Festival shows India’s ‘love and connection’

On Sept. 28, Philadelphia Rathyatra Street Festival hosted its annual Ratha Yatra festival, or the “Parade of Chariots.” This event began in Puri, Odisha, India 5,000 years ago to celebrate the deity Lord Jagannath’s journey to meet his devotees in the Indian holy city of Vrindavan. 

“It’s basically to show the community God,” said Darsaan Khanna, a junior neuroscience major at University of the Sciences in Spruce Hill, Philadelphia. 

“For us, we try to preach love of God,” he said. “We don’t try to say, this is God, you have to see this God. but it’s more like, ‘Hey, whatever religion you are, whatever culture, whatever you follow, it’s just the love and connection.’” 

The day began with a parade on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, starting at John F. Kennedy Plaza and ending in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Attendees danced, sang and took turns pulling three chariots. 

Prapash Geggernaueh, 56, from Long Island, New York, said he follows the festival in major cities along the East Coast. 

“So many people don’t go to church or know the Lord, so he comes out once a year,” he said. “He makes himself available, and he comes to you. It is like special mercy. This is how kind he is.”

At the end of the parade, there was free vegan and vegetarian food, yoga and live performances. 

Samyukkta Suryanarayanan, 16, came from Mt. Laurel, New Jersey.

“I love getting henna, dancing and singing,” she said. “My spirituality gives me a purpose. I know my main purpose is to serve the Lord. There are so many things that I can do for him and it makes me feel so happy and peaceful to do all of those things and I can always focus, because anything I am doing, I am doing for him. It brings things full circle.”

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