The 51st annual Festival of India (also known as Ratha-Yatra) took place this past weekend in Toronto. The very first Festival of India in Toronto launched in 1972, and has been growing steadily every year.

This year’s Festival of India parade ran down Yonge Street to Queens Quay West. Three giant floats (called Chariots) were hand-pulled by thousands of attendees and spectators, and there was much singing, chanting, drumming and dancing in the streets. Everyone was encouraged to participate. The parade attendance and spectator involvement this year was massive, due I’m sure to the public returning en masse to events post-COVID.

What is the Festival of India all about?

To answer that question, I’ll refer to a bit of explanatory text from the Festival of India’s website:

The parade down Yonge Street echoes an annual procession that has occurred for centuries in the ancient city of Puri, India. There, three mammoth chariots, known as rathas are taken on a jubilant procession, called a yatra. Hence, the Festival is also known as Ratha-Yatra or “chariot procession”. In Puri, this age-old Ratha-Yatra procession continues to attract over a million people every year!

Seated on each float (chariot) are beautifully bedecked Deities of Jagannatha (another name for Krishna or God), Baladeva (Krishna’s brother), and Subhadra (Krishna’s sister). The procession itself symbolizes the pulling of the Lord into our hearts and this is done with great pomp and grandeur.

In the late 1960s, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the worldwide Hare Krishna Society (ISKCON), inaugurated the North American and international versions of this ancient Indian festival. With roots steeped in spiritual traditions, the festival is now celebrated in every major city around the world, including London, Paris, Sydney, and New York.

The Toronto Festival of India Parade 2023

The chariots roll down Yonge Street surrounded by the crowd
Trumpeting on a conch shell
Dancing down Yonge Street
People, people, and more people
Yonge Street was very congested

If you would like to view my 2017 album of the Festival of India, which includes the post-parade activities, click here. That year the event was much less crowded and had a more subdued vibe to it.