By Madhava Smullen
Previously, Rathayatra in Dallas was a small scale affair, with ISKCON Dallas devotees pulling Lord Jagannath’s chariot through their local neighborhood.
But last Spring saw them partner with the Dallas Arts District to put on “Festival of Joy,” a major cultural event for the entire Dallas area.
Despite an unexpected cold front during which temperatures dropped to 29 degrees, three thousand people still turned up. Large outside heaters and hot chai helped, and the activity booths were packed throughout the day. The event brought the community together, was covered widely by the media, and was attended by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.
This year the weather is anticipated to be more balmy for the festival, which will take place on Saturday March 30th, from 11am to 6pm at Klyde Warren Park.
The event will be put on jointly by the Mayor’s Office – Mike Rawlings is a major supporter of the arts – along with the Dallas Arts District and Kalachandji’s restaurant.
At least five thousand people are expected, including a Western audience from the Arts District area, as well as Indian congregation members from the local suburbs. As many as 350 trained volunteers will staff the booths and activities.
Proceedings will kick off at 11am with an auspicious coconut ceremony performed by Dallas temple president Nityananda Das and at least three visiting sannyasis – Giriraja Swami, Rtadhvaja Swami, and Hanumatpresaka Swami, with more still to be confirmed.
Attorney General of Texas Ken Paxton will then give a short speech. He’ll be joined by Ms. Texas America 2019, Danielle Marie, who raises awareness for important issues and is deeply interested in Eastern philosophy. Mayor Mike Rawlings also plans to attend.
A mridanga presentation by ISKCON Dallas women and youth, and an Oddissi dance by Krishna Veni dance group will draw people’s attention. Lord Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra’s chariot will then begin rolling out for a two-and-a-half hour parade which will last from 11:30am till 2:00pm.
The extended route will go right through the Dallas Museum district. Accompanied by uproarious kirtan with Gaura Vani and the Mayapuris, the parade will also feature a huge Lord Jagannath from Chicago, life-size Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra puppets, and devotees wearing traditional Indian horse costumes.
Meanwhile during and after the parade, a slew of entertaining and educational activities will make a perfect family day out at Klyde Warren Park.
Festivalgoers will get to dip stencils and block prints shipped from Vrindavan, India into paint, make paisley and peacock patterns on a shawl, and take it home as a personalized gift. They’ll have their faces painted with gopi dots by a team of artists. And they’ll get to try on a sari or a turban.
“The Mayor had a lot of fun trying on a turban last year,” laughs project leader Gopi-Gita Schomaker. “Two turban tiers circle around you, twisting the cloth. It’s a full cultural experience!”
Children’s activities, run by ISKCON Dallas primary school TKG Academy, will include many crafts such as making buttons, book marks, and Jagannath lanterns. Magician Dattatreya Yogesvara Das from Alachua will deliver his best mindblowing tricks. The Dallas Public Library will showcase books on Indian arts and culture. And the Dallas Zoo will have activities centered around Indian wildlife such as tigers.
Meanwhile in the Ask A Monk tent, Giriraja Swami, Rtadhvaja Swami, Hanumatpresaka Swami and several local devotees will answer questions, with different sessions devoted to a particular topic of interest. In the book booth, interactive games will inspire people to readSrila Prabhupada’s books.
Elsewhere Jagannath Das will do personalized astrology readings, and there will be Ayurvedic cooking demonstrations and talks on healthy eating and holistic living. In addition a new yoga tent will hold yoga sessions every half hour with teachers from various local yoga studios, including the renowned Dean Hollingsworth of Dallas Yoga Center.
Cultural and spiritual entertainment, of course, will also be a major part of the festivities, going on all day from 11am to 6pm. Packed with local dance groups and instrumental artists, the performances will conclude with a grand finale kirtan as the Mayapuris, Gaura Vani, and dancers Vrinda and Gangi Sheth get the crowd bouncing and chanting the Maha-Mantra.
“Our message is that Indian culture and the Vedic tradition can teach you how to find inner peace and happiness, whatever turmoil and chaos you’re going through,” Gopi Gita says. “That you don’t have to depend on externals to find that happiness – you can always tap into that place of joy.”
“I hope that people have so much fun and such a good time that they come again next year and bring all their friends!” she adds.
For more information, please visit http://fojdallas.com/