Archive for July, 2021

Lord Jagannath Strikes Back

Posted by Dev Baul - 12/07/21 at 10:07 pm

The word juggernaut (derived from Jagannath) was taken to Europe by some missionaries in the 14th century. The story of an enormous carriage carrying a  statue of “the lord of the world” caught the imagination of the English and juggernaut became a popular word connoting a massive force, campaign, movement, or vehicle that crushes everything in its path. The “crushes everything” part is attributable to the legend that devotees threw themselves in the chariot’s path.

Although the English had the word in their lexicon and mindshare for long, they did not get to see a “Jagannath Rath” till the 20th century. In 1968 ISKCON celebrated “Rath Yatra” for the first time in London.


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I happened to be in London on the 40th anniversary of the London Rath Yatra and by a turn of events landed up at Hyde Park—the starting point of the yatra. Not being overtly religious, I never felt an urge to take part in a Rath Yatra while in India, but in unfamiliar surroundings of London, I found myself pulling the rope of the chariot. 

The cavalcade of three chariots with Balaram, Subhadra, Jagannath, and priests of non-Indian descent started slowly from Hyde Park and reached Trafalgar Square, passing Harrods and Piccadilly on the way. The three-mile journey was made in over two hours. For two hours, normal traffic was allowed only on one side of the road and people had lined up on the sides to witness the spectacle—I saw some youngsters climbing up the Piccadilly fountain to get a better view.

The three chariots ensconced in front of the National Gallery of Modern Art did not seem out of place at all—it seemed as if the NGMA dome had spawned three smaller domes. 




Note: I am forced to use standard stock images from the internet as I  had run out of battery in my camera


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