An 18-feet wooden chariot seating newly-arrived idols of Jagannath (Sri Krishna), his elder brother Balarama and their younger sister Subhadra from India, the three gods central to Rath Yatra (chariot festival), an annual religious rite for Hindus, was pulled by scores of devotees at the Wayne Hindu Temple in New Jersey during the annual July 18 event.
Hundreds of people, both young and old, took part in the procession, including from New Jersey, New York, and also some from Pennsylvania. Men and women in colorful attire gathered early on to the scene for the festival organized by ICS-NJ Mahatma Gandhi Center & Lord Jagannath devotees.
Devotees pulled the chariots on each side of the Rath with great feelings of devotion. It was a wonderful opportunity for the community to come together and experience the great festivity. The sanctity of the festival is such that even a touch of the chariot or even the ropes with which these are pulled is considered enough to confer the results of several pious deeds or penance for ages.
A devotee associated with the event said that this year was very special for devotees due to Nabakalebara, the periodical renewal of the wooden images of the gods at Puri Temple in Odisha, India, the original abode of the4 gods. Devotees witnessed the rare Nabakalebara Rath Yatra, which comes every 12 years.
Rath Yatra festival marks the annual journey of three deities Lord Jagannath, brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra from the temple in a splendidly decorated wooden chariot.
Mahapuja (worship) began with sacred yagna (fire ritual) around in late noon by priests Arvind Sastri and Pitambar Sarangi.
Temple officials like Dilliswar Sahu, Dhiren Das, Akhil Patel, Kaushik Patel and Jayesh Patel participated in the Nabakalebara puja. More than 600 hundred devotees attended the puja and the pahandi (ritual journey of the gods) followed by Chera Panhara (symbolic cleansing around the chariot) and pulling of the beautiful chariot.
“The devotees pulled the chariots with great tempo. It was a wonderful opportunity for the community to come together and enjoy the festival. The sanctity of the festival is such that even a touch of the chariot or even the ropes with which these are pulled is considered equal enough to several pious deeds or penance for ages,” the devotee who identified himself as Pradeep, said.