Mahishadal Rath Yatra
Mahishadal Rath Yatra
Towering Chariot of Mahishadal, East Midnapore, West Bengal
See also: Rath Yatras of West bengal
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 with 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.
Mahishadal in East Midnapore is one such rath yatras of West Bengal. The 75 feet high rath of Mahisdal is said to be highest wooden rath (chariot) in the world.
Mahishadal Rath Yatra was started by Rani Janaki Devi in 1776 the chariot has undergone several changes but its main structure have remained the same for the last 240 years. Originally a 17 pinnacled structure it was reduced to 13 pinnacle in 1860 with the lower four pinnacle being replaced with wooden statues of men holding flags.
The five storied wooden chariot towers to a height of 75 feet and measures 28 feet X 28 feet at the base. The walls of the chariot are brightly painted and decorated with statues. The gigantic chariot runs on 36 wheels.
The Mahishadal Rath Yatra starts at about 3 pm but it is advisable to reach the place early as vehicular traffic closes a couple of hours before the rath yatra starts.
Reaching early provides one with the opportunity of exploring the Mahishadal Rath Yatra Mela (Fair) where wares of all sorts are sold in makeshift stalls.
The rath yatra is inaugurated by the local king Hariprasad Garg. The raja (king) who arrives in a palki (palanquin), starts the rath yatra by giving the first tug on the ropes of the chariot.
The inauguration is marked by gun shoot and the gun shoots continues throughout the entire rath yatra.
The rath is pulled by four 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.
The chariot puller follow the instruction of a volunteer who stands high up on the chariot with a red and green flags raising them one at a time instructing to stop and pull respectively.
Young bare bodied men, play in the mud to celebrate the event. They also throw mud at each other and play an active role in chariot pulling.
The entire event is monitored by volunteers of local clubs and Bharat Sevashram Sangha along with NCC cadets.
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.