The Jagannath Ratha Yatra is a grand spectacle in Odisha. The work “jaggernaut” in English used to describe a giant thing is inspired by this chariot. New Englanders had a chance to experience a mini version of this fabulous event at the Sree Vijaya Kali Ashram in Burlington, MA.
The temple has a shrine for Jagannath Swami. The priest has built a mini version of the chariot to perform the Ratha Yathra. While the chariot here was much smaller than the original, the splendid colors adorning the chariot brought a beautiful vision reminding us of the the original Ratha Yathra.
On Sunday July 11, the Ratha Yathra took three rounds in the parking with devotees singing and dancing in front of the chariot. The Ratha Yathra is an ancient tradition whose descriptions can be found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana and Kapila Samhita. For a week prior to the Ratha Yathra, the temple in Odisha is closed. It is said that the Lord took a bath in the river and is supposed to have fever. On the day of the Rath Yathra Jagganath, Balabadra and Subadra come out in the chariots and give Darshan to everyone.
At the Kali Ashram, the priest explained the significance of the Ratha Yathra. “The prayer in the Jagannatha Ashtakam says “Jagannath Swami, Nayana Patha Gami, Bhavathu Me” - Oh Jagannatha you are the object of my vision. Please protect me. He urged all to make Lord Jagannatha the object of one’s vision. The celebration ended with an evening of impromptu dance performances by Odissi dancer Jayshree Mohapatra, Bharatanatyam dancer Ranjani Saigal and a Kuchipudi performance by the priest. This was followed by Dandya in which all the devotees participated.
It was an evening of sheer joy. In the Puri temple, the intricate Rath is broken up after the Yatra and used as firewood to cook food in the temple. This is perhaps the most beautiful symbol of the fact that everything beautiful is indeed Maya. The body that hosts the divine prana is not immortal. Use it for a beautiful journey for the divinity inside before it perishes.