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7th Annual Greater Houston Rath Yatra Celebrated at Char Dham Hindu Temple

Symasundara Das, ISKCON of Houston President and other devotees descending the steps of Char Dham Hindu Temple carrying the Deities to Their chariots for the Rath Yatra. (Photo by RNM Photography.)

Symasundara Das, ISKCON of Houston President and other devotees descending the steps of Char Dham Hindu Temple carrying the Deities to Their chariots for the Rath Yatra. (Photo by RNM Photography.)

Colorful Chariots carrying the deities being taken in procession at Char Dham Temple grounds. (Photos by RNM Photography)

Colorful Chariots carrying the deities being taken in procession at Char Dham Temple grounds. (Photos by RNM Photography)

THE WOODLANDS, TX – Lord Jagannath works in His own mysterious ways. While all day long, it was hot and humid, just before Rath Yatra it was pouring. “Lord Jagannath made sure that the streets are cleaned before His chariot is pulled”, said ISKCON’s Saranga Thakura Das. It was indeed a miracle that after raining heavily for over an hour, the rain clouds disappeared for the rest of the evening. This paved the way for devotees to pull the chariots inside Char Dham Temple grounds in much cooler temperature.
Rath Yatra is the celebration of Lord Jagannath’s annual visit to Gundicha Mandir, his aunt’s place. In Puri, millions congregate every year to witness Rath Yatra and three decorated chariots are pulled in Bada Danda by thousands of devotees. Keeping with this tradition, three beautifully decorated chariots were pulled around the Char Dham temple grounds with throngs of humble devotees singing and dancing in slow majestic rhythm to kirtans by the Kirtaniyas from ISKCON. Priests doled out Prasad (blessed whole fruits and specially made sweets of Khaja and Laddoos) to devotees. Throngs of believers seeking Lord Jagannath’s blessings, vied for the divine opportunity to pull the ropes of the chariots along in the procession, devotional aspects of which was led by ISKCON.
Special Puja and Archana of the Lord took place in the morning followed by Chappan Bhog (56 different items were presented before the Lord). The afternoon celebration started at 5pm with cultural program where many groups from the Woodlands and all around the Greater Houston area participated. While the cultural program was coming to an end, priests started the Sandhya Arati and the Kirtaniyas from ISKCON started the kirtan inside the temple. The Pahandi took place around 7:15, whereby devotees brought the deities out from the main temple to the chariots via the flight of stairs containing 22 steps. Priests from Char Dham Temple climbed atop the chariots and did Puja for a smooth Rath Yatra. Keeping with the Puri tradition, Dwarkanath Das from ISKCON was the ceremonial king who swept in front of the chariots to clear their path. Enthusiastic devotees pulled the chariots around the temple grounds not once but three times, after which the chariots were pulled back in front of the Jagannath temple. Priests in three chariots started the Maha Arati simultaneously which was a spectacle to behold. This was followed by Prasad where devotees got a chance to taste the Chappan Bhog.

Dr. Surya Sahoo and his wife Kabita Sahoo, Char Dham Hindu Temple founders with the participants.

Dr. Surya Sahoo and his wife Kabita Sahoo, Char Dham Hindu Temple founders with the participants.

Devotees participating in the Rath Yatra celebrations at Char Dham Hindu Temple

Devotees participating in the Rath Yatra celebrations at Char Dham Hindu Temple

Dr. Surya Sahoo had a vision to bring this festival to Houston few years back when he and his wife, Kabita, experienced a miracle. Kabita suffered from paralysis on her right side after a stroke, but was determined to visit the original ancient Rath Yatra in Puri, India. As they approached the chariots in the procession, magically Kabita was able to climb one of the chariots – by herself – and felt the feeling return to her right side. “We wanted to recreate the festival here in Houston and offer everyone a chance to experience the Lord of the Universe’s divine blessing,” said Kabita. Char Dham temple opened in March, 2018 making it possible for devotees to make a more convenient, shortened pilgrimage to the Char Dham Temples – the four sacred worship sites originally found at the four corners of India – Badrinath in the north, Dwarkanath in the west, Rameswaram in the south and Jagannath in the east.
At the end, devotees had a great time in the midst of cooling breezes, Indian food, music, dances, chariot pulling and can’t wait for the Bahuda Yatra (Return Rath Yatra) to be celebrated at the Char Dham Temple on Sunday, July 22nd. For more event photos and videos, visit greaterhoustonrathyatra.org or skaifoundation.org.


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