Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra (Festival of Chariots) is one of the most awaited and celebrated festivals in India. This annual festival is celebrated on Ashadha Shukla Paksha dwitiya tithi in Puri, Orrisa. Puri Rath Yatra is dedicated to Lord Jagannath i.e. Lord Krishna, his sister Goddess Subhadra and his elder brother Lord Balabhadra. It is commonly known as Gundicha Yatra, Dasavatara, Chariot Festival, and Navadina Yatra.
The festival commemorates Jagannath’s annual visit to Gundicha Mata Temple via Mausi Maa Temple (aunt’s home) near Balagandi Chaka, Puri. As part of Rath Yatra, the deities are taken out in a procession to Gundicha Temple and remain there for nine days. They are also accompanied by Sudarshana chakra. Then the deities or Ratha Yatra return to the Main temple. The return journey of Puri Jagannath Ratha Yatra is known as Bahuda Jatra.
Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya tithi during which Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra is planned is also considered as an auspicious occasion for other religious events. Devotees usually plan out for Griha Pravesh Puja and Satyanarayan Puja, worshipping Lord Vishnu who symbolizes power, sustainer, protector, and creator of the universe.
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Dates, Tithis of Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra in 2023
This year the Rath Yatra will be celebrated on 20 June 2023, Tuesday. The Hindu calendar states that the Rath Yatra event is observed on the second day of the Shukla Paksha of the Ashadh month.
- Tithi starts – on 19 June 2023 at 11:25 am
- Tithi ends – on 20 June 2023 at 01:07 pm
History of Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra
Among the many legends about the beginnings of the Rath Yatra, the most important ones are the following:
Kansa, their maternal uncle, summoned them to Mathura to kill Balram and Lord Krishna. He sent Akrur riding in a chariot to Gokul. Balram and Lord Krishna climbed aboard the chariot as directed and started off for Mathura. The day of departure is celebrated as Rath Yatra by the devotees. On that day, Lord Krishna, to the joy of his ecstatic devotees, slew the demon Kansa and gave his people darshan in Mathura in a chariot with his brother Balaram.
The day that Lord Krishna and Balaram rode a chariot with Subhadra, his sister, to display the city’s magnificence was commemorated by devotees in Dwarika.
Another well-known legend among devotees is that Lord Krishna, Subhadra, and Balaram of Dwarka are connected to the Rath Yatra event. Once upon a time, Mother Rohini told some sacred stories about Krishna and Gopi to the eight spouses of Lord Krishna. She didn’t want to tell the story, though.
After numerous requests from the wives of Lord Krishna, his mother agreed to tell the story, but she insisted that only eight people attend, so she requested Subhadra to keep an eye on the door. Subhadra is utterly enthralled by Rohini’s mother’s narration of the tale. She was so absorbed in it that she didn’t hear Balram and Lord Krishna coming to the door. She held her hands apart and stood between them to halt them.
Saint Narad arrived at their house and saw the three brothers and sisters. He loudly prayed and pleaded for their favour. It is therefore thought that Lord Krishna, Subhadra, and Balaram have always resided in the Puri temple and have blessed their devotees.
Preparation For The Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra
The creation of new chariots, which begins on the holy day of the Akshay Tritiya, marks the beginning of the Ratha Yatra’s early preparations. The Dasapalla and Ranpur woods provide more than 1,000 timbers, and over 100 carpenters spend two months building the three chariots. A nearby mill produces nearly 2,000 metres of cloth yearly, and the chariots are brilliantly coloured. During the Jagannath Rath Yatra, devotees pull the chariot along the procession route using robust coconut fibre ropes that are 8 inches in diameter.
To make Lord Jagannatha’s stay comfortable, his devotees clean the Gundicha Temple before the Rath Yatra. For the yatra, Lord Jagannatha, Balabhadra, and Subhadra each have their unique chariot. The three chariots are all pulled to the place by a big group.
The devotees carry the gods to the chariots on the Rath Yatra day in a traditional procession termed Pahandi Bije.
The king of Puri then purifies the chariots, also called Gajapati and Lord Jagannath’s first servants. The chariots are swept during this event, known as Chhera Pahara. Following this ceremony, the worshippers draw chariots toward the Gundicha temple.
The Rath Yatra Procession
Three richly decorated chariots, resembling temple structures, are pulled through the streets of Puri called Badadanda. This commemorates the annual journey of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and their sister Subhadra to their aunt’s temple, the Gundicha Temple which is situated at a distance of 2 km from their temple. This is the only day when devotees who are not allowed in the temple premises, such as non-Hindus and foreigners, can get their glimpse of the deities. During the festival, devotees from all over the world go to Puri with an earnest desire to help pulling the Lords’ chariots with the help of other priests pulling the chariots with ropes. They consider this auspicious deed and risk their lives in the huge crowd. The huge processions accompanying the chariots play devotional songs with drums, tambourines, trumpets, etc. Children line the streets through which the chariot will pass and add to the mass chorus.
The three chariots of Balabhadra, Subhadra, and Jagannatha are newly constructed every year with wood of specified trees like phassi, dhausa, etc. They are customarily brought from the ex-princely state of Dasapalla by a specialist team of carpenters who have hereditary rights and privileges for the same. The logs are traditionally set afloat as rafts in the river Mahanadi. These are collected near Puri and then transported by road.
The three chariots are decorated as per the unique scheme prescribed and followed for centuries and stand on the Bada Danda, the Grand Avenue. Covered with bright canopies made of stripes of red cloth and combined with those of black, yellow, and blue colours, the huge chariots are lined across the wide avenue in front of the majestic temple close to its eastern entrance, which is also known as the Sinhadwara or the Lion’s Gate.
