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The Ratha Jatra of Serampore
By Alex. Allardyce an article from the publication Good Words of 1872 edited by Norman MacLeod D.D.

AMID a multitude of minor holidays of more or less importance in the eyes of different sects, there are two great festivals that stand forth as the red-letter seasons of the Bengalee calendar. The first is the Doorga Poojah, or festival of the goddess Doorga, the daughter of Himalaya, who relieved Earth from the oppression of giants. This to the Bengalee is a season hallowed by the tenderest associations, for it is the time when the scattered members of a family meet under the parental roof and unite together in celebrating the stately rites of their ancient religion. The Englishman, too, is under greater obligations to Doorga than to any saint in the Christian catalogue so far as holidays are concerned; for the man thinks his lines very hard indeed who cannot spare a fortnight for recreation when the Doorga Poojah comes round in the end of September or the beginning of October. Second in importance to the festival of Doorga only, is the Ratha Jatra, held in honour of Jaganatha, “the Lord of the World,” who, under the designation of “Juggernaut," has obtained an evil notoriety with the British public. How opposite are the ideas suggested to the two races by the name! The mention of Jaganatha calls up in our minds a gloomy picture of myriads of victims that have been i mangled beneath the huge wheels of his ponderous car; of the corpse-strewn coast of I Pooree, black with dogs, jackals, and vultures, preying upon the carcases of deluded I devotees; of the high roads to Jaganatha’s temples, marked by the bodies of pilgrims who have succumbed to fatigue, disease, or famine; and of the obscene and odious rites that were wont to characterise his worship. To the Hindoo the feast of Jaganatha is an occasion of reckless jollity; and he looks forward to it with much the same mixture of devout and jocular feelings that the Irish peasant has for a “pattern” day, or the Italian contadino for a “festa” of the Church. It would not perhaps be far wrong to say that the Doorga Poojah and the Ratha Jatra are respectively to the mass of Hindoos what Christmas and Mayday were to our English forefathers two hundred years ago.

About the beginning of June, or to speak more strictly, at the full moon of the month Jaishtha, according to the Bengalee almanack, crowds of all sorts and conditions of Hindoos may be seen crossing from Calcutta to the railway station at Howrah, on the “ Surrey side ” of the Hooghly; while the river is crowded with boats, all beating their way up the stream, and all bound for the good town of Serampore. Inside the station terrible confusion reigns. One can hardly pass along the platform for the hundreds of natives that lie and squat upon the stone pavement. Many of them are asleep, for they may have come a three or four days’ journey, from Dacca and the swampy villages of Eastern Bengal, from the scattered townships of the Twenty-four Pergunnahs, and from Midnapore and the Orissa border. These pilgrims belong generally to the lower classes: they are small farmers, or artisans, or common labourers perlraps, who, having scraped together a few rupees, take a trip to Jaganatha’s shrine for their soul’s weal They are lightly dressed, some having no other garment than the dhoti, or waist-cloth, fastened round their loins. Those of better condition sport a cloak, or chaddar, of fine cotton or muslin, thrown loosely over the shoulders; it had been white when they started from home, but the journey has now changed it to a dusty tint. They all have a hookha, or waterpipe, with perhaps a napkinful of parched rice, and their little stock of money knit into a comer of their waist-cloth. There is also a goodly sprinkling of female pilgrims, from the grey-haired grandmother to the little girl of seven or eight, who has never left her home before, and who looks round with a timid, curious stare at the busy world about her. The women generally keep well in the rear . of their male protectors, and shroud themselves from public gaze within their saris, as the single loose garment of the Bengalee female is termed.

