India Blooms News Service
Kolkata, July 2 (IBNS): As the monsoon gears up in the entire nation, one can sense that it is the time for the colourful Hindu festival of Rath Yatra.
As the monsoon gears up in the entire nation, one can sense that it is the time for the colourful Hindu festival of Rath Yatra.
On Sunday the entire nation will get involved in dragging Lord Jagannath’s rath (chariot) symbolizing the journey of the deity from his temple to the garden palace in the countryside. It is in Puri (Orissa) where the epicentre of the festival lies, with thousands of people flocking the road to drag the lord’s chariot from his temple to Gundicha mata’s temple through his aunt’s home (Mausi Maa Temple which is near Balagandi Chaka in Puri). Jagannath is accompanied by his brother Balarama, and their sister Subhadra in this journey.
Three beautifully decorated chariots which resemble temple structures are pulled through the streets of Puri by thousands of people who consider it to be a pious activity to help Jagannath reach his aunt’s residence. The festival is known by several names by the devotees like ‘Gundicha Jatra’, ‘Ghosa Jatra’, ‘Navadina Jatra’, ‘Dasavatara Jatra’ and by a variety of other names.
The three chariots of Balarama, Subhadra and Jagannatha are newly constructed every year with wood of specified trees like phassi. It is a customary tradition to bring the wood for the chariot from the ex-princely state of Dasapalla by a specialist team of carpenters who have been performing this activity for ages. The logs are traditionally set afloat as rafts in the river Mahanadi and are then collected near Puri and transported by road. Interestingly, the three chariots are decorated as per the unique system that is prescribed and followed for centuries and kept on the Bada Danda, the Grand Avenue in Puri. The chariots are covered with bright and beautiful canopies that have been made of stripes of red cloth and combined with those of black, yellow and blue colours. The giant-sized chariots are then lined across the wide avenue in front of the beautiful temple, close to its eastern entrance, which is also known as the ‘Sinhadwara’ or the Lion’s Gate.
Lord Jagannatha’s Chariot is known as ‘Nandighosa’. The huge chariot is forty-five feet high and forty-five feet square at the wheel level. The Chariot of Lord Balarama is called ‘Taladhwaja’ and it has a Palm Tree on its flag. The forty-four feet high chariot has 14 wheels and each of them is seven-foot in diameter and covered with red and blue cloth. The Chariot of Subhadra is known as ‘Dwarpadalana’ , which literally means “trampler of pride”. The 43-foot high structure has 12 wheels which are seven-foot in diameter. This Chariot is decked with a covering of red and black cloth – black being traditionally associated with Shakti and the Mother Goddess.
Rath Yatra or the Chariot dragging festival is followed in every city in India. In fact Hare krishna movement has made the festival popular outside India with chariots being dragged in cities like Dublin, Belfast, Birmingham, London, Bath, Budapest, Melbourne, Montreal, Paris, New York, Singapore, Toronto, Antwerp, Kuala Lumpur and Venice. In Kolkata chariot of Jagannath is dragged with huge fanfare on this day.
The largest chariot of the city is brought out by ISKCON. The “idols” are brought back after a week in the chariots as the festival is then called ‘Ulto Ratha’ (“reversed Ratha”) . In Kolkata numerous fairs are held to mark the mood of festivity and celebration. Myth has it that it always rains on the day of ‘Ratha Yatra’ in Kolkata and the city has already tasted good amount of rain since Saturday evening. Food is an integral part of any Indian festival and for ‘Rath’ the Bengali community has special dishes to match with the entire mood and ambiance.
On this date one can find ‘papad’ (Indian crispy thin flatbread) and ‘telebhaja’ (Bengali oil friend fritter) being savoured by the Bengalis all over the country and even if you do not prepare them at home you will always find them ready to be served in the street side shops.