The Rath Yatra festival of the devotees of Lord Jagannath starts from Snanyatra or the abulation of Lord Jagannath which takes place a fortnight ahead of great Chariot Festival or Rath Yatra.
The big festival in Puri is famous worldwide. Besides that Kanaiha’s Rath festival at Hailakandi, Assam and at Melaghar, Tripura are famous. In Bangladesh and in Myanmar the devotees of Jagannath specially the Manipuris observed the festival with pomp and grandeur.
The most interestingly the Rath Festival otherwise known as Kang festival amongst the Manipuris both the Meithei speakers and the speakers in Bishnupriya Manipuris is unique and worthy of mentioning.
In the morning big chariots are decorated and various kind of flowers
In the chariot and youths with enthusiasm started enhance beautification of their chariots. In all Manipuris localities there is Mandape, a temple and the Jagannath is regularly offered oblation or Puja by the Brahmin. A village may have more than one Mandape and naturally there should be two charts for each Mandape.
The villagers grouped themselves in eight equal stakeholders who offered Bhog in day time. People eat the Prasad in daytime. At night Joydeva is chant and youths, girls participated in dance and eat Khichuri specially prepared by the Brahmin. Khichuri prepared by Brains are special. It has special flavor.
In the afternoon the idol is saddled in the chariot decorated for this purpose. And after an Arati being performed with Dhulak Mridanga and the chariot is being drawn by devotees with two ropes chanting devotional songs. The chariot started southwards as Lord Jagannath visits his auntie’s house being accompanied by Balbhadra and sister Subhadra.
Nabadwip chariya Prabhu
Na jayo Gaya Ganga
Na jao Varanasi
Gharetta basis Japan nam
Galaya e Tulashi.”
And comes to Puri.
Do not go to Gaya
The Ganges and Varanasi
And chant the name of Lord
Putting Tulsi garlanded.
Sometimes the devotees sing vulgar songs taunting Jagannath :
At tuppa Jagannath
Gara gari Bao “.
His eyes are wide and open
His hands are cut to sizes
You do roll on the grounds”.
I fail to understand how the devotees freely sing such vulgar songs and how the idea has been formed from Puri to Manipuris localities in Shylet, Tripura and Assam and He is pleased with those taunting songs pointed at Lord Jagannath?
The vulgar songs, they say, pleases Lord Jagannath. There is similarity in those vulgar songs being sung in Puri by the Dahukas in Puri Rath Yatra. This type of songs are absent in other parts of the country. Might be there the devotee accept the God as their family member or the loved friend whom they consider close enough like their best buddy or family member whom they don’t mind to taunt in their own local language, just like the natural human tendency do to their best buddy, there is a saying that without calling the best friend with a slang their closeness never comes in their mind. I feel here reflect the same tradition of Bhakti yoga where it says, to love the almighty as the brother or the best friend rather consider him a God and make him distance from the heart.
The day time Arati being sung during Bhog is also worth mentioning.
“Jayo Jagannath arati kare
In all temples single song is being sung by all devotees in one rhythm and in one Tala. This unique traits keep all Manipuris binding together within single cultural entity amidst hundreds of different class of people in and around them.