The Puri rath Yatra starts today. India as a country is a strange mixture where religion, traditions, folk lore and customs come together in a cohesive whole. On this day Lord Jaganath ( who is another form of the supreme Hindu God Vishnu) is carried along with his brother Lord Balarama, and their sister Subhadra to their aunt's temple, the Gundicha Temple which is situated at a distance of 2 km from their temple. This is usually a huge spectacle that sees tourists and pilgrims from within India and outside making it to Puri, in Orissa. It's also an opportunity for those who are not allowed inside the temple to see the Gods. Little children in Bengal, Orissa and other Eastern states will play with little toys in the form of the chariot of Lord Jaganath.
But not someone overtly religious, this day is always special to me for another reason. Tradition has it that one this day, everyone should plant a tree/ seed. If planted on this day it's supposed to grow best. Another fascinating example of how the elders used to inculcate scientific methods through simple traditions. (The day is close to the coming of Monsoons in Bengal and Orissa & plants grown at this time have the best chances of surviving.)
I remember how our gardener, would make us put a seed or plant a sapling today while our parents looked on. A simple tradition I follow with my daughter too. Many years ago, we might not have had 'World environment day' but these little traditions ensured that the ecological balance stayed true.
( Image courtesy Google)