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THE JUGGERNAUT

During the 14th century, British travelers first witnessed a festival held in Puri, India known as Ratha Yatra; their writings describe dozens of religious devotees throwing themselves under the wheels of chariots in hopes of attaining salvation via a spiritual death. The term 'juggernaut' literally means "a crushing force" and what the Brits saw at the temple of JagannAth was most likely the origin of that word. (For a futuristic version of this concept, see the 1976 film "Logan's Run," or a forthcoming remake?, for the death-machine known as Carousel.) Today the Ratha Yatra parade has 45-foot tall chariots that move statues of JagannAth and his siblings, Subhadra and Balabhadra, along a track from temple to garden shrine, to be worshipped and idolized along the way. Every year thousands of brahmins, shudras, muslims and tourists attend the Ratha Yatra; many artisans and artists also visit to build and paint the chariots, or weave fabric covers. Some historians consider the zealot deaths accidental.

 

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