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Saturday, June 26, 2021

Sri Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra 2021

A majestic chariot festival, Rath Yatra (Juggernaut) is a magnificent Hindu festival associated with Lord Jagannatha held at Puri in the state of Odisha every year. Due to the Covid-19 global health scare, the annual event got widely impacted. Last year, in a historic first, the iconic Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath was held in the pilgrim town without the usual sea of devotees and amid tight security in view of the surging coronavirus cases.

Just like our Kovil Ozhugu, there is Madala  Panji, a chronicle describing the historical events of Odisha Jagannath Temple.  In the state of Odisha [Orissa] lies the famous ‘Jagannath temple’ in Puri, situate on the east coast.  The moolavar idols of Northern India are different than the ones in South India, mostly in white marble.  Puri Jagannath is different – Perumal is made of sacred wood, which are ceremoniously replaced after few years.  The  Navakalevara  ceremony is an intricate set of rituals that accompany the renewal of the wooden statues.

The Puri  temple was built in the 12th  century atop its ruins by the progenitor of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. The temple is famous for its annual Rath Yatra, or chariot festival, in which the three main temple deities are hauled on huge and elaborately decorated temple cars. Lakhs of devotees descend here at this holy temple town for this festival.

Inside the huge temple, the presiding deities are : Sri  Jagannath (Lord Krishna), Balabhadra (Balarama)  and the Goddess Subhadra constituting  trinity of deities worshiped at the temple. The temple iconography depicts these three Gods sitting on the bejewelled platform [ Ratnabedi ]  in the inner sanctum. Lord  Jagannatha is  the supreme God and the sovereign monarch of the Odishan empire. The Deities are adorned with cotton and silk fabrics, Gold Ornaments studded with precious stones, flowers of different varieties, Tulsi leaves, sandal paste, camphor. These articles are used in the daily and periodical rituals.

The annual festival of Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra began on June 24, 2021  with Snana Purnima. On this day, it is considered auspicious to bathe in the holy water and begin the jalyatra. The festival is celebrated by worshipping Lord Jagannath (ruler of the world), his elder brother Balbhadra (Balaram) and sister Subhadra. Three giant wooden chariots are made of a kind of Neem tree for the deities for the yatra.  Ahead of the annual festival, the temple in Puri was illuminated on Wednesday evening. The gates of the 11th-century temple opened  on June 25 after several weeks of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, the day was observed without devotees. Instead, the festival was live-streamed across the world. Only fully vaccinated people with COVID negative reports are allowed in the temple, Chief Administrator of the temple  informed.

The beginning of the Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra dates back to 143 years ago. For the first time in the temple's 143 years history, last year the rath yatra was restricted. The construction of three gigantic chariots for Lord Jagannath's Rath Yatra, the annual car festival of the Holy Trinity scheduled to be held on July 12, is underway in Puri in full swing. The construction work is being carried out at the 'Ratha Khala' (traditional temple workshop) located on both sides of Bada Danda (Grand Road) in front of the Jagannath temple office and the Sri Nahar palace. The Jagannath temple office said that fixing of 'Kantaa' in the 'Pancha Dandaa', fitting of 'Garagara' and fixing of 4 Nahaka' in the chariots at the Ratha Khala is already complete. The making of 4 Potala Khambi', 2 'Saala' and 7 'Jokha' for Prathama Bhuin of the chariots is also being done. 

Meanwhile, a petition has been filed in the Orissa High Court seeking permission for conducting the famous Rath Yatra of Sidhha Baladevjew in Kendrapara in the lines of the festival at Puri Shree Jagannath Temple. As per sources, five servitors of the Sidhha Baladevjew temple have filed a public interest litigation before the State's apex court while praying it to allow the conduct of the annual festival with participation of only sevayats under strict adherence to Covid protocols. The development comes just hours after devotees  staged mass protests in several parts of Kendrapara demanding Odisha government to permit the car festival in the Tulasi Kshetra. The construction of the Brahma Taladhwaja chariot which rolls down the road during the festival in the town has been  stayed after the administration issued an order following Odisha government's directive to only allow the Rath Yatra at Puri.

Even as the Odisha government has announced partial unlock measures in the State after decline in cases of Covid, the Puri Jagannath Temple will remain out of bounds for the public till July 25. Chief Administrator at the temple,   informed the mediapersons in this regard and said that the entry of devotees into the 12th century shrine will continue to be restricted till the said date.  

The nine-day long annual sojourn of Lord Jagannath and His sibling deities to Mausi Maa Temple will be followed by the Suna Besha and Niladri Bije on July 23, the homecoming of the deities to the shrine.  This year, the State government has already announced to conduct the grand festival without participation of the public just like last year in the wake of the pandemic resurgence.   

Elsewhere, as many as 10 Maharana servitors engaged in the construction of chariots in violation of Odisha government’s order were arrested in Nilgiri area of Balasore in a joint raid by the district administration and police on Monday. The Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath has been banned elsewhere is the State except for Puri this year in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic. The raid on Ratha Khala, the workplace of chariot construction, was led by the sub-collector, tehsildar and Nilgiri police. While 10 artisans have been arrested, the construction equipment have been seized.  Recently, servitors and the people of Baripada, which is known as second Srikhetra, staged a protest urging the State government to allow the celebration of annual Rath Yatra in Baripada sans devotees like Puri.  Similarly, a petition was filed in the Orissa High Court seeking permission for conducting the Rath Yatra of Sidhha Baladevjew in Kendrapara in the lines of the festival at Puri Srimandir. 

A juggernaut  in current English usage, is a literal or metaphorical force regarded as merciless, destructive, and unstoppable. This usage originated in the mid-nineteenth century. The figurative use of the word is analogous to figurative uses of steamroller or battering ram to mean something overwhelming. Its British English meaning of a large heavy truck or articulated lorry dates from the second half of the twentieth century.  The word is derived from the Sanskrit/Odia Jagannātha "Supreme Lord of the World” combining jagat ("world") and Nātha ("lord"), which is one of the names of Krishna found in the Sanskrit epics. 

Look forward to another opportunity of darshan at the holy place of Puri and participation in the reverred Puri Jagannath rath yatra.

Adiyen Srinivasa dhasan
Mamandur Veeravalli Srinivasan Sampathkumar
26th June 2021.

PS:  all photos (except a few with watermark ‘kairavini karaiyinile”) – taken from twitter and is owned by their respective owners.


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