Jagannath temple deities are taken out in their chariots which are pulled in a traditional ceremony by thousands of people.
Rath Yatra also knows as the chariot festival, is among the most celebrated festivals in India. In Rath Yatra, the Jagannath temple deities are taken out in their chariots which are pulled in a traditional ceremony by thousands of people towards Gundicha temple and then back to the main Jagannath temple. It is believed that Lord Jagannath wishes to visit his birthplace for a few days every year and to fulfil this desire Rath Yatra is celebrated. The whole ceremony is a 12-day long process and includes many rituals.
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What is Rath Yatra?
Rath Yatra is a festival in which seven deities are made to travel in three chariots which are pulled by thousands of people across two temples the Jagannath temple and Gundicha temple also known as Gundicha Ghar which are located at a distance of approximately three kilometres from each other.
When is the festival celebrated?
According to the Hindu traditional calendar the ‘Panchang’, Rath Yatra is celebrated on Ashadha Shukla Dwitiya, meaning the 2nd day of the bright fortnight of Ashadha (June- July of Roman calendar) every year. This year it is scheduled to be celebrated on Thursday, 4th of July.
About the deities worshipped during the festival
There are a total of seven deities namely Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra, Sudarshana, Madanmohan, Rama and Krishna who are seated in the chariot and moved across the two temples. Mainly, three deities namely Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are prominent and are known as ‘Trimurti’. Lord Jagannatha is regarded as the supreme god and the sovereign monarch in the Odishan culture and is a form of Lord Vishnu. Balabhadra is the brother of Lord Jagannath and Subhadra is his sister.
The three chariots
‘Nandighosha’, the chariot of Lord Jagannath having 16 wheels is the largest of the three chariots. The wheels and the roof of the chariot are covered in red and yellow coloured fabric. The second chariot is of Lord Balabhadra and is known by the name ‘Taladhwaja’ and has 14 wheels with covering in red and green coloured fabric. The third and the last chariot is of goddess Subhadra and is called ‘Devadalana’ and has 12 wheels and is covered in fabric of red and black colour.
The festive procession
The wooden idols of the three deities Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra are placed in their chariots along with their four companions and pulled by thousands of people across a three-kilometre long stretch from the Jagannath temple to Gundicha temple. The ideals are bathed with 109 buckets of water before the commencement of the yatra and the process is called Snana Poornima. After this, they are placed in isolation considering that they are ill until the day of the procession. This duration is called Ansara. The next ritual called ‘Chhera Pahara’ where the deities are placed on the chariots by the king or the royal successor of Odisha himself. Then the three deities are pulled in their chariots to Gundicha Temple and stay at their aunt’s place for a span of nine days before coming back to the Jagannath temple. The return Journey is called ‘Bhauda Yatra’.
The festival of Rath Yatra has different beliefs and people of many faith celebrate this festival. It is believed that Lord Jagannath the supreme god blesses the devotees with whatever they desire. Jagannath Puri temple is considered as one of the main pilgrimage centres(Char Dham) of Hindu religion.