Shri Jagannath Rath Yatra the Festival of Chariot
Shri Jagannath Rath Yatra, the Festival of Chariot is one of the oldest Rath yatras celebrated in India. The Rath yatra takes place every year on Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya at the Jagannath temple in Puri Orrisa. Dedicated to God Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra, the temple is an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus.
There are many narratives of rath yatra festival, the most famous being God Jagannath’s desire to visit his birthplace every year for one week. All the three deities of the Jagannath temple travel in three different chariots to Gundicha Temple via Mausi Maa Temple near Balagandi Chaka, Puri. New wooden chariots are constructed every year. These chariots are attached with four wooden horses each. Nandighosha is the chariot of Jagannath, the chariot of Balabhadra is called as Taladhwaja, and Subhadra’s is Devadalana. Thousands of devotees pull the chariots of all the three deities from Jagannath temple to Gundicha Temple where they stay for nine days. The act of pulling the Rath by the ropes is believed to be extremely religious. Lacks of devotees from all around the world visit Orrisa every year to witness this auspicious ceremony. The Jagannath rath yatra 2019 will begin from 4th July and will end on 15 July 2019. Visit Orrisa tourism to know about the tour packages offered by the state government.
History of the Rath Yatra
It is believed that on the Purnima (full moon day) of the Hindu month of Jyeshtha when the summer is at its peak, the deities decides to step out of the temple to take bathe. This festival is called as Sanna yatra. After bathing with 108 pots of water, the deity and his siblings fall ill and are kept in a separate room where medical attention is given to them by “Dayita”. This period is known as Anasara when the Gods cannot be seen by devotees. After taking the rest for 15 days, the deities then move to Gundicha Temple for 9 days stay.
The Rath Yatra celebration
The beautifully decorated Chariots are kept in front of the Simha Dwara. In a traditional manner first Sudarshana is brought from the temple and put on to the Chariot of Subhadra, followed by Balabhadra, Subhadra and Jagannath are placed in their respective chariots. All Deities are then offered fresh garlands and flowers. At this time the king of Jagannath Puri dressed in the cloths of a sweeper arrives and sweeps the street in front of the chariots and then sprinkles the ground with “Chandana” waters.
The Jagannath rath yatra then begins with the Balabhadra chariot going first as he is elder, followed by the chariot of Subhadra and God Jagannath. The chariots of Subhadra and Balabhadra goes directly to the Gundicha temple. However, the chariot of God Jagannath stops at Mausima (Maternal Aunt) Goddess Ardhamsini temple. Here the God is offered with Poda Pitha, which is believed to be his favorite dish. After having the meal, the chariot of God Jagannath again proceeds towards the Gundicha Temple. The Rath of God Jagannath usually reaches the Gundicha Temple the next day. After reaching the Gundicha Temple the Deities take rest on their chariots for another day, then they are taken into the sanctum of the Gundicha Temple. while staying in the Gundicha temple for seven days the Deities receive all the routine Rituals same as they used to receive in the main temple.
A major ritual called Hera Panchami is performed on the fifth day of the yatra. During the yatra, God Jagannath leaves behind Goddess Lakshmi in the main temple of Puri. On Hera Panchami, the furious goddess Lakshmi arrives at Gundicha temple in the form of Subarna Mahalakshmi. She is welcomed and worshipped by the priests of Gundicha Temple, who take her to the sanctum to meet Jagannath. Lakshmi requests him to return home and Jagannath gives his consent by offering her agyan mala. Before returning to the temple, Lakshmi orders one of her attendants to damage a part of Jagannath’s chariot, the Nandighosha. This ritual is known as the Ratha Bhanga (the breaking of the chariot). She then hides behind a tamarind tree outside the Gundicha Temple and later, escapes to her home temple in secrecy. She takes a separate pathway known as Hera Gohri Lane, as she fears the consequence of her actions.
Last day of the Rath Yatra
On the 10th day, the Deities are brought back on to their respective Chariots and the Rath is pulled back to the main temple. This return journey is known as Bahuda Yatra. While returning to the main temple God Jagannath stops again at Mausima’s temple to have Poda Pitha. The chariot then proceeds towards the Jagannath Temple, where the deities spend their night in the Rath till Morning.
Next day in the morning on Bada Ekadasi the Deities are dressed in the Golden cloths, Arms and Feet which are made of gold is attached. The deities are decorated with around 208 Kg of gold ornaments. This day is considered to be the most auspicious day of the festival. After a few hours, the Deities are brought back to the temple. First comes Balabhadra then Subhadra and then God Jagannath. God Jagannath however, faces a tough time while entering into the temple, as Goddess Laxmi is still angry with him. After much of the struggle, God Jagannath finally succeeds in convincing Goddess Laxmi by offering her lots of gifts. Goddess Laxmi then allows God Jagannath to enter into the Temple and the Jagannath rath yatra is completed.
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