Jagannath Rath Yatra, the Festival of Chariots, is celebrated annually in the temple town of Puri, located on the east coast of India. During this event, Lord Jagannatha, along with Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra accompanied by Sudarshana (celestial wheel), are taken out from Sri Mandira Temple in a grand procession to their respective chariots. The enormous chariots, decorated colorfully, are pulled by countless devotees on bada danda for two miles to Gundicha Temple. After spending seven days there, these deities go back to Srimandira.
In a typical Indian fair of huge proportions, Jagannath Rath Yatra is perhaps one of the grandest festivals on earth. Full of spectacle, drama, and color, the festival is a typical Indian fair of grand proportions.
It is also known as Gundicha Yatra, Ghosa Yatra, Navadina Yatra Dasavatara Yatra, and many other names. As a holy occasion, it is considered the most auspicious for devoted believers. An encounter with Vamana, the dwarf form of Lord Jagannatha, is sure to lead to emancipation and release from the cycle of birth and death, for all.
Yatra is an essential part of the ritual of the Hindu system of worship. Yatra means to travel or journey. These journeys are normally taken by deities from temples referred to as Utsava Murti in the south and Chalanti Pratima or Bije Pratima in Orissa. For such ritual journeys, the presiding deities rarely leave the sanctum.
In the Ritual Journey, there are two forms of Yatra – one involves a short circumambulation around the temple, while the other involves a long journey from the temple to another location. In every temple, the Yatra is an important part of celebrations and ceremonies, considered sacred and special.
This is the grandest festival of the supreme divinity who manifested himself in the Kali Yuga to relieve humanity from suffering. It is a unique festival among all Yatras. As Nilamadhaba, Lord Jagannatha was worshipped in a sacred Nyagrodha Briksha or banyan tree when he originally manifested himself as Vishnu and Krishna. A branch of this tree spread over several miles, and anyone who entered the area was instantly liberated from the travails of birth and rebirth. As a result of the presence of Lord Jagannatha in Puri – Srikshetra, Yama, the God of Death, is believed to have been curtailed in the sacred city, thus the name Yamanika Tirtha.
The sanctity of the festival is such that even a touch of the chariot or even the ropes with which these are pulled is considered enough to confer the results of several pious deeds or penance for ages. According to a famous Oriya song, the chariot, the wheels, and the grand avenue become one with Lord Jagannatha himself on this occasion.
Those lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the gods at Srimandira in Gundicha Temple, the endpoint of the chariot procession, receive the benefits equivalent to those of a thousand horse sacrifices - an extremely holy act.
Balabhadra, Subhadra, and Jagannatha's three chariots are constructed every year from wood sourced from Phassi, Dhausa, etc. The logs are traditionally set afloat as rafts in the river Mahanadi by a specialist team of carpenters from the ex-princely state of Daspalla with hereditary privileges and rights. They are collected near Puri, then transported by road.
The three chariots, newly constructed every year and decorated according to the unique scheme prescribed and followed for centuries, stand on the Bada Danda, the Grand Avenue. The massive chariots, which are lined across the wide avenue right in front of the majestic temple, which is also called Sinhadwara or Lion's Gate, are covered with bright canopies made of stripes of red cloth combined with those black, yellow, and blue.
The Nandighosa chariot of Lord Jagannatha has sixteen wheels with a diameter of seven feet and a cover made of red and yellow cloth. It is forty-five feet high and forty-five feet square at the wheel level. Jagannatha is identified as Krishna who is known as Pitambara, the one who wears golden yellow robes and hence the yellow stripes on this chariot's canopy.
The Chariot of Lord Balabhadra, called the Taladhwaja, has fourteen wheels, every seven feet in diameter, and is covered with red and blue cloth. It stands forty-four feet tall.
With twelve wheels, each of seven feet in diameter, the Chariot of Subhadra, known as Darpadalana, literally trampler of pride, stands forty-three feet high. This Chariot is covered in red and black cloth, a symbol of Shakti and the Mother goddess associated with black.
The chariots are surrounded by nine Parsva devatas, painted wooden images representing the deities on their sides. There are four horses attached to each chariot, each of which is white for Balabhadra, dark for Jagannatha, and red for Subhadra. Each chariot has its charioteer called Sarathi. Matali, Daruka, and Arjuna are the three charioteers attached to Jagannatha's, Balabhadra, and Subhadra's chariots, respectively.
The Yatra honors the journey of Lord Jagannath, the supreme God of the Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism). As per Hindu mythology, Lord Jagannath is regarded as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The Jagannath festival is celebrated annually in Puri, a city located in Odisha state.
Rath Yatra is celebrated on the second day of the two-week-long Ashadha month of the Hindu calendar, and this year. The festival usually falls between June and July.
During this festival, millions of devotees from different parts of India gather in Puri, Odisha, to witness Lord Jagannath's chariot journey.
Located at the seashore of Puri, Shri Jagannath Puri Temple is one of the most impressive monuments of Odisha, built by a famous king of the Ganga Dynasty in the 12th century.
Happy Rath Yatra. May Lord Jagannath bless you with happiness and wealth!
Wishing you and your family happiness and strength to fight all evils. Wishing you the best for Rath Yatra.
May Lord Jagannath grant you all the best things. Wishing you and your family a happy Rath Yatra.
With the blessings of Lord Jagannath, May every Indian be happy and wealthy. Jai Jagannath!
May Lord Jagannath bestow everyone with peace and prosperity! Let us carry the rath of our lives by diminishing the evils inside us.
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