The Rathayatra of Mahesh is the second oldest rathayatra in the world and the oldest and biggest in Bengal, having been celebrated since 1396. It is held in Mahesh, a historical locality within Serampore City in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is a week-long festival and a grand fair is held at that time. People throng to have a share in pulling the long ropes attached to the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra on the journey from the temple to Mahesh Gundicha Bari and back within 8th day.
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It was the 14th century. Drubananda Brahmachari, a prominent Bengali sage, went on pilgrimage to Puri. He wished to give Lord Jagannath 'Bhoga' with his own hand. But the Temple authorities forbade him from doing so. Drubananda, heartbroken, resolved to fast till death. In his dream on the third day, he heard the Lord say, "Drubananda, return to Bengal." Mahesh is a village on the banks of the Bhagirathi. I'll send you a massive Daru-Brahma there (Neem trunk). With this trunk, create Balarama, Subhadra, and my Idol. "I am delighted for you to hold 'Bhoga.'"
So Drubanada went back to Mahesh and began his Sadhana. Then, on a terrifying wet night, Daru-Brahma appeared to Mahesh. He dove into the water and got it. Then he created the Holy Trinity Idols and built a Temple.
Sri Chaitanya departed towards Puri after taking sanyas. He came across Mahesh on the way. He lost his senses after visiting Drubananda's Temple and became engrossed in profound Samdhi. Sri Chaitanya named Mahesh 'Naba Nilachal,' which means 'new Puri.' Later, elderly Drubananda asked him to take over the temple. He appointed Kamalakar Piplai, the sixth of his twelve Gopalas, as sebait of the temple at his request. Dhrubananda died a few days later.
The temple is as important as Puri's Jagannath temple. The present Mahesh temple is built on the ruins of the older one. It was built in 1755 by Nayanchand Mallik, a devotee from Pathuriaghata. It is a simple structure of the Rekha Deul style of the Odishan School. The temple has two sets of idols. The original 600-year-old images are not taken out during the Rath Yatra, another set is used. The Chariot at Mahesh is massive and four-story tall. The chariot features nine towers and twelve iron and wood wheels.
The idols in the Mahesh temple do not undergo the Nabakalebar. The three original idols, made by Drubananda Bramhachari, are still in place. However the tradition of ‘angaraga’ or re-anointment takes place once every 12 years.
Two days after the snana yatra and just two weeks before the Rath Yatra, the three-day secret ‘angaraga’ ceremony is held. The idols are repainted using herbal pigments behind closed doors. The artist covers his face and eyes while painting the idols and have only one meal a day for three days.
Mahesh Rath Yatra:
Ramkrishna Dev's famed student Balaram Basu's grandfather Krishnaram Basu is claimed to have presented a wooden chariot to the temple in 1797. A few years later, it was burned down. Two more raths were destroyed, and it wasn't until 1885 that the current iron chariot was erected by the Martin Burn Company, with the help of Krishnachandra Basu, the then Hooghly district dewan of the East India Company.
The building cost two million rupees to build. The ratha temple is a Nabaratna temple with nine shikaras. The ratha is built with a steel structure and hardwood scaffolding. It has twelve iron wheels, each having a circumference of twelve inches. The ratha has four stories, stands 50 feet tall, and weighs 125 tonnes. The front is adorned with two copper horses.
How to plan a visit:
The temple is located very close to Kolkata and is well connected with the city. If you are coming by road you need to come to Serampore.
Mahesh, Serampore, Hooghly-712202, West Bengal, India
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Serampore is located 12 km away from Bally-Dakshineswar crossing which one can easily cover by Auto or Taxi.
Nearest express train station is Howrah, and plenty of local trains ply from Howrah to Serampore.
The nearest airport is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport which is located about 22 Km away. You can take a taxi from the Airport to the Temple.
Temple Timings and Details:
The temple is open throughout the year.
Mangal Aarati: 4:30 am
Bathing and Worship: 7:00 am
Special Puja and Ballobhog: 10:00 am
Sital Bhog: 6:30 pm
The temple is closed: 9:00 pm