Naham vasami vaikunthe yoginam hridaye na chamad- bhakta yatra gayanti tatra tishthami narada…
(Neither do I reside in Vaikuntha nor in the hearts of the Yogis, but I dwell where my devotees sing my name, O Narada !!)
— Srimad Bhagavatam
The culmination of nine-day car festival at Puri after legal wrangles, emotional and impulsive vitriolics amid pandemic times has cheered several faithfuls and hurt a few others. This week.
The homebound sojourn of the Juggernaut accompanying the deities from Srimandir to Saradhabali sans participation of genuine bhagats has proved, beyond doubt, that traditions, rites and rituals have outweighed religious sentiments.
What is a festival or ritual for without religious fervour that springs from the devout and their enthusiastic response !
Whom did the deities bless ultimately ? While the devout got themselves glued to television sets from the confines of their drawing rooms, the cops and servitors had a field day on the Grand Road. Did the divine siblings rejoice at the very absence of their ardent devotees? No rewards for guessing!.
Thanks to Covid-19 which has cast its gloomy spell across the globe bringing down places of worship including the Vatican City, Mecca, South Africa and Bodh Gaya under shutdown.
The Lord of the Universe, as He is adored by the devout, could also wait and stay indoors in solidarity with His children under lockdown conditions for a few more weeks!
The apex court judgment in its interim report had suggested annulment of the annual event in view of the pandemic . The state government and a large section of people thought the court intervention was ordained by the gods.That initial move was hailed, but the pressure group on the corridors of power offered resistance. The euphoria died down soon.
After all, the deities and their rites are integral to the people’s socio-economic and emotional life. Thankfully, the Trinity (siblings Jaganath, Balabhadra and Subhadra) is back to their hometown without a remorse. No devotee has raised a finger at the way the chariots were allowed to roll down the Grand Road without involving the masses, the true Rathayatrees.
The Lord’s bells toll when the masses enthuse His spirit, by assembling in front of the Garuda stambh, dancing to cymbals and singing His paeans before pulling the chariots.
The sole objective behind the Lords’ yatra is to entertain a special class of devotees, broadly called Pateet, who are deprived of entering the holy shrine due to restrictions imposed on their community Such devotees wait for the annual car festival to have a glimpse of the deities aboard the chariots on the Grand Road. “The Lords do not blink an eyelid, for the downtrodden,” say the temple literature.
The 12th century shrine is built upon the faith and sentiments of His kindred souls, the four crore Odias. However, the authorities put curbs on movement of the pilgrims ahead of the festival. Hotels in the town were sealed. Vehicles entering the Holy Town were stopped.Then, we see no reason why we should call it a yatra when there are virtually no pilgrims to attend the event.
Who did the Lords bless ultimately? Priests or the devout closeted with family members in the confines of their homes? Is the Lord smiling at the servitors, temple officials and cops who were permitted to pull the chariots to their destination? No guesses at this moment.
The deities are back in the temple precincts. May the Lords bless people for their devotion and reward those that uphold their rituals.
Long live Jagannath!.
(The views expressed are the writer’s own)
Ramesh Pattnaik, The author is a former journalist associated with the Indian Express group of publications and Orissa Post among others. Email: [email protected]