But the crowd is not wholly vulgar. Here comes a Calcutta Baboo, clad in a semi-oriental, semi-European costume, jerking his patent leather boots as jauntily as an English cavalry officer would clank his spurs. At his heels follows a train of poor relations and dependents, showing every variety of dress, from the gold-embroidered gown to the scanty cotton waist-cloth. Like the Highland chieftain, the Bengalee Baboo never goes abroad upon an occasion of ceremony without a “tail," the dimensions of which announce the position that he claims to hold in society. It was Mr. Thackeray, I think, who said that there is no Irish gentleman so poor but that he has a still poorer friend to run his errands. So it is with the Bengalee: he never sets out to visit a superior without a companion a degree or two more ragged than himself to enhance his importance. Next there presses through the crowd a tall Brahmin, whose simple white garment and sacred cord procure him more worship than all the Baboo’s braveries. It seems strange to our ideas that this spare old man, all whose belongings, except his cow and mud cabin, are on his back or in his hand, should trace an undoubted descent to a period before Hengist and Horsa had dreamed of invading Britain; but his fair complexion, regular features, and high forehead, mark the purity of his Aryan origin. There are a few specimens of “Young Bengal” from the Presidency College and Missionary Institutions, who, in spite of their enlightenment, cannot forego a day’s fun at Jaganatha’s festival. Ask them how it happens that men of their intelligence and culture countenance a barbarous and idolatrous ceremonial, and they will shrug their shoulders and look foolish, pleading perhaps the national custom, or telling you about the Greeks and the Eleusinian mysteries, or some other classical excuse for the toleration of superstition. They laugh at Jaganatha, and make merry over the idea of a divinity-lurking in an old log of gilded nun-wood; but still they cannot disguise the fact that they look with a warmth and interest towards the rude worship of their fathers and countrymen. The old Brahmin gazes with a sad curiosity at the young men as they talk glibly in the tongue of the foreigner, and thinks perhaps it is little wonder though the old faiths are losing their hold, when the youth of the country are being trained in such new-fangled accomplishments. Yonder stands a Bachelor of Arts of the University, who could run over the history of philosophy from Thales to Comte almost as succinctly as Mr. Lewes himself, and who knows far more of Bishop Berkeley’s views than either you or I do. To see him as he looks about, indifferent and almost contemptuous to the animation of the masses around him, one would say that he at least must be above the influences of superstition, and would scarcely believe it possible that three hours hence the same man will be whooping and dancing like a Corybant round the grim idol. But so much stronger are the sympathetic affections than judgments of the intellect.

By-and-by the railway carriages are brought up, and a terrible struggle and confusion ensue. Pilgrims who have never before set their foot on a train, have to be informed that a third-class ticket does not entitle the holder to a seat in the luxuriously cushioned first* class coupe. Friends lose sight of friends, and add to the turmoil by rushing through the crowd vociferating the names of the lost ones. Women are left behind, and stand staring disconsolately about them, or weeping. The railway officials huddle the natives into the train as if they were so many sheep; and at last the bell rings, the door is slammed in the face of the last group of pilgrims, who come running up panting from the ferry, and the train is whirling away through the scattered suburbs of Howrah into the bright green country beyond. The scenery is tame. To swamp, rice-field, and thick jungle succeed jungle and rice-field and swamp. Away to the left we catch a glimpse of the vast marshes, beloved of Calcutta fowlers for the snipe and wild ducks and teal that haunt the fens. On the right we pass a huge, smoking paper-mill, looking as if it had dropped down from the clouds among the green woods and rustic cottages of Uttarparah. It was hither that the Calcutta Brahmins fled when they felt that the sanctity of their order had been invaded by the execution of the notorious Nandkumar in Warren Hastings* satrapy. It is an interesting village, rife with Brahminical associations; and it is ruled over by a fine specimen of the self-made Hindoo, the venerable Jye Kishen Mookerjea, a man who, had he lived in Mogul days, would in all probability have been the governor of a province. There is scarcely a house in Uttarparah that does not contain a graduate of the Calcutta University. But the train is speeding on while we are talking; Konnagar, with its little hamlet and station, is behind us; and soon we can discern the tall tops of Jaganatha’s chariots rising over the trees on our jight as we draw up to the Serampore station.

