India Festival: Greater Houston Rath Yatra 2016


By IAN Correspondent

HOUSTON: Amid a swelling crowd of over five thousand, cries of “Jai Jagannath!” and “Hare Krishna!” rang through the streets of Downtown Houston during the 4th Annual Greater Houston Rath Yatra 2016.  Star Plus presented Festival of India at Discovery Green on a warm, breezy summer evening Saturday July 9, 6-10 PM, along with Tara Energy and Mercedes Benz of Sugar Land.    “Every year, increasing numbers of mainstream Houstonians enjoy this annual tradition commemorating Lord Jagannath’s summer vacation with elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra from the main Jagannath Temple in Puri, India to nearby Gundicha Mandir.” beamed key organizer and SKAI Foundation foudner Dr. Surya Sahoo.


Sahoo, had a vision to bring this festival to Houston four years ago when he and his wife, Kabita, experienced a miracle.  Kabita suffered from right-sided paralysis, but was determined to visit the original ancient Puri Rath Yatra.  As they approached the chariots in the procession, magically Kabita was able to climb one of the chariots – by herself – and felt the feeling return to her right side.  Almost immediately her paralysis was cured and she was able to walk and function normally again!  “We wanted to recreate the festival here in downtown Houston and offer everyone to experience the Lord of the Universe’s divine blessing,” said Kabita.


ISKCON’s Guru Bhakti Ma, Saranga Thakor Das, and Temple President Sham Sundar Prabhu  led the Devotional aspects of the event, while Hindus of Greater Houston and India Cultural contributed to the cultural performances.  SKAI’s Parth Mohanty worked tirelessly to guide Masala Radio and Masala Entertainment to a flawless event execution.  Masala Radio’s lead Radio Jockey Sunil Thakkar hyped the crowd throughout the rocking entertainment along with co-emcee Krishna Kripa Prabhu.  This year’s chief honoree was Advaita Chandra Das, the only registered Hindu Chaplain in the State of Texas.

Three huge decorated chariots made the nearly 2 mile journey from Discovery Green to the Toyota Center and back with swarms of crowding singing Kirtans and dancing in the streets.  Priests gently threw Prasad (blessed whole fruits) to humble devotees, and crowds vied for the divine opportunity to pull the ropes of the chariots along.   The journey ended with the Raths next to Discovery main stage with the Maha Aarti “Jagannath Ashtakam” sung by ISKCON youths.


The cultural program included dances by Odissi Dance by Avantica Orrisi Dance School, University of Houston’s Roarin Raas, and Jasmeet representing Radha.  While a majority of attendees participated in the parade from 7-8 PM, Isha Foundation captured arriving guests with deft Yoga Demostrations.  Next came the unique “Tablatronics” session – a fusion of traditional, electronic music by DJ Masti mixed with Tablas beats by maestro Rishabh Nayak Jasmeeta Singh & Jaz Creationz presented the spell-binding Fashions of India, followed by rocking Devotional Concert by Namrock.  TK Plummer, Namrock bandleader, presents several of his collection of 200 rock songs on Krishna, Ram, and other Hindu deities.


Star Plus gave away misting fans and over 4000 water bottles, while Tara Energy took free photos with the Masala Rickshaw and disturbed high demand light sticks.  Lines were at times a bit long for ISKCON’s chole & pulav “Prasad.” Mercedes Benz featured a stategside display of their latest customizable vans, and all sponsors, including New York Life Agent Amirali Dodhiya, My Tax Flier, an Trison International Inc. led the Maha Arti.  Plentiful Indian street foods provided by Hyderabad House, Mirch Masala and Hare Krishna Temple.

The cooling breezes, Indian food, music, dancing, and Deities and Raths contributed to a divine experience.  Photos by Chris Hernadez, Rhyne Acuff, and Tejas Prabhu.

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