May 11, 2007


After Alwar, time again for some local lore which brings me to juggernaut . The term is used to describe any literal or metaphorical force regarded as unstoppable that will crush all in its path. In Britain, it is also used to refer to any large and heavy lorry.

The word is derived from the Sanskrit Jagannātha ("Lord of the universe") one of the many names of Lord Krishna . The connection between “lord of the universe” and an “unstoppable destructive force” is rather hard to discern. The story is centered around the ratha yatra(charriot procession) which takes place from the famous Jagannath Temple of Puri, Orissa.This event is an annual procession of chariots carrying the murtis/statues of Jagannâth (Krishna), Subhadra and Baladeva (Krishna's elder brother).

During the British colonial era, Christian missionaries promulgated a fallacy that Hindu devotees of Krishna were lunatic fanatics who threw themselves under the wheels of these chariots in order to attain salvation. Sigh. The religious mudslinging of the bygone era. Such a description was also be found in the popular fourteenth-century work "The Travels of Sir John Mandeville."

The actual fact is that devotees have sometimes been crushed accidentally in the past as the massive 45 foot tall, multi-ton chariot slipped out of control. Many have also been killed in the resulting stampedes. The sight led the Britons to use the word "Juggernaut" to refer to other instances of unstoppable, crushing forces.



Moi said...

i love all these words that have come into English from Indian languages....including palanquin and bungalow, shampoo, cashmere, catamaran .....I think even cheese comes from India
it always makes me smile when i hear non-desis utter words like Guru, mantra...
Good to see u back to the blogging world, Suramya :)

666 said...

welcome back Suramya!

I have been to Puri and well its a must visit. When I was a child everyyear we used to attend the Jagannath Mela in the town where i grew up, and watch the rath yatra a localised version of the real one happening at Puri. Every year I earnestly desired to buy a pet parrot but was always declined. ahh sigh .. please excuse me i guess etymology's not on my mind right now..

radha said...

Really?? I wud've never guessed that jaggernaut comes frm jaggannath!!

suramya said...

moi: not to forget kismet and the current favourite nirvance :):), I think we have contributed quite a few exotic words to the english language, cheese????? really didn't know that.I am happy to be back :)

666: thank you :):)I have seen a ratha yatra in chikmanglur in karnataka, not on such a grand scale, its definately a fun site, hoping to get a glimpse of the "car of juggernaut someday". did you get your parrot anytime later??? :)

radha: neither did I, till I read a clipping in the Hindu, it never struck me though they sound so similar

AlterinG Abhishek said...

oh! its jagannath!!
wow i dinnoe this!!

Jas Bhambra said...

Interesting! Like Swati, I also love the words in the english language that have an east-Indian origins.

It is intersting how much the non-desis say "Karma"! :)

suramya said...

jas : thats how the younger generation in india pronounce it too :), I've been told to employ the accent while using the word, makes it more exotic.