About the Festival
Every year during the month of June/July, three divine idols are carried in procession in huge beautifully decorated wooden chariots by a huge number of enthusiastic devotees falling over each other to get a chance to serve the deities.
The festival is also known as Gundicha yatra , ghosa yatra , navadina yatra , dasavatra yatra and by variety of other names. It is celebrated every year on the second day of shukla pakshya (waxing cycle of moon) of Asadha maas (3rd month in lunar calendar). The festival attracts thousands of pilgrims from all parts of India. The most impressive part is the chariot procession.
Three richly decorated chariots are pulled, with rope, through the streets of puri called ‘Badadanda’. This is the only day when non-hindu devotees can get glimpse of their deities. During the festival, devotees from all over the world come to puri with an earnest desire to pull their Lord’s chariots.
The word "Ratha" stands for "chariot" and "yatra" means "journey". Literally, Ratha Yatra means chariot ride. A major Hindu festival, Rathaytra is annually observed all over India. The festival is associated with Lord Jagannatha (Lord Krishna). And commemorates his annual journey to his aunt's residence along with his brother Lord Balabhadra and sister Subhadra.
Lord Krishna is the 8th avatar of Lord Vishnu and the supreme god in Indian Hindu mythology and is often worshiped as Lord Jagannath. The name comes from the conjugation of two Sanskrit words Jagat (world) and Natha (master). Hence the name Jagannath means master of the world and refers to Lord Krishna, who is held to be the supreme god and creator of the universe.
Origin of Rath Yatra
Usually the deities are worshiped within the temple, but on the day of Rathaytra they travel to their aunt’s temple (Gundicha mandir) which is situated at a distance of 2km from their temple. Gundicha , Lord Jagannath’s aunt, was the wife of king Indradyumna. The Gundicha temple is located in the middle of a beautiful garden and is said to be named after her. Gundicha ghar is believed by many people to be the birth-place of Lord Jagannath. According to a legend, Lord Jagannath once expressed his desire to visit his birth place Gundicha ghar once every year for a week. So along with his brother and sister, Lord Jagannatha spends seven days at this place.
The three chariots of Lord Balabhadra, Subhadra and Jagannatha are constructed every year with wood of specific trees like phassi, dhausa etc. They are usually brought from the ex-princely state of Dasapalla by a team of specialist carpenters who bear the right and privilege to do choose the wood by heredity. These chariots are decorated as per the unique scheme prescribed and followed for centuries stand on the Badadanda, resembling temple structures.
Lord Jagannath’s chariot is called Nandighosa or Garudadhwaja. It is forty-five feet high and forty-five feet square at the wheel level. It has 16 wheels each of seven feet diameter. It is wrapped with a cover made of red and yellow cloth. The chariot is guarded by Garuda, and name of the charioteer is Daruka. Its flag’s name is Trailokyamohini. There are 4 horses in this chariot, the names are Shanka, Balahaka, Suweta, Haridashwa and the name of the rope is Sankhachuda Naguni.
The chariot of Lord Balabhadra is called as Talladhwajan. It has fourteen wheels, each of seven-foot and is covered with red and blue cloth. Its height is forty-four feet. The chariot guarded by Basudev and the charioteer is Mitali. Its flag’s name is Unnani . Tribara, Ghora, Dirghashrama, Swarna are the name of its horses. And its rope is named as Basuki Naga.
The chariot of subhadra, known as Dwarpadalana, is forty three feet high with twelve wheels, each of seven foot diameter. This chariot is decked with a covering of red and black cloth. Black is being traditionally associated with Shakti and the mother Goddess. This chariot is guided by Jayadurga and the name of the charioteer is Arujana. Its flag’s name is Nadambika. There are 4 horses, the names are Rochika, Mochika, Jita , and Aparajita. And its rope name is Swarnachuda Naguni.
Decription of The Festival
The Ratha Yatra festival is followed just after the Anabasara or Anasara festival. The three deities come out of the temple in a spectacular procession called Pahandi. The deities adored with giant floral crowns, called Tahias, are literally pulled, pushed, and dragged in rhythmic movement to the accompaniment of the beat of cymbals, drums and chanting of their names.
After all the deities are seated in their respective chariots, the ritual of Chhera Panhara is started. Chhera Panhara is a ritual where the Gajapati king of puri, the Adya sevaka of Lord Jagannath, sweeps the chariots with a golden broom. The king comes from his palace on a richly decorated palanquin. Chhera panhara is a symbolic rite which proclaims that the king , like others , is an humble servant of the lord Jagannath .
The most exciting part of the Ratha yatra is the pulling of chariots by thousands of people who lay their hands on the sturdy ropes and drag the massive structures along the Badadanda (grand road). The chariot of Balabhadra moves first , followed by those of subhadra and Jagannath . They enter the Gundicha temple on the next day in the usual pahandi style and stay there for seven days.
Goddess Laxmi , who gets angry for being left out from the temple proceeds to Gundicha to meet her Lord Jaganatha , on Herapanchami day - the 5th day of fortnight . After having a stealthy look at her lord, She returns to the temple damaging a part of Jagannath’s chariot in anger and disgust.
After seven days of residing in Gundicha temple, the deities commence their return journey. This procession is called as Bahuda Yatra. It is held on the 10th day of bright fortnight of Asadh maas. The return of the chariot takes place in the same order as Ratha yatra. On the way back, Jagannath stops for a while at Ardhasani temple, popularly called mausimaa temple. He accepts his favorite poda pitha (rice cake) from his aunt. The three chariots pulled by thousands of devotees, reaches back at the Simhadwara in the late afternoon of the Bahudayatra day and deities remain seated on their chariots.
On the next day known as the Bada ekadasi, the three deities are attired in costumes of glittering gold and the devotees get the opportunity of having a glance of their Lord in the golden attire. This form of the deities is known as the famous Sunabesha (the Golden Attire). This ritual has been observed since 1232. During the reign of AnagaVima Dev (the king of Utkal), Sri Jagannath declared as state God. The Gods are decorated with various gold ornaments during Besha. Sunabesha means Lord will dress-up with golden ornaments, weapons even not only that,this day all the devotees can see lord Jagannath’s incomplete hand and legs with completed golden arms, palms and feet. The total weight of the Ornaments are more than one quintal.on the Dwadasi day, the three deities go back to their original place, the Ratnasinhasana.
Their arrival to the sanctum sanctorum marks the end of the Ratha Yatra the grand of chariots .