(iskconnews.org) – Speaking about Ratha Yatra during a July 12, 1973 lecture in London, Srila Prabhupada said, “Organize this all over the world. They will be saved. They will understand Krsna.” For the last fifty years, devotees have taken up this instruction with great success, and this 2023 season has seen record numbers at events across the globe. New York City, in particular, saw a surprising number of participants at its peaceful procession down Fifth Avenue on June 10th. The event was even covered by a leading Indian newspaper.
Hazardous smoke from Canadian fires threatened to postpone the event, but the skies cleared just before the parade date. The only thing in the air seemed to be the melodious chanting of the Holy Names along one of the most iconic stretches of the Big Apple. City officials and local police worked closely with ISKCON NYC to make the event successful. “The police department was grateful at how peaceful the parade and the devotees were,” said Gopal Campu Dasa, Vice-President of ISKCON NYC, “They look forward to the parade every year.”
It’s impossible to know the total number of people who were worshippers or witnesses to the sacred journey down Fifth Avenue. Still, participants noted that the streets and sidewalks were packed to see the purifying procession to Washington Square Park. Many who actively participated this year are new to Krishna Consciousness.
Alex, a newer devotee introduced to the philosophy a couple of years ago, traveled from Memphis to attend this year’s event. “It was an amazing experience getting to see bhakti on display in New York City and the general public stopping to see what was happening,” said Alex, “The parade was an amazing experience, and the energy all along the route and at Washington Square Park was beautiful. So many sweet souls. It will be a treasured memory in my bhakti path.”
Over 15,000 souls received free prasada at Washington Square Park, only a percentage of the total number of participants at the day’s festivities, as many other food vendors were available. Devotees also distributed over 4,500 books throughout the day. At the same time, thousands visited the tents at the park showcasing topics like reincarnation and vegetarianism or crowded around the multiple stages with devotional dance performances and kirtans.
Looking to the future, Gopal Campu said enthusiastically, “We are already starting to meditate on the 50th Annual Ratha Yatra that will be held in 2026. We plan to make that one the grandest yet!”