The formal dress code could do for the rest of the year, but during rath yatra, at least 20 youngsters shun their office attires to don the traditional gamucha to serve Lord Jagannath and his siblings. Belonging to the young generation of servitors, these corporate employees, many of them engineers and MBAs, fulfil their spiritual commitments once a year during the grandest Odia festival.
Anath Das Mohapatra, 25, a software engineer who is based in Mumbai now, is happy to get back into the joda that is the customary attire for servitors. Mohapatra said the dhoti and gamucha makes him feel back at home and close to his dearest family member, Lord Jagannath.
“Wearing a shirt and trousers is fine but once you put on the traditional dhoti and hang one on the shoulder, you feel you have come to your own world. You are no more in the formal world where office etiquettes bind you to behave in a certain way. Here, we are all busy in preparing the Lord for his grand visit. It is just a different feeling,” he said. He is on a month-long leave to devote time to rath yatra preparations and the Lord’s care.
An MBA in event management, a servitor who is based in Bhubaneswar, Kirti Prakash Das Mohapatra says nothing is more important than serving Lord Jagannath. “We get to carry him on our shoulders and our bodies merge with the Lords’ during our services. We get to take care of his health and look after the well being of Jagannath. It is not possible to value anything else in the world as much as this exclusive feeling,” said Kirti.
For Haraprasad Das Mohapatra, also in his twenties, his duties as a servitor and his career are both a part of life. “They are both necessary and we know how to live with it. We have been trained to balance education and our duty at the temple as kids. Temple services are not even a specific duty; for us it's like being at home. So we do not need to put in extra efforts to get back to the servitor's role. It comes naturally to us,” said Haraprasad.
The corporate employees are ready to give up anything if the situation demands but never miss rath yatra.
“Some take 15-day leave and some claim a month long off to perform their duties here. By the Lord’s grace none of us have ever faced difficulty in getting the leaves during rath yatra. Even the temple administration has been kind at times to intervene and help us get the leaves at our offices,” said Kirti. “But if ever the time comes we will not think twice to give up our job serve our Lord.”
These young servitors will be seen carrying the Lord to the chariot during Pahandi, playing gongs and cymbals on the chariots when it moves.