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Thousands celebrate Rathayatra

Ancient Hindu festival draws more than 2,000 people to Victoria Park to embrace diversity

Charlotte Booth

Charlotte Booth

charlotte.booth@newburynews.co.uk

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Thousands celebrate Rathayatra

MORE than 2,000 people turned out at Newbury’s Victoria Park on Saturday for the Rathayatra Festival, the ancient Indian Festival of Chariots.

The term means ‘chariot journey’ and is associated with Lord Jagannath, a form of the Supreme Lord Krishna. The Hindu festival, celebrated in more than 400 major cities around the world, began with a procession, featuring singing, chanting and dancing to the rhythms of drums and cymbals.

There were chants of ‘Hare Krishna’ as a huge wooden chariot was pulled through Northbrook Street and the Market Place.

Hundreds of locals also joined in as the free cultural and spiritual music festival – which celebrates love, unity, peace and diversity – moved on to Victoria Park.

The festival marks Lord Krishna’s return to Vrindaban, his childhood home, and is held annually to honour Lord Jagannatha.

It originated 5,000 years ago in the city of Jagannatha Pur in India.

Krishna is one of the most widely revered of all Hindu deities and the festival is of major cultural significance. The celebrations, now in their third year in Newbury, saw people getting into the mood at Victoria Park with live music, free food and the chance to get involved in yoga and meditation.

After the procession, people danced to a live mantra music show in the park, while others opted to find some inner peace by relaxing in one of the yoga and meditation tents.

As well as the entertainment and activities, a free Prasadam feast (a religious offering of vegetarian food) was served throughout the afternoon.

The main event organiser Amala Manjari said: “We served about 2,000 plates of free food... I think there were 2,500 to 3,000 people there, which was more than last year. People had come from all over the UK. This festival is open to everybody. What we would like to offer the community with this festival is at least one day when everyone in the town gets a hot meal.

“It is a family festival where everything is for free. We have something for everybody in the family so everyone can come together.

“It is not about faith, it is about unity in diversity. ”

The festival was organised by ISKON and Food for All, a London- based charity that distributes free food to those who need it.

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