Lord Jagannath’s chariot is called Nandighosa. It is forty-five feet high and forty-five feet square at the wheel level. It has sixteen wheels, each of seven-foot diameter, and is decked with a cover made of red and yellow cloth. Lord Jagannath is identified with Krishna, who is also known as Pitambara, the one attired in golden yellow robes and hence the distinguishing yellow stripes on the canopy of this chariot. The chariot of Lord Balarama, called the Taladhwaja, is the one with the Palm Tree on its flag. It has fourteen wheels, each of seven-foot diameter, and is covered with red and blue cloth. Its height is forty-four feet.
The chariot of Subhadra, known as Dwarpadalana, literally “trampler of pride,” is forty-three feet high with twelve wheels, each of seven-foot diameter. This chariot is decked with a covering of a red and black cloth – black being traditionally associated with Shakti and the Mother Goddess.
Lord Jagannath’s Chariot
The Nandighosh Rath also referred to as Kapidhwaja and Garudadhwaja, is the name of Lord Jagannath’s chariot. The chariot of Jagannath is the biggest of the chariots and has a canopy in the colours of yellow and red. Four horses are pulling the chariot, and they are all white. The chariot is 45 feet towering and has 16 wheels. Moreover, the Sudarshana Chakra logo is clearly shown.
Lord Balabhadra’s Chariot
The second-largest chariot is Taladhwaja. It is the name of Lord Balabhadra’s chariot. It bears a canopy of green and red. The four horses pulling the chariot are black. The chariot stands 44 feet tall and has 14 wheels.
Lord Subhadra’s Chariot
The names Devadalana, Darpadalana, and Padmadhwaja are given to Lord Subhadra’s chariot. The Subhadra chariot is the smallest of the chariots and features a canopy in black and red. The four horses pulling the chariot are crimson and have four hooves. The chariot stands 43 feet tall and has 12 wheels. Jayadurga is the chariot’s guardian deity.
The Pahandi ceremony begins with a procession from the sanctum of the Jagannath temple to the rathas. Balabhadra is brought to Subhadra’s ratha in a procession after Sudarsana. The Daitapatis and other devotees then take Subhadra to her ratha, and at the conclusion, Jagannath is brought to his ratha.
The Mahajan Sevakas then carry Madanmohan to the rathas, and Gajapati Maharaja, the monarch of Puri, then performs the Chhera Pahamra. After Chhera Pahamra, the goddesses begin their journey to the Gundicha Temple, which is about 3 km distant, and are pulled there by innumerable worshippers. The deities reside in this temple for nine days.
God’s sculptures are returned to their temples on the final day. The gods are returned to Jagannath Mandir on the last day of the bahuda Jatra in their rathas. When returning, the three chariots stop at the Temple Mausi Maa, where they are given Poda Pitha as bhog.
The Jagannath Temple And Its Importance
A sacred temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath, his sister goddess Subhadra, and his brother Lord Balabhadra. Hindus believe that Lord Jagannath is a manifestation of Lord Vishnu.
One of the Hindu community’s four Char Dham pilgrimage sites is the Jagannath Temple. Due to Lord Jagannath’s depictions in other religions, he is regarded as a non-sectarian deity. Special puja is done before placing the three deities in their respective chariots.
All three lords are fervently taken outside the main temple during the Rath Yatra and placed in a chariot before being transported to the Gundicha Temple by several volunteers. The distance between this temple and the Jagannath Puri Temple is about 3 kilometers. The deities are then returned to the main temple after staying in the Gundicha Temple for a few days.
Festivities During The Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra
The Rath Yatra is celebrated with dance, music, and cultural performances. Devotees provide their offerings through performing arts such as public singing, dancing, and rhythmic gong banging. Mahari, Gotipua, and Odissi traditional dances are performed.
When performed by the servants at the vehicle festival during the ceremonial parade of the Deities from the temple to the chariot or in front of the Lord’s chariot, the “Goti Pua” and “Odissi Dance” are particularly beautiful.
The 56 dishes, known as Chhappan Bhog, are served to the deities as part of the daily puja rites. Some of the dishes that you must try are Khecedi, Poda Pitha, Santula, Dalma, Rasabali, Chenna Poda, Ukhuda, and Malpua.
It is also believed that charity and donation during the festival are good deeds, and the person will receive grace, purification, and God’s blessings.
Significance of The Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra
In Puri, countless devotees assemble to pull the majestic chariots. Lord Jagannath is said only to leave the temple once a year to visit his worshippers who cannot enter the shrine. The Rath Yatra is of utmost importance to those seeking ‘moksha’.
Anyone who pulls or touches the rope holding the deities’ chariots together or even catches sight of the deities on the chariot is said to be saved.
Devotees assemble on the day of the Rath Yatra and chant the Lord’s name. With joy and affection for their cherished Krishna, they pull the chariots. Krishna is said to live in our minds, but we forget this because of our ignorance and devotion to the material world. This event serves as a reminder of our inherent divinity and allows us to call upon it by singing Krishna’s name.
This Ratha Yatra commemorates when the Hindu god Jagannath, a manifestation of Vishnu or Krishna, traveled to his aunt’s home. It lasts for 11 days. For those looking for “moksha,” the Rath Yatra is paramount. It is stated that anyone who grabs or touches the rope connecting the deities’ chariots or even sees the deities on the chariot will be saved from the vicious cycle of life.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Hindu holiday of Rath Yatra is observed on the second day of the Ashadha month. In 2023 it falls on 20 June.
Devotees walk in the procession, pull the chariots, and perform various entertaining activities.