Jagannath Ratha Yatra (Sanskrit:जगन्नतः रथ यत्र | Oria:ଜଗଣ୍ଥ୍ ରଥ ୟାତ୍ରା | Hindi:जगन्नाथ रथ यात्रा) festival has been traditionally celebrated annually in Jagannath Puri, Orrisa . Idols of Lord Krishna is worshipped as ‘Jagannath’ meaning ‘master of the universe’, along with his sister Subhadra and elder brother Baladeva taken through the streets of the city.
Ratha Yatra is the festival of Chariots of Lord Jagannath celebrated every year on the Second Day of Shukla Paksha of Aashada Masa at Puri,the temple town in Orissa on the east coast of India. . Though this festival is celebrated all over India, it originated in Jagannath Puri on the eastern coast.
- Kamsa, the maternal uncle of Lord Krishna, invited Krishna and Balram to Mathura with the malicious intention of killing them. The evil Kamsa sent Akrur with a chariot to Gokul. Lord Krishna and Balram climbed onto the chariot with Akrur, taking leave of the Gopis to proceed to Mathura. This day of departure is celebrated by the devotees as Rath Yatra.
- Jubilant devotees celebrated the day when Lord Krishna, having vanquished the evil Kamsa, gave them darshan in Mathura in a chariot with his brother, Balaram.
- 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 beauty.
The Ratha Yatra (chariot festival) at the Puri Jagannath temple is more than five thousand years old. Millions of pilgrims attend the festival and three new chariots are built each year. Carpenters began the construction of the three chariots (Rath) on the Akshaya Tritiya day . The chariots carries Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra on the Rath Yatra day to the Gundicha Temple , which is around 2 miles away from the Puri Jagannath temple .
The significance or importance of Ratha Yatra has been explained in Hindu Puranas like in Skanda Puranam and Kathopanishada.
गुन्दिच मण्डपं नामं यत्रःमजनं पुरा
अश्वमेध सहस्रस्य महाबेदि तदद्वबत ||
The concept of Chariot (Ratha) has been explained in the Kathopanishada (A scripture that unveils the Mystery of Death and Meaning of Life) in the following words.
आत्मानं रथिनं विद्धि सरीरं रथमेवतु
बुद्धिं तु सारथिं विद्दि मारः प्रगःअमेव च | ||
Meaning: The body is the Chariot and the Soul is the deity installed in the Chariot. The Wisdom acts as the Charioteer to control the mind and thoughts
Cultures , Rituals and Festive:
Every year the deities of Jagannath Mandir – Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra – are traditionally installed on huge chariots. Devotees pull the chariots in a yatra (procession) through the streets. The local king used to serve by humbly sweeping the road ahead with a golden broom.
Three richly decorated chariots, resembling temple structures, are pulled through the streets of Puri. The festival begins with the Ratha Prathistha or invoking ceremony in the morning, but the Ratha pulling is the most exciting part of the festival, which begins in the late afternoon when the chariots of Jagannath, Lord Balarama and Subhdra start rolling. Each of these carriages has different specifications:
|CHARIOT OF JAGANNATH -NANDIGHOSHA/GARUDADHWAJA/KAPIDHWAJA|
|Number of wheels||16|
|Number of wooden pieces used||832|
|Length and breadth 34'6" x 34'6"|
|Wrappings||Red, Yellow colour cloths|
|Name of the charioteer||Dahuka|
|Krishna, Gopi Krishna|
|CHARIOT OF BALABHADRA - TALADHWAJA|
|Number of wheels||14|
|Number of wooden pieces used||763|
|Height : 13'2"|
|Length and breadth : 33' x 33'|
|Wrappings||Red, Bluish green colour cloths|
|Name of the charioteer||Matali|
|CHARIOT OF SUBHADRA - DARPADALANA/PADMADHWAJA|
|Number of wheels||12|
|Number of wooden pieces used||593|
|Height : 12'9"|
|Length and breadth : 31'6" x 31'6"|
|Wrappings||Red, Black colour cloths|
|Name of the charioteer||Arjuna|
The Puri Rath Yatra is known by different names like Gundicha Jatra, Ghosa Jatra, Navadina Jatra, Dasavatara Jatra and so on. The celebrations mark the journey of Krishna from Gokul to Mathura, suggestively depicting the transition from darkness to light.
Amidst the resounding atmosphere with synchronized beats of drums, gongs and conch shells, the procession starts led by Lord Balabhadra followed by his sister Goddess Subhadra with Lord Jagannatha at the rear.
Thousands of devotees dive into the streets to pull the chariots as it is believed that even the touch of any part of it is equal to many rituals and is capable of purifying the human soul. The number of visitors touring Puri during the Rath Yatra is a whooping 5- 6 lakhs per year