2/15/2010 | India , Karnataka

The Cart Pull: Gokarna

For weeks leading up to this day the massive wood cart parked at the end of Car Street in Gokarna had slowly metamorphosed into its present ornate configuration.  Teams of laborers had constructed an elaborate canopy on the massive wood wheeled platform decorated with splendor fitting enough for the god that would take a ride up and down the street pulled by hundreds of devote followers.  The street was full of people, devotees and tourists alike bought bananas to throw as offerings into the cart, though for priests in the cart and the devotees below it morphed in to a game of doge the flying banana, as volley after volley of bananas hurled past the ducking and swerving Brahmins.  Occasionally one would find its mark to the amusement of the crowd below, a kind of legalized caste war.  Finally the waiting was over and the deity was brought from the temple on a wooden platform adorn with flowers.  After being carried ceremonially around the cart several times it was brought up a long ladder and laid in the seat of honor below the canopy.  The crowds of devotees struggled to offer there coconut offerings to the priests (fortunately for all involved the coconuts were not hurled recklessly like the bananas but rather handed over to the priests).  The crowd was wired with religious fever as devotees took up there places along the long ropes that stretched out in front of the cart.  Initially the police tired to keep the situation somewhat organized but once the massive wheels began to move religious fervor took over and a sold mass of humanity followed the cart as it was slowly pulled down the street.  Devotees danced and chanted in the cart’s wake.  Reaching the end of the street the ropes were moved to the opposite side and the cart was pulled back to the point at which it had started.   It had been weeks of build up and preparations for this event that lasted no more than an hour.   But the devotees wore faces of religious ecstasy, drunk on the intoxication of their faith, and clearly for them they were in the presence of a god at if only for a little while.

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