Under the coordination of Hindu Students Council (HSC) chapter leaders and members from Ontario College of Art & Design University (OCAD) and the University of Toronto (UofT), a historic Ratha Yatra event was organised, entirely driven by students. This remarkable gathering occurred at OCAD University on September 30, 2023, drawing a crowd of 300 attendees.
The HSC orchestrated an artist market featuring over 40 local vendors, offering a platform for small businesses. Students and community members, brimming with enthusiasm, engaged in a continuous five-hour Kirtan, expressing their devotion and zest for the celebration. The event catered to all age groups, creating a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere.
The highlight of the event was a lively procession from the UofT Campus Mandir to OCAD University, honouring Shri Jagannath along with siblings Shri Balaram and Shri Subhadra, accompanied by the enchanting Hare Krishna Mahamantra Kirtan. The event also featured captivating performances by UofT Jhalak, Shivraya Pathak Dhol Tasha, and Nrithya Pravisha Kathak Dance School.
Aaditya Karthik, President of HSC UofT St. George Chapter, expressed his delight, stating, “With the chanting of maha-mantra and the procession of Shri Jagannath, I was thrilled to see non-Hindus pay their respects.”
For over fifty years, Ratha Yatra festivals in Toronto, Vancouver (with the motto of “Feel the Bliss”), Montreal, Halifax, and various other towns across Canada have brought together Hindus and communities of diverse backgrounds in spiritual bliss, joyous celebration, and family fun.
The event was made possible through collaborative efforts with various community organisations including the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA), Canadian Organisation for Hindu Heritage Education (CoHHE), International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Bhakti Yoga Club, Toronto Jain Mandir, Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul Vishwavidya Pratishthanam (SGVP Gurukul), Hindu Federation, Sai Dham Food Bank, Sewa Canada, Canadians Hindus for Harmony, Global Organisation of Divinity, and Hindu Canadian Foundation.
OCAD University and UofT are commended for providing a platform to showcase Hindu dharmic culture and traditions, fostering understanding and appreciation within the community. The presence of the Campus Security team and Toronto Police ensured the safety of all attendees, creating a secure environment for everyone.
Despite facing opposition, Hindu students from OCAD and UofT played a central role in planning and executing the entire event. With the support of university administrators, extra security measures were put in place, leading to the event’s tremendous success, with over 300 people in attendance.
“It was an incredible experience to see how the [wider] community came out and supported everyone who was participating in this event,” remarked Vishwa Patel, Director of Operations at HSC OCAD University and a third-year student studying Drawing and Painting.