The News Agency of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

Monsoon Parade—Queens

By: for So It Happens on Aug. 8, 2009

The consolidated city of New York comprises five boroughs (each a county): Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. Among these, the borough of Queens is blessed with The Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma Mandir, which stands in the neighborhood of Richmond Hill.


“Queens County,” we learn, “is one of the most ethnically diverse areas on earth. There are over 130 different languages spoken by its citizens, and in many neighborhoods hearing English is rare.” Richmond Hill is home to many Hindu temples, Muslim mosques, and Sikh gurdwaras that minister to the local, twice-exiled Indian communities from Caribbean lands like Trinidad, Guyana, and Suriname.

On August 2nd, a warm but stormy Sunday, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma (Śrī Śrī Hari-Haladhārī) went out on a parade through Richmond Hill. Outside the temple at 111-14 101 Ave., devotees chanted as Hari-Haladhārī were escorted from their altar to the van that would convey them to their chariot:


Sunanda Dāsa, the temple president, playing drum, leads kīrtana

Mahesvara Carrying Balarama 1

Maheśvara Dāsa, assisted by Nityānanda Dāsa, carries Balarāma from temple to the waiting van

Mahesvara Carrying Balarama 2

Maheśvara holds The Holder of the Plow (Haladhārī)

Balarama in van

Balarāma in van, cradled by Bhūṣāra Dāsa

For the record, our taking out large marble Deities on parade created some controversy. When the idea of this parade first occurred to Sunanda, he called to ask me, his spiritual master, whether it could be done. Was it bona fide? At once I answered “yes,” and then I recounted a conversation I had in 1974 with Śrīla Prabhupāda himself on this very topic.

That year, I talked with Prabhupāda in his quarters in New Vṛndāvana and gave him an account of our recent Philadelphia Rathayātrā, with the largest cart ever.

Prabhupāda’s response was enthusiastic. He extolled such parades as extremely important. The Deities, he said, can be taken out on parade four times a year. He mentioned Janmāṣṭamī as one such occasion. “Oh, Lord Jagannātha will go out then, too?” I asked. “No,” said Prabhupāda. “Not Jagannātha. Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.”


Surprised, I exclaimed: “The big Deities?”


He paused a beat and said “Yes. They can go.”


“Isn’t that risky?” I asked.


“Just be careful.” Prabhupāda answered.


He went on to say that when Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa come out in procession, the participants in front of the Deity car hold upraised poles or standards, made of silver or gold, surmounted by lion’s heads.


Then, returning to the earlier topic about bringing out big marble Deities, he said that some temples had special replicas of the altar Deities just for going out of the temple for festivals. He called them “vijaya-vigraha.”


But, he said again, the altar Deities themselves could be taken out, but one had to be very careful.



Having heard this from me, Sunanda went ahead with the festival plans. But soon, other ISKCON authorities registered objections to the marble Deities’ being taken out. By that time, however, the plans and preperations were too far along to change. We understood the concern for the safety of the Deities and planned to have vijaya-vigraha for next year’s festival.


In the meantime, we would take Prabhupāda’s “just be careful” very seriously. That’s why Sunanda and I were thankful for the help of Maheśvara—devout, highly experienced, and strong.



Mahesvara placing Balarama on chariot

With the care of a mother for her baby, Maheśvara places Haladhārī on the chariot

Suspension System 2Suspension system for Deities’ throne on the chariot

Suspension System 1


Manu constructed this remarkable suspension system for the Deities’ throne. A professional in this matter, Manu said the system is used to protect highly sensitive payloads (like electronics or explosives) from shocks.

Kirtan before Parade

Kīrtana before the parade starts

Umbrellas Come Out 1

The umbrellas come out

Umbrellas Come Out 2

More umbrellas

This year we’ve undergone a monsoon season in the northeast United States. The Ratha-yātrā in Purī also takes place during the rainy season.

Gaura Nitai

Gaura Nitāi led the procession. These are the Deities of Akhilānanda Dāsa. He also provided the chariot for Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma.

Singing in the Rain 1

Getting ready

Setting Off

Setting off

Siva, Hanuman, Ganesa

Other divinities join the procession: Śiva, Hanumān, and Gaṇeśa

Lion-headed standard

Bearing the lion-headed standard (see conversation with Prabhupāda above)

Singing in the Rain 3

“Singin’ In The Rain”

Singing in the Rain 2

More “Singin’ In The Rain”

Walking on roads

Proceeding on roads first washed clean by Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma

Candrasekhara Swami

Candraśekhara Swami wet, but, as they say, “smokin’”


Akhilānanda adds brass

Richmond Hill Residents 2

Richmond Hill residents watch under cover

Richmond Hill Residents 1

Devotees of Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa come out to see the mobile Lords

Richmond Hill Residents 3

More residents of the place sometimes called “New Guyana”

Richmond Hill Residents 4

More residents watch from on high

Residents Bring Offerings

Residents along the way bring offerings for the Deities and distribute prasāda to the celebrants


Haryaśva Dāsa adapts completely to the aquatic environment, manifests appropriate form


Even the mannequins gaze on Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma with unblinking eyes

Joyous conclusion 1

A joyous conclusion

Joyous conclusion 3






Krishna-Balarama on altar

Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma return safely to their altar

A final note: Any pilgrimage to New York requires a visit to the Deities presiding in three boroughs:



Radha Govinda

The spectacular Rādhā-Govinda in Brooklyn

Radha Murlidhari

The merciful Rādhā-Murlīdhāra in Manhattan





Hari Haladhari on Balarama Purnima

The playful Hari-Haladhārī in Queens





As of now, Staten Island and The Bronx still await their Lords. . . .

[ festivals ] [ new-york-city ]