Posted on July 10, 2013
During the Hindu Chariot Festival, people carry icons of the gods in huge chariots, through the streets, from one temple to another. This allows the people to have a “holy view” of the gods.
The chariots, or ratha, are enormous wooden structures built each year by Hindu devotees. It takes two months to build and decorate the chariots, wooden charioteeers and horses, gods and thrones. The chariots are painted, often in bright colors, and decorated with flowers and designs.
Did I mention that the ratha are large? Some of the chariots rise up 45 feet tall, weigh 65 tons, and have 16 wheels. Up to 50 people have to work together to pull the ratha—plus more people supporting the arms of the thrones, and 20 more pushing from the back!
Thousands of pilgrims come to Puri to see the Ratha Yatra. But these days there are Chariot Festivals in other parts of the world as well. Some of the cities where you can see some of the huge, elaborately decorated chariots include New York City; Venice, CA (near me!); Toronto, Canada; Paris; Budapest, Hungary; Dublin, Ireland; and London.
By the way, some people refer to the ratha as Chariots of the Gods. This Hindu holiday has nothing to do with the ridiculous book by Erich von Daniken, Chariots of the Gods, which tries to make the point that the technologies and religions of ancient civilizations were given to humans by alien intelligences, who were considered gods. It's an interesting idea, but von Daniken gathered together a lot of fraudulent misinformation, blatant lies, and illogical arguments in order to try to convince readers.
By the way...
Jagannath is the “Lord of the Universe” for some Hindus. In some ways, the Ratha Yatra is all about Jagannath. Because there have been times when the huge chariots have not been able to stop and have accidentally crushed people during the Chariot Festival, the word juggernaut, meaning an unstoppable force, evolved from the god's name Jagannath.
Also on this date:
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