Let us get out of the ruck of pilgrims, and take a rapid drive through the town before the Jatra commences. Serampore, or Sirampura, as it ought to be written, “the town of the auspicious Rama,” lies upon the south side of one of the finest reaches on the river Hooghly, sixteen miles above Calcutta. Though but a small town, no provincial city in Bengal can boast of more interesting associations. But we note that many of the houses are now crumbling into ruins, and infer that Serampore must have seen better days. And so it has; for the prosperity of the town departed with its Danish masters. As we turn on to the principal street, stretching for three-quarters of a mile along the river bank, we see decay and ruin everywhere around us. The Danish Government House, still bearing King Christian’s crown over the entrance, is now the residence of the local magistrate. The old warehouses and factories of his Danish majesty are now a mass of ruins on the other side of the little square, and the tiny saluting battery, bereft of its guns, is a smooth green sward. Close by Government House is the old church, originally Lutheran, but belonging now to the Church of England. Here, for many years Dr. Carey and Dr. Marshman, though themselves Baptists, led the devotions of the little European community, until a chapel was erected for the use of Dissenters at the other end of the town. Bishop Wilson was greatly attached to the picturesque little church, not the less so perhaps because his antagonists of the High Church party shrugged their shoulders when they spoke of an edifice which had never been consecrated, and in which the altar stood at the western extremity. The houses of the European and East Indian residents are generally stately, pillared buildings, whose white verandahs, mingling with the green shrubbery, present a very pleasing effect when viewed from the water. As we come out to the river-side, at the further end of the station, we have a fine view of the noble Hooghly, here fully half a mile broad, with. Barrackpore lying high upon the opposite bank. Conspicuous among its buildings are the Govemor-General’s country-house standing upon the skirts of a fine park of several hundred acres, beautifully laid out in gardens, walks, and drives; and the Nishan, or “Flagstaff” bungalow, belonging to the Commander-in-chief. Lord Wellesley had designed that the Government Houses at Calcutta and Barrackpore should be palaces worthy of an Eastern Viceroy; but Leadenhall Street became alarmed at the outlay, and orders were sent out to retrench the expenditure upon both. Lord Wellesley, however, anticipating the arrival of the despatch, abandoned the Barrackpore building that he might push on the completion of Government House at Calcutta, and consequently the country-seat, though a noble edifice, falls far short of the projection of its great founder. Barrackpore is a favourite residence of the Calcutta citizens, as Seram-pore would also be, but for the want of a bridge across the Hooghly at Calcutta, and the consequent delay and inconvenience in crossing the river to the railway station at Howrah.

But to return to Serampore—we are now in the vicinity of the Baptist Mission quarter, and some reminiscence of its great founders, the pioneers of Protestant Christianity in India, is awakened wherever we turn ourselves. Here Carey and Marshman, driven like malefactors from British territory, began to propagate Christianity among the natives under the protection of the Danes; and to set an example for all ages and all classes of undaunted courage, of sturdy independence, and of a self-denial which has not been surpassed in the world’s history. Here they toiled for upwards of a quarter of a century, building schools, a college, a chapel, and a printing press; issuing translations of the Scriptures in many Eastem tongues; founding a written literature for the people of Bengal; and living upon fare as scanty as that of any Bengalee ryot, while they were amassing a large fortune for the benefit of their Society. The Society pocketed the money and scarcely said “ Thanksbut these great men had a better reward. The old mission-house, where Carey and Marshman resided, still stands on the river bank, side by side with the Baptist chapeL Farther on are the Serampore paper mills, now converted into a thriving jute factory, that supplied the old missionaries with paper for their publications. It was here that the first steam engine was set up in India. The Serampore College is a large and handsome building, with a valuable library, possessing the status of a University, including the power of conferring degrees, under the great seal of Denmark. Its academical functions are never brought into requisition, .although its privileges were strictly guarded in the deed of cession to the East India Company. It now ranks merely as an educational institution affiliated to the Calcutta University. Aldeen House, standing in a fine park at the eastern extremity of the town, was the residence of David Brown, one of the earliest and worthiest of the Company’s chaplains. Henry Martyn was a frequent guest at Aldeen; and there is a deserted pagoda standing on a high bluff overhanging the river, which sweeps round the point with a rapid swirl, where Martyn loved to spend the evening in solitary meditation upon his great schemes for delivering the Asiatic races from the bonds of superstition. The deserted chamber of the idol often served as Martyn’s bed-room; and it must have been with a feeling of triumph that the missionary laid himself down to rest in the chamber of the falling Dagon, and with thoughts of the time when every idol temple should be as deserted as that one.

A loud tomtoming and a confused roar of voices warn us that the festival has begun, and we retrace our route in the direction of Mahesh, a suburb of Serampore, where the rites of Jaganatha have been for ages celebrated. But to reach this centre of idolatry we n!Ust pass through a little Christian colony where the first Bengalee converts were settled by the early Serampore missionaries, and where their descendants still continue to reside. Jonnagar, as the Christian hamlet is called, derives its name from the proprietor, Mr. Marshman, the historian of India, who allows his Christian tenants to sit rent free, so long as their ccnduct is consistent with their creed. A little chapel stands close to the village, where a Bengalee service is held weekly in the presence of an attentive and devout congregation. Many missionary authorities denounce the formation of Christian communities, and would have converts sent abroad to convert others in turn. Be this as it may, the Jonnagar converts have been taught the important lesson that Christian kindliness concerns itself with the temporal as well as the spiritual interests of humanity.

