The Story of ‘Juggernaut!’

Compiled by London swaminathan

Post no.1878, Date: 20 May 2015.

Most of us know that the word ‘juggernaut’ in the English dictionary is derived from Lord Jaganatha of Puri, Odisha.

If you look at Oxford Dictionary you will get two meanings:-

1.A very large Lorry/Truck

2.A large powerful force or institution that cannot be controlled

British News Paper The Guardian has published the following matter under its question and answer column (Notes & Queries, Vloume 5)

Question: What is the origin of the word Juggernaut?

Answer:

JUGGERNAUT is derived from Sanskrit and modern North Indian languages like Hindi ‘Naut’ here is Lord(nath) of the universe (jagat), the compound Jagannath, is a title for the Hindu god Vishnu, especially in his eighth incarnation as Krishna. Huge Lorries are called juggernauts because the epithet of the deity had come in English to be associated with the enormously heavy chariot (rath) which bears Jagannath in procession at the annual festival (Rathayatra) at the town of Puri (Jagannath Puri) in Orissa in North East India.

This has been reported by European travellers since about 1321 and reports mentioned worshippers dying, crushed under the massive wheels. Western observers’ usually disparaging  accounts led to an intermediate usage of juggernaut for any institution to which persons are ruthlessly sacrificed (OED 1933) before it was applied to ‘a very large lorry for transporting goods by road, especially one that travels throughout Europe’ Collins Dictionary of the English Language 1979). During the past 150 years, juggernaut served in a derogatory as a verb and an adjective as well as a noun.

–Eleanor Nesbit, Senior Research Fellow, Religious Education, University of Warwick.

Brewer’s Book of Myth and Legend add…

The chief festival is the car festival when Jagannath is dragged in his car (35 feet square, 45 feet high) to another temple. The car has sixteen wheels, each seven feet in diameter. The belief that fanatical pilgrims cast themselves under the wheels of the car to be crushed to death on the last day of the festival is largely without foundation. However it has led to the phrase the car of the juggernaut, used to denote customs, institutions etc., beneath which people are ruthlessly and unnecessarily crushed.

My comments: Actually the Christian missionaries published pictures of Jagannath Rath in bad light (throwing people under the wheels) and women thrown into husband’s funeral pyre etc. to justify their conversion agenda.

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