About Rath Jatra
Ratha Jatra is the Festival of Chariots of Lord Jagannatha and is celebrated every year at Puri, the temple town in Orissa, on the east coast of India. It is dedicated to Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna), his sister Goddess Subhadra and his elder brother Lord Balabhadra. It is also called Gundicha Yatra, Chariot Festival, Dasavatara and Navadina Yatra. The Puri Rath Yatra is world famous and attracts more than one million pilgrims every year, not only from India but also from the different parts of the world. This festival is a symbol of equality and integration.
When it is celebrated
As per the traditional Odia calendar, the Rath Yatra begins on the second day of Shukla Paksha of the Hindu lunar month of Ashadha. It is an annual event, which is celebrated in the month of June or July.
Where it is celebrated
It is held at the Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha. Puri is approximately an hour and a half from capital city Bhubaneshwar.
During The Rath Yatra
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. During the festival, the deities are decorated with over 208 kg gold to complete their remaining limbs.
As the procession starts, the chariot of Lord Balram is pulled, followed of Goddess Subhadra and that of Lord Jagannath at last. The distance between the two temples is just 3 km but the whole enthusiasm of the tourists and the devotees clubbed with chants and drum beating, takes a few hours. For the next 9 days, devotees can seek blessings of the Lords and the Goddess. During the return Yatra, the Bahuda Yatra make a halt at the Mausi Maa Temple. Here the deities are served Poda Pitha, a sweet pancake. It is believed that this pancake is the poor man’s food and the Lord is fond of it.
The temple food or mahaprasad, known locally as abhada. Large pots of food are placed on top of each other and cooked with wood fire and steam, starting from the top layer. It is possibly the largest pressure cooker in the world, as Pattanaik notes. The adorable part is that the food is made available to every person through the little buzzing market adjacent to the temple, called Anand Bazaar. They are then served on a banana leaf and eaten sitting on the floor, the meal consists of khichdi, dal, vegetables, and a sweet ending that is most cherished. Odisha’s famous sweet dishes such as chhena-poda pitha, baked rasgulla and with nolen-gud kheer.
Ratha Yatra is also celebrated internationally in countries like Dublin, Moscow and New York.
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