For Americans, the fourth of July is the day they gained independence, a day for celebration, a day for reveling in their patriotism. Spirituality is rarely part of the proceedings.
But this year, the fourth of July seems blessed.
In Washington D.C., ISKCON devotees joined the Independence Day parade, singing the Hare Krishna mantra and pulling Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra—deity forms of God—on their classic Ratha Yatra cart.
What’s more, ISKCON devotees in Baroda, Gujarat, decided to hold their twenty-seventh annual Ratha Yatra parade on the same auspicious date.
Baroda Mayor Sri Balkrishna Shukla inaugurated the event by sweeping the road in front of the Ratha Yatra cart as per local tradition. Monarchs of old had played the same role for many years at the Jagannath Ratha Yatra in Puri, Orissa.
Thousands of Baroda citizens lined the roads to see the exquisitely decorated chariot and pay their respects to the deities of Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra.
Over twelve tons of the popular Indian dessert halava was distributed to the public from trucks moving behind the cart.
Hundreds of devotees pulled the cart throughout the eight kilometer route of the Rathayatra.
ISKCON leaders from Mumbai, Chandigarh, Vijayawada, Allahabad and Jaipur, including Bhakti Vikash Swami and Bhaktarupa Dasa attended. Devotees from Vallabh Vidyangar, Ahmedabad, Delhi, and Vrindavan also brought their energy to the festival and to the enthusiastic “Harinama Sankirtana” chanting party.
Various political and social leaders of Baroda visited the ISKCON temple in the morning and attended the Rathayatra’s inauguration.
See nearly 400 pictures of the festival, including local newspaper clippings, here