Ratha Yatra is a major Hindu festival associated with Lord Jagannath (avatar of Lord Vishnu) held at Puri in India during the months of June or July.
The Puri Rath Yatra is world famous and attracts more then one million pilgrims every year, not only from India but also from the different parts of the world. Rath Yatra in other words the Chariot 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.
Origin Of Rath Yatra
A few mythical stories related with Rath Yatra’s origins exist that reflect the socio-religious thinking and beliefs of the people of the region.
- To kill Lord Krishna and Balram, Kansa, their maternal uncle, invited them to Mathura. He sent Akrur with a chariot to Gokul. As asked, Lord Krishna, along with Balram, sat on the chariot and left for Mathura. The devotees celebrate this day of departure as Rath Yatra.
- Devotees in Dwarika celebrated the day when Lord Krishna, accompanied by Balaram, took Subhadra — his sister, for a ride on a chariot to show the city’s splendor.
- There is an exciting story of Lord Krishna becoming the Sarathi – driver of Arjuna’s chariot, during the 18-day battle of the Mahabharata.
- When Shri Krishna was being cremated in Dwarika, Balaram, much saddened with the development, rushed out to drown himself into ocean with Krishna’s partially cremated body. He was followed by Subhadra. At the same time, on the eastern shore of India, King Indradyumna of Jagannath Puri dreamt that the Lord’s body would float up to the Puri’s shores. He should build a massive statue in the city and sanctify the wooden statues of Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra.
Rath Yatra Festival:
The Jagannath Temple in Puri is one among the four most sacred temples in India. The other three are: Rameshwaram in south, Dwarika in west and Badrinath in north.
The 3 deities, Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and their sister Subhadra are worshipped within the temple, on this festival they are taken to the streets of Puri so that everyone can have the fortune to see them. The 3 deities make an annual journey to their aunt’s temple (Gundicha Temple), 2 km away from Lord Jagannath 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 3 deities have 3 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. 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 ones in every 12 years.
Also read about Vasant Panchami.