Hare Krishna festival of chariots is highlight of oldest street festival
Thousands of devotees pulled a huge chariot through the city yesterday to celebrate the world's oldest street festival.
Dancers, drummers and flag wavers led the Hare Krishna Festival of Chariots from Cossington Street, in Belgrave, to a huge party at Leicester's Town Hall Square.
The 15th annual Ratha-yatra festival was staged by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Devotees, who usually start in Humberstone Gate and finish in Belgrave, were forced to reverse their procession, due to waterlogged ground at Cossington Street Park.
Pradyumna Dasa, president of the group's new temple in Granby Street, Leicester, said: "Though it was never our plan to move the festival, it seems to us that Krishna's plan is to go towards his new home in the centre of the city."
For the Jethwa family from Syston, it was a perfect opportunity to celebrate their Hindu faith together.
Dad Jit, 41, said: "It is important that our children learn about our festivals.
"We are all born and bred in Leicester, a multi-cultural city that allows us to celebrate our culture and beliefs. It's fantastic."
Daughter Devi, eight, said: "My favourite part is the singing and the food."
Sister Bhavani, 11, said: "We have had a really nice day. I like watching it all pass us."
The procession featured a 40-foot chariot, which carried representations of Lord Jagannatha (Krishna) and his siblings, Lady Subhadra and Lord Balarama.
Work colleagues Siva Narayanasamy, 27, and Vimal Srinivasan, 30, watched the procession gather in Gallowtree Gate.
Siva, who lives in the city, said: "I'm really impressed by the size of the chariot. It's like being in India."
Vimal, also from the city, said: "It really gives you a divine feeling when we share our religion across the city. It sends such a good message."
For Lalita Dasi, from Groby, it was also a chance to catch up with friends and family.
The 53-year-old said: "You end up bumping into people you haven't seen since last year."
The procession ended with a party at the town hall, with dance and yoga displays, singing and vegetarian food.
The photo above shows the Chariot on Belgrave Gate, heading into the city centre, with the lifesize statue in the foreground. Photo by Kiran Parmar, sourced with permission.