Toronto Ratha Yatra – Festival of Chariots
Festival of the chariots takes place since BC in Jagannath Puri, India. Ratha Yatra is mentioned in the timeless Vedic literatures. In 1966 a series of accidents set such festivals in motion in the West. Ever since, beautiful chariots roll down the streets of major cities of the world each year. Last week was Toronto Ratha Yatra. The kirtan tent always attracts the curiosity of passers by. Rhythm is universal language, says Prabhupada. On one such occasion a group of burqa clad women came in and chanted in kirtan. A while later, they got up and danced around in total bliss. Intrigued, I went to talk to them. They were from Iran and wouldn’t miss the happiness of dancing in kirtan. I wondered the reason they were so spontaneous. Before the revolution in the 1980’s, there were Krishna devotees in Iran. A Govinda’s restaurant in Tehran served delicious vegetarian sanctified food. The reigning Shah of the time had received the Bhagavad Gita.
Iran still produces tenacious Hare Krishnas. They practice the lifestyle of Vaisnavas undercover. Totally dependent on the mercy of the Holy Name, these practitioners are genuine to the core. We sometimes meet these beautiful Persian people at festivals in Europe and they inspire us with their sincere faith. In kirtan we are all forever connected, one in spirit though individually unique.