Report by OD bureau; Houston: Houston RathYatra, the prominent summer festival under the city’s blue sky, is all set to welcome spiritually inclined audience, art & culture enthusiast, food lovers as well as kids’ on equal footing.
For the last five years, since its inception, with lots of efforts from OdishaCulture Center supported by Houston Odia community and other community organizations in Greater Houston area, this celebration has grown as a popular, must-attend, talk of the town kind of event.
The primary attraction being the 22-feet Chariot with three deities, Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannatha , all decorated by beautiful finery and flowers, sitting comfortably on a pedestal ready to go on a journey, a vacation, by none other than by their favorite devotees, thousands of Houstonians, adults and children together.
Before the Chariot pulling happens, devotees get a chance to carry their dearest Lords from their pedestal to the Chariot in a forward swinging action, known as ‘Pahandi’. Once the deities comfortably settle on the Chariot, the anointed king of the day (which stays a surprise till the right moment comes) performs the ceremonial sweeping of the ground before the Chariot rolls. Houston’s street comes to a halt as the devotees of all ages, communities and religionsenthusiastically dance, chant and pull the divine Chariot out of the India House premises and bring them back. Following the Chariot pulling, with the Sun God saluting on the west, moon shining with soft rays on the other side of the sky, The Lords enjoy the nice breeze of Houston evening while blessing the devotees as they line up near the Chariot for darshan.
As the kids enjoy jumping on moon walk, painting their faces with festive colors, the balloon artist brings tons of smiles to their faces while parents eagerly await the cultural program to begin.
Like every other year, Orissa Culture Center has found the best of the best artistes to perform on this year’s stage. This year’s repertoire consists of three excellent dance Gurus (masters), a traditional music program both in Oriya and Hindi as well. Also, students from two Houston based dance academies will add flavors to the palette.
• Jatayu Mokshya: One of a kind Odissi dance drama based on a story from Tulsidas’s Ramcharita Manas, will be performed by Guru Ratikant Mohapatra and his disciple, Texas based Odissi exponent and teacher Aparupa Chatterjee.
Jatayu Mokshya, is a poignant story, a leaf taken from the Hindu Epic Ramayana, where Jatayu with his clipped wings, narrates his helplessness for not being able to save Devi Sita. AppreciatingJatayu’s valiant and selfless efforts, Lord Ramablesses him to go directly to Vaikuntha dham (heaven) where Lord Vishnu abodes!
Guru RatikantaMohapatra, an accomplished master of the Odissi dance form, carries forward the dance tradition that his legendary father, Padma Bibhusan Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra took to great heights.
• Ramate Yamuna: Sipra Mehrotra, Houston based Odissi exponent and Director, Avantica School of Dance is an excellent dancer of current generation. Ramate Yamuna is an astapadi from Jayadeva’s Gita Govindam, the ancient love poem between Radha and Krishna.
Samuhik Maharati and Words of Wisdom:Many religious heads of Greater Houston area will collectively pray the Lord during maharati for the greater well being. Two excellent speakers, His Holiness Bhakti Purushottam Swami and Educationist Debdas Chhotray will grace the occasion to share words of wisdom with the assembled devotees. Eminent dignitaries like Gurujee Shree ChandrabhanuSatpathy have attended Houston Rathyatra in the past.
While the cultural program will continue late into the evening, the Houstonians will enjoy the outdoor stage performances while having a sumptuous dinner together with friends and family, in a true Ananda Bhavan style of Jagannatha temple at Puri.