The world famous Ratha Jatra of Lord Jagannath is now organised in various countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The idol of Lord Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe, is taken out of Puri Srimandir as part of Rath Yatra. The nine-day festival brings an opportunity to the disciples to get a glimpse of the Lord and his sibling deities outside the temple every year. The Ratha Jatra festival is now celebrated in other parts of the country including West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat.
This will interest you to know that the Rath Yatra is celebrated in many other countries too. Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), arranged the Rath Yatra in several countries with the help of his disciples. The first such Rath Yatra took place in San Francisco, in 1967. Then ISKCON gradually extended the celebration of the festival to over a hundred major cities including London, Moscow and New York.
ISKCON has taken this biggest festival of the Lord of the Universe even to Islamic countries like Pakistan. ISKCON Pakistan has been celebrating Rath Yatra in the Swaminarayan temple compound in Karachi since 2015.The bhajan and kirtan start early in the morning and the Ratha Yatra rituals comprise Abhishek, Pahandi and Chhera Panhara, among others. Every year, ISKCON Pakistan also arranges lectures on Lord Jagannath before the Yatra commences.
According to reports, about 500 or more Hindus take part in the Yatra of Lord Jagannath and his siblings Balaram and Devi Subhadra. We pull the chariot at Swaminarayan temple.”
“The Hindu community in Pakistan comes together to celebrate with their relatives and friends. The Sanskrit hymn “Rathe ka vamanam drsitva punar janma na vidyate” means that a darshan of the Lord Jagannath in Rath aboard the chariot absolves one of several sins and frees a soul from the cycle of rebirth and death. To give this opportunity to everyone at Karachi, Rath Yatra is celebrated on the temple premises. The chariot is decorated with colorful curtains and flowers. Devotees pull the chariot, offer their prayers, join the kirtans and partake the prasad being distributed.
“There is no Gundicha temple on the campus. Lord Jagannath is taken out of the temple in a perambulation called pahandi in the morning and brought back to the temple by sunset. Devotees perambulate the temple thrice along with the chariot. People chant the holy ‘Hari naam’ while pulling the chariot. It takes almost three hours to complete three perambulations around the temple. Sometimes chariots are taken on the roads if the Pakistani government permits us. In the evening, we organise cultural programmes on the campus.
ISKCON also takes out a colourful procession of Lord Jagannath in Muslim-majority Bangladesh. The procession starts in the morning and passes through the city before culminating at Dhakeshwari national temple in the evening amid tight security. Police and RAB officials guard the procession.
Devotees pull the chariots of Sri Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra. Religious discourses and devotional musical sessions are arranged at ISKCON and Dhakeshwari temple for eight days and the return journey takes place on Bahuda Yatra. Over 50,000 people participates in Ratha Jatra festival in Bangladesh.
The oldest known Rath Yatra in Bangladesh dates to 400 years at Yasho Madhab temple in Dhamrai, 30 km from Dhaka. Over 10,000 devotees throng the procession to pull a 27-ft long, three-storey chariot. Similar Rath Yatras are held by other non-ISKCON temples in Bangladesh.
In 2000, ISKCON brought a temple at Swamibag Ashram in Dhaka and organised large congregations for Rath Yatra.