The green chariot carrying Jagannath, Subhadra and Balaram is hurled through the mud and grass covered ground of Baruipur Rash Math. Rath Yatra in this region dates back to over 400 years and this is the only place among several villages in South 24 Parganas that observes this festival. The fair is an equally popular event and attracts people from far through the seven days from Rath Yatra to Ulta Rath.
The Roychowdhury’s are zamindars of Baruipur who migrated from Rajpur, a few kilometres away, sometime around 1793. “Durgacharan Roy was the first to leave Rajpur when the family lost all property there. He settled with his family at the kachari bari in Baruipur. Durga Charan asked Mr Hamilton to design a mansion for his family in Baruipur. When he left Rajpur, he brought with himself the family deity Anandamoyee Kali, Bishalakshi and Singhabahini. Radha Krishna and Jagannath temples were established here,” said Shakthi Roychowdhury, the chairman of Baruipur Municipality, who is also a member of the family. Rath Yatra was also observed in Rajpur and the tradition continues even today in Baruipur.
The now almost forsaken zamindar’s mansion adjoining Rash Math has temples dedicated to Anandamoyee, Radha Krishna and Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra. The three deities are taken out of the temple on their annual tour of Mashir Bari on Rath Yatra. “Preparations begin from Snan Yatra. The deities are bathed in water collected from seven rivers and mixed with coconut water, rose water and perfume,” said Roychowdhury.
On Rath Yatra, Brahmins, called Khepur Brahmins, who have been inhabitants of Baruipur for many centuries on the patronage of the zamindars, are the only ones who are permitted to carry Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra to the chariot. “This is their job. Noone else can touch the deities except these Brahmins,” said Roychowdhury. Mashir Bari is at a stone’s throw. “The chariot is pulled through the day at different times to reach that spot. At night the deities come back to the temple and return to the rath on Ulta Rath,” said Roychowdhury. The priest or purohit at the Roychowdhury family works here by way of his lineage. “I perform the daily puja at the Anandamoyee, Radha Krishna and Jagannath temples here. My uncle has given me this responsibility before he died. Rath Yatra is a very old tradition that the family is still maintaining and the fair is equally old and popular,” said Gopinath Chakraborty, the purohit.