Ratha Yatra of Sri Madan Mohan

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BY: SUN STAFF

Ratha Yatra is held in the month of Asardh according to the Bengali calendar (June - July), and the world famous Puri Ratha is now preparing to get underway. But nearby, another super-excellent festival will be celebrated: the Ratha-yatra of Sri Sri Madan Mohan in Cooch Behar. This Ratha-yatra is quite similar to the Ratha of Sri Jagannath at Puri, in nearby Orissa.

In Cooch Behar, beautifully decorated Rath chariots are taken out, as Sri Madan Mohan rides from His main temple to His maternal aunt's house at Gunjabari (within the city), where the Lord stays for one week. Again on the day of Ulta-rath celebrations, held one week later, the Lord is delivered back to the main Madan Mohan temple. All throughout these seven days of His visit, a great fair takes place at the main temple campus and at Gunjabari. In Jagannath Puri, Ulta-rath is commonly known as Purna-yatra or Bahuda-yatra.

According to existing temple records, the holy dhama of Sri Madan Mohan was established in 1893, after construction of the Madan Mohan temple-house to the north of Bairagi Dighi, in the heart of Cooch Behar city. Since then, Ratha-yatra used to take place besides Bairagi Dighi, up until 1921-22. Afterwards the fair was extended into two parts. At present this fair is also celebrated with pomp and glory at Gunjabari for seven days. The home of Sri Madan Mohan's aunt is known as Dangar Ayee temple. It was constructed in Gunjabari village, Cooch Behar town by the first Queen (Dangar Ayee) of Maharaja Shibendra Narayan, Kameswari Devi, circa 1839-1847.

A temple of the royal Deity, Sri Madan Mohan, was built in every sub-divisional town/city during the reign of the Koch Maharajas, and Ratha-yatra is celebrated in all those towns/cities.

Even during the monarchy, the Ratha chariot used to parade out with royal status and grandeur from main temple to Gunjabari. The procession was headed by beautifully decorated elephants, followed by the Royal Army, police teams, marching bands, etc. Numerous devotees would follow, pulling the Ratha-rashi (rope for pulling the chariot).

Dangar Ayee temple

Since the end of British rule, most signs of the monarchy are gone, including the royal codes and conducts, but also the royal enthusiasm for celebrating the festival. Regardless, Sri Madan Mohan continues to visit His aunt's home, riding gloriously in a chariot driven by thousands of devotees. The pomp of celebration is no less enjoyable, and the presence of gilipi (a much-loved Bengali sweet) and latka fruit in abundance are pleasing to the crowds who throng the streets to get a glimpse of the Lord.

The unchanged spirit of the Ratha celebration continues on, and devotees are blessed to get the regular darshan of Sri Sri Madan Mohan.

Source: Government of Bengal