Rath Yaatra Puri
Rath Yaatra: The city of Puri, in Odisha India, is famous for the 12th Century Lord Jagannath Temple. The pilgrim town sees the biggest chariot festival in the world. Rath Yaatra is one of India’s biggest religious festivals. It falls on the Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya ie the second day of the bright fortnight of the Ashadha month. It is a nine-day long festival that is celebrated in this pilgrim town with a lot of pomp and religious fervor. The Rath Yatra is symbolic of Lord Jagannath’s journey from Dwarka to meet the inhabitants of his birthplace, Vrindavan. The yatra has been going on uninterrupted since 1736, except for a period of Mughal invasions in India. It finds mention in the Hindu scriptures of Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana.
The Puri Jagannath temple enshrines Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna), his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and their younger sister Devi Subhadra. The main deities along with the Sudarshan Chakra are taken out of the temple and board three different bedecked chariots that are waiting outside the temple.
The process of ‘Pahandi” sees Lord Jagannath taken in the largest chariot, Nandighosa, which is 45.6 feet high and has 18 wheels, Lord Balabhadra taken in Taladhvaja a 45 feet high chariot with 16 wheels and Devi Subhadra boards Devadalana, her 44.6 feet high chariot with 14 wheels. Every year sees a new set of chariots which are made from a particular type of tree after a lot of rituals.
The yatra commences with the Gajapati Maharaja, the king of Puri, carrying out the Chhera Pahanra, the holy cleaning of the chariots. He sweeps around the chariots and the deities. Once the yatra begins, thousands of devotees pull the chariots to their aunt’s temple, Gundicha Temple. Gundicha temple is also considered the birthplace of the Lords.
Thousands of devotees from the world over throng to Puri at this time. It is considered very auspicious to get a chance to pull the Chariots of the Lords, and they make an endeavor to help pull the chariots to the destination. On reaching Gundicha Temple, the deities stay enshrined there for nine days.
Highlights of the Yaatra
There are 6 main events which are considered to be the highlights of the Yaatra every year.
- 1. Snana Yaatra: The Chandan yatra ends with the ritual bath or the Snana Yatra. The deities are bathed in 108 pots of water brought from the Suna Kua. It is believed that they then fall sick for almost 2 weeks and are treated with ayurvedic medicines.
- 2. Gundicha Yatra: The deities are taken in wooden chariots to Gundicha Temple, their birthplace.
- 3. Bahuda Yatra: The deities are brought back to the main Temple on the tenth day via Mausi Ma Temple (Lord Jagannath’s aunt’s home). Here they are offered Poda Pitha, a special pancake said to be a favorite of Lord Jagannath.
- 4. Suna Besha: The deities are adorned in golden ornaments and give darshan to their devotees from the chariots.
- 5. Adhara Pana: It is believed that invisible souls and spirits visit the event every year. This part of the celebration is marked by offering sweet drinks to the visiting spirits.
- 6. Niladri Bije: This event marks the end of the Rath Yatra. The deities are taken back inside the main shrine and installed on the Rathna Simhasana.
End of the Rath Yaatra Festivities
Once the deities are reinstalled in the main shrine, it marks the end of the Rath Yatra festivities. The devotees return back home to wait for another year to be able to be a part of the annual festivities.