If you are a comic buff (especially Marvel), you would know of Cain Marko or the ‘Juggernaut’. The gigantic man with superhuman strength, who is unstoppable once he starts to run, and can smash mountains and skyscrapers with ease.

The character’s name is derived from an English word – Juggernaut – which is used to describe something or someone who is powerful and dominant.

The word owes its origin to India – to the temple of Jagannath in Puri, Orissa. The temple is renowned (even today) for its rath yatra, when the idols of Jagannath (a form of Krishna) and his siblings, Balarama and Subhadra, are placed atop massive chariots and taken on a procession around the streets of Puri.

The chariots are of great height and weight, and require the combined strength of hundreds of devotees to be pulled. When Englishmen first saw the festival in the 17th century, they could not understand what it was all about – and thought the festival was actually a cult practice that involved sacrificing people under the chariot’s wheels! Their inability to pronounce the name of the presiding deity, Jagannath, led to the anglicised ‘juggernaut’.

Within a couple of decades, as the Western world began to learn more about India and Hinduism, they realised their error. In 1878, an article in a magazine named Harper’s informed readers that ‘Juggernaut’ was really ‘Jagannath’ and provided the history of the temple at Puri. The article helped to removed the negative perception associated with the temple and the name.

However, the word had found its way into the English vocabulary, and it was here to stay. The word represented a powerful, extremely strong force, and was used to indicate the height of power and dominance. It became a part of popular culture with the appearance of ‘The Juggernaut’ in Marvel’s X-Men comics in 1963.

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