The Lake shore city of Kenya – Kisumu, celebrated its annual Rath Yatra on the 18th of July, coinciding with the Puri Rath Yatra, and “Idd-Ul-Ftr”(a local holiday). Taking advantage of the auspicious date, the Kisumu devotees organized the festival in less than a week.
127 devotees travelled from the capital city Nairobi covering a total distance of approx. 355 kilometers to participate in the event. Kisumu devotees are known for their hospitality and very delicious prasadam that was served three times a day at the temple premises to everyone who was present days before the festival started and after as well.
Unlike other years, ISKCON Kisumu changed the Rath Yatra route this year, making it longer so that the Their Lordships Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra would get to go to every part of the city.
The procession route was longer this year
Starting from the ISKCON temple the Yatra took off with a loud Kirtan and dancing heading towards the city center, passing through inquisitive onlookers who were handed BBT Africa pamphlets and Srila Prabhupada’s books. To the surprise of the devotees, most wananchi (members of public) were very enthusiastic in getting the books and asked for more copies. A total of 250 books were distributed along with 500 pamphlets, which covered various topics from karma, reincarnation, vegetarianism and chanting the Holy Names.
As the country was celebrating “Idd-Ul-Ftr”, most shops and businesses were closed in the city centre but there were crowds of people on both sides watching the festival from the streets.
Kisumu port was founded in 1901 as the main inland terminal of the Uganda Railways and named Port Florence. Although trade stagnated in the 1980s and 1990s, it is again growing around oil exports. Kisumu literally means a place of barter trade “sumo”.
Masaai dancers in the Ratha Yatra crowd
Having a small congregation, ISKCON Kisumu has friendly ties with other Hindu temples like the Swaminarayan, or the Sikhs. When the festival passed through these other temples, the congregation members of the particular temple showered flowers on the Deities as well as devotees and cheered them on, while others joined the devotees in pulling the Lord’s chariot.
The festival covered a distance of 7 kilometers, and took approximately 5 hours to reach its destination, which was also the point of start, ISKCON Kisumu temple, where a very lavish prasadam was served to everyone, while kirtana continued in the temple hall in front of the beautiful deities Sri Sri Radha Madana Mohana.
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