Kolkata: The auspicious day of Akshay Tritiya has a special significance for devotees of Lord Jagannath.
The day heralds the start of chariots construction for Rath Yatra in Puri. Freshly procured special logs are used to make a new chariot for the Lord and his siblings.
The sizeable Odia community in Kolkata marks the day in a special way. Devotees visit temples in and around the capital city of West Bengal and offer prayers. They don’t miss out on traditional ritual too, as priests perform a small puja to cleanse the wood to be used for the new chariot.
Rath Yatra this year is on July 12.
The 74-year-old Jagannath temple at Kidderpore, in the Port area, conducts its own Rath Yatra. The temple is presently closed for visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but will continue with its puja for the chariot on Saturday.
“The puja will be done outside the temple premises, where the rath has been kept. Another important ritual, the Chandan Yatra, will also be performed the same day. We are hopeful that the situation will improve by the time of Rath Yatra in July. But there are a lot of preparations which need to be taken well ahead of that day and we have not yet started those,” said Manoj Kumar Parida, one of the life members of the temple.
“The idols of Lord Jagannath, brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra will be placed in the temple at a height so that it is visible to devotees, who will be worshipping from outside the temple,” he informed, adding that Rath Yatra is open to all people, cutting across caste and religious lines, as it symbolises unity.
Last year, the temple did not get permission to perform Rath Yatra due to the then-prevailing COVID lockdown restrictions. The temple committee members decided to follow the rituals, as per norms, behind closed doors.
“Amidst chanting of mantras, the Rath is purified with use of sindoor (vermilion), chandan (sandalwood paste), red pious cloth, Ganga water and flowers and the durva grass. The ritual is about purification,” said priest Tapas Rath, an MA in Sanskrit.
The Barrackpore Jagannath Temple, near Gandhighat in North 24 Parganas district, is another highly frequented temple which will also have a special puja on Saturday at the auspicious time followed by temple authorities.
Manoranjan Pattanayak, secretary of Barrackpore Jagannath Temple, hails from Odisha’s Berhampur but the family has been living in West Bengal for the last three generations.
“Though Tritiya starts on Friday, we will be doing the puja on Saturday as we follow rituals practised by the Puri temple,” informed Manoranjan.
The temple is open and visitors are allowed inside, but Saturday’s puja will be performed in a controlled environment.
“We have been following COVID protocols and are asking devotees to be disciplined. We have decided to go ahead with the rituals with just 3-4 of the devotees and an equal number of priests. The puja will be performed on the ground in front of the temple,” added Manoranjan.
“Like last year, we have almost finalised that we will carry the Lord on our lap and bring him to his maternal aunt’s place, which is close by. We will ask the local thana to supervise the whole process, maintaining all COVID protocols. We have planned a meeting of our members and patrons on May 23, where we will take the final call,” informed the Barrackpore Jagannath Temple secretary.
Temple authorities will allow 50 devotees inside the temple, following social distancing norms and COVID protocols, for the Snan Jatra.