During Orissa's famous Rath Yatra, chariots carrying the idols of lord Jagannath, lord Balabhadra and godess Subhadra are taken through the streets of towns and villages. But in Bhadrak district the festival was observed without a chariot.
In Kuansha village of Bhadrak district, about 130 km from Bhubaneswar, the chariot festival was observed Monday at the Jagannath temple constructed at a cost of Rs 2.6 million.
The money to build the temple was donated by an American devotee Julian Parker, who has been renamed Jahnava Nitai Das after joining the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) sect.
Several followers of lord Jagannath from abroad gathered in Kuansha, along with the villagers, to seek the god's blessings.
"This year we observed the festival without a chariot. Due to the lack of space and manpower we could not organise the festival completely. We have decided to organise it in a grand manner from the coming year," Parker told IANS.
"I observe all the functions and pujas of lord Jagannath round the year according to Jagannath culture. The famous Rath Yatra was also observed with all rituals including Snana Ustav, Netra Ustav and Nava Jouvan Ustav, which are followed in the Puri temple," Parker said.
The 35-feet high temple built by Parker has three seven-feet idols, which are exact replicas of those in Puri. "I decided to build the temple because foreign devotees who have sacrificed their own religion and adopted Sanatan Dharma are barred from entering the temple in Puri," Parker said.
He added that there was no discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, religion and sex in Jagannath culture.
The devotees who thronged Kuansha enjoyed the festival a lot. "I observed the festival here in a spiritual atmosphere," said Ananta Mika, a Chennai-based businessman who came here with his family.
"Our mission is to spread Jagannath culture and spiritual knowledge through this temple and its ashram. We have plans to set up another grand temple in Bhadrak with an 8,000 sq. feet hall and 110 feet high dome," Laxmikanta Sahoo, Parker's father-in-law and another Iskcon devotee, told IANS.
Parker, who hails from Los Angeles, US, is the founder of the Bhaktivedanta Ashram, which has branches in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Parker has been living in Kuansha since 2000 after he married Tapaswini Sahoo.