Ratha Jatra 2011 in Maryland, USA

Ratha Jatra (Hindu Festival of Chariots) will be organized in Lanham (Maryland, USA) on July 3, 2011, afternoon. Rath Yatra will be held at Murugan Temple of North America and will include chariot pulling, pooja, offering coconuts and flowers, mahaprasad distribution, and cultural events. Purpose is to seek the blessings of Lord Jagannath, organizers say.

It will reportedly feature a decorated chariot carrying images of Hindu deities Lord Jagannath (a form of Krishna), Baladev (Krishna’s elder brother) and Subhadra (Krishna’s younger sister); which will be pulled by the devotees. People of all denominations are invited, according to Shreekanta Nayak and Soumya Kanta of the Ratha Jatra Committee.  Anthony G. Brown, Maryland Lieutenant Governor, is expected to participate.

Meanwhile, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, applauded efforts of the organizers to realize this wonderful festival, exhibiting the richness of Hinduism.

Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, further said that it was important to pass on Hindu spirituality, concepts and traditions to coming generations amidst so many distractions in the consumerist society. Zed stressed that instead of running after materialism; we should focus on inner search and realization of Self and work towards achieving moksh (liberation), which was the goal of Hinduism.

Ratha Jatra is said to be the oldest known parade in the world and it is believed that pullers of Lord Jagannath’s chariot receive immense spiritual benefit.

The original Ratha Jatra is held on a grand scale in Puri (Orissa, India), where the presiding deities of Sri Mandira—Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra—with celestial wheel Sudarshana are driven on the chariots to about two miles north Gundicha temple in an elaborate ritual procession, where the huge colorfully decorated chariots are drawn by thousands of devotees. After a stay for seven days, the deities return to their abode in Sri Mandira. A glimpse of Lord Jagannatha on the chariot is considered to be highly auspicious and even a touch of the chariot is believed to yield benefits equivalent to several pious deeds. Many poets have written its glories. This year, it will be held on July three.

Rajan Zed points out that ancient Hindu scripture Katha Upanishad talks about the concept of chariot, where soul is the deity, body is the chariot, and intellect the charioteer. Skanda Purana glorifies Ratha Jatra’s sanctity.

Lanham in Prince George’s County has two Hindu temples. Dr. Guruswamy Gopal is Trustees Board Chairman of Murugan Temple. About 82% of Maryland’s population is Christian. Cecilius Calvert became the 1st Proprietor of Maryland colony in 1632, while Martin O’Malley is current Maryland Governor.

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