Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Spectacle of Religions

I was walking back from the beach (morning surfcheck) and nearly got run over by the annual Festival of Chariots, or as we local residents call it - the Krishna parade.

Well okay, I wasn’t really “nearly run over” because the people and the carriages move at a slow walking pace, but the parade was about to start at Pico and Main St., less than 100 yards from where I crossed Main. So I decided to wait a few minutes and watch the spectacle as it passed by.

This was the third time I’ve seen the parade, and at least the fifth time that I was aware of it as it went by. (I live close enough to Main St. that it’s easy to hear the amplified chanting and music.) It’s interesting to see the collection of people who are part of this religious celebration. There were several hundred people walking, dancing and chanting as they preceded and accompanied alongside the three “chariots” ((more like giant carriages). There are a few people riding along on the carriages: some are the transport workers who 1) pull on the traces to provide propulsion, 2) man the tiller or steering wheel, 3) operate the brakes. These workers ride on the bottom deck. There are also a number of people riding on the second deck with the avatar of the god that particular carriage is carrying.These appear to be the priests and priestesses who have literally achieved a higher plane and are allowed to approach the symbol of the god(dess).

The whole spectacle is quite entertaining due to its colorful clothing and decoration, the aforementioned walking, dancing and chanting, and especially the happiness and apparent peacefulness of the participants. A number of them, let’s call them the outwalkers, hand out little pamphlets and lollipops to bystanders. (I graciously declined taking any of these offered “gifts”.)

Unfortunately I hadn’t carried my camera with me on this surfcheck (small waves, but good for beginners) so I can’t show any original photos. (I remember taking pictures in the last year or two, but cannot find those photos.) However here are some other’s photos:

ChezLuna’s picture of the Santa Monica Festival’s three chariots
Flickr photos of all FoVs worldwide
Picasa photos of the Santa Monica FoV

Here is Wikipedia on the “International Society for Krishna Consciousness” or as they call themself, ISKCON.
Here is the city of Santa Monica’s listing of the Festival of Chariots, as well as other events on 2 August 2009.

Sadly, the main reason I really missed having my camera was the pathetic trailer following the whole parade. This guy, in his mid-50s and dressed like a Bubba with the ball cap, salt-and-pepper beard, and t-shirt stretched over a distended beer belly, was carrying a large banner for his own god. The beer belly supported a harness with a leather pocket that help up this ten foot tall banner that proclaimed “there’s only one god and that is JHC”, and a similar slogan on the flip side. This guy followed carefully about 20 feet behind the rest of the parade. When it slowed or stopped, he stopped. When he was stopped he would occasionally rotate his message so anybody watching could see the flip side’s slogan. When the happy paraders started up again, this somber sad man would also start again. He never took his eyes off what he was following, never looked around to see if anybody was watching him or his message. I don’t know if this was due to drilled-in parade ground discipline or because he didn’t want to let the heathen devils out of his sight. (Lest they sneak up on him and steal his soul, perhaps?)

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