Thousands of devotees from across the state pulled decked-up chariots of Lord Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra amid chants of “Hare Krishna” during the Rath Yatra festival in Mahesh and Mayapur on 14 July.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee flagged off the Mayapur Rath Yatra organised by ISKON. “Religion is in our soul and our heart. It is one’s own matter,” she said after offering her prayers.
Starting from Hungerford Street opposite the ISKCON temple at Albert Road, the yatra moved through AJC Bose Road, Sarat Bose Road, Hazra Road, SP Mukherjee Road, ATM Road, Exide crossing, JL Nehru Road, Outram Road and reached the Brigade Parade Ground, where arrangements have been made for daily special darshan of Lord Jagannath, till 22 July. A cultural programme was held and prasad was distributed on the occasion.
Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi conveyed his greetings to the people of the state, “My best wishes for the well-being of the people of the state on this occasion.”
Meanwhile, the journey of Lord Jagannath which had commenced 622 years back in Mahesh, Serampore became quite lively in its divine colours today. From time immemorial, as per the scriptures, the three deities are bathed in holy Ganges water and pure milk during the Bengali month of Bhadra. The Mahesh, Serampore Rath Yatra holds the second place after Puri in Odisha.
The chariot, when it first rolled out centuries ago, was carved of wood, but with the passage of time, a metal chariot was constructed at the special initiative of Krishna Chandra Basu, the then Hooghly district dewan under the East India Company, a resident of Shyambazar.
The iron chariot of Subhadra, Balaram and Lord Jagannath weighs 125 ton, with a height of 50 foot. The 12 giant iron wheels roll the chariot a distance of one kilometre along the GT Road.
At Rajapur temple of ISKCON, the Rath Yatra festival started amidst tight security and fanfare. Calcutta High Court judge Sambuddha Chakrabarti performed a symbolic ritual of cleaning the way for the chariots using a golden
broom. The procession featured congregational chanting (sankirtan), dance and musical performances by the devotees. Further, accompanying the chariots, devotees played drums, tambourines, trumpets, cymbals.
Along the way, the deities were showered with flowers and offered fruits,
sweets like payash, khajaand other delicacies, said co-chairman of the Rath Yatra Committee Jagadhartia Das.
The idols of Lord Jagannath, Baladev and Subhadra seated on three different carts taken out in a grand procession from the ISKCON Jagannath temple, Rajapur to Chandradaya temple at Mayapur.
The most unique feature of Rath Yatra at Mayapur is that it becomes a symbol of connecting and integrating people from various communities and socio economic backgrounds.
For years, it has been a practice in Mayapur that the barriers of caste, creed,
community, colour fall apart and people turn up in large numbers to get a glance of Lord Jagannath seated in his flower decked cart.
Every year, the Rath Yatra in Mayapur draws huge crowd and this year also, the expected turnout will be more than one lakh, the ISKCON authorities said.
A grand Gundicha Temple on the lines of Puri Jagannath temple has been constructed at Prabhupad ghat along the Ganga and the deities will be kept there till the Ulta Rath, which falls on 22 July.
A carnival is being set up around the Gundicha temple where prasad stalls, games, roller coaster rides and others have been set up. All day, there will be kirtan and bhajans by local and international devotees.
ISKCON first celebrated the Rath Yatra in San Francisco in the year 1967 under the leadership of AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, founder Acharya of ISKCON and currently it is being organised in all the 700 centres across the world.