In an open space by the road-side some eight or ten thousand people are crowded together, shouting, pushing, and struggling towards a raised masonry platform in the centre of the throng, upon which the day’s pageant is being set forth. High above the heads of the crowd stand half-a-dozen Brahmins with chaplets round their necks, and their temples bound with fillets of coloured silk. They chant a monotonous strain, probably a Vedic hymn, which sometimes swells into a shrill refrain, when it is caught up by numbers of the people. The eyes of the Brahmins and of the crowd are constantly turning towards the adjacent pagoda, whence a deafening noise of tomtoms and gongs comes rolling forth. Presently the crowd bursts out into a hoarse roar of delight, as, preceded by a group of minstrels and dancers, a body of Brahmins emerges from the temple, bearing in its centre a shapeless mass, enveloped in drapery. On they march to the platform; and another wild yell of exultation announces their arrival at its foot The covered mass is lifted up reverently upon the platform: another shout; the priests tear off die drapery: a still louder burst of applause; and the Lord of the World sits revealed to his votaries.

An ugly unprepossessing idol he is. His head is many sizes too large for his body, and his eyes many sizes too large for his head; so that we are tempted to wonder whether the artists who illustrated the books dear to our boyhood, could have taken their conception of an ogre from this member of the Hindoo pantheon. The image generally consists of only a memberless trunk, but today Jaganatha is adorned with golden hands; perhaps that he may be the better able to receive the offerings of his devotees. The image is formed out of the wood of the nim tree {mdia azadarata); and no crow or unclean bird of prey must ever have defiled its boughs. When the carpenter has done his work, the image is given to the priests, who consecrate it by mysterious and unknown rites. At Pooree, a man was selected by the priests to take out of the old idol a box of quicksilver, which represented the divine essence, and place it in the bosom of the new god. The person selected for this honour invariably died or disappeared within a few months; by the favour of the god said the priests; by foul play said the sceptical public.

While some of the Brahmins repeat muntras or incantations in which the crowd partially joins, others are bringing forward large jars of Ganges water, which they pour upon the head of the idol. When they have finished the crowd breaks forth into another great shout of adoration, and many prostrate themselves before the god. The Snana Jatra, or bathing festival, is now over, and those who have no offerings to make to Jaganatha’s shrine disperse to their home, or seek hospitality in the town of Serampore. The Brahmins wipe their idol and carry it back to the temple, where his altar is soon piled with heaps of silver and offerings of sweetmeats or flowers; the priests loudly assuring the pious donors that their liberality has freed them from transmigration and secured them Jaganatha’s eternal favour.

But the Snana Jatra is only the prelude to a more important ceremony. About a fortnight later, or on the second day of the new moon in the month Ashara, the Ratha Jatra, or car festival, commences. All this time crowds of pilgrims lounge about Serampore and the vicinity, and the village of Mahesh presents the appearance of a daily fair. Both sides of the road are lined with temporary booths, in which all sorts of wares are offered for sale. For a few pice one may purchase pictures of all the Hindoo divinities, to whose native deformities and hideousness hill justice is done by the aid of flaring red and yellow paint. The little nicknacks of the English country fair are displayed in tempting array. Here a plump Bengalee belle stands fascinated by a scrap of looking-glass, which she conjures the merchant, by the gods and by all that he holds dear or sacred, to let her have for two annas less. Ryots purchase their small stock of clothing for the year, or buy bangles and other ornaments for the women of their families. There are, of course, crowds of religious mendicants, who squat by die wayside, howling the praises of Jaganatha, and swaying their bodies to and fro in religious ecstasy. A small earthen jar or a tray lies before each devotee, to hold the alms of the charitable. Other beggars attempt to excite compassion by exhibiting their sores or deformities, and the good-natured Bengalee is easily melted to charity by a tale of woe, provided he has anything in his pocket. Even Islam is represented by a fakir or two, who have strolled hither, partly to see the fun, partly perhaps in the hope of sharing in the largesses of their Hindoo brothers in trade.

To obtain a good sight of the car festival, one must be early on the spot. The crowds on this occasion are far larger than at the Snana Jatra. Sometimes as many as from twelve to twenty thousand are assembled; and a quarter of a century ago, the average attendance must have been at least double the latter number. It must not, however, be imagined that all these people are there for the purpose of adoring Jaganatha, or that they have any expectation of obtaining those blessings which the Brahmins promise to the followers of the god. Many have come to buy and sell; more still for the sake of seeing the pageant and of sharing in the frolics of the festival; and a very large number for no earthly reason other than that they have always done so, as had their fathers before them. But there is a goodly sprinkling of really devout worshippers, distinguishable rather at the outset by their grave and reverential demeanour, than afterwards, when the whole gathering has become more or iess intoxicated by excitement

Serampore boasts of two rathas, or cars, standing within a quarter of a mile of each other. They belong to rival temples, and each numbers its own host of friends and dependants. The cars are huge towers, thirty or forty cubits high, tapering in tiers to a round turret, in which the god takes his seat when he goes for an airing. They are drawn by twenty or four-and-twenty clumsy wheels beneath the base. The sides of the car are decorated with rude paintings, generally illustrating the amatory exploits of Krishna, and neither delicate nor artistic in character. Long cables, thicker than a steamer’s hawser, extend for three or four hundred yards in front, and the crowd presses round the ropes, eager to secure a chance of pulling. The car is crowded with Brahmins and musicians, all in holiday attire, and decorated with flowers. The topmost chamber is veiled, to conceal the idol, who has been hoisted up sans ceremonie, and whom the priests are preparing for his journey. Since he was bathed at the Snana Jatra, Jaganatha has been under the treatment of his physicians for a severe cold, say the priests; and to-day he will take carriage exercise, to aid his recovery. A visit is paid to his mistress, Radha, whose temple stands at Radha-ballabhpore, a hamlet on the Hooghly about a mile from the oars. While the music and shouting of the crowd mark each stage of preparation for the start, fresh arrivals continue to swell the throng. The local magnates come in carriages and palanquins, and the neighbouring Bengalee squires attend mounted upon elephants and followed by a ragged array of retainers, who cany rusty spears and pikes, that might, from their look, have done service in the Mahabharata. The officious Brahmins hang chaplets round the necks of those great personages, and usher them to a place of honour close to the car. By-and-by, Jaganatha’s golden arms are brought from the temple and hoisted up to the top of the car. Two clumsy wooden horses, with their legs outstretched as if in the act of galloping, next make their appearance, and are yoked by stout ropes to the front of the car. At last all is completed. Jaganatha is unveiled, and the ugly little god, accompanied by his brother and sister, Balarama and Subhadra, is ready to start The officiating Brahmins take their places on the front of the car, a postillion bestrides each of the horses, a gong is loudly clashed, and the word given to pull. The car creaks and sways, but still remains rooted to the spot, although a thousand arms are strained to remove it At last the soil, rather than the car, yields, and with a loud, hollow rumble the huge mass is set in motion. Men pull for very life, as the Brahmins urge them to greater exertions. Before the car a band of young men are dancing and singing the praises of Jaganatha; behind, crowds are rushing to gather handfuls of the sacred soil upon which the car has stood for the preceding twelve months, which is regarded as a specific for all mortal ailments. The drawers soon halt to take breath, and a procession has meanwhile departed to meet the god Krishna, who comes forth from another temple to greet “the Lord of the World.” Loud shouts of “Hurree bol, Hurree bol!” are heard as they advance; the repetition of the word Hurree, an epithet of Krishna, being esteemed by the Hindoos an act of high religious merit. The image of the black, flute-playing divinity with his mistress, Radha, by his side, is lifted up to the top of the car, and placed beside Jaganatha. The procession again moves on. But the way is too long for drawing the ponderous conveyance all the road to Ballabhpore, and when the car has been dragged to a decent distance, the image is taken down and carried upon men’s shoulders to its destination. For eight days Jaganatha tarries at Radha’s shrine; at the end of that period the image is replaced in the car and driven back to the temple in the same state as the god quitted it, although the crowd is far less than upon the other two occasions. The last ceremony is known as the Ulla Ratha. I do not know that there is an iota of difference between the sanctity of the two shrines; and yet I have no doubt that the guardians of each car piously thank the gods that they and their shrine are not as the others and their shrine. One cannot help feeling a sort of pity for the priests who are doomed to sit so glum and dour-like, listening to the applauding shouts of their rival’s votaries, and compelled to wait until the other car has reached its destination, before they themselves can get out of the bit But the Black Age has indeed begun for Brahminism.

But what of the disgusting and licentious rites which are generally said to be inseparable from the Ratha Jatra ? License there does prevail to a certain extent, and even dissipation, but not in a greater degree than was to have been expected among so large and varied a gathering; and not more than we may see any day in an English or Scotch fair among a twentieth of the number. The orgies and excesses alluded to by older visitors do not in the present day exist; or if they do, public opinion compels them to be carried on apart from the gaze of the community.

