Tuesday, March 28

New-normal Ratha Yatra: Rituals behind closed doors, no mela, jatra or khuti puja in West Bengal

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On Tuesday, the usual Ratha Yatra-related festivities will be missing in the city. The festival is not just about pulling the chariots of Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra, but also about beginning of the jatra (traditional open-stage theatre) season, the ‘khuti puja’ or ‘kathamo puja’ that marks the beginning of preparations for Durga Puja and small- and medium-sized fairs.

The Chitpore Jatra Para looked desolate with most units shut and those that were open said that no booking has come because of the Covid situation. Most Puja organisers have deferred ‘khuti puja’ waiting for a better time to roll in, if at all this year. Iskcon had earlier cancelled the pulling of the chariots in both Kolkata and Mayapur. The yatras at Mahesh and Guptipara, both in Hooghly that go back 600 years and 300 years, respectively, were also cancelled.

However, Iskcon and the temple committees of Mahesh and Guptipara have said that puja and bhog offerings to the deities will happen behind closed temple doors without public participation. The Albert Road Temple of Iskcon has been cordoned off so that devotees don’t crowd the area and a unique celebration has been organised that will be broadcast live on YouTube and Iskcon’s own TV channel.

The ground floor of the temple, which houses the Govinda’s restaurant, has been converted into Gundicha Temple and the three deities — Lord Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra — will be physically carried from the first floor by monks and brahmacharis following all social-distancing protocols. They will reside in this ground floor arrangement till Ulta Ratha, which takes place after eight days. Bhajan, kirtan, offering of the chappan bhog will happen here. Three small model rathas have also been kept and the deities will be invoked to enter them, though not physically, explained spokesperson Radharaman Das.

At Mayapur, pathways have been created and the three chariots will be symbolically pulled by monks and pujaris only. The usual prayers and offerings will be made and the entire programme will be telecast live on Mayapur TV. However, gates of the Mayapur temple complex will remain shut. The special initiative of digital Ratha Yatra, Mercy on Wheels, where the Lord arrives virtually at devotees’ homes, has seen 7,000 registrations from 90 countries.

Pujas will happen inside the Jagannath temples of Mahesh and Guptipara keeping with traditional norms. “We will follow all rituals behind closed doors. No one, apart from the pujari and select helpers, will be allowed to participate this time,” said Gora Chand Adhikari, spokesperson of the Mahesh temple.

(With inputs from Falguni Banerjee)

Source:Times of India


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