What is ‘Juggernaut’?

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Jagannath Temple, Puri. Photo by Abhishek Barua/Modified under CC license 3.0 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jagannath_Temple,_Puri

Jagannath Temple, Puri.
Photo by Abhishek Barua/Modified under CC license 3.0


Juggernaut: Pronunciation: /ˈdʒʌɡənɔːt/ 


  1. A large, heavy vehicle, especially an articulated lorry
  2. A huge, powerful, and overwhelming force
  3. Old-fashioned name for Jagannatha*
  4. A publishing company that breaks a few rules

In the 14th century, a European traveller’s account contained an interesting (and also very Temple-of-Doom-sounding) account of a festival in India, in which devotees threw themselves under the gargantuan wheels of a chariot of the gods. We now know this account is apocryphal, but the imagery of a larger-than-life divine chariot, rumbling across as the ground shakes beneath it, had come into the English language with The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. The three chariots of Lord Jagannath, Subhadra and Balarama were known to Hindus since centuries, but the loan word ‘Juggernaut’ was firmly enshrined in English when Charlotte Bronte used it quite literally in Jane Eyre to describe ‘heathens’ who kneel before the god Juggernaut. And with one of the mutants in the X-Men comics naming himself ‘Juggernaut’, it became a part of popular culture.



The English language has liberally interpreted ‘Juggernaut’ to mean ‘an overwhelming force’, sometimes with negative connotations, but the etymological root of the word will differ: Jagannath means ‘lord of the universe’ – one who controls destinies, one who puts the world in motion. Only those who have participated in the Jagannath Rath Yatra in Odisha will know the fervour that envelops devotees as they long for a view of their beloved deities. It is an awe-inspiring moment, as millions await the divine chariots – the pinnacle of their religious lives.

It is this contagious energy of the fabled Rath Yatra that Juggernaut Books recalls – symbolizing the vitality and the chutzpah the business of publishing needs, and bringing in the zip in a new age of reading.



* Pronunciation guide and meanings from Oxford Dictionaries

One Comment

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