RathYatra or ‘The Festival of Chariots’ is celebrated annually in Puri situated in the state of Odisha, India. Lord Jagannath is the main deity worshipped in this festival. One can see the influence of Lord Jagannath in the ways and life of the people of this place. Every year lakhs of devotees come to participate in the holy festival of RathYatra.
Lord Jagannath, his sister Goddess Subhadra and elder brother Balabhadra are taken on a tour around the city of Puri in 3 different chariots. This is the reason why the festival is known as the ‘Festival of Chariots’.
The festival is commonly known as GundichaYatra, Dasavatara, Chariot Festival or NavadinaYatra and is celebrated in the month of June or July every year.
Indians as well as foreigners flock in huge numbers to get a glimpse of the idol of Lord Jagannath. It is said that a slight glimpse of the idol assures a good year ahead.
The temple is one of the few temples in India in which the idol of the deity is taken outside of the temple premises. The main motive behind is practice is that even the old, handicapped and ailing devotees will get a chance to catch the beauty and divinity of the Lord.
History behind Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra
Jagannath Puri RathYatra is one of the most religiously and spiritually sound festivals held countrywide. The traces of this festival can be found in the ancient Hindu Puranas including Padma, Brahma and SkandaPurana.
Every year this festival is organized to fulfill the wish of Lord Krishna to visit his birthplace, Mathura. It is one of the grandest festivals celebrated in India. This year RathYatra was celebrated on 14th July.
Rituals Involved in Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra
Various rituals are carried out before the idols are taken around the city. The 3 idols are given a ritualistic bath and kept in isolation for a few days as they are considered ill around this time. On the day of the RathYatra the King of Puri brings the idols out of the temple. He decorates the chariot with flowers and sweeps the floor with a golden handle broom. He then sprinkles sandalwood water on the ground near the chariot. This ritual is known as the ChheraPahara and signifies the equality of the people in the eyes of the Lord.
The Jagannath Puri Chariots explained
The chariots are an integral part of the whole festival. They ensure the ritualistic beginning and end of the holy journey. The chariots are made out of the wood from fig trees. Three chariots are made to carry the three different deities. They are decorated by the local artists. Lord Jagannath’s ‘rath’ is the biggest of them all. These chariots are pulled by ropes attached to them by thousands of devotees.
The first one is known as the NandigoshaRath, the vehicle of Lord Jagannath. It has 16 massive wheels and is at a height of 44 feet. The characteristic feature of this chariot is that it is embodies in red and red, which are the favourite colous of Lord Jagannath. This chariot is guarded by Garuda and the charioteer is Daruka.
The second one which carries Lord BalaBhadra is known as the TaladhwajaRath. The wagon is embellished with red and blue-green clothes. Basudev is the guard and Matali the charioteer. It has 14 wheels and is 43 feet high.
The third and the smallest of the 3 chariots is the DarpadalanaRatha carrying Goddess Subhadra. The chariot has 12 wheels and is 42 feet high. The chariot is guarded by Jayadurga and the charioteer is Arjun. The rath is adorned in red and black clothes.
The chariots look spectacular together. Thousands of devotees pull the chariots. It is said that initially Lord Jagannath’s rath doesn’t move no matter how many devotees pull it. There is a hierarchy maintained while pulling the chariots. Lord Balaram’s chariot is pulled first Goddess Subhadra’s followed by Lord Jagannath’s chariot.
The Holy Procession
The Jagannath RathYatra starts from the Jagannath Temple and ends at Gundicha temple. The distance from Puri to the Gundicha temple is 3km. Once the deities reach their birthplace(Gundicha temple), they rest there for a period of 9 days. After completion of the mentioned period they are taken back in the same way. The return journey is called BahudaYatra. On their way back theyhalt at their aunt’s place to grab a snack. The name of their aunt’s temple is MausiMaa Temple and the snack served to them is known as PodaPeetha, a sweet pancake.
Jagannath Puri RathYatra isn’t just limited to the idea of festival but it has a bigger picture to it. It signifies brotherhood and equality. Any person irrespective of his or her colour, class, sex or creed gets a chance to experience the Lord’s magnificence and love.
The live telecast of the Yatra is aired all over India and in the local channels of Odisha. The devotees celebrate this festival with great joy, love and devotion. The holy feeling of love for the divine is seen in the eyes of every person participating in the Yatra and this is what makes the festival all the more pious.