KRISNA KRSNA HARE HARE
HARE RĀMA HARA RĀMA
In New York City, summer is synonymous with weekend parades.
Every weekend. Rain or shine.
On Friday, a friend of mine, Jennifer Graylock, a professional photographer who shoots big red carpet events such as the Oscars, sent me an email suggesting we shoot the annual Hare Krishna parade following day.
Hare Krishna Parade? I had no idea. It’s hard to keep up with all the parades but after living in NYC for over 15 years I thought I would have heard about it at least once.
I’ll be frank, I’ve never been a big fan of parades. (I know. I know. I’m weird.) I’ve never found them particularly entertaining. Watching people wave from a float or walk under a giant balloon just doesn’t rate on my fun-o-meter.
But from a photographic point of view I thought it might be interesting and worth a look and I am so glad I did. It was bright and colorful and everyone was in a good mood. Hundreds of people on a sticky, hot summer day and they were incredibly happy. Other parades I’ve been to were filled with gaiety and laughter but this parade was joyous in a way that I’ve never experienced before.
Jennifer and I met at the parade’s staging area at 45th street and Fifth Avenue at 11:30am. The sun was already beating down slashing the street with harsh shadows and bouncing off the Mylar balloons that hung from three huge, technicolor chariots, each carrying one of three deities. Servants of the deities were on board to fan, protect and give offerings.
Ratha Yatra Festival, Background
The festival of Ratha Yatra has been celebrated since ancient times, as one of the most important yearly events in the Vaishnava-Hindu faith. Vaishnavism, the worship of Lord Krishna, is one of the principle branches within the broad Hindu tradition. Vaishnavas are monotheists, and believe Lord Krishna to be the same God worshiped by Christians, Jews and Muslims.
In Jagannath Puri, the deity worshiped in the main temple is an image of Lord Krishna, and is called Jagannath (which means “Lord of the Universe”). He is worshiped along with his brother, Balarama, and sister, Subhadra, in the main shrine. Every summer, at the beginning of the monsoon season, the three (3) deities are taken out of the temple amidst great fanfare, and are placed on bright and colorful chariots. Almost a million worshipers throng to the city and pull the chariots with love and devotion, accompanied by joyful music, religious chants, and dancing.
In 1976 A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the worldwide Hare Krishna Movement inaugurated the New York City version of this ancient Indian parade. Since then, it has been celebrated annually and has become a New York summer tradition. This festival blends the splendor of a millennia-old celebration with the excitement of a parade down New York’s world famous Fifth Avenue. ~ Press Release
Hundreds of Krishna filled the streets in traditional garb and lined up to pull the long yellow ropes that would power the chariots to Washington Square Park where the parade would end but the celebrating would continue.
Once it began, the parade moved at a leisurely pace, occupying the left-hand side of the avenue while police on motorcycles took up the right flank ensuring that the crowd didn’t expand too far west and get hit by traffic.
Jennifer and I wove in and out of the crowd as they walked and sang and danced.
It was a delightful way to spend a Saturday morning…..