
To make your gift please visit: www.rathayatra.co.uk/donate or send your cheque to: ISKCON Rathayatra, 1 Watford Road, Radlett WD7 8LA
Rathayatra is celebrated all over the world. Huge wooden carts are pulled by hand in a grand procession by pilgrims and devotees. High up on the carts are Deities of Jagannatha, Balarama and Subhadra. After the procession there’s a beautiful celebration festival with a feast, kirtan and bhajana, transcendental book distribution and more.
All year round a person needs to go to the temple to see the Lord but at Rathayatra the Lord comes out for the day.
Rathayatra is completely non-sectarian. Everyone is welcome and no-one is excluded.
Expect to experience lots of colour, sound and dance at this unique festival.
Please feel free to join in with the chanting of;
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
And be happy.
When you get to the end of the procession please remember to take advantage of free water and the free vegetarian food.
Most of all come and enjoy being in the company of Lord Jagannatha and His devotees.
Ever wondered why chant Hare Krishna?
Learn about Krishna consciousness
Take a look at the Bhagavad-gita As It Is by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Practical transcendental knowledge from the master. All you need to know about matter, spirit, the creator, the soul and more.