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Akhadas rejoice the return of annual Rath Yatra to Ahmedabad

According to Mukesh Hadvaidh (62), the president of Ahmedabad Rath Yatra Akhada Association, there are a total 30 such akhadas in the city.

Rath Yatra in AhmedabadA Muslim man receives 'prasad' from a Hindu devotee during the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath in Ahmedabad. (PTI)

Written by Rashi Mishra

After a break of two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath returned to the streets of old Ahmedabad last week. Of those who rejoiced the occasion the most were the members of the 30-odd akhadas who are considered among the most salient attractions of the yatra every year.

“It is said that we are the jewels of Lord Jagannath, and if we don’t do it, the yatra is incomplete,” said 26-year-old Nirav Solanki from Jai Maa Kali Akhada No. 1 in Dariapur.

“We like doing it, so we do it. No one supports us. All these, barandi (a stick of wood which has two wooden balls at the end), chakkar (a wheel attached with long, free-falling ropes and has wooden balls at the end and swirled by the user), sword-fighting, are displays of defence and also of our culture. We only make these weapons. This is also our hobby,” Solanki added.

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“It is us who the public comes to see from far away places. My father has been participating in the procession since he was 15 years old,” said Solanki.

According to Mukesh Hadvaidh (62), the president of Ahmedabad Rath Yatra Akhada Association, there are a total 30 such akhadas in the city.

“Every year all the 30 akhadas participate in the procession. However, this year only 29 participated as one of the akhada’s head lost his father,” Hadvaith said.

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Solanki said that all the 30 akhadas are registered with the Shri Jagannathji Mandir Trust and all of them, especially the body-builders, practise throughout the year.

Solanki works in a garment shop in Dariapur and his father, Deepak, is a rickshaw driver. In all, he has a family of six that includes his wife, parents, a brother and a sister-in-law.

The tradition of akhadas participating in the Rath Yatra is around 100 years old.

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“Each of these akhadas are maintained by the individual owners on their own. We participate in the yatra as our worship to Lord Jagannath. This time the police were also supportive. We haven’t seen them this cooperative before. It was too good this time,” said Hadvaidh.

“Usually no one encourages us or supports our art. But this time, the Deputy Commissioner of Police Zone 2—Jaydeepsinh Jadeja—with his team called all the akhadas in Shahpur for a meeting 2-3 days before the yatra. They gave us some fruits and protein supplements. This is the first time and they were very supportive,” said Pankaj Purani, a member of Bajrang Akhada No. 3 in the Khanpur area.

Ruing the lack of support in general for akhadas in the city, Hadvaith said, “We do not get much support to maintain these akhadas. There are no proper places to practise, and the people in these akhadas come from economically poor backgrounds.”

First published on: 04-07-2022 at 01:09:52 am
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