Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Tens of Thousands Join in 48th Annual New York Ratha Yatra
By Aditya Devi Dasi    |  Jun 29, 2024
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On June 8th, the 48th annual New York Ratha Yatra processed down Fifth Avenue, one of the world’s most iconic streets. Over 30,000 participants took part in the parade, which traveled from East 45th Street to Washington Square Park.

This festival grows in size each year, with over 5,000 more participants than last year. Special guests included Radhanath Swami, Candramauli Swami, Mahavisnu Swami, Vaisesika Das, Bhakti Anuragha Janardana Swami, and Madhava Das, as well as many senior devotees from around the world.

The New York City Police Department looks forward to this street festival each year, with many officers even asking for the shift. This year, the chief officer felt the desire to serve beyond his regular duties and asked his officers to kindly and peacefully help direct the crowd into the park at the end of the parade, a first for us.

Each year, Washington Square Park experiences a Hare Krsna explosion. Devotees effectively take over the space for six hours, gathering all aspects of our transcendental culture for the participation of devotees, pilgrims, and the general public alike to enjoy and relish. A sumptuous feast of over 18,000 plates was shared, 4,000 books were distributed, and 300 joyful volunteers helped to make it all happen.

This year, booths presented the activities of Gita Nagari and the TOVP, an array of goods from Govinda’s Gifts, and cultural contributions from Wisdom of the Sages, Kirtan Tent, Welcome Tent, and Questions and Answers. Delicious prasadam was served from Govinda’s Restaurant, and the Bhakti School and various other preaching tents were particularly busy. Entertainment was provided by both Odissi and contemporary dance performances, as well as drama, music, henna, and face painting, while diverse devotee food vendors supplied culinary delights.

The first Ratha Yatra on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue took place in 1976, when Srila Prabhupada, after ascending Subhadra’s cart at 34th Street, rode the rest of the way down Fifth Avenue to Washington Square Park while legendary devotees such as Jayananda Das and others danced in ecstasy.

This year, we crossed a new milestone with the permanent return of Jagannath, Baladev, and Subhadra, who are back to stay with us as our worshipful Lordships. Maheshwar Das, who carved the original NY Deities in 1976, has a long history of sculpting Their Lordships for various ISKCON centers. Additionally, for several decades, he has continually brought their Lordships to take part in our annual Snana Yatra. After serious discussion and divine inspiration, he decided to gift his personal Deities, whom he had been caring for over several decades, to our temple for permanent residence. Along with the arrival of Lord Jagannath and His Brother and Sister, we also received a famous artifact from Maheshwar Das.

This brass plaque once adorned the famous 340 W. 55th Street Temple, Srila Prabhupada’s “skyscraper,” his pride and joy, and the first building that ISKCON owned on the East Coast.

In just two years, we will be celebrating the 50th Golden Anniversary of the New York Ratha Yatra. This festival kickstarts the summer’s festive season and continues to attract many from far and wide. Remember to mark it in your calendars, the second Saturday in June, as we build up to the big Golden Anniversary year.

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