The Houston Chariot Festival of 2015 Shree Jagannath Naba kalebara and Ratha Jatra: Orissa Culture Center

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Volunteers with divine head-cloth dedicating their service to Houston chariot festival on Akshaya Trutiya celebration

HOUSTON: This year is a special year for the devotees of Lord Jagannath all over the world. The three deities along with the Sudarshana Chakra residing in the temple at the city of Puri, on the east cost of India, will go through the human cycle of birth and death and birth. Every 12~19 years, the deities in the form of “Daru Brahma” change into new forms carved out of the logs of special Neem Tree. This event is known as the “Naba Kalebara” or literally the new bodies. Thus, this year’s Chariot Festival is a special event as it coincides with the “Naba Kalebara (Installation of new deities)”.

The yearly festival of Houston Ratha Jatra or the chariot festival organized by the Orissa Culture Center (OCC) in association with Shree Sitaram Foundation, Govindji Gaudiya Matha and other spiritual organizations has been a great attraction for people of greater Houston. This year’s chariot festival will be celebrated on Saturday, July 18, 2015 at the VPSS Haveli, 11715 Bellfort Village Drive, Houston, TX, 77031.

As a precursor to the grand chariot festival, OCC and other participating organizations celebrated “Akshya Trutiya” to mark the beginning of preparation for the grand festival. The day is marked with the start of the Ratha (Lord ‘s Chariot)  construction for the famous Ratha Jatra (festival of the Chariots).  Akshaya Tritiya was celebrated at the Govindji Gaudiya Matha on April 26, 2015 (Sunday) followed by chanting and a ritual invitation to the Maharanas and Biswakarmas (the carpenter and artisans) for the Ratha construction. About three hundred people attended the event. Sixteen devotees came forward to receive the divine cloth and pledge their time and labor to the service of Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra.

The second event to follow after Akshaya Trutiya is Snana Purnima or the Bathing ceremony of the Lords which will take place on May 31st Sunday at 11AM in Shiv Sakti Temple, 6640 Harwin Drive, Houston, 77036. All are welcome to attend the event and witness the last bathing of the current deities followed by Maha arati and prasad sevan.

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Priests conducting the  puja ceremony on Akshaya Trutiya celebration

The major attractions of the Chariot festival on July 18th Saturday are planned for the late afternoon hours and include the “Pahandi” where all devotees are allowed to carry their beloved Lords on to the chariot, the chariot pulling by thousands of devotees, devotional kirtans and bhajans, Kids activities and maha arati. The admission and parking are free. This year OCC is proud to present a live vocal devotional concert by the world renowned classical vocalist Padma Bibhusana Sangeeta Martanda Pandit Jasraj.

OCC is a fast growing non-profit institution with a dedicated mission to promote the cultural heritage and traditional art forms from India in general and state of Orissa in particular. The Rath Yatra will host a colorfully decorated 22-foot high chariot carefully crafted by dedicated members of Orissa community. All devotees will be allowed to offer worship to the Lord on the chariot.

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