Dancers from the Abhinaya School of Dance perform during the opening ceremony of the Festival of Chariots in Novi July 17.

Dancers from the Abhinaya School of Dance perform during the opening ceremony of the Festival of Chariots in Novi July 17.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Thousands of people celebrate Festival of Chariots in Novi

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published July 26, 2022

 The Festival of Chariots departs Novi City Hall and moves to 10 Mile Road.

The Festival of Chariots departs Novi City Hall and moves to 10 Mile Road.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Swaminathan Ganesan, of Novi, gives Anivudh Balakrishnan, 4, of Novi, a good view of the festivities and space to wave ribbons prior to the start of the parade.

Swaminathan Ganesan, of Novi, gives Anivudh Balakrishnan, 4, of Novi, a good view of the festivities and space to wave ribbons prior to the start of the parade.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

NOVI — Thousands of people attended the Festival of Chariots, an Indian spiritual and cultural festival also known as the Rathyatra, held in Novi July 17, according to event spokesman Madhu Mahadevan.

“This was our best festival ever, with a record attendance of over 12,000 people,” Mahadevan said.

The Festival of Chariots is one of India’s most ancient and popular festivals, and it is celebrated in hundreds of cities throughout the world, according to Mahadevan. The festival has been held in Michigan for 37 years, 12 of which have been in Novi.

The event began at the Novi Civic Center with speeches by several dignitaries, including Novi Mayor Bob Gatt and event organizer Naimish Patel, and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell was presented with a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred Hindu text. In total, 13 dignitaries were present at the festival, according to Mahadevan.

Following the speeches and presentations, a 40-foot-tall chariot carrying the deities of Lord Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra was pulled by event attendees for 3 miles in a lavish parade that featured rose petals being dropped on attendees from a helicopter throughout the procession. This is the only time that the deities are able to be seen outside the temple. The parade culminated at Fuerst Park, where more than 20 tents were set up with various forms of entertainment, such as yoga, live music, cooking demonstrations, henna tattooing, shopping, dancing and children’s activities.

Patel attributed the large number of attendees to the festival’s vast media campaign. He said that there were so many people at the event that organizers ran out of programs and nearly ran out of the food that had been blessed at the temple and was being given out for free to attendees. Patel estimated that attendance was up by at least 40%.

Mahadevan said they had not expected such a large turnout. He said that there were so many people present that it was standing-room-only during most of the four-hour entertainment program.

The Kirtan Yoga Fest also was celebrated during the Festival of Chariots in the park during the late afternoon. It featured artists such as Grammy-nominated Gaura Mani and others from New York, India and around the world demonstrating various yoga positions and techniques.

“We also expected to see some rain, as rain was forecast to happen all afternoon, but the Lord had different plans and provided us with the most perfect day,” said Mahadevan. “The theme of our festival was happiness, and as I’m sure you witnessed, there wasn’t a single frown in the crowd.”