The Easter period on Durban’s Beachfront (South Africa) has become synonymous with the “Ratha-Yatra” Festival of Chariots.
Having first graced the Durban shoreline in December 1988, the festival has grown from a two day event to a four day event and has relocated due to the increasing need to accommodate the over 40 exhibition and activity tents that will form part of the landscape of the former Durban Drive-In where the event will take place this Easter weekend (Friday, 22nd to Monday, 25th April) from noon until 10pm daily.
Although the chariot parade has deep spiritual significance, the ethos of the festival is filled with entertainment and activities that showcase the Krishna conscious philosophy and lifestyle in an appealing and fun-filled manner.
Three 15 meters high, flower bedecked chariots with colorful canopies towering above will manually be drawn by hundreds of chanting and dancing devotees. The chariot parade on Friday, 22nd April starts at 2pm from Pine Street (beachfront end) and comes to rest at the festival grounds. On Monday at 5pm, the chariots will be draped with thousands of twinkling fairy lights and pulled from the festival for a 2 hour journey through the Durban beachfront and back.
The presiding deities of the festival, Their Lordships Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra will be worshipped in an elaborate replica of a temple and visitors will have the opportunity to participate in such worship.
There will be non-stop cultural entertainment featuring popular local and international artistes, including Bharata Natyam dancers from Russia, Hatha yoga practitioners from Ukraine, Martial Arts expert from Estonia, musicians and singers from India, Kazakhstan, America and Mauritius.
An Eastern Emporium will be every shopper’s dream come true! From incense to exotic Indian garments, the buzz of an India shopping experience will be at the festival.
The Healthy Lifestyle tent will feature celebrity chef, author and newspaper personality, Asha Maharaj as well as others who will conduct vegetarian cookery workshops.
An Ayurvedic doctor, homeopath and nutritionist will also provide advice and guidance on meal planning and healthier lifestyle options.
Many international leaders of the organization will be in attendance and will present talks on current issues based on scriptural references. These will take place in the Question and Answer tents. Amongst those whose attendance have been confirmed are Jayadvaita Swami, Bhakti Caitanya Swami, Maha Vishnu Swami, Indradyumna Swami, Bhakti Bhrnga Govinda Swami, Bhakti Marg Swami, Kadamba Kanana Swami, Partha Sarathi Das Goswami, Ram Govinda Swami and Bhakti Brhat Bhagavat Swami…. Ten swamis at one festival! As well as Madhava, one of ISKCON’s foremost kirtaneers today.
The organization’s vast wealth of spiritual literature, CDs and DVDs will also be available in the various outlets at the festival.
An exciting new feature to this year’s festival is the Little Gokul Children’s Village billed as a “Children’s Wonderland.” The village aims to provide an authentic spiritual and cultural experience for children. The structure of the tent, its entrance cave and activities will be set in a bygone era. Surprise, magic, laughter and amazement await the children as they encounter the “Pandava Hero camp,” “Radha Nikunj” (a grove where young girls and boys will be adorned with beautiful accessories and emerge as Princes and Princesses) and Mother Yasoda’s kitchen where they will dabble in sweet making. Puppet shows, storytelling, village games, dances and enthralling dramas await the children. In the evening the “Village Square” will come alive with the pastimes of Krishna and Balaram as they do battle with villains.
One of the major highlights of this year’s drama schedule is “Gods and Demons.” Bhakti Marg Swami describes the production as a tale of truce between the two forces who hope to achieve the rich resources that the world offers and ultimately, the ambrosial immortal elixir, “amrita.” The two groups form an unusual alliance because they realize that only through collaboration can such a great task be accomplished. It becomes hilarious when a self-centered demon complains about what he perceives as partiality for the side of the demigods, which is an accurate assessment because of what Vishnu, the main character, does.
The stage version of the story is a spectacle, featuring a huge snake, all the prominent demigods and actors dancing out the churning of the milk ocean and then the poison.
Maharaja further explains that the production serves the purpose of “enter-lightenment.” In his usual style, Bhakti Marg Swami retells ancient wisdoms in integrated ‘east-meets-west’ and ‘old-and-new’ fusion techniques to make the message relevant and appealing to everyone.
The festival promises to be an exciting and spiritually enriching experience for the entire family. Admission to the event is free and every visitor will be invited to enjoy a free vegetarian meal! A hundred strong team of cooks will commence cooking early every morning to cater for more than 100 000 guests that are expected!
Don’t despair… You too can be part of this exciting event by joining us as we web-stream a selection of kirtans, dramas and lectures live from the festival. Visit http://www.ustream.tv/channel/durban-ratha-yatra to view the web-stream.
The live-stream schedule is as follows:
Times listed below are local South African times which is GMT+2 hours.
FRIDAY, 22ND APRIL
7.05pm – 7.15pm Martial arts
7.20pm – 7.35pm Drama: Chaitanya’s Verses
7.40pm – 8.15pm Kirtan by Madhava & Bhakti Bhrnga Govinda Swami
8.25pm – 9.25pm Drama: The Jagannath Story
SATURDAY, 23RD APRIL
6.15pm – 7pm Arati & kirtan by Maha Vishnu Swami
7.05pm – 7.15pm Baratha Natyam dances by Sanatani & Sivanjali
7.20pm – 8.20pm Kirtan by Madhava & Bhakti Bhrnga Govinda Swami
8.55pm – 9.55pm Drama: Gods and Demons
SUNDAY, 24TH APRIL
3.45pm – 5pm Bhakti Caitanya Swami (Question & Answers)
5.05pm – 5.50pm Music by Golden Age
5.55pm – 6.10pm Dances
6.15pm – 7pm Arati & kirtan by Kadamba Kanana Swami
7.05pm – 7.15pm Martial arts
7.20pm – 8.15pm Kirtan by Indradyumna Swami
8.20pm – 10pm Kirtan by Madhava & Bhakti Bhrnga Govinda Swami
MONDAY, 25TH APRIL
4-5.30pm Tour of the festival grounds, visit to all tents and start of night parade
7.30pm Final kirtan
For further information visit www.durbanrathayatra.blogspot.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org