Sunday, July 25, 2010
The choo-choo train left right on time. A ticket costs only your mind.
July 13th was the festival of Rath Yatra which centres around Lord Jagannath. This festival recreates a trip that the god took to his aunt's house and gives a chance for non-hindus to see Jaggy pulled through the streets on a wooden chariot along with his brother and sister. The largest gathering for this celebrations happens to be in Puri which is a beach-town near by Bhubaneswar. Millions of people from all over India and the world make the pilgrimage to Puri in cars, trains, planes, motorbikes, cycles and on foot. Some people walk for days and days. Luckily my group reached Puri by air conditioned car.
The carts at the starting line.
The growing crowd.
The crowd was huge! (I've heard approx 1.7 million) There were groups of people singing, praying, chanting and dancing in the street. There were lots of volunteers for the event including water sprayers, medical professionals (I noticed the Red Cross was a presence) and lots of businesses giving away food. The crowd was a little intense for us and we managed to score a roof top spot for the main event. Even though we were far enough away from the beatings of police and the general stampede Lucy managed to get hit in the head with a sacrificial coconut from Jagannath's chariot. On the ground it is considered very auspicious to grab the ropes and help lead the gods on their journey but people were over enthused and attempting to pull at the wrong times and the police were beating them off the ropes with batons and full 2L water bottles. We could hear the contact of their weapons from the roof top.
Police manning the restricted ropes area.
Cart getting closer.
Wheels of the carts. It is very auspicious to die by throwing yourself under the wheels. Thankfully, this did not happen this year.
Priests and holy people on the cart. (Apparently they pay lots of money to be there)
I enjoy the wooden horses that are ceremonially whipped.
Food thrown from the carts is shared in the crowd. Yummy coconut!
Cart Pulling in action!
We made our way through the crowd after the chariots passed on our way back to base (aka Lucy's place) and I could not believe the blatant groping. Men were grabbing at my boobs, my butt and anywhere they could get their hands. I thought it was ridiculous and it sucks that that sort of behavior might stop me from seeing events like this in the future. All in all it was a good day.
Cooling off with my complimentary cardboard visor and water pouch.
Song from title: My Name is Jonas by Weezer