When it comes to Rath (or Ratha) Yatra (Chariot Festival) the first thing that comes into mind is Puri, Orissa (Odissa). The towering raths (chariots) of Puri have almost become synonymous wit Ratha Yatra. But West Bengal, the neighbouring state of Orissa, also houses several Rath Yatra festivals, complete with towering raths. Some of this rath yatras dates back a couple of centuries and attracts devotees from far and wide.
Mahesh Rath Yatra
The most well known of the West Bengal Rath Yatra, the Mahesh Rath Yatra dates back to the 14th century AD. Started by Dhurbananda Bhramachari in 1300 AD the rath yatra operates to this day.
The present Rath was donated by Krishnaram Basu and was constructed by Martin Burn Co. The iron rath, with nine pinnacles, towers to a height of 50 feet and weighs 125 tons. Running on 12 wheels of diameter 4 feet the rath was made at a cost of Rs 20,000 and have been in operation since 1885.
Today this gigantic rath is pulled in a wild rampage, through crowded Grand Trunk (GT) Road under strict police supervision. Read more…
Approach: Train to Srerampur and auto to Mahesh or take the GT Road to Mahesh.
Time: Mahesh Rath Yatra starts at about 3 pm.
Guptiprar Rath Yatra
Although Guptipara has the distinction of housing Bengal’s first Durga Pujo but Durga Pujo is not Guptipara’s primary festival. When it comes to festival in Guptipara the first thing that comes into mind is Guptipara’s towering and colorful chariot. Being a Vaishnav centre Rath Jaytra (Chariot Festival) is major festival and prime attraction.
The gigantic nine pinnacled rath is decorated with coloured festoons and banners and is fitted with wooden horses and several wooden statues. The multi wheeled rath is pulled by four thick ropes, out which one is reserved for women. A rope at the back serves as a brake. The rath is pulled through muddy & slushy ground in a wild rampage and it seems a miracle that the event goes on without a stampede. The event is heavily monitored by the police who clear the crowed to make way for the rath. Read more…
Approach: Take train to Guptipara (Howrah – Katwa line). Rickshaw to temple.
Time: The Guptipara Rath Yatra takes place in two phases. The first starts at about 10 am and second at 3 pm.
Mahishadal Rath Yatra
Mahishadal, East Midinapur
Although lesser known than its counter part of Mahesh & Guptipara Mahishadal, in East Midnapur, has the distinction of having the tallest wooden Rath in the world. The 70 feet (aprox.) high rath is 13 pinnacled and is richly decorated with colourfull wooden horses and statues. Started by Rani Janaki Devi in 1776 the chariot has undergone several changes but its main structure have remained the same for the last 236 years.
Gun shots announces the start of the rath yatra and the shots continue through out the entire course of the journey. The local raja (king) Haraprasad Garg accompanies the rath in a palki (palanquin). The rath is pulled by 4 thick ropes out of which one is reserved for women. The rath is pulled through muddy & slushy ground in a wild rampage and it seems a miracle that the event goes on without a stampede. Read more…
Approach: Bus to Nurpur. Cross ferry to Geokhali. Bus to Mahishadal. For the return journey it is best to take the Haldia local from Satish Samanta Halt (6:01 pm)
Time: Mahishadal Rath Yatra starts at 3 pm.
Rajbalhat Rath Yatra
Although not considered as one of the leading Rath Yatras of West Bengal Rajbalhat features a unique rath yatra. Rajbalhat, famous for textile, has a unique rath yatra. The rath does not carry the idols of Jagannath, Balaram & Subhadra but instead carries the idols of Radha – Krishna. Also the rath is not pulled by ropes but by iron chains.
The nine pinnacled rath once had brass pinnacles but sadly they have been stolen and are replaced by cheaper metal. The towering colourfull rath runs on 12 gigantic metal wheels and the rath is pulled in a wild rampage through the slushy ground in front of the Rajbalhat High School.
The distance covered has largely been reduced after an accident in 2011, when one of the devote was crushed to death under the wheels of the rath. Read more …
Approach: Tarakeshwar Local to Haripal. Bus / trekker to Rajbalhat.
