The 41st Annual Festival of the Chariots is slowly approaching and is looking for volunteers and donations to help with the Aug. 6 event that brings three huge carts through the streets of Santa Monica and down the Venice boardwalk.
The Festival of the Chariots can be referred to as Ratha Yatra, which began 5,000 years ago in India. The annual parade celebrates the arts, culture, food and spirituality of India with a huge colorful chariot parade, along with live entertainment.
The tradition was brought to the West in 1967 and is celebrated in many of the major cities of the world, such as London, Delhi, New York and Santa Monica.
“It is a re-enactment of a huge annual parade attended by over one million pilgrims in Jagannatha Puri, India,” said one of the organizers of the event, Janice Gunn.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is the host of this festival, and they are looking for donations and volunteers to help with this extravagant celebration.
“The Festival of the Chariots is a procession of three forty foot colorful, authentic chariots, decorated with brilliant canopies, banners, and flowers,” said Gunn.
ISKCON is the launch pad for the Festival of the Chariots. Many people dedicate their time year round for this event, getting city permits, painting exhibits, and decorating new chariots.
Devotees create and finalize the stages, from dance performance, electric and sound equipment preparations, and finalize the decoration of the floats.
“This event is one where we can always use volunteers and donations,” said Gunn. “This event cost nearly $100,000 so anything is greatly appreciated.”
At the event, there will be three chariots, one for each of the three deities, Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama, and Lady Subhadra. The canopied chariots are decorated with flowers and balloons and are pulled with long, thick ropes by hundreds of people who dance while chanting sacred mantras.
Gunn explains anyone and everyone is welcomed to the festival, and if people want to volunteer the day of, we would really appreciate it as there is so much to do all day.
The festival is considered to be the largest religious festival event in Southern California, and typically attracts an estimated 40,000 festival participants.
This has not been in problem in the past as every year they will serve free feasts for 20,000.
“This year will be a bit different because there will be a twelve piece marching band at the beginning of the parade,” said Janice Gunn. “We had them with us last year and it was a big hit. Also we have a guest in town named Parivddha Prabhu, who has performed dozens of playhouse musicals, and he is currently directing a wonderful musical performance on one of our stages.”
The parade will finish at their festival site which offers about 50,000 people a chance to take a good look at Indian art and culture, taste Indian cuisines, and get spiritual books to take home.
The event begins at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Chariots receive final touches before 8 a.m. Parade commences from the Auditorium at 10 a.m., while the chariots arrive at noon at the festival site, (1530 Oceanfront Walk).
For more information visit https://festivalofchariots.com/donate/ .