In the News

In the News:
6,000 devotees sway to chants amid light shower

by Shaona Saha
Express India

Posted July 20, 2005

Kolkata, July 8: A throng of 6,000 devotees today took to the city's streets to mark Rath Yatra in a celebration bathed in rich hues and traditional gaiety under a sky loaded with ominous dark clouds.

Near Esplanade, the thick blanket hovering above parted to send forth a deluge that lasted for around 10 minutes, threatening to dampen spirits even as umbrellas were unfurled and sadhus from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) continued with their chanting.

The yatra this year saw an unprecedented number of participants and remarkable traffic management which ensured that the procession did not disrupt normal flow of public and private conveyances.

The usual practice is to get a dignitary or any famous personality to inaugurate the event with the symbolic ritual of sweeping the road with a golden broom. Saurav Ganguly had been invited to do the honours this year. Unfortunately, the Indian cricket captain could not grace the occasion as he is away in England playing county cricket.

Denying any last minute panic, ISKCON member Subhojit Das said: "Since Maharaja Jaypataka graced the occasion with his presence and performed the ritual, we did not face any problem."

Aditya Acharya Das, a preacher in the association, pointed out that similar to previous years, today's yatra incorporates the traditional religious and cultural activities.

"Like the other years, this time the week-long rath festival will comprise of diverse cultural programmes, prasad distribution, speeches of maharajas, religious exhibitions and yagna. There will also be a 'Question and Answer' booth where devotees can clarify their queries."

The yatra took off with mobile exhibitions trailing the chariot. "The arrangement has been improvised this year and is attracting huge crowds from far-flung areas," Das enthused.

State police personnel were out in full force to enforce security of the devotees and prevent any untoward incident from marring the festivities. Several were seen manning the stretch between Subodh Mallick Square Lane and Park Circus Maidan.

"We are very satisfied with the functioning of the administration," said the ISKCON preacher. "This time, the police have been very alert and I want to thank the government for the sound vigilance."

Devotees from near and distant lands took part in the procession as it wound its way through Nirmal Chandra Street, S.N. Banerjee Road, Dorina Crossing, JL Nehru Road and Park Street before terminating at Park Circus.

People craned their necks to catch a glimpse of Jagannath, Balram and Subodra even as devotees raised their hands and danced with joyous abandon to the strains of "Hare Krishna, hare Rama".

Nitya Rani, a devotee from Dattapukur, said: "I am happy to be in Kolkata again to attend this auspicious occasion. This is my fourth time. I simply love the chariot decoration and also the colourful ambience."