Hundreds of smiling faces greeted Lord Jagannatha, the Lord of the Universe, as He and His brother and sister, Balaram and Subhadra, rode upon a colorful chariot down the streets of Wheeling on Saturday, July 13. The fourth Festival of India, more commonly known as the Ratha-yatra (chariot festival) in India and many parts of the world, graced the people of Wheeling with its message of “Culturally Many Spiritually One,” demonstrating that universal peace and brotherhood can be achieved by celebrating our oneness as children of God.
As throngs of spectators, devotees of Lord Jagannatha, and curious visitors joined the grand chariot parade from Wesbanco Arena in Water Street to Heritage Port, the atmosphere was filled with exotic chants, joyful singing and dancing, the sound of Indian musical instruments, and a wave of excitement. Ladies dressed in colorful saris and decorated with henna and face paint art danced in a rhythmic formation while men with dhotis and turbans played on Indian drums and cymbals. The people of Wheeling received the spiritual culture of India, with its color and charm, in great wonder and reverence.
When the procession finally reached Heritage Port, Mayor Glenn Elliot remarked in his speech: “It’s been 250 years since we were founded as a settlement—this year we are celebrating our 250th year, and when I think back about the people who founded this civilization in 1769, I don’t think they would’ve imagined all the colors and diversity in the city of Wheeling today. It is a beautiful thing to see and we aspire to be a friendly city. We love what this festival represents, and we want you to keep coming back year after year.” See excerpt of speech here: https://youtu.be/7mnSrhh8Dvs
The mayor participated in and enjoyed the day’s events for several hours along with his partner, Cassandra, the deputy chief of police, Marty Kimball, and other dignitaries. They all were fascinated by the ambience, the shows, the various stands, and Eco-Vrindaban’s showcasing of their activities, including butter making and a gorgeous vegetable stand. The mayor again praised the festival for bringing so much color to the town of Wheeling. The TV and press captured the festivities on camera and interviewed the festival coordinators to broadcast the event.
Many visitors were attracted to the different stands and booths that showcased various activities and cultural practices. They participated in yoga and mantra meditation and asked questions at the “Ask a Monk” booth. The India Fashion booth was full of excited ladies trying on saris and leaving feeling beautiful and special. The men tried on turbans too, and the children were entertained with fun activities like the Cake Walk where five beautiful cakes were given away. And no festival is complete without food—sumptuous Indian cuisine from the Govinda’s restaurant was sold out, and everyone savored and appreciated the free three-course dinner that was served.
The onstage entertainment kept the audience enraptured—soulful singing by Gauramani, traditional music by live bands, and classical Indian dancing by Kumari transported everyone to India.
In fact, by feeling God’s presence and the harmony that prevailed, you could imagine yourself not only in India but in the spiritual world.
We look forward to the surprises and blessings the Lord of the Universe will bring to the fifth Festival of India next year.
Please view the Festival of India photos on our Facebook page.