The Festival of Chariots is modeled after Puri's Ratha Yatra, one of the most important annual events in the Hindu calendar; the festival is especially sacred to Vaishnavites.
In the seaside city of Puri in Orissa on India's east coast, at the beginning of the monsoon season, the deity Jagannath is taken out of the temple in bright and colorful chariots. Almost a million worshippers throng to the city and pull the chariots, accompanied by music, religious chants, and dancing.
Many Indian parents who had brought their children to the New York event were aware of the Puri Jagannath tradition. One of them was telling her children: "You must experience this, and pray that some day all of us can spend a few days in India watching something like this."
"Do I have to eat vegetarian food all the time," asked one of the children.
The father shook the head, adding, "Millions of people do it in India."
Image: Over the years, the number of Indian Americans participating in the rath yatra has been going up steadily