Ratha Yatra

article-2244748-16672124000005DC-130_634x389The most exciting of the countless festivals celebrated all year round in the holy city of Puri, the Ratha Yatra (Festival Of Chariots) is the majestic culmination of a series of celebrations spread over the summer and the monsoon months. Each year, in monsoon season, the proxy images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra – the deities enshrined in the Jagannath Temple at Puri are carried in colorful processions every evening for 21 days to the Narendra Tank where they cruise in a bright decorated boat. On the first day of the festival, the Jagannath temple images are carried through the street in three huge thundering chariots which have made this event internationally known. Nine days later, the journey is repeated in the opposite direction. To witness this festival is an experience of a life time.

The chariot of Lord Jagannath is known as ‘Nandighose’ and is 23 cubits high and has 18 wheels. The chariot of Balabhadra, which is 22 cubits in height has 16 wheels and is named ‘Taladwaja’. ‘Devadalan’ the chariot of Subhadra, is 21 cubits in height and has 14 wheels.

The construction of the Rathas (chariots) commences on the Akshay Tritiya tithi. They are constructed for the ceremonial journey and sojourn of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra at the Gundicha Temple for a week. Ratha Yatra is the most famous festival related to Lord Jagannath, where Jagannath, along with the other two associated deities, comes out of the Garbhagriha of the chief temple (Bada Deula). They are transported to the Gundicha Temple (located at a distance of nearly 3 kilometres (1.9 mi)), in three massive wooden chariots drawn by devotees. Coinciding with the Ratha Yatra festival at Puri, similar processions are organized at Jagannath temples throughout the world. This annual procession of the Deity of Krishna in the form of Jagannatha carried on the Ratha chariot enacts one of the world’s oldest and largest festivals.

On the full-moon day of the month of Jyestha (May-June) in the Snana Yatra also known as the Bathing Festival, the three deities move in a colorful procession to a platform in the outer enclosure of the temple, the Snana Vedi, the bathing platform, where they bathe with 108 pitchers of perfumed water drawn from a temple well once a year. After the ritual bath, the deities assume the special elephant form, recalling the legend of the Lord’s affection for a devotee to whom he proved that he was in fact another manifestation of Lord Ganesha. After the bathing festival, the deities spend 15 days in seclusion during which period they are repainted and prepared for the Car Festival. After the Snana yatra, finally comes the Ratha Yatra on the second day of the bright fortnight of the month of Ashadha, when the three deities come out of the temple in an extravagant procession called Pahandi.

The most exhilarating part of the Ratha Yatra is the pulling of chariots by thousands of devotees who lay their hands on the sturdy ropes and drag the massive structures along the Bada-Danda, the grand road. The chariot of Balabhadra moves first, followed by those of Subhadra and Jagannath. The chariots move ahead slowly until they reach the Gundicha temple and the three deities rest for a night at the entrance on their own chariots. The next day they enter the Gundicha temple in the usual Pahandi style and stay there for seven days. A celebration dating back to thousands of years in India, the Ratha Yatra has spread to cities throughout the world since the late 1960’s.

In this year 2015, the Ratha Yatra of Lord Jagannath is commencing on the 18th July, Saturday and Return Car Festival ur’ Bahuda Jatra’ on 26th July.

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