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ISKCON News | Durban Ratha Yatra welcomes thousands in South Africa

(iskconnews.org) – By Atma Tattva Das, ISKCON News Staff Writer   |  Apr 14, 2023

Photos courtesy of Acyuta Gauranga Dasa via Facebook

The Durban Festival of Chariots, one of the largest Ratha Yatra festivals outside of India, returned to the Durban North Beach Front this year for a second time after COVID restrictions in 2020. The festival, which has been running for almost forty years, allows devotees to come together and celebrate the glory of Lord Jagannath.

Organized through the cooperative efforts of many devotees, the festival is also a significant financial undertaking, costing over 2.5 million rands to create. Yet, despite the cost, the festival is a labor of love for the devotees who come together to make it happen.

One of the festival’s aims is to diversify and appeal to a broader audience beyond its largely Indian demographic in a majority African country. The festival allows people from different backgrounds and cultures to unite and celebrate the city’s diversity.

In addition to the parade, the festival features a variety of activities, including live music, dance performances, gift shops, a variety of youth activities, question-and-answer sessions featuring various guest speakers, and traditional food stalls. The festival also allows devotees to share Lord Jagannath’s message and spread awareness about Krishna conscious teachings.

This year’s festival was particularly poignant as it celebrated the departure of Kadamba Kanana Swami, who had attended and blessed the festival with his lively kirtans and classes for over 20 years. Nevertheless, the Durban Festival of Chariots remains an important and iconic event in the cultural calendar of Durban and the South African Yatra.

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