CLEARWATER — Add chariots to the quirky and exotic things one might see during a Saturday stroll near the Pier 60 Pavilion at Clearwater Beach.
At 1 p.m., a huge chariot festooned with flower garlands, a bright fabric canopy and a brass chakra on top will anchor a parade that begins at the pier and moves in a leisurely fashion down the beach and back.
The second annual Festival of the Chariots and Ratha Yatra Parade runs until 5 p.m. and features live music with drums and cymbals, singing, classical Indian dance, a bazaar and free vegetarian food.
The Ratha Yatra parade is the oldest known parade in the world, says Nancy Schreier, spokeswoman for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the main sponsor of the event.
"It's at least 5,000 years old," said Schreier, who also goes by her Hare Krishna spiritual name, Nartaka Gopala dasi. "The parade conveys a very welcoming, loving, joyous atmosphere."
The festival originated with the Hindus in India and has been held annually in the United States since the 1960s when religious teacher A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada brought the Hare Krishna movement to America.
The chariot has two very thick ropes attached to it that are pulled by paradegoers, who stop occasionally for interludes of song and dance.
"It signifies us pulling God back into our lives," Schreier said. "We're trying to enlighten people that we should focus more on God than our differences in the material world."
Have a Diversions feature event? Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at [email protected]