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Tug at faith strings - Rukuna rath rolls on

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 26.03.07

Bhubaneswar, March 26: Soaring mercury today took a backseat to faith as thousands of devotees braving the scorching sun pulled the “Rukuna Rath” of Lord Lingaraj on Ashokastami.

While the traditional rathayatra is celebrated at Puri sometime in June or July, the car festival of Lord Lingaraja is celebrated at Bhubaneswar on the day of Ashokastami in March or April.

As custom goes, the Rukuna Rath never “takes a turn”. While returning after a five-day retreat at the Mausima temple, the chariot is drawn from the backside without taking a turn. The altar of the deities is only changed. The Rukuna Ratha, thus, is also called “analeuta” (the chariot that does not take a turn).

Mythology has it that on this day Goddess Sita offered Ashoka (Saraca indica) flowers to god during her confinement in the Ashoka forests after she was taken hostage by Ravana. The event is, thus, considered sacred to the religious souls.

After elaborate rituals performed during the day at the Lingaraj temple, bronze images of three deities — Chandrasekhar (the representative of Lord Lingaraj), Rukmini and Basudeva — were brought in the afternoon to the chariot parked outside the shrine amid loud beats of gongs, blowing of conch shells and chant of hymns.

The festivities, however, started the previous day during the “Neta Uchhaba” (flag ceremony), when the chariot was ceremonially purified by the priests and a flag was fixed at the top of the chariot.

Devotees, who had taken shelter in the roadside buildings, cheered as the four-wheeled 35-ft chariot, draped in yellow, red, white and blue clothes, rolled down the “ratha danda”. A fair was held near the Mausima temple on the occasion. Elaborate security arrangements were made to maintain law and order and manage the crowd.