Our Chariot Parade start and Veg/Vegan Hare Krishna Food Festival are returning to our central location at 4 Jacka Boulevard (near the Captain Cook Memorial).
Since 2011, the Festival of the Chariots has been part of St Kilda Festival Sunday, on the first Sunday of February each year.
We've been able to ramp up the party with hundreds of other festivalgoers, pulling an authentic painted wooden chariot from Catani Gardens along Jacka Boulevard to Luna Park and back. We sang and danced as we went!
The Chariot Parade (Ratha Yatra) originated in ancient times in Jagannatha Puri in Odisha (formerly Orissa, India), where deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra are drawn - with love and devotion - into the hearts of all present.
At the same time, we host a family-friendly Vegetarian / Vegan Hare Krishna Food Festival in Catani Gardens. Enjoy delicious vegetarian and vegan food with a taste of India, freshly prepared on-site for your pleasure.
Normally we give away tonnes of free watermelon to all-comers, so if you have a passion for fresh fruit, head for our tent village.
The Food Festival includes a free stage program of song, dance, and drama for all ages.
Round out your Food Festival experience by checking out our fun for kids: face painting, body art, Indian shop, bookshop, and meditation tents.
Enjoy a fantastic day out with your family and friends!
The Festival of the Chariots (Ratha-yatra) is perhaps the oldest continuously celebrated festival in the world.
As far back as human records and memory extend, each summer the splendidly decorated chariots of Lord Jagannatha, his brother Baladeva and his sister Subhadra, have rolled through the town of Puri (on the Bay of Bengal in India), to the delight of millions of joyous pilgrims. Their towering red-and-blue silken canopies rise into the sky as drums and cymbals resound in joyous celebrations. People young and old, their eyes bright with excitement sing and dance in the street, as if swimming in an ocean of overwhelming happiness.
Over forty years ago, Hare Krishna devotees brought this tradition to the streets of cities all around the world. The first time Melbourne hosted the Festival of the Chariots was in its Central Business District in the 1970s. Then in 2011, Hare Krishna Melbourne returned the Festival to our State Capital as part of the famous St Kilda Festival.
The unusual passengers of the chariots are the bona fide deity forms of God, called Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra. "Jagannatha" means "the Master of the Universe".
As the story goes, when He descended to Earth over five thousand years ago, Lord Krishna once overheard a conversation about how His dearest devotees, the cowherd maidens of Vrindavana, were lamenting in His absence. When He heard these accounts of overwhelming love in separation, the Lord's hair began to stand on end, His eyes opened wide and filled with tears, and His arms and legs contracted as He went into a state of spiritual ecstasy. Seeing Lord Krishna in this condition, His elder brother, Balarama (Baladeva), also began to feel ecstatic symptoms and displayed similar features. When Their sister, Subhadra, arrived at the scene, she too became consumed with ecstatic joy. So, the sublime deity forms of Jagannatha, Subhadra, and Baladeva remind us of this sweet pastime.
A glimpse of Lord Jagannatha on the chariot is considered to be very auspicious. Saints, poets, and scriptures have repeatedly glorified the sanctity of this special festival: even a touch of the chariot or the ropes with which these are pulled is considered enough to confer the results of pious deeds or penances performed over many lifetimes.
The festival of Ratha-yatra represents Lord Jagannatha's longing to reunite with His dear devotees in Vrindavana. Foremost among them is Srimati Radharani. According to tradition, the Lord gets lovesick once a year just prior to the festival. To cheer him up, His servants arrange for Him to go on a lavish procession to meet up with His devotees. Lord Jagannatha rides on a grand, three-story-high chariot, accompanied by thousands of onlookers, marching bands with scores of drummers, singers, and dancers. India's colonial British rulers coined the term 'juggernaut' in reference to the large, heavy chariot used to celebrate this festival in the city of Jagannatha Puri.
Five hundred years ago, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the combined incarnation of Radha-Krishna, encouraged all of His followers to celebrate Ratha-yatra with great enthusiasm. His biographies (such as Chaitanya Charitamrita) list many anecdotes surrounding the Ratha-yatra festival. It is said that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu got down on His hands and knees to scrub the Gundicha temple where Lord Jagannatha would stay at the end of the Ratha-yatra parade.
Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of the Hare Krishna movement, was very fond of Ratha-yatra. As a child he began celebrating Ratha-yatra when he was five years old, using a small home-made cart and pulling it around the neighbourhood with his friends. Later in life, from 1967 until his passing in 1977, Srila Prabhupada joined thousands of disciples in cities around the world as they celebrated elaborate Ratha-yatra festivals in the streets of London, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and on New York's prestigious Fifth Avenue.
Today, Hare Krishna devotees hold Ratha-yatra parades in over one hundred cities, including Dublin, Belfast, Birmingham, London, Budapest, New York, Montreal, Paris, Moscow, Singapore, Toronto, Antwerp, Kuala Lumpur, Durban, Sydney, Mumbai, New Delhi, and Los Angeles. Usually, the festival experience culminates in a Vedic Village with festival tents, entertainment stages, vegetarian food stalls, and a variety of cultural displays and exhibits.
Ratha-yatra signifies the Lord's love for His devotees. He personally comes to visit His devotees and the public who welcome Him in the streets.
The Vegetarian / Vegan Hare Krishna Food Festival (Catani Gardens, St.Kilda) is where your whole family can indulge in all sorts of delicious food, and cultural and fun activities. This includes mantra music by local and overseas artists, drama and dance for all ages, face painting, body art, one-on-one Bhagavad-gita card readings.
On the day, you may also find an Indian shop, a bookshop, a farm tent, and a meditation tent. See what you can find!
For a good part of the day and well into the night, you and your family can enjoy music, dance and drama programs. These programs run from 11 am till 9 pm and are a fantastic opportunity for you to taste contemporary and traditional Vedic (Indian) culture.
Satisfy your hunger at affordable prices with delicious meals from our Hare Krishna Food tents.
Normally one of our generous donors sponsors the free distribution of three tonnes of free watermelon slices after the parade
Take home a taste of India:
Delight and entertain your kids with
Since 2011, our guests have been able to visit the Vedic Temple tent to meditate on the timeless transcendental forms of Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra. Satisfy your inner spiritual quest and receive a tasty treat that has been offered to the Deities.
Browse a wide selection of books on spirituality, Vedic philosophy and practice, yoga, karma & reincarnation, vegetarianism, and more. Get answers to your questions on these subjects and on the Festival of the Chariots.
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit us. The Festival of the Chariots is an annual event hosted by the Melbourne branch of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness. We are located at 197 Danks Street, Albert Park, Vic 3206. Use the below form to email us, or write to "firstname.lastname@example.org". Our phone number is +61 3 9699 5122.