Written by Pranab Bhattacharya
The Great celebration of the Rath Yatra – ‘The desire of the devotee to pull the chord with the chariot. They Bow down on the road. This is One of the earliest Bengalis traditional program. This festival is held at the beginning of the rainy season. Which is the invention of Dashahara. And when we are talking about the Ratha yatra, it will definitely normal to come to the memory of Jagannath Dev of Puri. With Millions of people this land gains its glory. This is the story of Mahesh’s charioteer in our Bangala. And this is the oldest Rath Yatra festival of Bengal. And who can forget about the ‘Radharani’ of Bankimchandra.
Sree Chaitanyadev spent about twenty-four years in Puri. He became a devotee and took part in the Rath Yatra with “Bhaktikul” (devotees). To Gundicha temple walks the full street with the “naam-sangkirtan” and its glory. In the aftermath of Chaitanyadev, the Rathjatra festival of Jagannath Deva was started in Bangla. We know that Mahishad’s traditional rath yatra, apart from Mahishad, is the traditional rath yatra. There is more. There are many. Rath Yatra is held in almost all the districts. Now the name of the chariot of ISKON is so much famous. However, the Rathjatra festival of Siharsol Rajbari in our district or the zamindari house of Ukhra or the ratha Yatra of Dignagar is very famous. On the east side of the district-Bardhaman – the opening of the Rajbari of the Kanchan town (starting in 1730/34) or the Ratha yatra of Kalna; Ratha yatra is also famous for the Kulin village. Once upon a time, for the pilgrimage of Puri Ratha, the seven-colored jute rope used to send to Puri from the Ramanand Basu family of Kulinagram.
Come back to Mahesh’s words. The famous wealthy Nayanchand Mallik of Calcutta built the famous temple of Mahesh in 1755. The current chariot weighing 125 tons, which is 12 feet of 50 feet height, was built in 1885 under the guidance of Martin-Bern. By 1875 (probably) the Ratha yatra festival was started in Bengal completely. It doesn’t mean that it was not held before. Many said that Swami Dhrishananda have started it 620 years ago. But ‘Dwadash Gopal’ or the first Kamalaksh Pipalai of 64 Mohant, established the temple of Mahesh in 1533. In ancient India, chariot racing was common. In his statement, Fahion wrote about 20 chariots of Pataliputra together. Buddhist influence on Ratha yatra can not be denied. After much of his Mahapriribirban, the idol of Buddha was introduced by Ratha yatra Bhaktakul(devotees).
In this context, I will tell you about an unknown or short-lived rural rath yatra festival. The Pargana of ancient ‘Gopovumo’ – A little rich in the Jangalmahal of Sainpahari, Ayodhya – listening to the famous brass chariot of brass and the festival centered around its journey. 1754 in Shakabad, in Banakati village (Post Bankaati 713142 Kanska District: Burdwan) Gopalshvara Shivamandir riched in extraordinary terracotta work. Temple of Puncharatna means a temple with five roofs. Construction of this is done by Mukhopadhyay surnamed Brahmin zamindar family. May be 200-250 years ago. Roy; Chattopadhyay; and Mukhopadhyay families are very famous and rich. There is a lot of land and there is a guge income from here. But they came out with the surplus in the business. On the other side of Azay, the name of Elamabazar has turned in “Nami-ganj”. Gala; Cotton; Tasar; Silk; English workers have started the business of cotton textiles and indigo cultivation . French company . Then the business of East India Company in Calcutta was in a high position. All big business kuthi (huts). Then the ‘Jungle Mahal’ of Senapahari was the ‘Lakxa Mahal’. Naturally from the ‘shal’; ‘kul’; ‘Palash’; ‘Kusum’ trees, they could have raw “lakkha” made by the silk-worms. Mainly, indigenous women living in the forest collect tree branches. The “lakkha” gourd is made of “lakkha” gum. Later they learned to cultivate “lakkha” from silk-worms. Because there is good income from here. Roy ; Mukhopadhyay; Chattopadhyay families of Banakati live together in the same place. It’s like a house with twelve rooms. They started the wholesale; Moneylend business. Good wood , charcoal (in the gala industry; in the gold industry, which is specially necessary); “dhuno”, “Kandupata”; Business etc. The average amount of goods is derived from the small boat from the Garajangal to Gar-ghata. In the north of the Banakati, this drain is still exist. Then the drain was enough navigable . For the benefit of this waterway, they made their habitat near the Ajay coast near the water stream.
First goods were stored in Bankati and then they were sent to abroad. Ajay river used to full of boats then. Sometimes boats were anchored at Simultala ghat of Khayerbuni of Illumbazar. Goods were sent to the stores of East India company. And sometimes to the others. They were so experienced that they were used to deal with the company directly. They became rich day by day with their business. They built palaces to live. They set up three different temple of Goddess Shiva, Kali and Vishnu within the period of 50 years. They also constructed two or more ‘Durga Dalan’, temple of Goddess Durga. 12 or 13 small temples also. The construction work started by 1782 and ended by 1834.
The Brass Chariot
Renowned ‘Gopaleswar’ temple was constructed in 1832. Already said, after two years of completing the construction of the temple, Land Lord Mukherjee started making a look-a-like chariot. Probably Ramprasad Mukherjee was landlord then. The construction was started in 1837 and took 5 or 6 months to complete. This is unknown to us, who engineered or made this beautiful chariot, but it can be easily guessed that brass-worker of Tikarbeta and Aduria-Amarpur village, near Joydev-Kenduli and iron workers of Bankati was associated with the project. Though some people says Landlord Mukherjee hired workers from Calcutta for this project.
The Structure of the Chariot
15 feet in height, 8 iron-made wheel, and square shaped structure is about 7 feet in length. The banisters are well decorated. The shape of pitcher is being used in decoration. Also there was two horses and a charioteer made of brass is used to beautify it. Vishnu Chakra is in the top of the chariot. The beauty of the chariot is unimaginable, until you see it. There was designs similar to Pat Chitra. Etching is also being used in decoration. War of Mahabharata is the main theme of the decoration, but there is several social plugins also.
‘Rather Mela’ (The Fair of the Festival)
Then Ayodhya-Bankati started growing as ganj. There were many villages around. People of these villages were used to come there regularly. ‘Rather Mela’ was not the different. Bullock cart was only alternative to walking then. People used to bring the brass chariot from Bankati to Ayodhya. People used to gather there. And the festive mood used to make people feel different. ‘Papad vaja’, ‘gorom gorom jilipi’, etc was the main attraction to the people. And some hand made toys were also the center of attraction to the children.
About 65 years age an accident, is still in the memory of the olds. In the returning of the chariot, a boy had died by crushing in chariot wheel. Now the chariot doesn’t go to Ayodhya. It stays at Hat-Tala of Bankati-Ayodhya. Now people gathers there. The chariot is not in its glorious days. No permanent place to keep the ancient chariot. Conservation is badly need. And govt should look after this with serious attention. Otherwise an ancient artwork will become stale.
Photo Courtesy : Pranab Bhattacharya
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