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Lord's yatra, from rest to motion

Author: G S Tripathi
Publication: The Times of India
Date: June 21, 2012
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/opinion/edit-page/Lords-yatra-from-rest-to-motion/articleshow/14304535.cms

The Rath Yatra of Puri is celebrated worldwide. It is the journey of Lord Jagannath, along with brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra from their abode, Shreemandir, to the Gundicha temple. There is no precedence anywhere else where the presiding deity comes out of the main temple and goes on an annual vacation to his parental place. It is a journey in space and time. The space is symbolic and the time mythical, but it has great significance. That is why millions throng Puri to witness the yatra. The Lord steps out from the state of rest to a state of motion, becoming dynamic.

Lord Jagannath is believed to be an incarnation of Vishnu, preserver or conserver of the universe. In conservation, nothing is created or destroyed. The soul is neither created nor destroyed; thus it is conserved and eternal. Conservation also results from simultaneous creation and destruction. According to the Bhagwad Gita, the body is created and then destroyed; or destroyed and created. Either process contributes to a transient conservation. Thus conservation is intimately related to both creation and destruction. The eternal and the transient together make life meaningful. Lord Jagannath abandons His worn-out body and takes on a new one, once every 12 years. This is called Naba Kalebara, new birth.

 Lord Jagannath is the ultimate truth. According to the Bhagwad Gita, He exists within and without all living entities. He is stationary as well as dynamic. He is subtle and gross; near and far. A very important custom is followed in the Rath Yatra. Although the focus is on Jagannath, precedence is always given to Balabhadra. He is an incarnation of Balarama, elder brother of Krishna. He is taken out of the temple first. His chariot is also drawn first. This is our tradition that howsoever powerful or important the younger person is, the elder always gets preferential treatment. His cha-riot is followed by Subhadra's. Jagannath's chariot is last to be pulled. In other words, the sister moves well protected by her brothers.

 Balabhadra is white, Jagannath black and Subhadra yellow, representing three important races of the world. In science, the colour of the body is the colour it reflects, although it absorbs other colours. Reflection implies giving and absorption, taking. What we take is not important; we are identified by what we give.

 The idols of all the three deities appear incomplete. This implies that a complete picture of the Lord is beyond anybody's comprehension. The manifestation of the infinite is an incomplete finite at any point of space and time. In the Gita, Krishna proclaims, "But what need is there, O Arjuna, for this detailed knowledge (about me)? I stand supporting the universe with a single fragment of Myself." By manifesting incompletely the Lord gives the message that the whole can be perceived through incompleteness.

    
Infuriated with the Lord's journey with his siblings, Mahalakshmi damages His chariot, Nandighosh. How is it that the divine consort behaves so intolerantly? On this journey characters do not behave like gods and goddesses, but identify themselves as humans with their senses and sensibilities to mingle more fully with the devotees. It is also reflected in the Lord's suffering from fever after a heavy bath in Deba Snana Purnima (the bathing festival) before the yatra. Lord Jagannath, in all respects, is a God of the devotees, by the devotees and for the devotees.
 
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