Members of the ISKCON Moscow community dance and chant the names of Krishna in the famous Red Square.
Russian ISKCON devotees celebrated Ratha Yatra in Moscow this June eighth for the first time in nine years. Held in conjunction with The Beatles And India festival in Gorky Park, the program featured a parade of the chariots along with a concert of popular Moscow groups covering Beatles’ songs.
An impressive chariot was built for the deity of Jagannatha, the Lord of the Universe. The excellent craftsmanship, featuring a tall red dome decorated with flowers, was reminiscent of the original Ratha Yatra carts in Puri, Orissa, from where the festival stems.
Naturally, the Lord of the Universe is above mundane law. Still, he complies with whatever will make it convenient for his devotees to worship him. So his chariot was registered and given an official license place by the Moscow traffic authorities.
The festival began shortly before midday and was attended by over a thousand people, including many businessmen and students of the Indian community. Some turned up with their entire families.
Abhai Thakur of the Indian Embassy in Moscow addressed the crowd. “In India, there are many followers of this religion and culture,” he said. “But it is surprising to see Russian people’s love for it. This testifies to the very close ties between Russia and India.”
In the afternoon, a concert was held in memory of the Beatles including the late George Harrison, who was a follower of Vaishnava philosophy for decades, and popularized the Hare Krishna mantra with his songs.
Moscow bands such as Denis Mazhukov and Off Beat, Dance Ramblers, and Flowers, as well as singers Marina Devyatova, Ananda, and Nikolai Demidov performed on stage at the Summer Theatre. The crowd lapped up favorites like My Sweet Lord, Yesterday, Come Together, Can`t Buy Me Love, Let it Be and others.
A number of stalls were set up near the stage, where guests could learn astrology and Ayurvedic medicine and buy Indian souvenirs. Many were attracted to the fashion show featuring Indian saris and dhotis, and even fashion for Indian monks.
The Ganga café, extremely popular with over ten years on the Moscow market, distributed traditional Indian vegetarian food.
Although Russia is an Orthodox country, and its attitude to other religious groups is not always favorable, this time Lord Jagannath conquered the hearts of all present, proving that He is indeed the Lord of the Universe.
Moscow ISKCON member Krishnadas Kaviraj das recalls, “People would approach me and ask, ‘Is this some sort of a sect?’ I’d answer, ‘Do we look like a sect?’ Then they’d smile and join the parade.”
“One young man asked me if the deities on the chariot were idols. ‘Just enjoy the festival,’ I replied. ‘Dance and sing!’ He nodded and disappeared into the crowd. Some time later he emerged again with some sacred food offered to Jagannath in his hand, smiled at me and said, ‘Hare Krishna! Now I can answer my own question: they’re not idols.’”
The festival was considered a great success by both ISKCON devotees and guests, and one of the most effective ways of getting people acquainted with the Vedic culture and promoting religious tolerance.
Below is a video of an orthadox Christian priest chanting in the kirtana: