Like so many others festivals, Rathyatra has always been a very significant part of our growing up years….and all those years are now a big fat colorful blob of memories in my mind- one huge borderless collage of memorable years,clumped together in one frame…So many years of looking forward to this day each yr with the same fervour,if not more ...The very exciting “ Rath-r Mela “ or the fair- A must-visit event for us every yr, so much so that,at one point of our lives,we used to travel 40 kms from our home-An evening spent in lots of shopping -Our main interest being mostly in books-from the Book Fair part of this Rath-r Mela and Mom’s was plants and cactus-from the Agriculture Fair !!
Something connected eating papad bhaja ( deep fried Poppadum ) with Rath for us Bengalis….
When younger,until a certain age, every yr we used to decorate small Rath(chariots),bought specially for the occasion- with decorations made of crepe and marble papers,flowers plucked from our garden,prasad like “ Batasha,nokuldana,michri,misti etc “ and a small Jagannath-Subhadra-Balaram together as the centerpiece.
Bro’ and I used to compete with each other,trying to outdo each other in our decorations and Thamma ( Dadi ), who was the chief initiator of all these fun, used to declare both of us winners for the day !! Thamma was very very enthusiastic about everything…and specially Rath was one of such occasions which I always associate with Thamma ..Nothing else can come in the same sentence with Rath other than Thamma,who used to help us plan and then put together all the decorations !!
We used to sit with her in our patio after lunch , with our Rath(chariots),all the flowers we plucked,all the decorations we crafted out and put everything together on the Rath ( Chariots )…She even prepared her special homemade glue for these occasions....
After that, Bro’ and I used to go out and pull our chariots in the concrete garden path..and then there used to be Chariot Racing …which ended with yet another fight !!
In the evening,we used to accompany Dadu to the nearest temple, where a big chariot procession was in effect-One time, I lost my new silvery sandals to the crowd while trying to touch the chariot rope ( which is an auspicious & holy ritual ) and that put this affair to an end !!
And with passing years,it was decided by the elders that we are too big to decorate and pull Rath in our garden path anymore- So from then onwards,Rathyatra for us,meant the arrival of the grand fair and our annual visit to it, rain or shine !!
Today, RathYatra is only a date on the calendar,a day dedicated to churning out some old memories,with images of small colorfully adorned chariots in our garden path,fluttering around in my mind..jumbled up assortment of all those old taste,smell,sound,sight & sensation ~ ~