Compiled by London swaminathan

Date: 23 JULY 2018


Time uploaded in London – 17-13  (British Summer Time)


Post No. 5251


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What is the origin of the word Juggernaut?

Meaning in English dictionary:

Definition of juggernaut


1: a massive inexorable force, campaign, movement, or object that crushes whatever is in its path

  • an advertising juggernaut


  • a political juggernaut

2chiefly British a large heavy truck




Juggernaut is derived from Sanskrit word and modern North Indian languages such as Hindi:

Naut here is ‘nath’ Lord of the Universe (Jagath).

The compound jaganath, is a title of the Hindu god, Vishnu, especially in his eighth incarnation as Krishna.


Huge lorries are called juggernaut 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- rath yatra at the town of Puri in Orissa in north East India.


This has been reported by European travellers from 1321 CE and reports mentioned worshippers dying, crushed under the massive wheels.


Western observers’ usually disparaging accounts led to an immediate 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 1979)


During the past 150 years, juggernaut served in a derogatory sense as a verb and an adjective as well as noun.

–Elenore Nesbitt, Senior Research Fellow Religious Education, University of Warwick

The Guardian Newspaper, Notes and Queries, Vol.5, Year 1994


My comments:


First it was used to do propaganda against Hindus by Christian missionaries. Slowly the dictionaries changed the meaning and made it milder and milder.

In fact not many people died in such Rath yatras. The crowd that gathers there is more than the population of several European and Pacific Ocean island countries.

Like they keep on changing the language of The Bible every year and now 200 different types of Bibles are available, the dictionaries also differ. Derogatory sense is left behind.