Does free, authentic Indian food in a waterfront park in downtown Vancouver sound like your idea of a fun Sunday afternoon?
The Chariot Fest of India returns to Vancouver on Sunday, Aug. 10, with a parade of colourful, over-the-top floats and costumed Indian dancers followed by a free festival (and free lunch for about 20,000 people) at Stanley Park’s Second Beach.
Now in its 41st year, the Chariot Fest – also known as the Jagannath Rath Yatra – is a Hindu celebration that involves transporting massive deities on chariots. According to the authorities at Wikipedia: “The rath (chariot) is carrying Lord Jaggannath and due to its massive size and weight and sometimes seemingly unstoppable nature, has led to the English word juggernaut … ”
Similar festivals take place in hundreds of cities around the world, often organized by the Hare Krishna movement. If past parades are any indication, this year’s will be attended by a mix of free spirits and free thinkers, as well as followers from India, who dance and clap in the streets as the chariots are towed to Stanley Park.
The parade starts at 11:30 a.m. near the Granville Street Bridge and winds its way along Beach Avenue toward Stanley Park (map of route). Fifty-foot-tall chariots, decorated with flowers and representations of deities, are pulled through the streets by the Hare Krishna faithful, accompanied by exuberant chanting and the steady beat of bells and drums.
The festival portion of the event starts at 1:30 p.m. near Second Beach in Stanley Park. Two stages will showcase live South Asian music and theatre as well as dancers. Inside a ring of brightly colored tents, you can also find exhibits on culture and fashion and vegetarian cooking demos, as well as a kids’ area with face painting and clowns.
And, of course, there is the feast. One of the primary goals of the Hare Krishna movement is to distribute vegetarian meals throughout the world. In fulfillment of this mission, the feast tent will be serving up an estimated 20,000 free vegetarian meals to guests at the festival. Expect long lines but generous portions of healthy, vegetarian food (if you arrive before they run out).
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