Rath Yatra – An occasion to be philanthropic for people of Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad: The 145th Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath has begun in Ahmedabad. It’s like a festival for the entire walled city where people from all the communities and class take a leap of faith.

Ahmedabad is known for its philanthropy tradition. Rath Yatra is one such festive occasion which has survived on faith and philanthropy.

Police personnel provide security to devotees assembled for the Rath Yatra and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation helps in making other arrangements. All other facilities are provided by the people of the city voluntarily.

People put stalls of butter milk, sharbat and water throughout the route undertaken during the Rath Yatra. They consider it as a service of the people who walk for 19 to 20km with their God.

The maximum crowd gathers in the Saraspur area where Rath Yatra takes a brief halt and even deities — Lord Jagannath, his brother Balbhadra and sister Subhadra — are served the ‘bhog’ and presented with gifts from the maternal uncle called ‘Mosalu’ or ‘Mameru’.

This year such an arrangement has changed as earlier one had to wait for 10 years for Lord’s ‘Mamera’. There is the Ranchhodraiji Mandir Trust, which hosts the deity and performs the ‘Mamera Vidhi’.

One of the temple trustees told IANS that this year they had heavy clothes for the three deities and silver necklaces, gold rings, gold chains, toe rings and earrings for deity Lord Subhadra.

Mahendra Bagdi, resident of Saraspur area, told IANS that nearly 1.5 to 2 lakh people visit Ahmedabad every year during the Rath Yatra.

“We put stalls like butter milk, tea, sharbat, Rajwadi Khichdi for the Rath Yatra devotees. Many ‘Pols’ (housing clusters) of Saraspur area organise the bhandaras for the people. Each Pol feeds 10,000 to 25,000 people in a single day,” he says.

“We serve the people with wholesome dishes like puri, sabji, sweet, Farsan (Gujarati snack), dal and rice. But with God’s grace, people come and donate raw material. No Pols have to bear all the expenses on their own. If the people need some material then they bring it and don’t even worry about the expenses. No one reveals the amounts spent as it concerns religious faith.”

Sharmishtha Patel is a 75-year-old woman with both of her kidneys non-functional and a diabetic patient, loves serving people taking part in the Rath Yatra with tea and ‘rajwadi khichdi’.

She told IANS: “The ‘Akhadians’ don’t have lunch, they just have tea. Therefore, we used to invite them to our home and serve them tea, other people started coming and asking for tea which we can’t refuse as they take part in the Rath Yatra. Therefore, from 2001 I started serving them tea. We make tea from nearly 700 litres of milk. There are people who just visit Saraspur and don’t join the entire yatra, they don’t wait for lunch so we serve them khichdi. Every year we make about 1,000 kg khichdi for such people. I started this service now so that many people from Desai Ni Pol have joined me.”

A resident from Prajapati Pol said, “We feed around 15,000 people on the day of the Rath Yatra for the last 30 years. This year we made 1,500kg Mohanthal, 1000kg puri, 1000kg aloo-sabji and some fries. We serve them in the Indian tradition of sitting arrangement. We don’t want to waste food or leave the place polluted at the end of the day. So we make them eat in ‘Patrali’ — plates and bowls made of leaves, and we go and serve each and every person no matter how many times they call us. People start coming four or five days earlier and donate bags full of flour, lentils and vegetables.

“We can see similar scenes in all the Pols of Saraspur area on the day of Rath Yatra. Same tradition is followed in the Jagannath temple where thousands of saints come from all over the country.”

Jagannath temple organises a large Bhandara for sadhus a day before the Rath Yatra. Even on the day of the Rath Yatra, thousands of people are fed with ‘prasad’.


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