Revered Gurujee at 4th Annual Jagannath Rath Yatra, Houston

Odisha Culture Center (OCC) celebrated the glorious Rath Yatra festival of Lord Jagannath at Houston on July 16th, 2011. This was the fourth year of the annual Houston Rath Yatra organized at INDIA HOUSE complex in Houston. OCC is a non profit organization in Houston, Texas dedicated for promoting the heritage if Indian culture along with Odia culture and its values with different forms of festivals, dance and art.

The highlights of this year’s Rath Yatra was the presence of Revered Gurujee Shri Chandrabhabu Sathpathyjee on the day of the event. He addressed the devotees and sought blessings from Lord Jagannath for all. He emphasized the importance of Lord Jagannath as the primordial symbolic God of Odisha and has evolved as culture for people of Odisha and beyond. Jagannath culture does not differentiate between upper and lower castes, rich and poor. It is the total life of Odisha. Literature and music is Jagannath culture based. It embodies a culture of its won. Jagannath culture surpasses the thresholds of religion and beliefs. Gurujee dismissed the prevalent practice of contradicting religion and spirituality with Science. “The ability to comprehend matter and energy convertibility can be achieved through consciousness but the reverse is not possible. Consciousness is a superior and finer element. Spirituality can be achieved from consciousness, devotion and love from heart” said Gurujee.

Another highlight of the event was the performance of Odissi Guru Nityananda Das, who even after losing a leg in a tragic bike accident, awed the audience with his spectacular dance dramas – Priya Sakha and Pangu langhate giri, along with Guru Bijaya Kumar Dash, proving that nothing is impossible in this world. Starting from the 42nd Odisha Society of The Americas convention in Dallas, Odias in USA have promoted the super abilities of Nityananda Das to the audiences in many cities of USA, Houston being one of them. In the last few weeks, Guru Nityananda has been instrumental in bringing consciousness, motivation and interest for the art of Odissi dance like never before. The massive audience attending the Houston Rath Yatra gave a standing ovation to the duo with tears filled in their eyes.

More than 2000 devotees gathered for this year’s event with participation from other organizations of greater Houston community viz. ISKCON, Sita Ram foundation, Nama Dwara, Hindus of Greater Houston and many other prominent Indian Americans. At this year’s ceremony, former India Culture Center president Swapan Dhairyawan maintained the position of ‘king’ and was privileged to sweep the floors (Chhera pahanra) before the chariot was pulled by the Houston devotees. “The main purpose of this Rath Yatra festival is to unite people in its festivity. People from all walks, rich and poor or of any religious beliefs come together under one umbrella and participate in the religious as well as cultural activities,” said Raghu Dass of Orissa Culture Center, organizer of the event

“This year’s cultural program has been taken up a notch with a beautiful stage set under the open sky with the chariot as a backdrop where our guests enjoyed an inspiring dance drama performance by an eminent Odissi Dancer, Guru Nityananda Dash and his group,” said Vijay Pallod, member of The Hindus of Greater Houston.

As the festival culminates this year with thousands of devotees sang and danced to the tunes of ‘Jai Jagannath’ pulling the holy chariot making this the biggest and the most successful event in the last four years, Houstonians await eagerly for the next year’s celebrations. With devotion filled in their hearts, Houstonians will wait for their beloved Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Shubhadra.

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