Hare Krishnas hold chariot parade in Ilford

The first chariot parade in east London took place yesterday attracting hundreds of devotees and spectators.

Rathayatra, which means the festival of the chariots, is marked by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, frequently know as Hare Krishnas.

Devotees gathered at Redbridge Town Hall in High Road, Ilford before snaking their way around the borough ending at Valentines Park, Cranbrook Road, Ilford.

Event organiser Dharmesh Teji said: “It’s the first time ever Lord Jagannath has been to Redbridge or in east London. It’s a festival where we bring our lord on to the streets.

“People go to temple but he wants to go out into the streets to the people so the devotees can see him and he can be with them.”

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A chariot of about six metres in length and five metres high was pulled through the streets as a sign of devotion.

On the chariot were the three deities of Jagannath, a form of Lord Krishna, Krishna’s sister Subhadra and Balarama brother of Krishna.

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Mr Teji, 32, said: “They were personalities in India 5,000 years ago. They come on to the streets once a year and we get spiritually uplifted when we see them and we become very happy and sing and dance and we chant Hare Krishna.”

The festival has been going on for thousands of years and in India it attracts more than a million people. The chariot symbolises when Krishna’s people tried to bring him back to his home of Vrindavana, India on a cart.

At the end of the parade people converged on Valentines Park where there were stalls, free food and drama productions.

“One play talked about how people are suffering due to a lack of spirituality in their lives, it’s to open them to something deeper than a life of materialism, they have turned their backs on spirituality,” said Mr Teji.

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