Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra is the most popular chariot festival among the Hindus across the world. On rath yatra; Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra visit their aunt’s place every year on three majestic chariots. It attracts over a million Hindu pilgrims every year to witness the great procession of Lord of Universe.
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Pre-rituals of Jagannath Rath Yatra
The car festival ritual in Jagannath Temple is a long process and includes many significant days until the end. Jagannath Rath Yatra Puri commences just after Akshaya Tritiya and ends when the Gods and Goddesses return back to the Jagannath Temple. It starts much earlier when the construction and decoration of the Chariots are done within a close range of Jagannath Temple. More than 600 trees, or 400 cubic meters of wood, are needed for the construction, taken from the local forests, along with the banks of the Mahanadi River near Jagannath Temple. Using the same simple tools and procedures as they have for the past hundreds of years, once the basic elements are made, such as the wheels, the actual construction begins only a few weeks before the festival at close quarters of Jagannath Temple. Coinciding with the Jagannath Rath Yatra festival at Puri, similar processions are organized in each Jagannath Temple all around the world.
‘Atmanam rathinam viddhi sareeram rathamevatu Buddhim tu saarathim viddhi marah pragrahameva cha’.
‘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’.
Courage and tenacity are wheels of the Ratha Immutable truth and character are its flags, Strength, discrimination, self-control, and charity are the horses pulling the Ratha Forgiveness, mercy, and equanimity are the reins, and Devotion to the Lord is its Sarathi
The ultimate essence of the Ratha (chariot) stories is that the Jiva should unwarrantedly surrender to the Supreme Sarathi – God or the God-realised Soul, if he wishes to successfully traverse the Rath Yatra of life from Samsara. (Material Existence).
Chandana Yatra is the longest festival observed at Jagannath temple at Puri. It is also known as Gandhalepana Yatra. Chandana Yatra meaning Sandalwood Voyage in Sanskrit, which continues for 42 days and starts from Akshaya Tritiya. It is observed in two parts: Bahara Chandana and Bhitara Chandana. Akshay Tritiya festival marks the beginning of the famous Car Festival of Lord Jagannath. Akshay Tritiya is observed on the third day of the bright half of the lunar month of ‘Baisakha’ of the traditional Hindu calendar.
Snana Yatra or Devsnana Purnima
In Rath Yatra, on the day of Jyestha Purnima, Devsnana is performed at the center of the Jagannath Temple. In this ritual, the Lord is taken to a place inside the Jagannath Temple sanctum known as “Snana Mandap” by performing Pahandi (the swinging motion travel of God from one place to another). He is made to have a bath with 108 vessels of water taken from a specific well which is the starting custom of Jagannath Rath Yatra at Puri Temple.
God suffers from fever
Right after the bath, Lord Jagannath suffers from fever. According to the rituals, the Jagannath Temple is closed for 15 days since he is unwell. These 15 days become a matter of concern for the ardent devotees who want to see him in the starting phase of Ratha Yatra. This period is known as ‘Anabasara’ or ‘Anasara’ in the local language. After this period, people get the first glimpse of their deities on the day before Jagannath Rath Yatra, on this day the deities are re-painted and brought to the main platform for the devotees to see and pay homage which is called ‘Nava Yauvana Darshan’. It is also known as ‘Netrotsava’. The next day, the Chariot Festival is observed and starts from Jagannath Temple.
It is believed that during these 15 days the Lord resides in a place about 20-25 km’s away from Jagannath Temple Puri known as Brahmagiri. The form of Lord Jagannath worshiped here is known as Alarnath. In these 15 days, authentic food is prepared similarly to Puri Mahabhog. People come in huge numbers to seek the blessing of God in the Jagannath Temple complex.
The Three Majestic Chariots of Rath Yatra
Nandighosh Rath – The Chariot of Lord Jagannath
The chariot of Lord Jagannath is called Nandighosh Rath. It is also known as Garudadhwaja and Kapidhwaja. The easiest way to identify the Chariot of Lord Jagannath is by the color of the covering of the chariot. The chariot of Jagannath has a yellow and red color canopy and it is also the largest of the chariots.
Significance of Nandighosha Rath
- It is 45.6 feet high
- The chariot has 18 wheels
- The Chariot is known as Nandighosa
- Total number of wooden pieces are 832
- The color of cloth in the chariot is Red and Yellow
- The chariot is guarded by Garuda
- The charioteers name is Daruka
- The flags name is Trailokyamohini
- The Horses in the chariot are Shankha, Balahaka, Shveta, Hardashva
- The ropes used are Shankhachuda
- The nine deities presiding in the chariot are Varaha, Govardhana, Krushna, Gopi-Krushna, Nursigha, Rama, Narayana, Trivikrama, Hanuman and Rudra.
