A 40-foot high, colorfully-decorated and hand-pulled cart—surrounded by thousands of chanting and dancing devotees—will roll down the streets of downtown Chicago on September 17 to kick off a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), better known as the Hare Krishna Movement.
The “Chariot Festival – Ratha Yatra Parade” begins at 2 pm at the Buckingham Fountain (Columbus Drive) in the downtown area and meander its way through Madison Ave., Michigan Ave., and State Streets.
The procession joins the “Hare Krishna Festival of India” at Daley Plaza for an afternoon of free vegetarian food; stage performances of classical Indian dance; a dramatic rendition of the ancient history connected with “Jagannath;” and multiple booths about reincarnation, meditation, and yoga.
“ISKCON’s founder, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, first came to New York City from India in September, 1965 to spread the teachings of Lord Krishna to the western world,” said Amrita Hari, spokeswoman for the Krishna society. “It’s very special for us to kick off the 50th Anniversary of ISKCON where he began right here in New York.”
Despite its humble beginnings, over the past 50 years, ISKCON has grown to a global community of over 600 temples, 110 vegetarian restaurants, and 65 farms and eco villages. The affiliated Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has sold 516 million books and magazines on Krishna consciousness.
Hare Krishna Food Relief programs feed a free vegetarian lunch to 1.2 million school children each day in India. Celebrations later this year will include dozens of Ratha Yatra parades in cities worldwide, including Washington, DC, Los Angeles, London, and Paris, and gala events at the Sydney Opera House, European Parliament, and other major venues.