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Rathayatra at Mahesh (Hooghly, WB)

Discussion in 'Festivals, Functions & Rituals' started by piyagupta, Jun 17, 2009.

  1. piyagupta

    piyagupta Senior IL'ite

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    Rathayatra is one of the principal festivals of Orissa and West Bengal. The Rathayatra of Mahesh is the second oldest chariot festival in India, the Rathayatra at Puri being the oldest.

    Rathayatra of Mahesh is the oldest in Bengal as it is celebrated since 1397. It is a weeklong festival and a huge fair is held during the celebrations. People throng to Mahesh to have a share in the pulling of the long ropes attached to the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra on the journey from the temple to Gundicha Bari at Serampore and back.

    Have you ever been to Mahesh during Rathayatra?
     
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  2. raginisharma

    raginisharma Senior IL'ite

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    Mahesh is located in the Hoghly district of West Bengal. It is near Serampur.

    There is a story why Rathayatra is celebrated in Mahesh. It was the fourteenth century. Drubananda Bhrahmachari, who was a great Bengali sage, had gone to Puri for pilgrimage. He had a desire of offering “bhoga” to Lord Jagannath. But the temple authorities prevented him from doing so with his own hand. The heartbroken Drubananda decided to fast until death.

    On the third day he heard Lord Jagannath’s voice in his dreams. The Lord asked him to go back to Bengal, where at the bank of River Bhagirathi he would find a place called Mahesh.

    Do you know what else the Lord had told him?
     
  3. shaliniku

    shaliniku Senior IL'ite

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    The Lord told him that He would send Drubananda a huge Daru-Brahma (Neem Trunk). He asked Drubananda to make idols of Balarama, Subhadra, and Himself with that trunk. He said that He was eager to have Bhoga from Drubananda’s hand. Drubananda returned to Mahesh and began his “sadhana”. Then on a rainy night, the Daru-Brahma appeared at Mahesh. Drubananda jumped into the water and received it.

    Then he made the idols of the Holy trinity from that Neem trunk and established a temple.

    After taking sanyas, when Shri Chaitanya had left for Puri, he had reached Mahesh on his way.
     
  4. JuhiAgarwal

    JuhiAgarwal Senior IL'ite

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    Shri Chaitanya lost his senses at the Temple of Drubananda at Mahesh. He was absorbed in a deep Samadhi. Later on, old Drubananda requested him to take charge of the Temple. On Drubananda’s request, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu made Kamalakar Piplai, the fifth of his twelve Gopalas, the Sebait of the Temple. After a few days, Drubanada passed away.

    Kamalakar was the son of the zamindar of Khalijuli in Sunderbans. He came to Navadwip to study logic. Soon he became a favourite of Mahaprabhu and joined his ministry. He was the first of the sixty-four Mohantas. After taking charge of the Mahesh Temple, Kamalakar remained there.
     
  5. JayaRawat

    JayaRawat Senior IL'ite

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    Kamalakar Piplai started this famous chariot festival, more than 600 years ago. His descendants still reside at Mahesh as the Sebait or Adhikary of the Temple.

    The Rathayatra of Mahesh is the oldest and the biggest Rathayatra in Bengal. Around three lakhs of people visit Mahesh to experience the month-long fair. Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra go to the Serampur Gundicha Temple and remain there till Punarjatra or Ultorath, as it is popularly known in Bengal.

    The famous Bengali novel, “Radharani”, written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, has a wonderful description of the Mahesh Rathayatra. Radharani, the blind heroine of the novel, got lost in the fair and was found by her future lover.
     
  6. piyagupta

    piyagupta Senior IL'ite

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    Bankim’s description at Radharani does not only give a vivid picture of the festival but also gives the fair a romantic essence. The beautiful style of writing makes one feel the sorrow of the broken-hearted girl.

    In earlier days, famous people like Shri Ramkrishna Dev, Sarada Devi and dramatist Girish Chandra Ghosh had visited this famous fair of Mahesh.

    But the old Ratha and the Temple no longer exist. The present Temple was built by Nayanchand Mallik of Pathuriyaghata, Kolkata in 1755. At that time, it had cost around Rs 20,000.

    Nobody knows what had happened to the first Ratha.
     
  7. raginisharma

    raginisharma Senior IL'ite

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    The chariot of Mahesh has been changing. Once a devotee of Baidyabati had donated a chariot to the Temple. In 1797, Shri Ramkrishna Dev’s renowned disciple Balaram Basu’s grandfather Shri Krishnaram Basu donated another chariot. His son Guruprasad Basu renewed the chariot in 1835. But that chariot got destroyed by fire, after some years. Then Kalachand Basu built another chariot in the year 1852. But one day, somebody committed suicide inside the chariot. Considering that incident as a sign of evil, Bishwambhar Basu made another chariot in 1857, but that also got burnt.

    Then Dewan Krishnachandra Basu ordered an Iron-Chariot from Martin Burn Co. That chariot still does exist.
     
  8. piyagupta

    piyagupta Senior IL'ite

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    The 45 feet present Ratha of Mahesh has ten iron wheels. The Ratha is built in the traditional “Nabaratna” style of Bengal. It has nine “chura”s.

    It is a grand fiesta at Mahesh where the holy chariots are pulled by, the common people. The occasion attracts thousands of tourists to come and explore the rich heritage of West Bengal.

    Rathayatra is one of the oldest traditions in the Hindu society. The chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balarama and their sister Subhadra are drawn by the general people. The rope is regarded as sacred and people with strong beliefs participate in this grand celebration.
     

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