ISKCON's Parade of Chariots Brings Tradition to Philadelphia

By Aesha Desai

The International Society of Krishna Consciousness Party (ISKCON) was founded in 1966 as a Hindu organization that emphasizes the traditional religious texts of the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. Today, it operates temples, schools, farms and restaurants all over the world.

Last summer, the Philadelphia division of ISKCON gathered together to host a traditional Hindu procession known as Ratha-Yatra as part of an annual festival of India. Hindus from all over the Philadelphia area gathered to celebrate their heritage and take part in a tradition that has been practiced for generations of their ancestors.

Image 1: Girls dressed as lila characters – a traditional costume of playful goodness associated with goddesses and gods from Ramayana.


Image 2: ISKCON offers cultural and spiritual items so that visitors can bring a piece of this traditional observance home.

Image 3: Statues of Lord Krishna, whose likeness in the form of Jagannatha, travels in an ornate chariot in the Ratha-Yatra procession.

Image 4: This statue of Radha Krishna, two prominent gods in Hinduism, depicts the combination of both the feminine and masculine aspects of God.

Image 5: Mother cow is the most respected and worshipped animal in India.

Image 6: This festival draws visitors and religious leaders from throughout Philadelphia’s rich Hindu community.

Image 7: The procession of chariots with the city landscape of Philadelphia.

Image 8: Traditionally, this parade is held in the Eastern Indian city of Puri and draws hundreds of pilgrims to observe the journey of an ornate chariot carrying Jagannatha, a form of Krishna.

Image 9: Hundreds of people walk, sing, and dance in the procession.

Image 10: ISKCON organizes Ratha-Yatra processions in capitals all over the world every year.

Image 11: “Ratha” means chariot and “yatra,” journey.

Image 12: Ratha-Yatra is an annual journey of Gods by chariots that resemble temple structures.

Image 13: Pulling the Lord’s chariots is seen as a religious privilege.

Image 14: Crowds of people fill the streets to celebrate the annual festival of chariots in Philadelphia.

2014’s Ratha Yatra and Festival of India will take place on September 27th. For more information, visit