This year&’s Rath Yatra brought communities and cultures together in Siliguri, says angshuman paul

Walk through the lush green temple premises of International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Haiderpara, Siliguri and you’ll find that a calm serenity pervades. Apart from the rain-kissed terrace, colorful bougainvilleas and shiny white and saffron interiors, smiles on the monks’ faces here will cajole you. This time around you’d be greeted by an amazing resilience as monks are busy organising the chariot festival to Lord Jagannath – popularly known as Rath Yatra. Posters publicising the event, pandals, wooden chariots and extravagant  arrangements fill every nook and cranny of the temple premises. Organisers claim that more than 10,000 devotees from across India and abroad attended the event which commence at 2 pm on 10 July.
   Ananda Bardhan Das, temple president, ISKCON, Siliguri said the procession traveled from Haiderpara to other eminent places in Siliguri like Hasmi Chowk. He said the ISKCON yatra is the biggest one in North Bengal. The festival will be a nine day affair and more than 7000 devotees are expected to visit the temple during these days.
But Siliguri&’s Rath Yatras aren’t only limited to the flamboyant ISKCON one. There are other equally graceful yatras organised by other groups across Siliguri and in its outskirts. There are at least three other indigenous rath yatras in the city. Lord Jagannath defines the cosmopolitan in Indian mythology.
Jagannatha means lord of the world and miraculous, mystical stories of him are based on a fusion of Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Just as in Christianity an emphasis is laid on the power of a trinity, in the same way the magic of Jagannath pays heed to a triad that includes himself, his brother Balabhadra and his sister Subhadra. The colours of these three deities represent the skin colour of people from three different continents. Being dark himself, Jagannath represents Africans, Balabhadra – depicted as white – represents Europeans and Americans and Subhadra, with her pettish skin tone, represents Asians.
   Rath Yatra represents Jagannath stepping out of a state of rest into a state of motion to meet people irrespective of their caste and religion. Rathkola, Siliguri claims to host one of the biggest Rath Yatras in Siliguri. In fact, the place derives its name from this reason. This time around organisers didn’t plan on anything extravagant because of financial constraints and the rain played spoilsport. If you really want to receive the deity&’s blessings, then you should take a trip to Sakitagarh where the triad is worshipped in kirtans. The ceremony starts with a zealous dance with drumbeats.
  The Rath Yatra&’s zest in Siliguri is incomplete without a visit to Bidhan Market Road.
Here the Bidhan Market business community anticipates the joys of celebrating the festival and arrangements are made for nearly 1,000 devotees who celebrate the festival with a float parade.
Visitors are enticed by fairs and the festival is profitable for organising committees too since mobile stall owners mint money. Lord Jagannath embraced all cultures and communities and you can too during this year&’s Ulta Rath.