Garlands have been pinned to the wheels of the chariot and curries seasoned to perfection for prasadam (a religious offering), while Krishna’s idol is adorned with jewels for public viewing. The occasion is Rath Yatra, or Chariot Festival, organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Held annually to emulate a similar large-scale Rath Yatra at Puri, in India, the festival attracts thousands of Australians to see the Hindu God Krishna — or Jaggannath (Lord of the Universe) — step out of the sanctum of his temple in Albert Park onto the streets of Melbourne for his darshan (viewing). This year, a record 25,000 people took part in the yatra at St Kilda’s Catani Gardens, reflecting Hinduism’s rising popularity in Australia, which is expected to be confirmed in the latest Census as the nation’s fastest growing religion.
By Krati Garg