Scottsdale Hindus to Celebrate Ratha-Yatra Festival

July 8, 2006

Source: East Valley Tribune

On July 8, 2006 the East Valley Tribune reported, "One of the oldest spiritual ceremonies will be celebrated this weekend by millions of people on the east coast of India, and also by a few hundred in Scottsdale. The annual Ratha-yatra Festival, also known as the festival of chariots, will be celebrated through worship and prayer at 7 p.m. today at the Hindu Temple of Arizona. It will conclude with the procession of a chariot pulled by worshipers at 9 a.m. Sunday along North Hayden Road. Hayden will be closed to vehicle traffic between East Thomas and Osborn roads early Sunday for the event. An estimated 200 people will help pull the chariot along the half-mile stretch of Hayden in the festival, which signifies the walk through darkness to light and promotes humility and peace. 'It's a wonderful and colorful festival,' said Snigdha Sharma, a temple board member. 'It's the one festival in India where millions of people come from all over the country to celebrate and includes all deities. Thousands of years ago, certain people weren't allowed to worship in India, but the significance of the ceremony is that everyone can. To demonstrate humility, even the king sweeps off the street prior to the chariot being pulled down the street.' The festival has been celebrated in Scottsdale for the last four years. People will line up to pull the chariot during the procession, which is considered a sacred act, Sharma said. The Ratha-yatra Festival is believed to be the oldest continuously celebrated spiritual festival in the world, she said. The chariots of the deity Lord Jagannatha have rolled each summer into the town of Puri, India, on the Bay of Bengal, Sharma said."