Rathayatra in Novi, Michigan, USA

Four-storey tall 40-foot decorated chariot, said to be pulled by thousands with ropes, will lead the Hindu Festival of the Chariots (Rath Yatra) parade through the major streets of Novi (Michigan, USA) on July 20.

Presented by Detroit International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), this three-mile interactive colorful procession will start from Novi Civic Center and end at the festival site at Fuerst Park, which will feature 20-plus tents with various forms of entertainment, free lunch, dancing, live music, cooking demonstrations, henna, Vedic culture and arts and kids’ activities. Many dignitaries, including the Mayor Bob Gatt, are expected to make an appearance. Festivities are planned for about seven hours and about 7,000 attendees are expected. It is like getting a taste of India and Hinduism without leaving Michigan.

Four-hour live outdoor kirtan (devotional chants) in the Park, with the tagline “Energize the body, free the mind, and feed the soul!” and featuring renowned kirtan-singers from India and USA, will form part of the festivities. Audience is encouraged to participate by singing/chanting, clapping and dancing, Festival announcement says and adds that Kirtan “connects with God” and “is a scientific study in the pursuit of happiness”.

Meanwhile, distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, applauded efforts of the organizers and Michigan community to realize this wonderful festival, exhibiting the richness of Hinduism.

Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, further said that it was important to pass on Hindu spirituality, concepts and traditions to coming generations amidst so many distractions in the consumerist society. Zed stressed that instead of running after materialism; we should focus on inner search and realization of self and work towards achieving moksh (liberation), which was the goal of Hinduism.

Rath Yatra is said to be the oldest known parade in the world and it is believed that pullers of this Lord Jagannatha’s chariot receive immense spiritual benefit. Popularized outside India by ISKCON founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, this annual parade festival has reportedly been held annually in over 50 major cities in USA, Canada, Europe, etc., since 1960s.

The original Ratha Jatra is held on a grand scale in Puri (Orissa, India), where the presiding deities of Sri Mandira—Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra—with celestial wheel Sudarshana are driven on the chariots to about two miles north Gundicha temple in an elaborate ritual procession, where the huge colorfully decorated chariots are drawn by thousands of devotees. After a stay for seven days, the deities return to their abode in Sri Mandira. A glimpse of Lord Jagannatha on the chariot is considered to be highly auspicious and even a touch of the chariot is believed to yield benefits equivalent to several pious deeds. Many poets have written its glories. This year, it commenced on July 10.

Rajan Zed points out that ancient Hindu scripture Katha Upanishad talks about the concept of chariot, where soul is the deity, body is the chariot, and intellect the charioteer. Skanda Puranaglorifies Rath Jatra’s sanctity.

Detroit has an ISKCON Temple (Devasadan Mandir) and Bhaktivendanta Cultural Center situated on four acres of formal gardens with roving peacocks, which was reportedly jointly purchased by Alfred Brush Ford (great-grandson of Henry Ford) and Elisabeth Reuther Dickmeyer (daughter of United Auto workers President Walter Reuther) in 1975.

About $10 million and 30,000 square foot Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple & Cultural Center on over ten acres of plot recently opened in Novi.

Incorporated in 1969, female majority Novi, also known as “Little Tokyo”, is one of the fastest growing cities of Michigan. David Staudt and Clay J. Pearson are Mayor Pro-Tem and City Manager respectively of Novi, whose goal is to “Maintain a Fiscally Responsible Government”.

Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world has about one billion adherents. There are about three million Hindus in USA.

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