Once a year in the holy town of Puri on the east coast of India, the Gods enter the fray of the common man to mingle with the mob. Claire Prest was in the state of Orissa to experience this frenzied celebration and Chariot Festival first hand…
“Attracting thousands of pilgrims, the annual Festival of Faith is an orchestrated riot of colour, spectacle and sweat. Steeped in folklore and mythology the origins date back centuries, but its significance as a festival ‘of the people’ reigns.
Massive crowds gather on the streets all vying for a chance to set eyes on their Gods. A motley crew linked by faith, devotion in their hearts and sweat on their brow, their anticipation and excitement is palpable.
The grand scale of the festival requires scrupulous coordination from the entire community, all prescribed to pitch in for the BIG event. Immense chariots are erected in the town square meticulously crafted and decorated by master carpenters and artisans. Children writhe in the hands of make-up artists, while dancers and performers drape themselves in rich costumes and musicians polish their instruments.
Leaving the lofty confines of the temple, the sacred deities are carried into the town square in a theatrical display of elaborate ritual. To the tune of percussion, chants and fervent devotion the Gods are seated in their respective chariots and physically hauled through the teeming streets.
The euphoric atmosphere verges on chaos at times, but the cacophony of colour and crowds is as overwhelming as it is enthralling. An assault to the senses, all in good Faith!”
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* photo by Sudipto Das – Intrepid Photography Competition