Taladhwaja – Chariot of Lord Balabhadra
The chariot of Lord Balabhadra is called as Taladhwaja Rath. The easiest way to identify the Chariot of Lord Balabhadra is by the color of the covering of the chariot throughout the Rath Yatra. The chariot of Balabhadra has a green and red color canopy and it is the second largest of the chariots. The Chariot has 4 horses and the color of the horses is Black.
Significance of Taladhwaja Rath
- It is 45 feet high
- The chariot has 16 wheels
- The Chariot is known as Taladhvaja
- Total number of wooden pieces are 763
- The color of cloth in the chariot are Red and Blue
- The chariot is guarded by Vasudev
- The charioteers’ name is Matali
- The flags name is Unani
- The Horses in the chariot are Tibra, Ghora, Dighashrama, Swamanava
- The ropes used are Basukhi
- The nine deities presiding in the chariot are Ganesh, Kartikeya, Sarvamangala, Pralambari, Halayudha, Mrutyunjaya, Natmvara, Mukteshwar, Sheshadeva.
Devadalana – The Chariot of Devi Subhadra
The chariot of Lord Subhadra is called as Devadalana Rath. It is also known as Darpadalana and Padmadhwaja. The easiest way to identify the Chariot of Goddess Subhadra is by the color of the covering of the chariot during Rath Yatra. The chariot of Subhadra has a black and red color canopy and it is also the smallest of the chariots. The Chariot has 4 horses and the color of the horses is red.
Significance of Devadalana Rath
- It is 44.6 feet high
- The chariot has 14 wheels
- The Chariot is known as Devadalana
- Total number of wooden pieces are 593
- The color of cloth in the chariot are Red and Black
- The chariot is guarded by Jayadurga
- The charioteers’ name is Arjuna
- The flags name is Nadambika
- The Horses in the chariot are Rochika, Mochika, Jita, Aparajita
- The ropes used are Swarnachuda
- The nine deities presiding in the chariot are Chandi, Chamunda, Ugratara, Vanadurga, Shulidurga, Varahi, Shyama Kali, Mangala and Vimala
Know more: Rath Yatra Chariots
Jagannath Rath Yatra Puri Celebration and Rituals
During Ratha Yatra, soon after Lord Jagannath gets well, he wills to pay a visit to his aunt’s place which is very close to Jagannath Temple’s vicinity. This is when Jagannath Rath Yatra is performed.
Jagannath Rath Yatra that is celebrated in Jagannath Temple usually in the month of June or July commences when the chariots of Lord Jagannath are accompanied by his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Devi Subhadra and are brought out onto the Main Street of Puri close to Jagannath Temple known as Bada Danda. These Chariots are then taken to the Shri Gundicha Temple to their aunt’s house where the deities enjoy nine days stay away from Jagannath Temple. Here are some amazing rituals of Puri Rath Yatra.
Rath Yatra Pahandi Ritual
This ritual describes the travel of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra from the Jagannath temple until the chariot. The Gods and Goddesses are picked by many Pandits in the course of Rath Yatra. He is brought slowly to the chariot in a swinging motion. It seems as if he is very happy to come out of the Jagannath temple and go to his aunt’s place. His happiness is reflected by the way he walks down till the chariot. In Jagannath Rath Yatra Puri- the journey of the deities to the world outside starts with an elaborate royal ritual called Pahandi – literally, going forward in a step by step movement to the accompaniment of several devotees beating the ghanta, Kahali, and Telingi Baja.
As Lord Jagannatha and Lord Balabhadra are quite heavy, a wooden cross is fixed to their backs and thick silken ropes are tied around their heads and waists for their ceremonial procession – a ritual known as Senapata Lagi at the time of Jagannath Rath Yatra Puri. The deities during the anasara period are actually placed in the audience hall – Jagamohana and not in the sanctum – or deal on the elevated platform, their normal seat. From there the deities are moved first onto the sata pahacha or seven steps, outside the northern door of the natamandapa or the dancing hall in the Jagannath temple. During the outward movement from the Jagannath temple to the chariots, the procession of the deities is in a row and is known as dhadi pahandi or a group movement. All the deities move simultaneously. At first Sudarshana, the celestial wheel of Krishna-Vishnu is brought out and placed in the chariot of Subhadra followed by Balabhadra, Subhadra and finally Jagannath in the time of Rath Yatra.
