Festival of Chariots to draw 10K attendees

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published July 13, 2015


FARMINGTON HILLS/NOVI — Every year for the past 30 years, Hare Krishna followers pull deities by rope on a 40-foot-tall chariot in the Festival of Chariots parade to symbolize pulling their lord into their hearts.

“It is symbolically taking God away from the opulence to a more simplified lifestyle, which represents bringing God back into our hearts. To be humble is a quality we all try to attain. Instead of worshiping with awe and reverence, we worship God with love and devotion,” said Stephen Knapp, International Society for Krishna Consciousness Temple of Detroit board of directors chairman.

This year, more than 7,000 people will pull a 40-foot chariot through the streets of Novi during the festival’s parade, starting at 11 a.m. July 19 at the Novi Civic Center.

International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON, Temple of Detroit will present the 30th annual 3-mile parade down the main streets, which includes an exhibition showcasing India’s spirituality and culture.

Knapp said he’s been to India, in 1994 and 2001, for the same festival.

“It is literally an amazing festival in the sense that there are, like, 1 million people who show up,” Knapp said. “In India, the festival goes on for two weeks.”

The Novi festival will feature 20-plus tents with various forms of entertainment, a free lunch, dancing, live music, shopping, henna art and children’s activities. Attendees will see floats, traditional costumes, and Hindu rituals and dramas. Traditional clothing will be for sale.

“It is a very cultural experience, even if people aren’t that interested in the religion,” Knapp said.

Similar festivals will take place in New York, San Francisco and Toronto. 

Knapp said the festival has been in Novi for the past few years. Before that, it was held on Belle Isle, but that location was not big enough to hold the roughly 6,000 attendees.

Naimish Patel, director of the Festival of Chariots, said the Farmington Hills and Detroit temples will be participating.

The Hare Krishna Temple of Farmington Hills, 36600 Grand River Ave., took the place of the former Priya Indian cuisine restaurant in 2013. It opened in the spring of 2014.

Farmington Hills temple official Ganesh Kathiresan said in an email that the temple is open for small programs, and a six-month renovation plan for the entire building will commence in the fall.

“There is also a longer-term plan (four to five years) to build a bigger temple (with another adjacent structure),” he added in the email about the roughly $2 million project.

Another Hare Krishna temple, Devasadan Mandir, is located in downtown Detroit, and there is also one in Ypsilanti.

“Many millions of people have enjoyed the opportunity to sing, dance, eat and enjoy with friends and family in a spiritually charged atmosphere,” Kathiresan wrote in an emailed statement.

Patel said the festival could help bring awareness for the temple.

“The temple is open to the public, and we have morning and evening programs, with occasional weekend programs,” Patel said. “We want to bring it to its final and permanent use with beautiful finishings to make it a perfect place for a temple weekday program.”

The temple came about after the annual Michigan Festival of Chariots grew in popularity.

Patel said that Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON founder, made the festival a worldwide attraction after he held the first one in San Francisco in 1967.

Today, ISKCON has over 500 temples and millions of followers around the world.

For more information, go to www.detroitiskconlive.com or www.mirathyatra.com.