Saturday, May 19, 2007

Baltimore Festivals: Festival of India

I first got the idea for this blog about this time last year. My original idea: to talk about Baltimore's many ethnic festivals, in words and pictures. Then I got lazy after I went to the Polish festival, uploaded my photos to my desktop, and then got caught up in summer classes at Towson.

Now we are in a new festival season, and I made it to the very first festival of them all: the travelin' Festival of India. This isn't sponsored by the city, mind you. Instead, it's a traveling festival of Krishna Consciousness. Baltimore's version, the Rathayatra Chariot Festival, is run through the Catonsville branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, whose North American HQ is in North Carolina. Granted, "North Carolina" probably isn't the first thing that pops in your mind when you think of the Hare Krishnas, but really, "Maryland" isn't either.

I decided to get some exercise under my belt, so I parked on the street - free - by Whole Foods and the Sylvan Learning Center corporate offices, and hoofed it all the way over to Harborplace. Lots of Krishnas (um, duh), and all sorts of literature. Ever wanted a big "Illustrated Family Bible"-sized copy of the Bhagavad Gita? Well this festival was where to find it!

The main part of the jam-packed festival (which didn't take up much space) was the Rathayatra Chariot, a tall, gorgeous structure in gold, red and so many other colors streaming around it. I totally do not know or understand the theology or symbolism behind it, so like most of the non-Indians there I pretty much just gawked - while I took photos with my camera phone! I will admit, with much chagrin, that I wasn't sure if people would accost me with literature or anything, because that has happened to me before (ten years ago, National Air & Space Museum, I gave a woman $5 so she would stop accosting me and trying to make sure I was "happy"). Nope. People were there to tell you whatever you wanted to know about Hare Krishna - but you had to ask them.

And all the Krishnas were happy, especially the converts. Then there were the Indian-American families coming to the festival, who struck me as just regular festival goers. Some were happy, others were yelling at their children, still others were taking photos. It was, for me, a typical American festival. And then there were the "tourists" - mostly non-Indian people (like me), just enjoying the ride and trying to appreciate what was going on.

The main reason I came, though, was not to enjoy the ride or even learn more about the Krishnas. I came for the advertised "Free Feast" - yes, a vegan feast, but still a feast. I was quite eager until I saw the line. A legendary line! A line that would take a single Deva year to get through (one Deva day = one human year, so you do the math). I didn't feel like waiting that long for food, so I just hoofed it back to Whole Foods and got a very Krishna-unfriendly bruschetta burger and a cheese pupusa with some stir-fried veggies. But I did donate a dollar to the Krishnas before I left. Who knows? Maybe I'll bank up some good karma?


Fairfax said...

I saw them on the way downtown!!! incredible.

a.g. said...

Ohhhhhhh I wish you would post in advance of these events coming...I would have loved to been there!

Baltimore Snacker said...

That's a goo idea, I should do it, at least link to it.

Ankur said...

Here's a news article about the parade:,0,7993058.story?coll=bal-local-headlines

Baltimore Snacker said...

A: Thanks for the link, what a very informative article!