for The Hindu (India) on July 5, 2008
This image is from Kolkata Ratha Yatra held in 2004.
Kolkata (PTI): The Rathayatra of Lord Jagannth was celebrated here on Friday with Information and Broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi flagging off the brightly painted chariots with the ritual of sweeping the road with a golden broom.
Hundreds of devotees gathered at Chittaranjan Avenue in central Kolkata to pull the chariots of Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra brought out by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
ISKCON devotees sang kirtans throughout the journey to Park Circus a few kilometres away where the chariots would remain for a week.
Ramakrishna Math and Mission Vice-President Swami Gitananda joined other monastic and lay devotess of the order in pulling the chariot at the organisation's Balaram Mandir centre in north Kolkata.
The event commemorates the pulling of the chariot at the very building more than 150 years ago by Sri Ramakrishna.
Traditional households in the metropolis brought out their own chariots. In many neighbourhoods, children were also seen pulling chariots of various sizes.
A few lakh [1 lakh = 100,000] devotees witnessed the Rathyatra at Mahesh, arguably the oldest chariot festival in the state about 30 km north of the metropolis. A fortnight-long fair has also been organised on the occasion as in earlier years.
'Rather Mela' (fairs) was organised at the Moulali and Amherst Street areas of the metropolis.