Lord Jagannath and the English Word Juggernaut

The English Word Juggernaut, which means ‘a massive inexorable force that seems to crush everything in its way’, is derived from the name of Lord Jagannatha. Actually from the Puri Jagannath chariot procession. The chariots pulled during the Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra are really huge and earlier people used to get crushed under the big wheels while pulling it. Friar Odoric, a Franciscan missionary, witnessed one such accident in 14th century and wrote about the huge chariot in a European journal.

Christian Missionaries have contempt for all cultures and the description that Friar Odoric gave of Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra was of one that evokes fear and contempt. He wrote that people jumped in front of the chariot and performed an act of human sacrifice. People began to associate large objects that could not be controlled with the chariots mentioned by Friar Odoric. The word developed a negative undertone.

The word Juggernaut is a mispronunciation of the name of Lord Jagannath plus the result of the wrong spelling entered by Friar Odoric.