Starting in 1973, residents of New Vrindaban, West Virginia, held their own small rural Rathayatra festival on the farm, a sweet event with Lord Jagannath riding a succession of different charmingly rustic makeshift carts.

In the early 2000s, Malati Devi, one of the organizers of San Francisco’s 1967 Rathayatra – the first outside India – commissioned a proper traditional chariot and the festival grew in popularity within the community. 

Then in 2016, the Rathayatra became a public annual event in the nearby city of Wheeling, reaching out to the local people and drawing devotees from neighboring cities. 

With Wheeling Rathayatra this year canceled due to COVID-19, however, devotees returned to something closer to their early inhouse rural Rathayatra, albeit with restrictions for health and safety amid the pandemic. 

Rathayatra is a reunion celebration, with Their Lordships Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra returning to Their devotees after a two-week “sick” leave, and being taken on a pleasure ride in Their chariot. Similarly, this year’s New Vrindaban Rathayatra on July 8th was a reunion of sorts for residents, who had been separated from each other due to COVID-19 lockdown. 

Read more: https://iskconnews.org/new-vrindaban-holds-small-rural-rathayatra-with-covid-19-restrictions,7445/

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