Jagannath Rathyatra– the Chariot Festival is a major Hindu festival associated with Lord Jagannath, who is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, held at Puri along the Bay of Bengal in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India. Jagannath Rath Yatra is more than five thousand years old and the most spiritual thing is, the celebration follows all the same rituals from its starting. There would not see any changes in this festival. Traditionally the Rath Yatra festival is celebrated annually in Puri, Orissa. During this world renowned festival, lord Jagannath is worshipped along with his brother lord Balabhadra and Sister Devi Subhadra. Its descriptions can be found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana and Kapila Samhita.
The Puri Rath Yatra is world famous and attracts more than one million pilgrims every year, not only from India but also from the different parts of the world. Rath Yatra Festival is the only day when devotees who are not allowed into the temple can get a chance to see the deities. This festival is a symbol of equality and integration.
Lord Jagannath is worshipped along with his brother Balabhadra and his sister Devi Subhadra in Puri Jagannath temple The festival honours Jagannath’s annual visit to Gundicha Temple via Mausi Maa Temple (aunt’s home) near Balagandi Chaka, Puri. As part of Ratha Yatra, the deities of Jagannath, Balbhadra and Subhadra are taken out in a procession to Gundicha Temple and remain there for nine days. Then the deities or Rath Yatra return to the Main temple. The return journey of Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra is known as Bahuda Yatra.
When is it observed?
The most awaited festival of Rath Yatra is celebrated on Ashadha Shukla Dwitiya (second day in bright fortnight of Ashadha month) as per the traditional Hindu lunar calendar. Jagannath Rath Yatra commences on Sunday, 25th June 2017 and ends with Return Car Festival or ‘Bahuda Jatra‘ on Monday, 3rd July 2017.
According to a popular legend, Lord Jagannath desired to visit his birthplace Mathura once every year along with his brother Lord Balabhadra and sister Goddess Subhadra to show her Mathura on a chariot. This Journey from the Jagannath Temple in Puri to Gundichi Devi Temple in Mathura is known as the Puri Rath Yatra.
Rath Yatra honours Lord Jagannath’s annual visit to Gundicha Mata temple. It is said that to honor the devotion of Queen Gundicha, wife of the legendary King Indradyumna who built the Puri Jagannath
temple, the Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra leave their regular abode in the main temple and spend a few days in this temple built by Gundicha in their honor. Hence this journey is famous as Jagannath
Puri Rath Yatra.
When the British ruled India, they were fascinated by the energy and the enthusiasm of the Puri Rath Yatra festival that they referred it as ‘Juggernaut’ meaning a huge vehicle which would crush
anything that comes in its way because many pilgrims believe that dying under the Rath will attain them instant salvation. However, Juggernaut was derived from the word Jagannath which literally means, ‘The Lord of the World’.
Rath Yatra being unique among all Yatras is the marvellous festival of the supreme Lord. It is to believe that if one takes the glimpse of the Lord during Rath Yatra will be release from the cycle of birth and death.
The pullers of Jagannatha’s Rath (Chariot) are known as Gaudas. These gauda
s pull the Rath with great pleasure. But it is believed that the chariot moves by only the will of the Lord, and not by the strength of any ordinary persons. The Rath Yatra has a great spiritual significance.
The Lord Jagannath with his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and their sister Subhadra are taken to the streets of Puri on this festival so that everyone can have the fortune to see them. The three deities make an annual journey to their aunt’s temple (Gundicha Temple), two km away from Lord Jagannath temple.
The Jagannath Temple in Puri is one among the four most sacred places (Chaar Dhaam) in India. The other three are: Rameshwaram in south, Dwarika in west and Badrinath in north.
On the first day of Jagannath rath yatra the journey will begin from the Jagnnath temple puri when the deities of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balrama and Devi Subhadra, with the celestial wheel (Sudarshana Chakra) are brought out on to the Main Street of Puri known as Bada Danda. There are several rituals involved as part of the entire Puri Car Festival procession. At the beginning is Chera Pahara where Gajapati King cleans the street with golden-handled broom before the arrival of chariots. After this, deities are taken out and placed on superbly decorated chariots, this ceremony is known as Pahandi Vijay. Then the journey commences from the main entrance Singhdwara and the chariots are taken to Gundicha Temple, the main destination.
The gigantic chariots are made of wood that are keenly pulled by devotees through ropes. After nine days stay at Gundicha Temple the return journey commences which is known as Bahuda Yatra. On their way back from the Gundicha Temple, the three deities stop for a while near the Mausi Maa Temple (Aunt’s abode) and have an offering of the Poda Pitha, which is a special type of pancake supposed to be the Lord’s favourite.
The journey back to the Puri Jagannath temple is carried out in the similar manner with final placement of deities back to their sanctum. It should be noted that Lord Jagannath returns to his main abode just before Devshayani Ekadashi, when Lord Jagannath goes to sleep for four months. Rath Yatra is also known as Puri Car Festival among foreign visitors.
It should be noted that rituals of Rath Yatra start much ahead of Rath Yatra day. Approximately 18 days before the Rath Yatra, Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and his sister Devi Subhadra are given famous ceremonial bath which is known as Snana Yatra. Snana Yatra day is observed on Poornima Tithi in Jyeshtha month which is popularly known as Jyeshtha Poornima which was on 9th June 2017.
Jagannath Rath Yatra is an auspicious Hindu festival celebrated every year in India. The Rath Yatra at Puri is a significant event in the entire state that is witnessed by numerous tourists both foreigners and Indians. During the Rath Yatra, Puri is colored in the most vivid hues of sheer joy and enjoyment and is flocked with devotees who wish to pay their honor to the deities and seek their blessings. ‘Pahandi yatra’ is a spectacular event which marks the beginning of Rath Yatra with great excitement filled in the environment of Puri.
The day of the Rath Yatra in Puri is the only day in the whole year when the non-Hindu devotees can have an opportunity to see the gods and goddess of the Jagannath Puri temple.
The festival begins with the invoking ceremony in the morning and the chariot pulling on the roads of Puri in afternoon is the most exciting part of the festival. The three deities have three different chariots – the chariot of Lord Jagannath, Nandighosa has 18 wheels and is 45.6 feet high, the chariot of Lord Balabhadra, Taladhwaja has 16 wheels and is 45 feet high and the chariot of Subhadra, Devadalana has 14 wheels and is 44.6 ft high. During yatra Lord Balabhadra is brought out of the temple first, then Devi Subhadra, then Sudarshan Chakra and lastly Lord Jagannath. The deities reach the Puri temple on Ekadasi day, than attired in new costumes and this new form of the idols is known as ‘Suna Besha’.
Every year the wooden temples like chariots are constructed newly. The idols of these three deities are also made of wood and they are religiously replaced by new one in every 12 years.
The unique Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra sees 3-5 lakh pilgrims every year; Indians as well as foreigners flock in large numbers to get a glimpse of the idols in the chariot. It is believed that those who manage to get a glimpse of the idols will have a prosperous year ahead.