Rath Yatra is the annual chariot festival of Lord Jagannath. It is a huge Hindu festival held at Puri in the state of Orissa, India during the months of June or July.
Rath Yatra festival brings Lord Jagannath’s annual visit to Gundicha mata’s temple via aunt’s home i.e.Mausi Maa Temple which is near Balagandi Chhaka in Puri. This year the date to celebrate this festival is 21 June 2012. Because of great participation of people among the country and across the country Indian government announced national holiday for the occasion.
- A Festival for All
Rath Yatra is a great festival because of its ability to unite people in its festivity. All people, rich and poor, brahmins or shudras equally enjoy the fairs and the joy they bring. You will be amazed to know that even Muslims participate in Rath Yatras! Muslim residents of Narayanpur, a village of about a thousand families in the Subarnapur district of Orissa, regularly take part in the festival, from building the chariots to pulling the rath.
- How the Festival is Celebrated
The festival begins with the Ratha Prathistha or invoking ceremony in the morning, but the Ratha Tana or chariot pulling is the most exciting part of the festival, which begins in the late afternoon when the chariots of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhdra start rolling. Each of these carriages have different specifications: The chariot of Lord Jagannath is called Nandighosa, has 18 wheels and is 23 cubits high; the chariot of Balabhadra, called Taladhvaja has 16 wheels and is 22 cubits high; Devadalana, the chariot of Subhadra has 14 wheels and is 21 cubits high.
As part of Rath Yatra, the idols of Lord Puri Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken out in a procession to Gundicha Temple and remain there for nine days. Then the idols or Rath Yatra returns to Puri Jagannath temple. The return journey of Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra is known as Bahuda Yatra.
- Religious Significance
This is the only day when devotees who are not allowed in the temple premises such as non-Hindus and foreigners, can get their glimpse of the deities. During Rath Yatra festival, devotees from all over the World go to Puri with a desire to pull Lord Jagannath’s chariot with ropes. They consider this a holy deed and risk their lives in the huge crowd.
Not only people from Orissa but also a large number of devotees from different parts of Indiacome to Puri to take part in the procession. To honor this spirit of devotees, government of Indiahas declared a holiday on this occasion. The car festival of Puri is widely adored for its grandeur and splendor. The culture of Orissa finds a spectacular expression on this occasion. This festival is an eclectic mix of local, tribal and religious elements with a dash of modernity.
On the fortunate day of the Rath Yatra the deities of the Jagannath temple are believed to come out from the temple to give a holy glimpse to their devotees belonging from the lower class and other religions as on normal days they are not allowed entry inside the temple and have been fulfilling the desire of worshipping the lord through their idols embedded on the lion gate or the Singhadwara.