Jagannath Rath Yatra or Chariot Festival is a hugely popular festival of the Hindus. It is celebrated each year on the second day of the Shukla Paksha in the Hindu month of Asadh, which is the third month of the Hindu lunar calendar of India. It usually falls in the month of June or July.
The epicenter of this festival is the world famous Jagannath Puri Temple in Orissa. In fact, the Jagannath Puri Temple is considered to be one of the four major Hindu shrines called as the “Char Dham.”
The other three being: Badrinath in the Himalayas, Dwarka in West, and Rameshwaram in South. Jagannath Puri is the world’s only temple where you will find statues of three deities who are siblings namely – Lord Krishna, Balaram, and Subhadra.
The Jagannath Rath Yatra is a very popular tourist attraction. Millions of devotees from all across the globe participate in this Chariot Festival.
The Jagannath Rath Yatra is also called Cart Festival, Chariot Festival, Rath Yatra, Gundicha Yatra, Ghosha Yatra, Dasavatara and Navadina Yatra.
The Jagannath Rath Yatra is organized in Puri, Orissa.
Jagannath Rath Yatra is regarded as one of the oldest and grandest procession festivals of the Hindus. It also finds its mention in the Hindu religious texts such as Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and the Skanda Purana.
According to Hindu religious beliefs, it is said that each year Lord Jagannath wishes to visit his birthplace Mathura for a few days. Thus, to fulfill this desire, devotees carry out the Rath Yatra from Jagannath Temple to Gundicha Temple.
On the Rath Yatra day, all the three deities namely Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra are taken out of the Jagannath Temple and are placed in their respective chariots which are kept near the Singhadwar.
The whole procession is performed in a traditional ceremonial manner wherein first Sudarshan, followed by Balabhadra, Subhadra, and lastly, Jagannath is carried to the chariots.
The idols of Lord Jagannath and Balabhadra are made to swing in a forward and backward direction in a manner called ‘Pahandi.’
Procession during Jagannath Rath Yatra
According to Hindu religious beliefs, The Jagannath Puri Temple is known as the ‘Yamanika Tirtha’ where the power of the god of death, ‘Yama’ has been nullified due to the divine presence of Lord Jagannath and his siblings – Lord Balabhadra and deity Subhadra.
For the Ratha Yatra, as many as three new splendid chariots are created for the Gods Lord Jagannath and his siblings every year.
The carpenters who construct the chariots have rights for the job by heredity. They go on to follow century-old styles mentioned in the religious texts of the Hindus, for building and decorating the chariots.
Each year the wooden idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are carried in three decorated chariots from the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple.
The whole procession is accompanied by chants and conches. The atmosphere is full of joy and immense devotion. Millions of devotees can be seen participating in this procession festival.
Before the commencement of the Ratha Yatra, there is a ceremonial bathing of the idols with 109 buckets of water, known as Snana Poornima. After the ceremonial bathing, the idols are placed in isolation till the day of the procession.
The event is known as ‘Ansara.’ The holy ritual of Chhera Pahara is performed on the day of the procession by the royal successor of Orissa. Hordes of locals and devotees can be seen around the temple premises during the performing of Chhera Pahara.
During Chhera Pahara, the King brings the idols of the deities from the temple and places them on the chariot. Before this, the floor of the chariot is swept by the King with a broom that has a golden handle.
The King also decorates the chariots with flowers with his hands. The ground is also cleaned, and sandalwood is sprinkled on it. This ceremony signifies that everyone is equal in the eyes of the Lord.
Although the Jagannath Temple can be accessed only by the Hindus, on the day of the Ratha Yatra, it can be visited by people of all faiths.
As per the tradition, all the three deities remain at the Gundicha Temple for nine days after which they return to the Jagannath Temple.
The return journey is known as the ‘Bahuda Yatra.’ When the deities return to the Jagannath Temple, they are adorned with new clothes. The event is called as “Suna Besha.” They are placed in the sanctum sanctorum, marking the end of the Jagannath Ratha Yatra.
The Chariots in Jagannath Rath Yatra
One of the significant aspects of Jagannath Ratha Yatra is the chariots of the deities of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra which carry them from the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple during the Ratha Yatra.
In fact, the chariots are the prime attraction of the Jagannath Ratha Yatra.
There are three chariots in all – one each for Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Goddess Subhadra. The preparation of the chariots begins on the day of Akshaya Tritiya. All the three chariots are decorated beautifully with the help of designs, paints, and motifs.
They are pulled by the devotees using long ropes, which are about 50 m in length. The pulling of the chariots is considered as a sacred activity and is religiously done by the devotees. It is believed that pulling off the ropes of the chariots adds to your good karma and washes the bad sins that have been committed.
The chariots are sprawling structures and span about 45 feet in height. The chariot of Lord Jagannath is known as the Nandighosha. It has 16 wheels and is about 45.6 feet in height. The roof of the chariot is covered with fabrics which are red and yellow in color.
Lord Balabhadra chariot is known as Taladhwaja and is 45 feet in height. It has 14 wheels. The colors of the fabrics used to cover the roof of the chariot are red and green. Goddess Subhadra chariot has 12 wheels and is 44.6 feet in height. It is known as ‘Devadalana.’ Its fabrics are red and black in color.
Sudarshan is placed beside Subhadra in her chariot.
Madanmohan which is a representative deity of Jagannath is placed in the chariot of Lord Jagannath.
There are two small idols of Rama and Krishna that are placed in the chariot of Balabhadra. These small idols of Rama and Krishna are made of metal.
So, there are seven deities in all namely Jagannath, Subhadra, Balabhadra, Sudarshan, Madanmohan, Rama, and Krishna that are seated on three chariots. These seven deities are moved to Gundicha Temple from Jagannath Temple. The distance between Jagannath Temple and Gundicha Temple is about 3 km.
As the procession starts, the chariot of Lord Balabhadra is moved first followed by those of Subhadra and Jagannath. The whole procession is accompanied with chants and drum beating as the chariots are dragged enthusiastically by the devotees to the Gundicha Ghar. During the next nine days, the deities stay at the Gundicha Temple where devotees can seek their blessings.
During the return Yatra, the procession makes a halt at the Mausi Maa Temple. Here the deities are served with Poda Pitha, a sweet pancake.
An important ritual is performed on the fifth day, known as ‘Hera Panchami’ when Goddess Lakshmi moves to Gundicha Temple to see Lord Jagannath.
On the evening of the 10th day, the ritual of ‘Hari Sayan Ekadashi’ is performed. The deities are decorated with gold ornaments and dressed gorgeously in their respective chariots parked in the Singhadwar area. On the 12th day of the bright fortnight, a ceremony is known as the ‘Adharapana Bhog’ is carried out wherein a sweet drink is offered to the deities.
Finally, on the evening of the following day, the deities are moved to the Jagannath Temple in a ritualistic procession where thousands of devotees participate.
Puri Ratha Yatra 2019
The Jagannath Rath Yatra Date is 4th July 2019 (Thursday).