on Aug. 9, 2008
Lord Jagannath blessed the city of Paris with His Ratha Yatra festival for the eighteenth year on July 6th, 2008.
A dense maze of government beauraucracy in previous years encouraged devotees to personally approach police officers and city officials six months in advance for permission this year.
“The personal contact with them was warm and encouraging,” says organizer Srinath Dasa. “We got nice letters from various officers, and received the exact spots we wanted. Even better, representatives from two Mairies (town halls) attended the inauguration ceremony and spoke very appreciatively.”
Other special guest speakers included Indian ambassador His Excellency Mr Ranjan Methai, Mr Prakash Hinduja from Geneva, and GBC for France Param Gati Swami.
The parade departed from a square next to Canal de la Vilette, accompanied by a thundering chanting party featuring five drummers, including three traditional Brazilian zacumbas.
While passing through La Chapelle, Paris’ own “Little India,” the cart had to stop often so that the Deities could accept special offerings from shopkeepers.
The four hour parade ended at Forum des Halles, the very center of Paris, and, according to Srinath, “The best spot we could have imagined.” Devotees had erected a “Krishna Village” with twenty stalls and an ongoing stage program alternating dance, bhajans and spiritual talks.
Thousands of curious visitors had been milling through the Village throughout the day, but when Jagannath arrived riding His majestic cart, the crowd expanded to bursting point. In only a few hours, fifty servants handed out five thousand plates of sacred prasadam food, fifteen thousand laddhus and hundreds of fruits and cold drinks.
Mrs Azria, General Secretary of Le Maire du ler Arrondissement de Paris, commented: “I am very happy to have come here, and feel shy to receive so much honor. This festival is wonderful. You can rely on me to provide you with the use of Forum des Halles as your festival site for years to come.”