Time: The Rath Yatra starts at about 5:30 pm.
Note: The blog entry West Bengal Rath Yatra, presently consisting of entries on Mahesh, Guptipara, Mahishadal and Rajbalhat is a compilation of Rath Yatras of West Bengal. It would be updated from time to time.
When it comes to Rathayartra the first name that comes to mind is Puri. But closer home Mahesh, near Srerampore in Hooghly district, hosts a magnificent Rathyayatra festival complete with a towering rath.
Legend has it that in the 14th century Dhurbananda Bramhachari, a Bengali sage went to Puri for a pilgrimage, with the desire to offer Bhog to Lord Jagannath. Sadly the temple authorities at Puri prevented him from doing so. Dejected Dhurabnanda decided to fast till death. On the third day of his fast he heard Lord Jagannath’s voice, advising him to head back to Bengal, to a place called Mahesh on the banks of Hooghly. The lord also advised him that at Mahesh he will find a huge neem trunk, which he will use to make the idols of Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra.
Dhurabnanda retraced his steps back to Bengal and on a scary night the long sort after neem trunk arrived. Dhurabananda carried out the lords order and established the temple at Mahesh. Today the temple has been replaced by a new structure but the Rathayatra dating back to 1397 operates to this day.
Like the temple the Rath has been replaced several times. The present Rath was donated by Krishnaram Basu and was constructed by Martin Burn Co. The iron rath, with nine pinnacles, towers to a height of 50 feet and weighs 125 tons. Running on 12 wheels of diameter 4 feet the rath was made at a cost of Rs 20,000 and have been in operation since 1885.
The four storied Rath is fitted with two wooden horses and a chariot driver. Apart from that the first stage contains wooden figures of Chaitanyalila, second and third stage contains Krishnalila and Ramlila respectively. The top stage houses the gigantic wooden idol of Jagannath.
Today this gigantic rath is pulled in a wild rampage, through crowded streets under strict police supervision. The eight day period between rath a ulto – rath is marked by a mela (fair), complete with mary go rounds and circus shows. Makeshift stalls selling household items and artifacts. Last but not least are the food stalls selling papad bhaja and hot jilibis. But the age old melas are also going through the mode of evolution with chowmeins and egg rolls being the most sort after food items and stunt bike rides are the new source of entertainment.
I still remember the wet morning of 17th June 2011 my friend, colleague and fellow photo enthusiast Akash Mondal introduced me to the world of Blogging. Although I have been writing travelogues for more than a decade and maintained a personal website, I have never been much of a computer friendly person. Strangely I soon got the hang of Blogging and started posting articles regularly.
Soon words of inspiration and likes from friend followed, inspiring me to work hard on my blog. I set up an action plan of “Mid Week Update” updating an article every Wednesday. In a short span of time likes and comments extended beyond my friend circle with eminent scholars and best selling authors commenting on my blog. Comments and likes also followed from fellow bloggers, travel & photographic enthusiasts.
I have always been know as a “Travel Writer & Photographer” due to my numerous travelogues published in the leading dailies of the country. My website tag also reads “Freelance Travel Writer & Photographer” and so does my Blog title, but blogging has given me the advantage to think beyond travel writing. Although for the first year my blog has been restricted to travelogues mainly but I am seriously considering other areas of non fiction writing.
My Blog’s achievement in the first year:
- 48 post.
- 12000 + page views
- 100 + comments (including my comments)
- 20 likes
Resolutions for the second year:
- Write non travelogues, covering topics like popular science, food, social science, etc.
- Maintain my Midweek update every Wednesday
- Enjoy blogging
A special thanks to all my friends and well wishers for making my blog a grand success.
PHOTO PUBLICATION – IV
My photo of the train to Vizag is published in the article titled “The Greener East Side” by Malyan Pereira in the June 2012 issue of Discover India.
This photo was shot during a family vacition to Vizag – Araku in September 2007. This photo showing the Kirandul Express on the way to Araku was shot from the trin with the camera extended out of the window. It was shot with point and shoot digital camera Olympus FE310, as my SLR (Vivitar v3800s) did not pass through the window grill.
