GALLERY: Breaking of a coconut? Rathayatra festival comes to Redbridge

It is the second time the Rathayatra festival has been held in Redbridge

It is the second time the Rathayatra festival has been held in Redbridge - Credit: Archant

The breaking of a coconut in the middle of the street in front of a chariot can only meant one thing – the annual Hare Krishna chariot carnival festival.

Hundreds of people gathered in the streets to sing, dance and chant alongside the huge chariot which was pulled through Ilford by devotees.

The festival, known as Rathayatra, is an ancient custom which originated in India and attracts millions of people annually.

The chariot symbolises when Krishna’s people tried to bring him back to his home of Vrindavana, India on a cart.

Organiser Dharmesh Teji, 33, said that he was pleased with the turnout, especially considering the weather was rather cloudy.

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“We believe that people go to places to worship and once a year God comes out to see his devotees and be with them,” Dharmesh said.

“It was a joyful and fun day for families and many different people come from different communities and everyone really enjoyed the free food.”

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The carnival was organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) on Sunday and was the second time it has been held in Redbridge.

The procession started at Redbridge Town Hall, High Road, Ilford with singing and chanting done alongside the chariot as well as the tradition of breaking a coconut.

“We broke the coconut at the start which is a tradition when you start any spiritual occasion - especially when you are starting a procession taking God on to the streets,” Dharmesh said. “We get the most respected member of the community to do it.”

The procession, which included about 600 people, then made its way to Valentines Park, Cranbrook Road, Ilford where there were tents and activities for people.

These included face painting and henna painting as well as stalls selling books on spirituality and incense.

The free vegetarian food seemed to be one of the big successes of the day with more than 1,000 plates given out.

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