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Ratha yatra: A chariot festival

To focus on the Hindu festival of Ratha Yatra and celebrate a shared sense of community.

by Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To focus on the Hindu festival of Ratha Yatra and celebrate a shared sense of community.

Preparation and materials

  • Images and/or video clips of Ratha Yatra can be found on the Internet and used during the assembly, subject to copyright status. Further information about the festival can be found at http://rathayatra.co.uk
  • You could introduce the assembly by showing some images of local carnival parades or summer outdoor events.

Assembly

  1. Show the children the suitable images you have gathered, if using, and refer to the enjoyment provided by local outdoor events. Explain how, during June and July (the exact dates vary) Hindus gather in London and India to celebrate Ratha Yatra – a joyful outdoor chariot festival.
  2. llustrate how huge, brightly coloured chariots (or carts) are pulled through the streets. They carry the sacred image of Jagganath, Lord of the Universe. (Jagganath is another name for the much-loved Lord Krishna.) The deities of Subhadra and Balarana, Krishna’s sister and brother, are also brought out from the temples to be honoured and worshipped in the procession.
  3. People travel long distances to be a part of Ratha Yatra. Thousands make pilgrimages to the Jagannath Temple in Puri, on the east coast of India, where the tradition of holding processions is over two thousand years old. The celebration held in London attracts large crowds, as do events organized in other cities.
  4. The children might be invited to share their experiences if they have taken part in a Ratha Yatra procession. 

    Reflect that, within the crowd:

    – people pull together (as they pull the rath)
    – they chant together
    – they dance together
    – they share food together
    – they are happy together.

    Ratha Yatra is a time of community, meaning that everyone feels at one and in harmony together.
  5. Observe that any outdoor festival requires long hours of preparation, lots of hard work and many helping hands. The London Ratha Yatra procession requires many volunteers. Explain that a ‘volunteer’ is someone who gives time and effort freely to help others. Refer back to any local or school outdoor events you may have mentioned in the introduction. Explain that a sense of community grows wherever people with a shared interest and aim work happily together.

Time for reflection

Invite everyone to reflect on being part of a school community. Conclude with this thought, which may be offered as a prayer.

May our work together,
our sharing of friendship,
our respect of faith,
our help for one another,
and our concern for others,
create harmony and happiness
today and every day.

Song/music

‘The Peace Prayer’ (Come and Praise, 140)
‘As one’ (Songs for Everybody, Out of the Ark Music)

Publication date: July 2013   (Vol.15 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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