Celebration Time : The Rath Yatra festival
falls on the late of June or early July. It is celebrated in the
honour of Lord Jagannath an avatar of Vishnu.
Mahesh's Snan Yatra
It is often said that after the Snan Yatra of Puri, 'Nilkantha'
bird is seen sitting on the Jagannath temple of Mahesh, in
Sreerampur only 23 km from Howrah. Lord Jagannath on his way to Snan
Yatra had rested on the banks of river Ganga in Mahesh. From then it
acquired the status of a holy place. Even today thousands of
pilgrims who undertake Snan Yatra (pilgrimage) flock to Mahesh for
their holy dip.
Mahesh acquired its importance when Drubananda Brahmachari started
the Snan Yatra. Around 500yrs. ago he had gone to the Jagannath
temple of Puri to offer the Lord offerings (bhog) with his own hands
but the sevaks did not allow him to make such offerings. Anguished
he went without food and almost killed himself but it is told that
in his dreams the Lord directed him to Mahesh. Then Drubananda
Brahmachari went to Mahesh. One rainy night he found 3 wooden trunks
of neem tree floating near the banks of river Ganga. With these
wooden planks he sculptured them into the Lord Jagannatha, his
brother Lord Balarama & their sister Devi Shubhadra. These
wooden sculptures are still worshipped today unlike the Puri's idols
which are changed every 12 years.
Mahesh Yatra is the grandest and the oldest Rathyatras in Bengal.
The Mahesh Rathyatra of 1875 is of special historical significance:
A young girl was lost in the fair and amongst many, the district
magistrate Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya - the great Bengali poet and
author of India's National song- himself went out to search for the
girl. A couple of months later this incident inspired him to write
the famous novel Radharani.
Rath means chariot, Yatra - a pilgrimage or procession. Though this
festival is celebrated all over India, in honour of Jagannath, an
avtar of Vishnu.Processions are organised in Calcutta by the ISKON
and in Serampore, north of Calcutta. Replicas of Jagannath's chariot
are sold at Kalighat. Children decorate their chriots with flowers
and place in them clay images of Jagannath, his brother Balaram and
Iskcon's Rath Yatra
ISKCON takes out a huge chariot which goes from Deshpriya Park in
south Calcutta to Girish Park in the north. Prayers are held at the
Vaishnav temple on Hazra Road. Replicas of Jagannath's chariot are
sold at Kalighat. A week later is the Ulto Rath, marking the return
of the Puri deities to their home.
Though this festival is very special in India, the main Rath Yatra
takes place in the holy town of Puri. At other places, those
devotees of Lord Jagannath, who cannot make it to Puri, take out
similar processions on a much smaller scale. Notable are the ones at
Ramnagar (near Varanasi), and Jagannathpur (near Ranchi).