California: Fremont Hindu Temple, the first abode of Lord Jagannath in Bay Area, California, USA, and FOG Odisha together with members of the Odia Community in Bay Area hosted the 27th annual Ratha Yatra Utsav on Sunday, July 11. Attended by members of the Odia community and the larger Indian American Community, the event attracted 600 plus people. The Consul General of India in SFO, Dr TV Nagendra Prasad and his wife Padma, Anuraag Pal representing State Assembly member Alex Lee, Mayor of Fremont Lily Mei, Fremont City Council Member Teresa Cox graced the occasion. The first Sri Jagannath sthapna by the Odia community in Bay Area happened here at the Fremont temple and the temple has been following Lord Jagannath traditions and rituals for the past 27 years ritualistically that attracts folks from the Odia community, Indian American and beyond. Mayor Lily Mei said “I have been attending the Ratha Jatra for over 15 years here at the Fremont Hindu Temple and enjoy the programs of the vibrant Odia and Indian American community”.
Devotees continued to follow covid guidelines by wearing masks indoors and came to take blessings of the Holy Trinity. Says Dr Romesh Japra, Chairman of the Fremont Temple, “The temple has finally opened with in person activities with this Ratha Yatra utsav. By Lord Jagannath’s grace hopefully we will come out of the pandemic soon. The Temple follows all the rituals to complete this annual tradition of Rath Yatra. Its a blessing for us to be able to conduct Ratha Yatra every year and all due to the efforts of the temple management and a handful of Odia community members and devotees.” He appreciated the contribution by an Odia senior member and a committed devotee, the late Shri Deba Mohanty who was instrumental in initiating and starting the first Ratha Jatra in Silicon Valley, here at Fremont Hindu Temple.
The Consul General and his wife felt blessed to have attended and participated in this holy event far away from our country India. He congratulated Dr Japra, the organizers and the temple for hosting the event and was happy to see the in person participation praying that the pandemic goes away with the beginning of Ratha Yatra.
Ratha Yatra rituals started with two senior priests by offering pooja to deities, “pahandi” to ratha followed by “chhenra pahara” done by Dr Japra, starting the preparatory rituals for readying the chariot for pulling. The ratha(chariot) was worked upon by devotees, who decorated it with beautiful Odishi art and crafts to replicate the Puri Dham Ratha. Nataraj School of Dance performed a traditional Odissi dance in front of the chariot before the chariot was pulled by the devotees with Kirtan and Bhajan and the chants of “Jai Jagannath” led by Kirtan Mellows of Silicon Valley Iskcon temple. Various prasads were prepared by Odia devotees for the three deities and distributed amongst the devotees. Then the three lords moved to “gundicha” temple for rest of the rituals to be performed over there. The rituals began with bhajans by Bay Area artiste Alka Bhatnagar and our own Odia devotees that filled the environment with devotion. And the event was rounded off presenting dances from across India by Nataraj School of Dance, Nartaanalaya, California Nupur Dance Academy, songs by local artistes and a musical band; simple authentic Odia Mahaprasad and all the delicacies that Sri Jagannath is fond of and was prepared using pure ghee. In addition the ratha was upgraded with beautiful art from local Odia artist.
“This year Ratha Yatra at Fremont Temple was held in a form of a mini utsav, One of a kind memorable event that our devotees enjoyed and praying that the COVID- 19 pandemic will go away soon. We are grateful to our sponsor Priya Living and our kind donors and our devoted and committed sevaks whose support made our event a success” say Reena Patnaik and Mahesh Pakala, trustees of the Temple and members of the Odia community who coordinate/organize Ratha Yatra and other activities of Lord Jagannath parivaar at the Fremont temple. “We feel blessed to get the opportunity to serve Sri Jagannath parivaar. “ They are very grateful to the handful of Odia sevaks & devotees who have joined hands to participate in this holy event annually.
The Fremont Temple tried to keep the last 27 years of Ratha Yatra tradition alive amidst the coronavirus situation with the belief that “Jagatara Natha” will shower the blessings over the devotees across the world to overcome this pandemic.
Bahuda Yatra is scheduled on July 18 at 10 am where Lord Jagannath parivaar’s niladri bije will be completed with the beautiful Suna Vesha.
Ratha Yatra 2021 Sevaks/Sevikas – Priyadarshy Dash, Sanjib Mohanty, Reena Patnaik & Mahesh Pakala, Debajyoti Dash, Debashis Rao, Jasho Patnaik, Anuj Tyagi, Sarjita Behera & Lal Mohan, Pratibha Mallick & Bhabani Nayak, Sasmita Sahoo & Tanmay Senapati, Sarada Mohanty & Sonali Sahu, Sangita Maheshwari & Priti Ranjan Biswal, Nibedita Swain & Suvrangshu Pradhan, Ashis Sahu, Jasmine Patra, Raj Shekhar, Vinita & Amit Jain, Sharada Prasanna Jena, Chandrashekhar, Niki, high schooler Shubham Senapati and Baby Yashvi, Baby Nyra with their families and friends and many many more volunteers, devotees/sponsors.