Rathayatra is a public chariot procession and an annual event that Hindu pilgrims join to honour Lord Krishna in his form of Jagannatha, Lord of the Universe. Primarily occurring in India, the journey of the chariot is an elaborate occasion that generally sees a chariot coming out of a temple and heading through the streets to another temple or a river, surrounded by followers. A water sweeping ritual commonly takes place around the chariot.
The huge wheeled wooden structure, pulled by devotees using ropes, is built anew each year and is a sight to behold. Consisting of a throne, the chariot is decorated with flower garlands and painted with various designs.
Here in Sydney's multicultural west, Rathayatra is being observed with a sacred coconut breaking ceremony prior to a colourful street parade of two chariots (one large & one small) with people singing and playing Indian musical instruments along the way.
Starting in Bigge Park, near the corner of Elizabeth & College Streets, the procession moves into the heart of Liverpool so that all may share in the blessings and celebration of the festival before returning to the park.
The spiritual gathering then continues with a fair full of song and dance, including a cultural stage show that's classically Indian. Activities will have you learning about Indian art, whilst the market stalls are the place to be for the free vegetarian feast.
All are welcome, Indian or otherwise, at this event (beginning 10am, with free entry) that is a great insight into the traditions of this ancient festival where devotees pulling the chariots believe they will be closer to their release from the material world and closer to entrance into the spiritual realm.