for The Sydney Morning Herald on March 19, 2010
It may represent the grand, horse-drawn chariot of Lord Jagganatha, a form of the Indian deity Krishna, but rules are rules on Sydney roads.
Which explains why the human-powered cart was equipped with power steering, hydraulic brakes, wing mirrors and a powerful horn when it took to George Street last week.
''The RTA were very strict. It was like going for a pink slip,'' says Wesley Johnson, a member of the Hare Krishna temple at North Sydney, who built the cart with the chassis of a 10-tonne truck and the wheels of a tractor.
The cart - a downsized version of massive chariots that thousands of people pull through the streets of India each spring - led a street procession on the 13th, starting at the northern end of Hyde Park, at 12.30pm.
The procession, or rath yatra, was part of Holi Mahotsav, a three-day Indian ''festival of colours, friendship and harmony''.
It is part Bollywood glitz, part other-worldly bliss. But above all it's a joyful glimpse of ''Incredible !ndia'', open to all Sydneysiders, says Gambhir Watts, one of the organizers, who helped decorate the cart.
''We always welcome everyone to join in - watching the parade, eating the food, enjoying the dancing, throwing the colours.'' That is, harmless powder dyes, whose use was confined to one section of the Darling Harbour site.
Spectators were also able to help pull the cart. ''In India they believe that by pulling the rope of the rath cart they receive liberation from their earthly bonds.''
Holi Mahotsav, Mr Watts says, is more cultural than religious. ''It's about enthusiasm, happiness, having fun.''
By coincidence, the festival fell on the same weekend as the Miss India Australia Talent and Model Search at the Seymour Centre.
The event, which started in 2003, is intended to showcase - in everything from sari and shawl to cocktail dresses and swimsuits - the best of both worlds, says the organiser, Raj Suri.
''The event presents a unique opportunity for women to engage with and celebrate rich Indian heritage with contemporary Australian identity.''
The timing of the festival could hardly have been better. It came as Indians and Australians, at home and abroad, are striving to restore harmony between the communities, which has been shattered by reported attacks on expatriate Indian students.