|| Rathayatra is
a cultural celebration that originated in India and is among the oldest
festivals in the world.
A huge ‘ratha’, or chariot, devoted to Lord Krishna, is
decorated with flowers and ornaments and pulled through the city streets.
Krishna devotees follow the vibrant chariot singing, chanting and
dancing. The procession ends with a huge vegetarian feast and entertainment
in Chamberlain Square [map].
The Rathayatra Festival is new to nations outside India and Birmingham
is proud to host its own impressive version each year.
The festival has its origins in Jagannath Puri on the Bay of Bengal,
and for millennia the chariots of Lord Jagannath have rolled through
that town. Throughout the year the Lord Jagannath Deity is worshipped
in a temple, which is over 200 feet high and dominates the city. The
temple kitchens prepare 56 offerings of food daily – 500 kitchen
employees cook enough for 10,000 people every day, and for 10 times
that amount during festivals (this gets eaten by the town).
Of all the many annual festivals held for Lord Jagannath, the grandest
is easily the Rathayatra Festival (chariot journey). Once a year Lord
Jagannath (one of Lord Krishna’s incarnations) leaves his temple
for the streets to enjoy a ride on the Rathayatra chariots. For a
month, 42 woodcarvers, 30 labourers, 15 painters, 10 tailors and nine
nail-smiths work to build the chariots. Around a million people flood
into Puri to participate in the procession.
Birmingham’s version is scaled down but still pretty impressive,
as well as being very important for the city’s huge Asian population.
The spectacle of the Rathayatra Festival is well worth the trip to
Birmingham. While you are there you can enjoy the many multicultural
delights of the UK’s second largest city. It has a reputation
for innovation in arts and industry and also boasts more canals than