New York City – New York Ratha Yatra, a popular HareKrishna festival held along Manhattan’s posh Fifth Avenue, is among fifteen“traditional annual Fifth Avenue parades” that will be allowed to continuedespite new measures to limit processions down the street, according toVirginia Waters, senior counsel in the city’s law division.
Federal judge Sidney Stein ruled on Tuesday, November 27,that the city had already granted too many exceptions to a moratorium on newFirth Avenue parades, and held that the ban was constitutional. ThePolice Department began enforcing the little-known regulation in 2005.
When it comes to new parades, the ruling allows for only afew narrowly defined exceptions, including parades organized by the city orhonoring the armed forces, sports achievements or championships, world leadersor extraordinary achievements of historical significance.
The ruling does not, however, present a challenge to thefifteen parades permitted prior to July 2001 and deemed “traditional annualFifth Avenue parades” – a short list that includes the Hare Krishna fete.
Interestingly, the New York Krishna devotees overcamesimilar restrictions when they first applied for the parade permit in1976. According to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust’s newly published JayaJagannatha, the granting of the permit was nothing short of a miracle.Although city officials had not allowed any new parades down Fifth Avenue since1962, when Tosan Krishna Dasa submitted a written application on behalf of theHare Krishna movement, the authorities inexplicably approved it.
However, when Tosan went to the police station to get thefinal papers signed – mere days before the parade was scheduled to take place –a secretary again cited the ordinance and informed him that they would not besigned. Determined, Tosan appealed directly to the chief of police. As Jaya Jagannatha humorously recounts, the chief reviewed Tosan’sapplication and signed the papers with a smile, even while declaring, “I reallydon’t know why I am signing this!”
Since then, the Krishna devotees in New York have beenholding the festival down the “most famous street in the most famous city inthe world” every year.
In being recognized as atraditional annual Fifth Avenue parade, the Ratha Yatra shares company with thepopular Puerto Rican Day Parade (usually held the day after Ratha Yatra) andthe iconic St. Patrick’s Day Parade.