According to reports, Clearwater Mayor George N. Cretekos will be attending the Clearwater Beach festival and it will include “Free 5 Course Feast”, kirtan, cultural program and parade.
Rath Yatra is said to be the oldest known parade in the world and it is believed that pullers of this Lord Jagannatha’s chariot receive immense spiritual benefit. Popularized outside India by International Society for Krishna Consciousness founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, this annual parade festival has reportedly been held annually in over 50 major cities in USA, Canada, Europe, etc., since 1960s.
The original Ratha Jatra is held on a grand scale in Puri (Odisha, India), where the presiding deities of Sri Mandira – Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra – with celestial wheel Sudarshana are driven on the chariots to about two miles north Gundicha temple in an elaborate ritual procession, where the huge colorfully decorated chariots are drawn by thousands of devotees. After a stay for seven days, the deities return to their abode in Sri Mandira.
A glimpse of Lord Jagannatha on the chariot is considered to be highly auspicious and even a touch of the chariot is believed to yield benefits equivalent to several pious deeds. Many poets have written its glories. This year, it will be held on July 18.
Rajan Zed points out that ancient Hindu scripture Katha Upanishad talks about the concept of chariot, where soul is the deity, body is the chariot, and intellect the charioteer. Skanda Purana glorifies Rath Jatra’s sanctity.