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Photos by Arun Sharma Your Lensman Photography

Kick off spring with a colorful celebration of spirituality and Indian culture at the fifth annual Festival of Joy. The festival willtake place at Klyde Warren Park (2012 Woodall Rodgers Fwy., Dallas) on Saturday April 27, beginning at 11 a.m. and culminating with a live headline stage performance from 7 p.m. on. Presented by acclaimed East Dallas restaurant Kalachandji’s,the Festival of Joy brings togetherthousands of families, young adults and dignitaries for a fun-filled day of bright colors, beautiful flowers and a free vegetarian feast, along with riveting music, dance, and interactive holistic living and cultural exhibits. A variety of ethnic vegetarian foods will also be available for purchase.

New this year is an evening stage performance by popular Indian artist Gaura Vani, an internationally acclaimed multidisciplinary artist fluent in music, film and the visual arts. Vani performs a genre of traditional Indian kirtan music with Western elements such as 12-string guitar, gospel choruses and hip-hop rhythms.

“Dallas is a diverse, forward-thinking city, and the Festival of Joy has become a much-anticipated tradition that brings thousands of people together every year,” said Dallas City Council Member Jesse Moreno, who represents the district where Kalachandji’s and the Radha Kalachandji Temple are located. “The festival is a great way to fully immerse yourself in a holistic experience focusing on mindfulness, fun and harmony.”

The Festival of Joy, also celebrated as Ratha Yatra or Festival of Chariots, has its roots in the ancient Indian bhakti tradition. It has been observed annually for more than 3,000 years in the holy city of Jagannatha Puri in the South Indian state of Orissa, making it the world’s longest-running street festival. It is now held in major city centers worldwide, including New York City’s Fifth Avenue and London’s Piccadilly Circus.

“The energy and joy felt by the thousands who attend reminds us that hope and faith can conquer all. Our lives can be filled with anxiety and fear, or with love and wholesomeness. We strive to build the consciousness of love and oneness with the universe. The Festival of Joy spreads this inner consciousness to inspire others, and we hope more people will come and experience this special celebration of spiritual culture,” said Nityananda Das Adhikari of the Radha Kalachandji Temple.

The festival will start at 11 a.m. with a welcome ceremony at Klyde Warren Park, followed by a parade at 11:30 a.m. through the Dallas Arts District and back to the park at 1:30 p.m. Hundreds of festivalgoers, pilgrims and faith leaders will pull the colorful chariot carrying the sacred deities of Jagannatha, Subhadra and Balarama along the route. Hundreds more will dance, sing sacred mantras and play traditional musical instruments. Devotees believe that if they get the opportunity to pull the ropes of the giant chariot carrying Lord Krishna, known as Jagannatha or the Lord of the Universe, they can obtain eternal service to the Lord in the spiritual world.

After the procession returns to Klyde Warren Park, families and guests can enjoy a free vegetarian feast and live stage entertainment, sample regional Indian street food favorites, visit an ethnic clothing bazaar, and explore holistic living exhibits revealing the spiritual heart of India, featuring Ayurveda, yoga, traditional crafts, mehndi, try-a-sari, ask-a-monk, vegetarian cooking and more.

At 7 p.m., Vani will be featured in a concert performance on the main stage with kirtan (musical mantra meditation) and bharat-natyam (classical Indian dance).

“The Festival of Joy has been a wonderful addition to Dallas’ spring traditions, showcasing our growing diversity and the cultural enrichment that the Indian community brings to the city and our community,” said Kristina Kirkenaer-Hart, VISIT DALLAS’ director of cultural tourism.

Note: Although the free feast and some activities will close at 5 p.m., the Indian street food concessions will remain open during the evening concert.

Festivalgoers who would like to experience more can get info on the Kalachandji Konnect program of daily philosophy classes and kirtan, and continuing education programs in meditation, yoga, Ayurveda and vegetarian cooking.

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