A colorful commemoration of an ancient annual Hindu tradition is set to return to Venice Beach through the efforts of the Los Angeles Chapter of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

The 31st annual Festival of the Chariots, a Hare Krishna celebration based on an ancient Indian tradition, includes a free feast, live entertainment, and a parade that will make its way from Santa Monica to the heart of Venice Beach on Sunday, August 5th.

Each year, a procession marches from Santa Monica accompanied by three towering red floats (devotions to deities of ancient India) that end up on Ocean Front Walk for an afternoon celebration.

The procession begins at 10 a.m. at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St., Santa Monica. Marchers end up at 1530 Ocean Front Walk in Venice, where the afternoon festivities begin.

Admission is free, and the public is invited to join the parade.

Live entertainment will include Indian dance, music, dramatic performance and children’s activities.

The event is organized each year by a West Los Angeles-based chapter of Krishna devotees.

Most recognizable are the festival’s three large red floats — about 25 feet high — devoted to Krishna deities, which paraders hand-carry from Santa Monica to Venice.

Members of the crowd will use ropes that are attached to the side of the floats to pull them along the route and down Ocean Front Walk.

The floats have large red cloth canopies that are emblazoned with Sanskrit inscriptions and drawings based on Vedas scripture. They are decorated with fresh flowers, flags and banners.

Crowds of dancers, singers and beach-goers typically walk alongside the float.

Within the floats are wooden carvings of Krishna deities.

The three floats contain carvings of Lord Jagannath, his sister deity Lord Subhrada and his brother deity Lord Balarama.

The facsimiles of the ancient Orissan festival chariots used in Puri, India, which have come to be the defining symbol of the local Festival of the Chariots, were designed by the late Jayananda Dasa 31 years ago.

The wooden chariots are taken out of storage and restored once a year for the annual festival.

A model of the deity of Jagannath (meaning “Lord of the Universe”) is brought to the festival site by limousine and placed on the chariot.

The parade used to begin on Santa Monica Beach, but the start moved to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium when the City of Santa Monica imposed new regulations on large public events on the beach.

The hand-pulled chariots make their way south on Main Street in Santa Monica, then head west on Rose Avenue in Venice and finally are steered left onto Ocean Front Walk and proceed south to the heart of Venice Beach near the ocean end of Windward Avenue.

Once it reaches Venice, the festival will feature a free feast (10,000 plates prepared in the Krishna tradition), three stages of live entertainment and cultural demonstrations.

The event will also have information booths on Hare Krishna traditions and beliefs as well as Indian art and culture.

There will be exhibits on yoga and meditation, reincarnation, spirituality, vegetarianism and animal rights.

Children’s games and gift booths will also be set up.

On the main stage, Viji Prakash and the Shakti Dance Company will perform. Other dancers billed at this year’s festival include Vishnu and classical dancer Odissi.

Musical guests include Karnamrta, an Indian modern/classical singing artist, and Gauravani and his Indian rock band.

Other guests include musical mainstay the Temple Bhajan Band, and Karnamrita plans to perform Indian devotional love songs.

There will also be a dramatic performance with storylines and teachings from Indian classical literature.

The idea for the Venice/Santa Monica Festival of the Chariots is based on an ancient festival that takes place annually in the Indian holy town of Jagannatha Puri.

The festival is a celebration of Indian Vedas scripture and the ancient Indian god Lord Jagannath.

Each year in India, the festival attracts massive numbers of pilgrims, and organizers compare the festival to the Kumbha Mela.

The tradition was brought to the West in 1967 by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

The local Festival of the Chariots is seen by an estimated 40,000 people each year, according to organizers.

Information, (310) 836-4342.

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