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Rathyatra Chariot Festival

Rathyatra chariot festival Birmingham Rathayatra is a cultural celebration that originated in India and is among the oldest festivals in the world.

A huge ‘ratha’, or chariot, devoted to Lord Krishna, is decorated with flowers and ornaments and pulled through the city streets. Krishna devotees follow the vibrant chariot singing, chanting and dancing. The procession ends with a huge vegetarian feast and entertainment in Chamberlain Square [map].

The Rathayatra Festival is new to nations outside India and Birmingham is proud to host its own impressive version each year.

The festival has its origins in Jagannath Puri on the Bay of Bengal, and for millennia the chariots of Lord Jagannath have rolled through that town. Throughout the year the Lord Jagannath Deity is worshipped in a temple, which is over 200 feet high and dominates the city. The temple kitchens prepare 56 offerings of food daily – 500 kitchen employees cook enough for 10,000 people every day, and for 10 times that amount during festivals (this gets eaten by the town).

Of all the many annual festivals held for Lord Jagannath, the grandest is easily the Rathayatra Festival (chariot journey). Once a year Lord Jagannath (one of Lord Krishna’s incarnations) leaves his temple for the streets to enjoy a ride on the Rathayatra chariots. For a month, 42 woodcarvers, 30 labourers, 15 painters, 10 tailors and nine nail-smiths work to build the chariots. Around a million people flood into Puri to participate in the procession.

Birmingham’s version is scaled down but still pretty impressive, as well as being very important for the city’s huge Asian population.

The spectacle of the Rathayatra Festival is well worth the trip to Birmingham. While you are there you can enjoy the many multicultural delights of the UK’s second largest city. It has a reputation for innovation in arts and industry and also boasts more canals than Venice.

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