Free Indian Feast for 10,000 People: Chariot Fest Returns to Vancouver

Photo sourced from vanchariotfest.com

Photo sourced from vanchariotfest.com

Ready to join 10,000 friends for a free Indian feast on the Vancouver waterfront?

The Chariot Fest of India returns to Vancouver on Sunday, Aug. 9, featuring a parade of giant, colourful floats and costumed Indian dancers followed by a free festival (and free lunch for about 10,000 people) at Stanley Park’s Second Beach.

Now in its 42nd year in Vancouver, the Chariot Fest – also known as the Jagannath Rath Yatra – is a Hindu celebration that involves transporting massive deities on chariots. Chariot festivals take place each year in hundreds of cities around the world, often organized by the Hare Krishna movement.

Photo sourced from vanchariotfest.com

Photo sourced from vanchariotfest.com

The parade starts at 11:30 a.m. at Howe Street under 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 faithful, accompanied by exuberant chanting and the steady beat of bells and drums. Spectators are encouraged to join in and walk along, as well.

The festival itself starts after the parade at 1:30 p.m. near Second Beach in Stanley Park. A pair of stages will showcase live South Asian music and theatre as well as dancers. Inside a ring of brightly coloured tents, you can also find exhibits on yoga and meditation, a hand tattoo station and vegetarian cooking demos, as well as a kids’ area with face painting and clowns.

Photo credit: Dave O | Flickr

Photo credit: Dave O | Flickr

The real highlight, of course, is the feast. One of the goals of the Hare Krishna movement is to distribute vegetarian meals throughout the world. Accordingly, the feast tent at the Chariot Fest will be serving  an estimated 10,000 free vegetarian meals to guests at the festival. Each year, long lines of people queue up for generous portions of healthy, vegetarian food. (Just don’t arrive too late – supplies are limited.)

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