Akshaya Tritiya: Countdown for Jagannatha Ratha Jatra Begins

HOUSTON: Akshaya Tritiya which literally means the “never diminishing and eternal third day” falls on the third day of the bright phase of the “Baisakha” month. This day is considered very auspicious and any new venture started on this day is believed to be blessed with ‘akshaya’ – imperishable good fortune. Across India and Indian diaspora, people celebrate this day by starting new ventures, investing in movable and immovable property. In many parts of India, gold sales see a certain spike, as traditionally gold has been the safest investment, and investing in gold on Akshaya Tritiya implies like any other venture, this investment will also multiply. Akshaya Tritiya is also known as Akha Teej, Akshaya Trutiya, Akhitrutiya.

Different communities mark this auspicious day in myriad different ways. For Jains this day marks Risabhadeva’s culmination of a yearlong penance and ascetic life. Hindus have many legends to corroborate the sanctity of this special day, one of them being River Ganga appeared on earth on this very day. For Odias, the people of the eastern state of Odisha, Akshaya Tritiya has a very distinct significance. On the day of Akshaya Tritiya, Odias begin the countdown for the world-famous, centuries old annual Ratha-Jatra – the chariot festival of the beloved deities, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Jagannatha.

Odias mark this auspicious day with the commencement of construction of the three majestic wooden Ratha – chariots, the Taladhwaja, Dwarapadalana and Nandighosa, one each for the three deities. Ratha-Jatra typically occurs in the month of July, but the preparation and the elaborate arrangement starts on the day of Akshaya Tritiya, almost three months prior. The first event in the series is the Chandana Jatra which is also celebrated on Akshaya Tritiya. Apart from Ratha-Jatra, Akshaya Tritiya also ushers the cropping season in most of Odisha, farmers choose this blessed day to start the agricultural venture just before the onset of the monsoon season.

This year Puri, which is Shri Jagannatha’s hometown was battered by a category-4 cyclonic storm “Fani” on May 2nd. The storm caused extensive damage to the holy town as well as a large swathe of coastal Odisha including Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha. With basic amenities like food, shelter, water and electricity still not normalized, Odisha and Odias are looking at tough times ahead. Even in the face of such dire conditions, people marked the pious day of Akshaya Tritiya in Puri as well as across the world, albeit in a subdued manner. The resilience of people of Puri is remarkable, as just few days after the ravaging cyclonic storm made landfall, keeping up with the centuries old tradition, the construction of the majestic chariots – Ratha was duly commenced undeterred.

We in the Houston Odia community, like our brethren world-wide have geared up for the forthcoming Ratha-Jatra drawing inspiration from the resilience shown by people back home in Odisha. Akshaya Tritiya was celebrated by the resident Houston Odia community in a unique Odia way. Keeping in mind the inclement weather condition the community celebrated this pious day with prayers and offerings to Shri Jagannatha, in the heart of Houston. The Houston Odia community led by Orissa Culture Center (OCC) in collaboration with Shri Sitaram Foundation will celebrate Houston’s twelfth Jagannatha Ratha-Jatra on 6th July, 2019 at the India House, 8888 W Bellfort Blvd..

Jagannatha Ratha-Jatra being a celebration of universal brotherhood and human spirit, will showcase various diverse cultural programs. For the current year in the cultural segment named as “Samskriti-O-Sangam” there will be an inter-cultural program to include dance and musical presentations by different art schools. The notable ones are Mexican Mariachi Musical Band, Odissi dance by students of Kalangan School Of Odissi, Odissi dance by the students of Odissi Academy, Bharat Natyam/Kuchipudi by the students of Anjali School of Dance, Punjabi Bhangra Style Folk dance, Cajun Style North American Dance, Sufi-Qawwali by the Riyaaz Qawwali of Houston, Chinese Dance by the Asian American Dance Academy and Shri Jagannatha Bhajans by the members of the Odia Community.

As has been the case for more than a decade, we eagerly look forward to the synergy of people from all walks of life as we recreate the high-octane devotional spirit in our own humble way in Houston, Texas.

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