Puri Rath Yatra

Ratha Yatra (chariot festival) at the Puri Jagannath Temple is more than five thousand years old and millions of pilgrims attend the festival and to pull the three new huge chariots that are built each year. Puri Rath Yatra 2013 is on July 10. Carpenters begins the construction of the three chariots (Rath) on the Akshaya Tritiya day. The chariots carry 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.

In Puri Jagannath Temple, Lord Krishna is worshipped as ‘Jagannath’ meaning ‘master of the universe.’ Balabhadra is the elder brother of Lord Krishna and Subhadra is his younger sister.

The Rath Yatra festival is spread over a month and several rituals take place during this period. The Snana Yatra or Bathing Festival will take place on the full moon day in the month of Jyestha (May – June). On this day, the deities – Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra – are bathed in one hundred and eight pitchers of water.

It is believed that after such elaborate ritualistic bath the deities will catch fever. And therefore they do not return to the pedestal in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. During this period, the deities stay away from public view and the period is known as ‘Anasara.’

The idols are painted afresh during this period and appear with renewed vigor on the full moon day in the month of Ashadha (June – July). This new appearance is known as ‘Navaya Yauvana Vesha.’
The Ratha Yatra takes place on the second day of the day of the bright fortnight of the month of Ashadha (July 16). The three deities come out in procession known as ‘Pahandi.’ When the deities are seated on the huge chariots, the Gajapati King of Puri, the first servant of Lord Jagannath, sweeps the chariots.

The awe-inspiring act during the procession is the pulling of the huge chariots by thousands of people to the Gundicha Temple through the grand road (Bada Danda). The chariot of Balabhadra moves first, followed by Subhadra and Jagannath. The chariots with the idols wait outside the Gundicha temple.

The deities enter the temple on the next day and stay there for seven days. In between, on the fifth day, Goddess Lakshmi, wife of Lord Jagannath, comes to the Gundicha temple in search of her Lord. On finding his chariot there, she returns back in anger after damaging Jagannath’s chariot.

After the week-long stay, the deities return and the journey is known as Bahuda Yatra. During the return journey, the chariot of Jagannath stops at the Ardhasani Temple (Mausa Ma temple). Here, Lord accepts his favorite rice cake known as Poda Pitha from his aunt who is the presiding deity of the temple. The deities reach the Puri Jagannath Temple in the evening and wait outside for the day.

On the next day, which is an Ekadasi day, the deities are attired in new costumes and this new form of the idols is known as ‘Suna Vesa.’ The following day, the deities move into the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and the Rath Yatra festival comes to an end.

Related

Size and Dimensions of the Puri Jagannath Raths