It’s been a long break. I have been around and looking in but things have been moving at a hectic pace. Since the last post, I’ve had a solo exhibition, a holiday, a finished SoFoBoMo project, rounds of farewell parties for friends and for us as we move next month to Colombo. I’m back and will be posting regularly again.
Yesterday we went to Dhamrai to watch the Jaganath Rath Yatra. It is 20km from Dhaka yet it took us two and half hours to get there. Unfortunately, we were not able to stay to watch the event as I had a dinner engagement. But we did get to see the Rath (chariot) and the crowds had started coming in and was building up as we were leaving.
I was told that eventually there were huge numbers and no place to move. People after filling the street were lining terraces, balconies and roofs of the buildings along the route too. In a way it was better that we left when we did as else we’d never have made it back home in time.
There was what seemed like a lot of police bandobast when we first got there but in all made sense when were heading back and after seeing the pics from last year here.
There are stories and stories built around this event and once such is that it rains on this day every year – tears shed by Madhavi returning to her in-laws home and it did this year too! You wouldn’t have believed it if you’d felt the heat and seen the sunny skies in the morning. It was nice and slushy when we got there but the puddles dried up quickly in the heat.
Dhamrai is famous for it’s temples, old houses and bronze sculptures, made using a rare process – the lost wax casting technique. It also has an annual Rath Yatra, a procession in which a chariot takes Lord Jaganath (Krishna), his brother Balaram and his sister Shubhadra to visit his aunt who lived a distance of 2km away.
The chariot is pulled by devotees as it is considered to be very auspicious. There are huge crowds and many brave these to get closer and at least touch one of the ropes that are pulling the chariot if not actually taking a turn at pulling it themselves. In earlier years, people would arrive a few days before and there would be a fair to keep them busy. This year there were just a few and they were waiting inside the temple for the event to start and some had knotted hair and dreadlocks!
Originally there was a 6 storied wooden chariot to take the deities on this journey but this was burnt down in 1971. It was replaced by another smaller two storied chariot soon after. While this one is not as elaborate the crowds still gather in unbelievable numbers to be a part of this occasion.
And if you didn’t know, the word juggernaut is derived from the name of this event. In the past, the crowds pulling the chariot and the devotees trying to reach out and volunteer to pull the chariot led to some accidentally falling under the wheels and being crushed to death. Once the wheels were in motion and these 6 storied high heavy wooden chariots pulled by hundreds of people it was difficult to stop them in time. Sometimes these events resulted in stampedes which again were difficult to stop or control. This led the British to coin the word juggernaut, an unstoppable force.
More from wikipedia about the Rath Yatra and on the word juggernaut. And you can read more about the Dhamrai event and see the pictures of the huge crowds here. And you can see a selection of about 30 from the 400(!) I clicked on flickr.