Houston Celebrates 11th Annual Rath Yatra


HOUSTON: Houstonians celebrated the annual Rath Yatra on July 14, the very same day when it was also celebrated in Puri, India with pomp and gaiety. Rath Yatra is the celebration of devotion, universal brotherhood, cultural diversity and spiritual bonhomie and that is what was exhibited at India House on the sunny Texas summer day. Orissa Culture Center (OCC) in collaboration with Shri Sitaram Foundation has been organizing Rath Yatra since 2008 and this is the 11th year running. This particular year is special as the Rath Yatra was supported and promoted by City of Houston and Houston Arts Alliance.

OCC02_INIndia House was decorated and decked up since the night before, with volunteers working in synergy up until the very day to have everything ready for Rath Yatra.


Traditionally, the build-up for Rath Yatra starts on Akshaya Tritiya, in the last week of April, and that is exactly when the Houston Odia community led by OCC began the activities for Jagannatha Rath Yatra. Like the previous years, Houston Rath Yatra was a daylong event beginning with traditional ‘puja-archana’ which involved havan and puja dedicated to Shri Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Shri Jagannatha. The customary ‘Chhappan Bhoga’, which includes 56 Odia delicacies, was offered to the deities along with the prayers for individual and global peace. Concurrently in the morning, free community health and dental fair was offered as part of the daylong festivity.OCC04_IN

Following the scrumptious after-noon ‘Maha Prasad’, there was a lull for an hour where the deities were rested and volunteers prepared for the big event. As the evening approached a host of cultural activities kicked off the second part of the daylong Rath Yatra. Celebrating the core message of Universalism, the evening culturals had a rich mix of dance forms like Mariachi Ore De (Houston Mariachi Band), Colombian Folkoric Dance (Colombian Folk Dance Troupe) along with the traditional Indian dance forms like Bharatnatyam and Odissi. Bharatnatyam by Abhinaya School of Dance showcased ‘Amba Stuti’ whereas two forms of ‘Mangalacharan’ – Ganesha Bandana and Rama Bandana were rendered in Odissi by Odissi Academy of Houston and Kalangan School of Odissi. Even the contemporary Bollywood dance form made its presence felt with a devotional dance performance. The fabulous dance performances were topped off with Vedic sukta-ucharan done by priests from various Hindu temples of our vibrant Houston city.
By now India House was beaming with people from all walks of life, in all shapes and sizes, beating the heat to drench themselves in high-octane spiritual experience, in anticipation of the chariot-pulling. The procession of deities or the pahandi started with the eldest in the family, Shri Balabhadra, which was followed by Devi Subhadra and finally Shri Jagannatha. The pahandi of each deity was associated with high-energy ecstatic dance and music, which reached its crescendo when Shri Jagannatha or known fondly as ‘Kalia’ made way to the Chariot. Before the Chariot could roll the ceremonial sweeping or the Chhera Pahanra, where traditionally the King of Odisha or the Gajapati sweeps the Chariots was emulated by anointing a prominent member of the community. The Chariot powered by devotion made a big parikrama around the India House and made its way back to be greeted by representatives from various religious and spiritual organizations of Greater Houston area. As the sun was setting with the sanguine hue in the sky, the ‘Samuhika Maha Aarti’ was performed which was followed by personal darshan, thus bringing close to yet another eventful and fulfilling Rath Yatra.

OCC06_INThe Houston Odia communities led by Orissa Culture Center (OCC) is blessed to be able to organize Houston Rath Yatra and are thankful of City of Houston for their generosity and co-operation without which event of such scale would certainly be a herculean task. We sincerely thank all the spiritual organizations of Greater Houston for the moral support and participation in making Rath Yatra truly an international event. Finally we would like to thank India House for being an accommodative host and Darshak Thacker for managing the audio tech beautifully.

With the success and blessing of this year’s Rath Yatra we look forward to re-create the same synergy in 2019. Jai Jagannath!!

For more information and interesting facts please check us at http://www.rathjatra.org/. We are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HoustonChariotFestival