New Vrindaban Celebrates 50 Years With India Festival in Wheeling
WHEELING — An ancient tradition of faith spanning 5,000 years had reason to celebrate Saturday — it has had a voice in the Ohio Valley for 1 percent of that time.
ISKON New Vrindaban brought the joyous music and colors of the Palace of Gold to Wheeling’s Heritage Port on Saturday, for the third annual Festival of India which ran the course of the afternoon and evening.
Festival organizer Anurada Imseng said this year’s festival was of particular note as it marked 50 years the Hare Krishna community had been established in the Ohio Valley, with the community of New Vrindaban being founded in 1968.
“After 50 years, they’ve stood the test of time,” she said. “It’s not a new form of spirituality, it’s a path that was established 5,000 years ago. It just came to America 50 years ago. … Being 50, we’ve stood that test, and we’re looking forward to the next 50 years.”
Live music was a constant during the event, as it is at many events sponsored by New Vrindaban. Hot dinner was served free to any wishing to partake of their food, while yoga was held on the grassy slopes overlooknig the Ohio River.
Other activities include Henna tattoos offered at a small cost, a question and answer “Ask a Monk” booth, and Vedic astrology readings, offering new insight in an astrological tradition of which some may not be aware.
Imseng estimated that around 3,000 people came out to attend Saturday, owing to the hot and dry weather, matching attendance of the first year. The 2017 celebration was rained out, but Imseng said they still drew a crowd of nearly 2,000 people.
This year, Imseng hoped to draw upon the notion that, while our society may be divided among many lines, the community is able to come together to celebrate life and the faiths of its populace.
“In a climate of turmoil, by just introducing other cultures to people, and showing how there’s a commonality in culture, there’s beauty, there’s truthfulness, integrity. We might have different ways of expressing things, but spiritually, we’re all children of God.
“The teachings are basically that we are not just this body, this is not the be-all, end-all of us — we all have a spiritual spark that’s connected to God.”
Also known as the Festival of Chariots, or Ratha-yatra, this event has its roots in ancient India and is celebrated in major cities worldwide, from Paris to London and from Durban to New York.
New Vrindaban was founded in 1968 by Kirtanananda Swami and Hayagriva Dasm, two disciples of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, commonly referred to as the Hare Krishna movement. The Palace of Gold, the standout feature of New Vrindaban, is home to several other events throughout the year, most notably the Festival of Colors, which is next scheduled to return in 2019.