The Other Rath Yatra from Puri
I spent a large part of my childhood in Orissa,a state known for its bucolic beauty,stunning temple architecture ,frequent floods, poverty and Lord Jagannath.In fact Lord Jagannath occupies a more prominent place in the life and psyche of Oriyas than any God for any other community,I can think of. Of course, the chariot festival is well known but less known is that Oriyas of all ages, classes and types think of him as protecting and helping them everywhere. He is Jagannath meaning lord of the universe, a lord for all. Some of his most famous devotees have been Salabeg,a Muslim and also an elephant who was trapped by a crocodile in a river. He is the Lord who is for universal brotherhood;kind,compassionate and very much a part of your own milieu rather than a powerful God ruling you from a distance.
So it is with a lot of pain that I read that Rajnath Singh’s rath yatra will commence from Puri.I understand that he has his right as an Indian citizen to travel anywhere.But it is tragic that he uses Puri and its rathyatra tradition and in all likelihood he will try to take Lord Jagannath’s blessings for his journey .This is a political stunt,a cheap and devious trick to exploit the Hindu insecurities.
Lord Jagannath always stood for harmony,peace and tolerance.The Oriyas were always a peace-loving people.In fact,I remember growing up without even once being exposed to any caste and religious identity.I remember in the engineering college I studied in,I lost out the award for the Best Actor despite a brilliant performance.I was told later that the Mathematics professor who was the judge had preferred somebodyelse for the award because I was not a brahmin.I remember being utterly stunned by this for days at the narrow-mindedness of the man.In fact today almost after 20 years,I think of him with revulsion.But this was the only incident of someone trying to define me as a member of a caste or religion and acting on that basis.The harmony amongst different identities,castes and religions was faultless.We used to treat Muslim or Christian boys with a fond quaintness rather than with suspicion.
So it is even more tragic that the people and the soil of such a state are being defiled to further narrow,divisive and communal agenda of a rustic cow-belt politician and his party.