For 68-year-old Seikh Jayimuddin, it has become customary to catch a glimpse of the trinity — Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra — as they emerge out of their temple abode every year during rath yatra. Despite having a different religious belief, the devout Muslim of Madhiala locality here also looks forward to participating in the rath yatra.
Apart from Jayimuddin, many other members of religious minority communities of Madhiala also participate in the rath yatra every year. As the chariot slowly makes its way through the local streets in a time-honoured tradition, the grand event continues to evoke equal enthusiasm among the local Hindus and Muslims. It is mainly tradition and mutual respect that binds the two communities here together.
“I first witnessed the rath yatra when I was a teenager. Since then, participating in rath yatra has almost become an annual ritual for my family. Hindus appreciate our participation. The trend has now passed on to the next generation. My grandchildren watch the pulling of the lords’ chariots every year,” said Jayimuddin.
“There is nothing wrong in paying respect to the traditions of another religion. Our religion does not promote hatred towards other faiths,” he said.
Amity has taken the better of religious divide as it has become a tradition of sorts for Muslims to get involved in the annual rath yatra of Lord Baldevjew in this district headquarters township. And this spirit of amity here is not restricted to rath yatra alone. Hindus also participate in festivals observed by Muslims.
“Hindus join us in celebrating Eid and other festivals. The two communities also attend each other’s marriages and other ceremonies,” said Mir Obeda, a local resident.
“The Kendrapara municipal area is blessed with a legacy of communal amity and brotherhood. Both the Hindu and Muslim communities have been displaying peaceful co-existence and amity here at a time when frenzied religious discord has become the order of the day in many other areas,” said Mohammad Akbar Ali, former chairman of Kendrapara Municipality.
Muslims here make about one-third of the composite urban population. They take part in major festivals of Hindus such as Laxmi puja and rath yatra, while Hindus reciprocate by participating in Eid. There are also many Hindu temples and Muslim mosques located in close proximity of one another. It only bore testimony to the harmonious co-existence of the local people, said the former civic body chairman.
“Muslims turn up in large numbers to watch the rath yatra. There is no religious barrier as Jagannath is considered the lord of the universe. Though there is a restriction on non-Hindus from entering the Jagannath temple in Puri, there is no bar on them to participate in the car festival here,” said Nrusingha Pati, a servitor.
“Earlier, members of the minority community did not participate in large numbers in Hindu festivals. But, things have changed in recent years,” said Shabir Khan of Jayipura.