car festival by muslim: sign of communal
Ajit | 11 Aug 2008

When non-hindus are not allowed to entered the shrine of lord Jagannath of Puri, a muslim family of a remote village of the state has When talk of Orissa comes every one remembers the car festival (Ratha Yatra) of Lord Jagannath of Puri which is perhaps t


car festival by muslim: sign of communa
When non-hindus are not allowed to entered the shrine of lord Jagannath of Puri, a muslim family of a remote village of the state has When talk of Orissa comes every one remembers the car festival (Ratha Yatra) of Lord Jagannath of Puri which is perhaps t

Head line: Car festival of Remanda: Sign of communal harmony
Sub line: A Muslim family organizes the Hindu festival every year and villagers jointly celebrate the festival.

By line: Ajit Nayak

When talk of Orissa comes every one remembers the car festival (Ratha Yatra) of Lord Jagannath of Puri which is perhaps the biggest festival of the state. Car festival is being organized every corner of the state but again it is of Puri that attracts every one to witness the famous festival. Though Jagannath is considered the Nath (lord) of the Jagat (universe), only Hindus are allowed to enter the Puri temple. So for the non-Hindu devotees Lord comes out from the temple every year during Rath Yatra to give them darsan. When lord Jagannath is untouchable to non-Hindu in Puri, can you believe in the same land a Muslim family performs all rituals during Ratha Yatra and the head of the family performs the Chhera Pahara (sweeping ground before arrival of lord Jagannath). Not for a year or two but since last 4 generations a family belongs to Muslim community organizes the festival and people of the village celebrates the festival as if every one in the village belongs to one community i.e. Human. If you won’t believe, than visit please make a visit to Remda, one of the remote village in Jharsuguda district about 340 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar to ascertain the truth.

“I belong to Muslim community but since I am the gountia (head) of the village I must perform my duty what my fore fathers were doing earlier as head of the village” informed Mohammed Zamir-ul-lah. “Whether it is Id or Nuakhai (Hindu festival) we never feel any differences as the enthusiasm and happiness remain same in every occasion” Mr. Zamir-ul-lah described.

According to him, he has been witnessing the ritual of performing Ratha Yatra by his family since his childhood and slowly it becomes the part of his life. He witnessed how his grand father and father were organizing the Rath Yatra in his village being the head of the village. “I have seen those days and it became part of my life. I became a devotee to lord Jagannath.” Zamil-ud-din told.

The fore father of Zamir-ul-lah was working in the courtship of the Nagpur estate and the entire region of the state was under the Nagpur presidency. Masud Ali, the great grand father of Zamir was working as a munsif under the presidency prior to 1857 when he was allotted the Zagir of the 6 villages of the Remanda panchayat and he became the Gountia of the village. Though he was from Muslim community he was immediately accepted by the villagers for his politeness on simplicity.
After the death of Masud Ali his son Md. Hanif became the Gountia of the village and it is he who decided to organize Ratha Yatra in the village on the suggestion of the villagers. “I do not remember when the Yatra was begun in the village but since my child hood I remembered how my grand father was busy to organize the Yatra in the village” Zamir told recalling his childhood experience. During that I heard from the villagers that my grand father Hanif was the initiator of the Yatra in the village. By that time the lord Jagannath was brought from the Kulshar village (now submerged in the Hirakud dam) to perform yatra. To keep the idol of lord Jagannath, a small thatched house was constructed which was later converted to a temple (Gudi).

After the demise of Hanif the charge of organizing the Ratha Yatra was passed on to his son Khalil Gountia who taking the responsibility organized the festival smoothly every year.. But to his bad luck Kulshar village was submerged with the constrction of the famous Hirakud dam in 1957, so he decided to bring the idol of Jagannth from another nearby village Sunari. But with in few years when the villagers of Sunari decided to organize Ratha Yatra in their village, the gountia family finding no alternative purchased 3 idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra to continue the festival. The idols are kept in the Sunari village and are brought to the Ramanda village during Ratha Yatra. The idols are kept in the gudi (temple) constructed in the village only during the Yatra and returned back to the Sunari village after the completion of the Yatra. However the Remanda temple remains empty during other period.

“This is perhaps the only Jagannath temple where god remains only for few days during the Yatra time as the idols were taken back to the Sunari village after completion of the Ratha and Bahuda Yatra” informed a villager Purna Saa.

The present gountia Zamir-ul-lah began a new tradition in the Ratha Yatra after he became the gountia of the village following the death of his father Khalil in the year 1983. Zamil was started performing the ritual of Chhera-Pahara (sweeping before the god) during the Ratha Yatra. “Earlier my fore fathers were organizing the festival but I decided to make my self completely involved in the ceremony” Zamil said.

“I do not find any differences between the festivals of Hindu or Muslim community. In our village people of both communities celebrate each and every function with out making any differences. I see Nuakhai in the Id festival and Id in the Nuakhai festival’ said Wakilur Nisha, wife of gountia Zamir-ul-lah. Coming from an orthodox Muslim family of Sundergarh, Nisha was overwhelmed when she first participated in the Ratha Yatra as the wife of Zamil.

But now over a period of 30 years Ratha Yatra becomes her own festival and she does not find any difference in their functions with the functions of Hindu community. “There is absolutely no difference in our villages and every one lives peacefully because of our tradition that teaches every one to cooperate each other” she informed.

The son and daughter of Zamil are now grown up and they are also taking part in the organization of Ratha Yatra. “I do not know which community I belongs to. I am fortunate to born in such a family where you are not required to teach communal harmony but you will experience it from the very childhood” Ms. Heena Kausar reacted. She has already completed her master drgree and continuing her M.Phil in Sambalpur University.

When the entire world is reeling under communal violence, the simple villagers of Remanda never experience any kind of communal tension among them because of their traditional value. “I have never heard any kind of tension among us. Here we never see any difference between Muslim or Hindu people as we feel we are one” 70 years old Mangalu Kanta described.

However one can find a slight difference in the scheduled date of the Ratha Yatra. Here Ratha Yatra is organized on the 5th day of Ashadh unlike the 2nd day in other places. This year the festival was scheduled on 7th July. “I do not know why this change” Zamil said adding ‘perhaps to get a large gathering of devotees such changes might have taken place during the inception of the Yatra”.

When for a non-Hindu, it is a dream to enter the Puri temple, here in Remanda, people show what communal harmony actually means to. They feel proud to become a part of a rare tradition. (The End)