No trip to Vizag is complete without a visit to the lush green valleys of Araku Valley, along with the Bora Caves. Located North West of Vizag the beautiful valley is connected by a 150 km long rail track. An engineering marvel the rail tracks meanders through the Eastern Ghats passing through 52 tunnels and 84 bridges.
For the best views it is best to take a morning Kirandul Passenger from Vizag, a window sit on the left offers the best views. The train follows the Chenni – Howrah line till Kottavalas from where it takes a left diversion towards the Eastern Ghats.
After about two hours of journey through the lush green coastal plains merges into the even greener Eastern Ghats, marking the starting points of tunnels and bridges. The line meanders past lush green valleys, towering cliffs and thundering water falls, passing through several tunnels some couple of meters long while several others stretching over 100 meters. The longest tunnel has length of 520 meters. Just before reaching Araku the train stops at the Shimiliguda Station, located at a height of 996.32 feet it is the highest broad gauge rail station in India.
St. Mary’s Church, Kolkata (Calcutta)
Also see my compilation of Calcutta (Kolkata) Churches
It was a winter Sunday morning Prasanta (da) Banerjee lead me inside the St. Mary’s Church. The Sunday Mass was already on and a choir was being sung, strangely the language seemed Greek to me. As I settled down on the beautifully carved bench of the the St. Marys Church, I realised that the language was my very own mother tongue Bengali. But in the dimly lit environment of the Church Bengali appeared totally out of the world.
It has been a couple of months I have been in touch with my on line friend Prasnta Banerjee, a Bengali Protestant Christian, who in a very short span of time became my “beloved dada.” Prasanta da personal invited me to the church not only to attend the Sunday Mass but also to photograph its interiors.
As the Mass progressed my eyes got adjusted to the dimly lit interiors of the church. The beautifully wood carved alter crowned with a intricately decorated stained glass attracted my attention. The alter was also flanked by two stained glass windows on either side, each depicting Biblical events.
My attention shifted toward the walls lined with marble memorials, to mu utter astonishment I found many of the memorials curved out in Bengali. No wonder the St. Mary’s Church is popularly known as the “Bangli Cathedral.”
The concept of the Bengali Cathedral dates back to July 1885, when Rev. Harihar Sandel, a pioneer missionary started worshipping in the Cathedral with a few Christian employees. It was later decided to build up a separate church for their worship. He acquired the land and mobilize fund for the construction of a church for the Bengali Protestant.
Sadly Rev. Harihar Sandel (Sanyal) died on 4 Sept. 1887 when his dream church was yet to open its doors. The St. Mary’s Church (Bangali Cathedral) finally opened its door on 16 Feb. 1889, under Rev. Aghore Nath Banerjee. Rev. Aghore Nath Banerjee later became the Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral. He was the first Indian to receive this distinction.
Today the St. Mary’s Church stands on the Elgin Road (Lala Lajpat Rai Sarani) opposite the Bhawanipur Education Society College.
The Mass was soon over and Prasanta Da introduced me to Rev. Sukhendu Biswas, the present Canon of St. Marys Church, who immediately gave me the permission to shoot inside the church. Armed with my camera I headed for the beautiful alter flanked with the even more beautiful stained glasses.
Soon I shifted my attention to the marble memorials, and a memorial located very next to the alter attracted my attention. Written in English and followed by Bengali it was a memorial dedicated to Rev. Harihar Sandel (Sanyal).
As I moved towards the main entrance the memorial of Rev. Aghar Nath Banerjee, but unlike Rev. Harihar Sandel (Sanyal), it was written in English only. Next to Rev. Aghore Banerjee’s memorial lies a beautiful ,written in beautiful flowing Bengali font, dedicated to the father & daughter duo of Lukswarup Chandra Singh and her daughter Grace Khemankari.
Finally it was time for home. I bade good bye to Rev. Sukhendu Biswas, Prasanta da and all the other church members and returned with memories to last a life time.
Rev. Sukhendu Biswas, Prasanta (da) Banerjee and the entire community of St. Mary’s Church, Kolkata.