Jagannath Rath Yatra – History & Significance

Rath Yatra it’s not just a festival; it is the culture of ancient India, and also it is the festival of the main Leela Land of the Lord Jagannath. This is the Hindu festival celebrated every year where millions of devotees come from outside or abroad to avail the blessings of  Rath Yatra.

History of Rath Yatra

Rath Yatra is also known as  Rath Jatra or Chariot festival. India’s biggest religious festival- The Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra. An annual ceremonial procession of Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra, and younger sister Subhadra. From their home, the triad went on an annual visit to their aunt’s home, i.e., Gundicha Temple.

The history of this biggest festival was written in updated Hindu texts known as the ‘Puranas’ believed to be written 1000 years ago.

It is celebrated each year on the second day of the Shukla Paksha in the Hindu month of Asadh and also the third month of the Hindu lunar calendar.

The epicenter of this festival is the world’s famous Jagannath Puri Temple, which is situated in the pious city- Puri, Odisha, which is also known by the names of Conch region or Purushottam Kshetra or Shri Kshetra. In fact, this temple is considered to be one of the four major Hindu shrines called the “Char Dham.”

There is a strong belief that Lord Krishna took the human form on the Earth in ‘Dwapara Yuga.’ The story behind this oldest and grandest festival begins with Krishna’s cremation. At the same time, his elder brother Balram experienced deep sadness and made an attempt to down himself into the ocean with Krishna’s body.

One day the king Indradyuma of Jagannath Puri envisioned a floating body of Lord Krishna on the shores of Puri. This lead to the making of the statues of  Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra. On finding Krishna’s ashes, the king starts putting his efforts to carve the statues from wood.

Lord Vishwakarma appeared as an old carpenter to make the statues. But he agreed to do the job with the condition that nobody would disturb him during the preparation of statues of the three deities.

One day when no sound came from the room, the king’s wife insisted the king open the door and check whether the old carpenter is alive or dead. However, due to impatience, the king opened the door, and Lord Vishwakarma vanished. The room where statues of the deities were made known as “The Gundicha Temple/ Mausi Maa Temple.”

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Significance of  Rath Yatra

The Jagannath Rath Yatra is also called Cart Festival, Gundicha Yatra, Ghosha Yatra, Dasavatar, and Navadina Yatra. It is the most auspicious, sacred, and important occasion of the Puri Temple. ‘Rath’ means ‘Chariot’ and ‘Yatra’ means ‘Journey’ of the Lord Jagannath with their siblings. The whole procession is accompanied by the sounds of chants and conchs.

The chariot is prepared from selected Neem Trees. Fresh and auspicious trees are identified for the wood of the chariot, in which the nails etc., stopped, and no metal is used in the making of the chariot.

It is said that the devotees who get the privilege of pulling the chariot of Rath Yatra are believed to be very fortunate. According to the mythological theory, the person pulling the chariot gets ultimate salvation.

Many also believe that on this day, Lord Jagannath himself tours the city and comes among the people. Since he is black in color, Lord Jagannath’s local name is ‘Kaliya’ as he is a god and a friend of his devotees. The idols of  Lord Jagannath and Balabhadra are made to swing in a forward and backward direction in a manner called ‘Pahandi.’ The king of Puri also decorates the chariot with flowers with his hands. The ground is also cleaned, and sandalwood is sprinkled on it. This ceremony signifies that everyone is equal in the eyes of the Lord and the whole procession indicates that there is no discrimination among anybody present in this world.

Why do we celebrate Rath Yatra?

It is believed that in the rainy season, Lord Jagannath traveled on a grand chariot to spend the vacation in his aunt’s home with his siblings. There is an old known story behind this journey is that Lord Jagannath born on the day of ‘Jyestha Purnima.’

On that day, the three deities were taken off to the ‘Ratnasinhasan’ and taken to the bathing pavilion of the Lord Jagannath. Then three of the deities had their great royal bath with 108 Kalas; after that, the deities fell sick and fever, due to which they had to stay in a specific place called ‘Ansara Ghar’ (Quarantine Home). After 15 days of long-stay Lord, Jagannath became healthy and came out of this place to give ‘Darshan’ to his devotees, and the tour began.

After that, the holy ritual of  Chera Pahara is performed on the day of the procession by the Royal Successors of Odisha. Hordes of locals and devotees can be seen around the temple premises during the performance ‘Chera Pahara.’

Then the traid ride in a chariot, the first chariot belongs to Balabhadra it has 14 wheels and is called ‘Taladhwaja’ and the second chariot belongs to Lord Jagannath which has 16 wheels and is called ‘Nandighosha’ and the third chariot has 12 wheels and is called ‘Devadalan/ Darpadalan.’ The third belongs to Subhadra. The three chariots are in different colors and sizes.

The three deities spend nine days in the Gundicha Temple and, after that get return to their home temple. The return journey is known as ‘Bahuda Jatra.’ After that, they adorn with new clothes and gold ornaments. The event is called ‘Suna Besha,’ and the deities were placed in the‘Singhadwara.’

The atmosphere is full of joy and immense devotion on the eve of Rath Yatra.

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