As Puri gears up for Odisha’s biggest festival — the Rath Yatra on Thursday, devotees in Bengal are preparing for a celebration much smaller in scale, but no less in spirit.
Few know that the Muslim-dominated Kidderpore on the banks of the Hooghly hosts a Sri Jagannath Temple that was built in 1975. The temple is believed to have been sanctified by the erstwhile Shankaracharya of Puri. This temple had been following the rituals of the Rath Yatra since its inception, albeit on a small scale till 2003. After that celebrations became grand.
While idols of the 12th century Puri shrine’s presiding deities — Lord Jagannath and his siblings Balabhadra and Subhadra — are pulled in three different chariots to the Gundicha Temple on one end of ‘Bada Danda’ or the Grand Road on the first day of Rath Yatra, the chariots of the Kidderpore Jagannath Temple are taken to Central Park in Salt Lake in a vehicle owing to space constraint in the port town and to prevent traffic snarls. From there, the chariots are pulled and taken to Swabhumi — which turns into a veritable Gundicha Temple — where they are kept till the ‘Bahuda Yatra’, which will be held on July 12 this year.
In Odisha, the king of Puri sweeps the floors of the chariots, as part of a ritual called ‘Chhera Pahanra’ before it is pulled by the devotees, but the ceremonial sweeping in Kolkata is open to all. “This time it will be done by 60-year-old Kolkata-based businessman Mahendra Jaipuria. Anyone who shows a keen interest is welcome to sweep the decks of the chariots here. We pick one from the devotees who visit the temple,” Chandrasekhar Panigrahi, president of the Jagannath Seva Samiti in Kolkata, said.
He added that they were expecting a footfall of over 40,000.
Panigrahi said artist Sri Jagannath Panda will be conferred with Utkala Samman on the occasion.
The 11-day festival will also see a myriad cultural programmes. Odissi exponent Sanchita Bhattacharya will take to the stage at Swabhumi on July 5 and tabla maestro Bikram Ghosh will accompany santoor player Tarun Bhattacharya on July 6.
While Kolkata has a history of making other cultures part of its own, for the more than five lakh Odias settled in Kolkata, home is where the Rath is.
Source: Times of India