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OCC Celebrates the Tenth Chariot Festival

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HOUSTON: The night before was stormy with wind and some rain. It did not deter the determination and passion of OCC community members to gather at India house in preparation for the big day i.e the yearly chariot festival of Lord Jagnnath. OCC with support from Sri Sitaram Foundation, celebrated the chariot festival of Lord Jagannath on June 25, at the India House, 8888 West Bellfort Blvd. This year OCC added new dimensions to the celebrations by promoting further the core philosophy of universal brotherhood and religious tolerance through an interfaith seminar. Houston mayor Mr. Sylvester Turner has proclaimed June 25th, 2017 as the “Houston Chariot Festival Day.” In his proclamation he further congratulates OCC for being a unique charitable, educational and cultural art organization that offers center of excellence to foster Oriya culture, heritage and tradition to all citizens in the greater Houston, while inculcating rich Oriya cultural values to the children and grandchildren of the people of Oriya origin.

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The day started with the free Health Fare organized by OCC. This year OCC added free dental cleaning as a new dimension to the yearly health camp. The morning rituals were performed by the head priest of the Minakshi temple Pundit KV Doraiswamy Bhatter. They were assisted with by Dr. Debananda Pati with support from Srimanta Dash of OCC. Other main attractions of the rituals were the traditional Odishi Dance by smaller children, disciples of Guru Supradipta Dutta and chanting of Gitagobindam and Dasavataram of Lord Jagannath by ladies of OCC. Mrs. Chetana Samal of OCC organized a very informative seminar on Sisupalgarh, a fortified early historic city (Older than Athens in Greece) located on the suburb of Bhubaneswar. OCC invited Prof. Monica L. Smith of UCLA , Berkeley, to join Rathyatra celebration this year and talk on this ancient city and the importance of saving this ancient treasure. Mrs. Samal also organized a seminar on handloom sarees in support of this rich handloom vocation which is facing threats from modern day machine weaving. The speakers were Sushant Sekhar Das, an officer of Indian Trade Service, currently serving as the Regional Joint Director General of Foreign Trade for North Eastern India and his wife, Manija Das and Debleena Banerji, President, Tagore Society of Houston. The afternoon program started with the OCC enchanted band of instrumental players comprising of children of different ages. The band was organized by Mrs. Leena Mishra of OCC and conducted by Abhas Mishra, a youth volunteer of OCC. This was followed by the interfaith seminar attended by representatives from different faiths. Among the distinguished speakers were Venerable Seido from Budhist Organization, Thomas Wallace of Christian Faith, Rabai Jonathan Siger of Judaism, Mrs. Ummehani Ismali on Islam, Mr. Harish Chandra on Sanatan Dharma and other speakers on Hinduism. Mr. Manas Pattnaik of OCC moderated the discussion.

 

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The evening cultural programs ended with the Nrityanjali, a program comprising of Indian classical dances such as Kuchipudi, Odishi, Bharat Natyam and Kathak, The participating schools were Kalangan School of Odishi, Anjali School of Performing Arts, Natya Upasana Dance Academy, Abhinaya School of Performing Arts and Odishi Academy of Houston. Mrs. Kalasudha Devi of ISKON conducted the program as the master of ceremony. The cultural program was followed by the grand procession of the chariot of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and sister Devi Subhadra. Thousands of devotees participated in the procession and Maha Arati of the Lords on the chariot at the end. The entire procession was accompanied with devotees from ISKON and Gaudiya Math who filled the air with Name chanting and kirtan of the Lords. Upon return of the chariot, the devotees were allowed to go onto the chariot to offer special worship to the Lords. The devotees were served with mahaprasad dinner at the end. OCC is grateful to many organizations for their support of the chariot festival. Celebration of this festival is possible by generous support and sponsorship of participating organizations and individuals.

For sponsorship and other details please visit www.rathjatra.org.
– An Orissa Culture Center Publication

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