A little gambling occasionally goes on, and the simple ryot often has his pocket cleaned out by some astute swindler from the Calcutta gambling houses. Mr. Ward, the colleague of Carey and Marshman, mentions an instance in the early part of the present century of a Bengalee selling his wife into slavery to supply him with money to gamble away at the Serampore Jatra; but the law now prevents gambling from being carried on in public. In former days wretched mortals used to seek relief from the evils of life by prostrating themselves before Jaganatha’s car; and there can be little doubt that the Brahmins added to the number of victims by deluding the miserable with hopes of immediate and eternal bliss if they were crushed to death beneath its ponderous wheels. The police regulations now render self-murder in this form impossible, nor can any accident take place except by the merest chance. Of late years only two instances of death have occurred, in 1865 and in the present year; and in both cases a judicial inquiry showed that no suicide had been contemplated.

But is there not something disgusting in a gathering so essentially idolatrous? Upon this point a high authority, Mr. Routledge, the Indian correspondent of the Times, has spoken so well and so decisively, that I cannot do better than reproduce his testimony. Writing of the last Ratha Jatra he says:—

“Poor folk! would anybody grudge them the pleasure of their annual Mela? Perhaps it is not refined, perhaps not very enlightened; but they evidently enjoyed it, as they sat and laughed and chatted at their tent doors. For two miles it was one vast scene of— what shall-we-call-it? Enjoyment? Yes, we do not doubt it in the least—enjoyment, too, of a kind that we have no right to interfere with, for it was as staid, and respectable, and decorous as an Exeter-Hall meeting. Nobody ran against anybody else intentionally, no rude boys jostled the women, as they do in the High Street, Islington, London. The women, tired as many of them seemed, carried big babies, some of whom could have walked as well as their mothers, and evidently carried them without a murmur. Low, debasing, brutalising? Very likely, but we saw nothing of the kind. A remarkable phase of human nature, resting on old traditions in the sacred books, extending back through the mists of ages, and yet containing about as little of the sacred and the solemn as it is easy to conceive of a festival. Of course, one ought to be shocked at the Juggernaut Car; it is proper and respectable, and we are really sorry that after trying our very best we could not be shocked. We tried hard, looked as gruff as possible, tried to feel sour; but the sight of those wee lads and lasses, growing up ts something; of those men and women, happy in their way for a day or two, drove all the grimness and gravity away. One thing alone we missed of the attractions of an English fair, and we mention it as a hint to our Hindoo friends of the greatness and comfort that await them when they can once arrive at this one point of perfection. We regret to say that over the long two miles of road, with quiet bye-roads here and there, striking off and peopled, there was not one grog-shop, not one tent licensed to sell foreign and British spirits, wholesale and retail. Strange to say, too, over the whole line of road we did not see one person the worse for liquor?"

This is a very different picture from the lachrymose descriptions usually given of Jaganatha and his car, but it is not the less a true one. The man who can look with sourness upon an assembly of his fellow-men so bent upon enjoying themselves as the Hindoos at the Ratha Jatra, is not to be envied for his feelings. It is of course to be deeply regretted that a national festival should contribute to the support of idolatry and superstition among the masses; but because we deplore this, are the people to go without their holiday? Tell the Bengalee how absurd it is to believe that divinity resides in yonder misshapen log of nim-wood, and he at once admits it, or with a shrug of the shoulders declines to discuss the subject. But descant to him upon the impropriety or sinfulness of dragging Jaganatha’s car, and his national and sentimental feelings are at once aroused, and argument with him becomes impossible. “The first Christian missionaries doubtless told your British forefathers how improper and wicked it was of them to hang the mistletoe in their houses at Yule tide,” said a clever young Hindoo once to the writer; “for it was an idolatrous custom, and symbolical of the rites of a false religion. But the British gathered the mistletoe centuries after Druidism was dead and buried, and India may see Jaganatha’s car pulled as heartily centuries after Hinduism has gone the same road.”

However correct this may be, it is proper that some distinction between the principle and the practice of the Ratha Jatra should be observed, and that the growing tendency of the festival to become a harmless gathering, and the rites of Jaganatha a mere idle pageant, unconnected with religious and devotional belief, should meet with recognition. As a matter of fact the popularity of the festival has of late years declined, chiefly on account of the religious significance attached to its exercise, but as these feelings decay, there is every probability that the Ratha Jatra will again commend itself, as a great national holiday, to the educated classes who at present withhold their countenance from its celebration.

Alex Allardyce

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