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1,200+ Participated in the Jacksonville Festival of Chariots Event on May 20th

ISKCON News

(iskconnews.org) – On Saturday, May 20th, devotees celebrated the 22nd year of the Festival of Chariots at the beach and Seawalk Pavilion in Jacksonville, Florida.

The popular gathering, attended by devotees and locals alike, served out more than 1,200 plates of prasad throughout the day. In addition, about 500 individually packaged date fruits with a “Have a DATE with us” invitation were distributed by Lilla Purushottam Das and his wife Rukmini Dasi during the first 10 minutes of the procession.

Many booths were available for guests, including one offering mantra meditation. Four devotees were busy until evening at the henna booth, and devotees also sold devotional artwork and other crafts. This year, the Festival of India joined forces with the Festival of Chariots for this Ratha Yatra. They brought themed exhibit booths that welcomed large crowds throughout the day. They included booths on Srila Prabhupada, Vegetarianism, Changing the Body, and the Bhagavad Gita. Senior devotees from nearby Alachua staffed tents offering information and books. By the end of the day, 30 cookbooks, 585 small books (including 54 Bhagavad Gitas), 50 sets of chanting beads, 800 Chanting pamphlets, and around 1,000 Festival of Chariots brochures were distributed.

Festival attendees also enjoyed several devotional dance presentations on the stage. The first dance performance (Narasimhadev Kautvam) retold the story of Lord Narasimhadeva, who saved his great devotee Prahlad from his evil father. It was beautifully performed by Ranganayaki Mayshark and choreographed by Rukmini Devi Arundale.

The second devotional dance was a prayer asking for the blessings of God in His different forms (Thodaya Mangalam). It was performed by Vishaka, Dhara Saci, Gandarvi, and Sundarim and choreographed by Anapayini Jakupko from the Bhaktikalalayam Dance Academy in Alachua.

“We have always had great support from the mayor and the city for this event, but this year’s offering was on a whole different level, helped by the wonderful Festival of India exhibits and the powerful energy and enthusiasm of all the devotees,” said Bhadra das, Festival of Chariots organizer.  Mayor Christine Hoffman spoke briefly about her support and appreciation for the event before taking many photos and visiting several beachside booths. 

As their Chariot of their Lordships was pulled down the beach, beachgoers would spontaneously join the procession. In addition to the joyful oceanside kirtan, Bhadra Das would often pause the singing to say a few words about the festival, Krishna Consciousness, and invite locals to join in the service. 

This celebration was the last of six amazing Festival of Chariot events in Florida this year. To learn more about this service, visit festivalofchariots.org or their Facebook page.

Thanks again to Vegavati Dasi and Yura Golz for the inspiring photos.

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