The two brothers, Balabhadra and Jagannatha are decorated with large, elaborate floral decorations called tahia in Rath Yatra. These are like huge crowds or tiara but are fixed at the back of their heads. These are made of a variety of white, orange and lotus flowers, leaves and pieces of cork fixed to a semi-circular heart-shaped bamboo frame. The two brothers decorated with the things are carried forward in a slow, swaying movement, giving the illusion of a huge elephant gracefully and gently stepping out. People go wild with ecstasy and pull out the flowers from their tiara as blessings outside the Jagannath temple.
Before welcoming Lord Jagannath, all the deities in the chariot are worshiped. The horses, the devtas, the gods, and goddesses all form a part of this ritual. This procedure is termed as “Rath Pratistha” in the Jagannath Rath Yatra Puri festival. Only after the completion of this ritual they are brought inside the Chariot.
It is the most famous ritual associated with the Jagannath Rath Yatra Puri. During this ritual, the Gajapati King sweeps all around the deities and chariots. He then cleanses the road with a broom (gold-handled) and sprinkles sandalwood water and powder in and out of the Jagannath Temple. The custom showcases that in the eyes of Lord Jagannath every devotee is equal be it the king or a commoner. This ritual is held on two days, firstly on the rath yatra; when the three deities go to their aunt’s house and lastly on the day when they are ceremoniously brought back to the Puri Jagannath Temple.
People engross in different cultural activities and go wild in ecstasy. They perform cultural dances, sing music, and perform activities like dancing on a stick, playing with fire and much more in Jagannath Rath Yatra Puri.
The Gundicha Temple (Mausima Mandir):
The deities stay for a period of nine days and enjoy their vacations at their aunt’s house and have fun all the while during Jagannath Rath Yatra Puri. On their way back to the Jagannath Temple, the deities are offered Poda Pitha when their chariots halt at the Mausi Maa Temple. This sweet is a kind of baked cake that is meant to be consumed by the poor sections only. During this time there’s a tale about the fight between Lord Jagannath and Goddess Laxmi where Laxmi gets angry because they do not take her along for the vacation and leave her alone in the Jagannath Temple.
Bahuda Yatra – Return of the Almighty:
The brothers and sisters return back to the Jagannath Temple after a stay of 9 days at their aunt’s place. This is known as ‘Bahuda Yatra’. This marks the end of the vacation of the Gods.
After they return, the chariots are kept in front of the Puri – Jagannath temple while preparations are made for a royal look of the Gods. “Suna Besa” is the form Lord Jagannath takes up along with his brother and sister. In this ritual, they are mounted with huge amounts of Gold jewelry and clothes made of Gold. It is believed that whoever sees the Lord in Suna Besa gets free of all his bad Karmas.
Then comes’ the very significant Niladri Bije. This is really interesting as it is all about the continuation of the fight between Lord Jagannath and Goddess Laxmi.
Here ends the enormous car festival of the Gods. This is a significant event in the entire state(Odisha) that is witnessed by numerous tourists both foreigners and Indians. During the famous Jagannath Rath Yatra Puri is colored in the most vivid hues of sheer joy & enjoyment and is flocked with devotees who wish to pay their honor to the deities and seek their blessings.
How to visit Jagannath Rath Yatra Puri?
By Air: The nearest airport to Jagannath Temple Puri is Biju Patnaik Airport, Bhubaneswar, which is around 60 km from Puri. The city is easily accessible from the airport to Rath yatra puri. You can easily rent a cab. This airport is well-connected with important cities of India such as Delhi, Nagpur, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and Chennai.
By Rail: Jagannath Temple Puri is the last stop on the East Coast Railway. Rath yatra puri is connected through direct express and other super-fast trains with important Indian cities such as Okha, Delhi, Tirupati, Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and so on.
By Road: Jagannath Temple Puri is easily connected with the road through a good network of roads. To Jagannath Temple from the bus stand near the Gundicha Temple, buses from Bhubaneswar and Cuttack are available after every 10-15 minutes. Mini-buses for Konark are also available to Jagannath Temple, after every 20-30 minutes. Direct buses for Kolkata and Visakhapatnam are also available till Jagannath Temple. Renting a cab is another option.