New York Ratha Yatra Returns


By Madhava Smullen 

Lord Jagannatha is coming.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 was the first year without a New York Ratha Yatra parade in 45 years – instead, Lord Jagannatha was driven down Fifth Avenue in a minivan, along with a virtual online celebration.

This summer, things are beginning to look different. The number of new coronavirus cases in the US has plummeted from a seven-day average of more than 250,000 a day in early January, to a daily average of less than 14,380 during the past week.

Against this background, the New York Police and Parks Departments have approved Ratha Yatra to go ahead with Covid-19 safety protocols such as social distancing, sanitization and masks where appropriate.

The festival will run over the weekend from June 11th to 13th, launching on Friday with a kirtan meditation at Tompkins Square Park, home to the famous “Hare Krishna Tree” beneath which Srila Prabhupada and his early followers chanted in 1966. Organized by the Bhakti Center, the meditation will run from 12pm to 3pm and will feature Jahnavi Harrison, Jaya Jagannath Das and Friends. Later in the day, from 4 to 8pm, Rama Raya Das and members of the Yuga Dharma Harinama Ashrama will lead chanting in Times Square, at the heart of New York City.

On Saturday June 12th, the 46th New York Ratha Yatra parade will start at 11:00am from 45th Street and Fifth Avenue, and will make its way down Fifth Avenue to Washington Square, where a festival will be taking place from noon till seven o’clock that evening. Beautiful, balmy weather, with a high of 74 degrees, is expected on the day.

As usual, Their Lordships Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra from ISKCON Baltimore will grace New York City with Their presence. Adding a unique flavor to this year’s parade will be the fact that Their regular three Ratha Yatra chariots, which are normally supplied by Abhay Charan Das in Montreal, are not available this year as the US/Canadian border is closed due to Covid. Instead, a smaller chariot from North Carolina will carry Their Lordships, and a homemade cart, usually used for the Bronx Ratha Yatra, will carry Srila Prabhupada in his murti form.

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