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Happy Rath Yatra Puri
Sun Jun 24, 2012 12:42 pmForum Host
Every year in mid-summer (this year, Rath Yatra commenced on June 21. It runs for 10 days with the main festivities occuring on the first day), Lord Jagannath, with his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra, goes on vacation, travelling on grand chariots, from his temple in Puri, to his garden palace in the countryside. This belief of the Hindus has given rise to one of the biggest religious festivals in India — the Rath Yatra or the Chariot Festival. This is also the etymological origin of the English word 'Juggernaut'.
Jagannath, believed to be an avatar of Lord Vishnu, is the Lord of Puri — the coastal town of Orissa in eastern India. Rath Yatra is of great significance to the Hindus, and especially to the people of Orissa. It is during this time that the three deities of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken out in a grand procession in specially made gigantic temple-like chariots called raths, which are pulled by thousands of devotees.
The Rath Yatra is also known as Car Festival. An annual festival commemorates the journey of Krishna from Gokul to Mathura.It also symbolizes a journey to light from the dark, which commences on the 2nd day of the bright fortnight in the month of Asadha (June/July).
Many believe that the custom of placing idols on grand chariots and pulling them is of Buddhist origin. Fa Hien, the Chinese historian, who visited India in the 5th century AD, had written about the chariot of Buddha being pulled along public roads.
The Origin of 'Juggernaut'
History has it that when the British first observed the Rath Yatra in the 18th century, they were so amazed that they sent home shocking descriptions which gave rise to the term 'juggernaut', meaning "destructive force". This connotation may have originated from the occasional but accidental death of some devotees under the chariot wheels caused by the crowd and commotion.
How the Festival is Celebrated
The festival begins with the Ratha Prathistha or invoking ceremony in the morning, but the Ratha Tana or chariot pulling is the most exciting part of the festival, which begins in the late afternoon when the chariots of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhdra start rolling. Each of these carriages have different specifications: The chariot of Lord Jagannath is called Nandighosa, has 18 wheels and is 23 cubits high; the chariot of Balabhadra, called Taladhvaja has 16 wheels and is 22 cubits high; Devadalana, the chariot of Subhadra has 14 wheels and is 21 cubits high.
Each year these wooden chariots are constructed anew in accordance with religious specifications. The idols of these three deities are also made of wood and they are religiously replaced by new ones every after 12 years. After a nine-day sojourn of the deities at the country temple amidst festivities, the divine summer vacation gets over and the three return to the city temple of Lord Jagannath.
The Great Rath Yatra of Puri
The Puri Rath Yatra is world famous for the crowd that it attracts. Puri being the abode of these three deities, the place plays host to devotees, tourists and about one million pilgrims from across India and abroad. Many artists and artisans are engaged in building these three chariots, weaving its fabric covers that dress up the chariots, and painting them in the right shades and motifs to give them the best possible looks.
Fourteen tailors are engaged in stitching up the covers that require almost 1,200 meters of cloth. Orissa's government-run textile mill usually supply the cloth needed to decorate the chariots. However, other Bombay-based Century Mills also donate cloth for the Rath Yatra.
Rath Yatra of Ahmedabad
The Rath Yatra of Ahmedabad stands next to the Puri festival in grandeur and crowd-pulling. Nowadays, there are not just the thousands of people who participate in the Ahmedabad event, there are also communication satellites which the police use under the global positioning system to chart the course of the chariots on a map on the computer screen to monitor them from a control room because the Ahmedabad Rath Yatra has a bloody record. The last violent Rath Yatra which the city saw was in 1992, when the city suddenly became surcharged with communal riots.
Rath Yatra of Mahesh
The Rath Yatra of Mahesh in the Hoogly district of West Bengal is also of historical repute. This is not only because it's the grandest and the oldest Rath Yatras in Bengal, but because of huge congregation it manages to attract. The Mahesh Rath Yatra of 1875 is of special historical significance: A young girl was lost in the fair and amongst many, the district magistrate Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya — the great Bengali poet and author of India's National song — himself went out to search for the girl. A couple of months later this incident inspired him to write the famous novel Radharani.
A Festival For All
Rath Yatra is a great festival because of its ability to unite people in its festivity. All people, rich and poor, brahmins or shudras equally enjoy the fairs and the joy they bring. Even Muslims in India participate in Rath Yatras. Muslim residents of Narayanpur, a village of about a thousand families in the Subarnapur district of Orissa, regularly take part in the festival, from building the chariots to pulling the rath.
International Ratha Yatras
The Ratha Jatra festival has become a common sight in most major cities of the world since 1968 through the ISKCON Hare Krishna movement. Its leader A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada successfully transplanted the festival which now happens on an annual basis in places all over the world in over 100 cities including Dublin, Belfast, Birmingham, London, Budapest, Melbourne, Montreal, Paris, New York, Singapore, Toronto, Antwerp, Kuala Lumpur and Venice, CA.The Rathajatra in Dhamrai, Bangladesh is one of the most important in Bangladesh.
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[size-10]Indian Hindu devotees gather as three giant chariots are pulled during the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath in Puri.
Decorated trucks participate during the 135th Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad.
An Indian child sits on the edge of a chariot adorned with idols on the eve of the annual chariot festival at Puri.
Sand sculptures representing chariots of Hindu deities, made my sand artist sudarshan pattnaik, are pictured on the Beach on the eve of the annual chariot festival at Puri.
[size=Indian Hindu devotees pull the holy rope of the Chariot of Lord Jagannath during the Rath Yatra celebration in Kolkata.[/size]
Fri Jun 29, 2012 5:27 amFood.com Groupie
Thank you Molly. The photos and explanations are great.
Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:56 pmForum Host
These festivals are all so very colorful and interesting, but the sand sculptures you showed are just great!!
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