Hare Krishna’s Ratha Yatra parade descends on Coconut Grove
THE HARE KRISHNA TEMPLE WITH MEMBERS COMING FROM AS FAR AWAY AS HOMESTEAD CELEBRATED A FOUR-DAY FESTIVAL THAT INCLUDED THE COLORFUL RATHA YATRA PARADE
BY PARADISE AFSHAR
The streets of Coconut Grove recently came alive with one of the world’s oldest parades, Ratha Yatra.
Traffic came to a stop for the colorful procession.
Of course, most people who watched the 5,000-year-old event last weekend had no idea what they were watching when a chariot decorated with blue, red and yellow canopy, which was adorned with swans and lotus flowers came down the street — with 300 people singing and dancing around it.
But that didn’t stop people from watching the highlight of a four-day Krishna Fest, which was held by the Hare Krishna Temple in Coconut Grove.
Ratha Yatra is a celebration of Lord Jagannath and his annual visit to his aunt’s home.
He is also known as Krishna or God.
Hare Krishna is a faith that originated in India and made its way to the United States in the 1960s.
Followers believe in a higher consciousness that takes the form of pure love of Krishna.
Hare Krishnas believe Jagannath or Krishna comes out to greet the people during the parade. So followers carry a replica of him through the streets in a chariot.
“[He] comes out so that people who don’t normally go to temple can see him,” said Sri Radha Vallabha, 52, of Homestead, adding that this festival is “special because it is done outside.”
This year was the second time in a decade that the festival has been held in Miami. For financial reasons, it has not been done more often.
For Laita Maharaj, who grew up going to the temple, having the parade in Coconut Grove brought tears of happiness.
“I cannot explain why I felt that way,” said Maharaj, 27 of Coconut Grove.
“Seeing it here for the first time it was very moving and exciting, I couldn’t help myself.”
Traditionally the parade is held over the summer in India. but believers around the world hold parades about once a month.
Maharaj and Nisha Sakhi are among the thousands who often travel to see the parades.
In fact, Sakhi and her 11-year-old daughter Radha, came from Alachua, which is near Gainesville, to see the parade in Coconut Grove.
Sakhi said she often leaves the parades and the celebration with a sense of purity and inner peace.
She said it is a “pure” experience because of the energy that emerges from the events.
First timer Nick Wahlstrane agrees.
“There is a positive energy here,” said Wahlstrane, 27, of Key Largo.
“Everyone seems so happy.”