Baripada: The Ratha Jatra of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra has been celebrated in various places in Odisha, in other states of India and many countries across the globe with religious fervour and gaiety. Though “Ratha Jatra in Puri” is the showpiece event, the celebration of this festival in Baripada, the headquarters of Mayurbhanj district in Odisha, is unique for its distinctive culture and rituals.
Baripada’s Ratha Yatra is widely popular because only women devotees pull the chariot of goddess Subhadra from Jagannath temple to the Gundicha temple here in a symbolic affirmation of women power. Women devotees are seen pulling the chariots with great vigour and enthusiasm. This unique culture in this city not only attracts lakh of people from the neighbouring districts, but also from other states like Jharkhand and West Bengal.
Notably, the-then District Collector of Mayurbhanj Bibekananda Patnaik had taken the initiative to reserve the pulling of the chariot of Goddess Subhadra for women devotees in 1975 during the Emergency.
Incidentally, two powerful women leaders in the country were occupying important offices during 1975. Indira Gandhi, the only woman Prime Minister of India, and Nadini Satapathy, the only woman Chief Minister of Odisha were holding their respective positions that year.
More importantly, the United Nations (UN) had designated 1975 as the International Women’s Year.
Baripada is also widely known as the Second Srikshetra in the state. It is believed that this city has been conducting Ratha Jatra for the last 500 years, the second oldest after world famous Puri Ratha Jatra. In terms of the number of devotees during the annual Ratha Jatra and the size of the chariots too, it stands next only to Puri.
Baripda Ratha Jatra certainly inspires women towards greater participation in various festivals and cultural activities in the state and abroad.