West Bengal celebrates rathyatra


Kolkata : Lustily chanting ‘Hare Krishna’ and distributing sweets to people as they passed on, thousands of devotees joined the annual rathyatra here Friday.

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A large number of members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) from various parts of the world, also joined in, pulling the chariots of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balram and their sister Subhadra over a four-km route till the yatra (procession) concluded at the Park Circus Maidan in south Kolkata.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi swept the road with a gold-plated broom as per ritual to flag off the festival.

The three chariots will stay at the Park Circus Maidan for the next one-week before returning on ‘Ulto Rath’ (the return journey).

A yagna and a religious fiesta followed after the chariots arrived at the Park Circus.

Devotees thronged at the famous Vaishnav temple at Hazra Road in south Kolkata where daylong prayers and worship of Lord Jagannath were arranged.

Wooden replicas of Jagannath’s chariot of all sizes were sold like hot cakes in the city, with children celebrating their own yatra festival, merrily pulling the tiny chariots in the lanes and bylanes of the city.

Even tech-savvy children let go their video games and spent the entire day decking up their single, double or triple-decked wooden chariots with coloured papers and flowers.

“I wait for rathyatra whole the year. Every year I get myself a new chariot – this year it’s a triple-decked one with wooden horses fixed to it. I even offer toffees as prasad to the gods in my chariot and pull it across my garden,” said seven-year Akash Banerjee.

The main attractions of the rathyatra here are the several week-long fairs in the city. The ‘rather mela’ (Chariot Festival fair) at Moulali in central Kolkata, and another at Rashbehari in the south have drawn hundreds of people of all ages.

One of the most significant chariot processions in West Bengal is taken out from the Jagannath temple in Mahesh area in Sreerampur subdivision of Hoogly district.

It is said Jagannath Dev on his way to ‘snan yatra’ (bathing ritual) had rested on the banks of the river Ganga in Mahesh.

According to district authorities, over 10,000 pilgrims attended the rathyatra festival at Mahesh this year. The devotees took a dip in the nearby Ganga and pulled the chariot in observance of the annual ritual.