Bidhannagar Ramakrishna Vivekananda Kendra
“Joy Jagannath!” hailed a devotee and everyone pulling the rath repeated after him. “Corona ke dur karo!” the man added and the others chuckled and repeated after him anyway.
For the second year in a row, Rathyatra at this centre was held under the shadow of Covid-19. A handful of devotees had come down and drew the chariot a brief distance outside the DD Block address.
“We sanitised the rope thoroughly before use and maintained distancing while pulling it too,” said president of Bidhannagar Ramakrishna Vivekananda Kendra, Chanchal De. “We had informed the police that our route would be very short and they allowed us.”
Passersby stopped in their tracks to fold their hands in obeisance and those like Raja Das of CD Block quickly stepped up to pull the rope too. “In normal years, there are several chariots to pull but I was lucky to spot one this year,” he smiled.
Brajagopal Das Baul joined the procession singing paeans to the lord and prasad was distributed to all afterwards.
Bidhannagar Sree Chaitanya Bhagabat Samaj
The idols of Bidhannagar Sree Chaitanya Bhagabat Samaj were toured around the township by cars. “We did the same last year,” said general secretary of the body, Kumar Sankar Sadhu. “Once a year, Jagannath leaves the temple and mingles among the masses and even if symbolically, we wanted to uphold the tradition.”
MLA and minister Sujit Bose and chairperson, board of administrators of Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation, Krishna Chakraborty, dropped by during flag-off. “It is important to maintain both rituals and Covid protocol and it’s good that this organisation is balancing both. Hopefully, next year we shall return to holding the festival in the former grand way,” said Chakraborty.
In other years, their procession includes music, dance, tableaux and thousands of devotees, who come to pull the rope along the way.
This year, the convoy’s route included Central Park, City Centre, CA Island (around the place the chariot normally sets off from in other years), PNB Island and then back. Rupak Sinha, in whose car the Balaram idol travelled, played Jagannath arati on his phone, connected to speakers, to set the ambience.
In other years, their idols stays at Central Park where a Rath-er Mela takes place but this time it shall stay at BF 20, where they stay throughout the year. “Since it will not be possible to take the idols to a different location for mashi-r bari, we are positioning the idols in a different place at home itself. We shall be open from 5.30 to 7.30pm till July 19 for darshan,” said Debasish Roy, in whose BF Block home the idols are kept.
Devotees hold the idol in the car before the yatra from BF Block
Devotees draw the Bidhannagar Ramakrishna Vivekananda Kendra rath in DD Block.
Ward co-ordinator Minu Das Chakraborty sweeps the floor at IA Market before the chariot rolls
The traders of IA Market pulled their chariot up around the Purbachal area and back.
“This is the fifth year of our Rathyatra celebrations. Due to the pandmeic, last year we had taken our chariot around within the market itself but this time, limited members pulled it out on the streets. Ward co-ordinator Minu Das Chakraborty joined us,” said Rishiraj Ghosh, who runs miscellaneous stores in the market and is secretary of Bidhan Nagar IA Market Traders’ Association.
The idol is staying at the temple inside the market and organisers are keen to distribute prasad to devotees on Ultarath.
Forty miniature chariots were handed over to underprivileged children at AA Block community centre on the eve of Rathyatra. Committee members and senior citizens handed over the chariots, masks and candy and the initiative was taken by a youth of the block, Argha Mitra.
“We have lost so many loved ones to Covid and there is unemployment all around. How would parents buy chariots for their kids this year?” wondered Argha, a graduate, who bought the chariots and spread word in the nearby slums asking children to come over. “The kids were excited and I was also happy for the artisans who got to earn some money this festival by selling the chariots.”