Cuttack: The age-old Rath festivities have become "younger" in the Millennium City. Children in Cuttack have outdone adults in their enthusiasm for organizing the annual car festival.
Kids take the sole responsibility of constructing the chariots, worshipping the deities, performing the rituals and pulling the chariots. And this is not practised in one part of the city, but thousands of such chariots of myriad sizes roll on the street of Cuttack on Rath Yatra day.
Thirteen-year-old Subharansu Kar and his friend, Chandan Sahoo (14), had worked all of last week on their chariot. They made some savings from their pocket money to paint the chariot and their parents also contributed their bit to the boys to buy fruits for offering prasad to the sibling deities.
"We saw Lord Jagannath's chariot and wanted to make one of our own. Two years ago, we prepared it with card board and velvet paper. But now we have converted it into a wooden one. It's great fun," said Chandan.
While some children indulge in the festivities for fun, others prepare the chariots to show their devotion towards Lord Jagannath.
"Every year, our relatives go to Puri for darshan of the lord during Rath Yatra. They, however, don't take me because of the heavy rush. But I also wanted to pull the chariot like the elders. Therefore, I took the help of a few friends to construct a rath this year," said 12-year-old Bikash Patnaik. "A carpenter in our area helped us in constructing the chariot and my neighbours also contributed money for it," added the Class VII student.
Economic conditions notwithstanding, these young devotees would not let anything dampen their fervour. "We don't have enough money and therefore we have prepared only one small chariot. We have placed clay idols of the trinity in the chariot. After completing the rituals, we take the chariot around our colony amidst the sound of couches and ghantas. It gives us immense pleasure as passers-by offer prasad to our deities," said Pratik, a resident of Badambadi.
The efforts of the children have impressed several people. "It's a very old tradition and I am happy that our younger generation are also interested in preparing and pulling the chariots. Hence, I contributed some money to encourage these kids," said SK Mohapatra, a retired government employee.
Priests, too, have given their approval to these child devotees because "all raths mean the same." Pitambar, a priest, said, "The Lord is there both in the big and the small raths. Jagannath is god of the masses and even children are also rolling these chariots out of devotion."