The News Agency of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

Strike Won't Dampen ISKCON Toronto's Devotion

By: for The Toronto Star (Canada) on July 25, 2009
Photo Credits: Keith Beaty
Sunil Bhardwaj ropes in Shyam the macaw to join thousands of people July 18, 2009 as they chanted and danced along in devotion to the Hindu god Krishna.

Organizers for the Festival of India had to dig deeper into festival funds
after several hiccups caused by the ongoing Toronto city workers' strike
pushed them off Centre Island.


"This has hit us hard financially," said the festival's chairperson, Krishna
Sharma yesterday. "Suddenly we had to reorganize a brand new festival in about
two weeks time."


He would not provide the total expenditure, but said the festival spent
between $10,000 to $15,000 on contracting out services it would have otherwise
got from the city, on things like garbage collection, portable toilets,
security and EMS. That figure does not factor in the thousands spent on
finding a new site at which to hold the event.


The festival is a Hindu celebration centred around the teachings of Lord
Krishna. It is run by the Hare Krishna Centre of Toronto, a charitable
organization.


Sharma said the biggest expense was paying for the private parking lot at the
foot of Yonge St. and Queens Quay E., which is hosting the two-day festival.
The picturesque Centre Island, which has been the 37-year-old event's usual
venue for the past 20 years, went off-limits after the ferry service was
cancelled because of the strike.


"When a charity loses one of its biggest partners (the city) and we're
suddenly stuck with the strike and we have 40,000 people who are expecting a
fully colourful festival, it puts our backs against the wall," Sharma said.


Sharma said the festivities would go ahead regardless of the strike. And that
they did, with three 40-foot floats pulled by throngs of colourfully clad
patrons chanting and dancing to religious-themed songs. At the parking lot,
visitors were treated to a vegetarian feast.


Organizers had yet put an estimate on the number of attendees yesterday.


But participant Supriyo Gupta, 40, said all was not lost as the event still
provided a mix of arts and culture, a South Asian bazaar and spiritual yoga
programs.


"The Festival of India has enough colour that you could put us in a garbage
dump and we would still make it fun," Sharma said.


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