You are here


"Car of Juggernaut" (1851) (Source: The Illustrated London Reading Book)

A juggernaut symbolises a literal or metaphorical force or object regarded as unstoppable, that will crush all in its path. This colourful addition to the English language has its origins in the state of Odisha (formerly Orissa) and specifically, in the city of Puri where the ratha yatra is an annual feature.

The story goes that when the British colonials witnessed the Jagganath Ratha Yatra in the 18th century, they were privy to the sight of thousands of devotees thronging the streets of Puri. As the rathas were pulled through the city, a number of people were accidentally dragged under their wheels and crushed. However, amidst the chaos and confusion, the procession continued as if nothing untoward had occurred.

Tales of this exotic festival—presumably, well embellished—travelled back to England and took on a life of their own. Over time, Jagganath was anglicised to Juggernaut and entered common parlance to represent something huge and unstoppable.

Vertical Tabs