Odisha is said to be the land of Lord Jagannath (Lord Vishnu’s incarnation) and Jagannath means “Lord of the world”. Odisha is world famous for its holy pilgrimage destination Puri Jagannath Temple. Therefore, Jagannath Rath Yatra (Chariot Festival) is one of the most celebrated and much awaited festivals in Odisha. It is also termed as Shree Gundicha Yatra, Navadina Yatra, Ghosha Yatra, Yagyanvedi Yatra, Adapa Mandap Yatra, Janmavedi Yatra, Dashavatara Yatra, Mahavedi Yatra, Dakshinayan Yatra and Patitapabana Yatra. This annual event is celebrated in the month of June or July and is dedicated to Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna), his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and their only sister Goddess Subhadra. The main attraction of this event is the three deities are taken out in a grand procession in specially made temple like wooden chariots (also called Rathas), that are dragged by thousands of devotees. This festival attracts over a million pilgrims every year because Jagannath Rath Yatra is the only day when non-Hindu and foreigner devotees (who aren’t allowed to Puri Jagannath temple), can get a glimpse of the deities. According to Odia Calendar, the very popular Lord Jagannath’s Rath Yatra at Puri is celebrated in Ashadh Shukla Dwitiya (the 2nd day of bright fortnight in Asadha Month) every year. This year Jagannath Rath Yatra will be held on 4th July 2019, Thursday.
Jagannath Ratha Yatra Festival Dates from 2010 to 2030
- Why is it celebrated?
Actually Ratha Yatra is derived from two Sanskrit words; ‘Ratha’ which means Chariot and ‘Yatra’ which means Journey. In Hinduism across India, Ratha yatra procession has been historically common in Lord Vishnu-related (Lord Krishna, Shree Ram, Lord Jagannath) and Lord Shiva-related traditions.
Few days before Ratha yatra, another event named as Deva Snana Purnima takes place, in which the idols are bathed with 108 pots of cold and aromatic water. It is believed that when the summer is at its height, the deities are unable to bear the heat inside temple. So they step outside to bathe in public and then the deities are placed in isolation (Anasara) till the day of procession, as they fall ill. When they recover, they desire to eat the food cooked by their aunt Gundicha, whose temple is a little away from his temple. Hence, Lord Jagannath accompanying his siblings steps on his gigantic chariot and makes his way there.
As per the myth, every year Lord Jagannath wishes to pay visit to his Aunt’s place for a few days. Therefore, this Yatra is conducted from Jagannath Temple to Gundicha temple (also known as Maushi Maa temple) every year to fulfill the Lord’s desire. It is believed that Lord Jagannath is very much fond of Poda Pitha and he cannot be back from Gundicha temple without having his favourite sweet Poda Pitha. After 9 days of rest at Gundicha temple, the three deities return to the Jagannath temple with another chariot procession called Bahuda Yatra.
- Why Jagannath Rath Yatra is unique?
The world famous Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra is a symbolic journey of Lord Krishna back to his childhood. The unique feature about this event is that Lord Jagannath visits his aunt’s place not with his spouse Goddess Lakshmi, but with his siblings; his elder brother Balabhadra and younger sister Subhadra along with Lord Sudarshana (Lord Jagannath’s weapon).
- Every year the wooden idols of the trinity are taken from the Jagannath temple to Gundicha temple in a grand chariots procession. This huge procession accompanied by the chariots, plays devotional songs with the sounds of drums, ghantas, bugles, cymbals, trumpets, tambourines and Vedic chants that make it a lively affair.
- On the morning of Rath yatra, the wooden deities are adorned with new clothes and garlands as babies. Then the deities are brought from the temple in a grand procession (popularly known as Pahandi Bije) and are placed on the chariots.
- Before keeping the idols in their respective chariots, the Gajapati King (the royal successor of Odisha) himself sweeps every chariot with a broom which has a gold handle. He sprinkles the sacred Sandalwood water everywhere on the chariot and then decorates with flowers with his own hands. Later he sweeps the ground on which the chariot will move and also sprinkles some sandalwood water.
- The tradition of cleaning the Lord’s chariot is called as Chhera Pahara and it is the most famous ritual associated with the Jagannath Rath Yatra. This holy action of the King bridges the gap between the rich and the poor as well as the low caste and the high caste. This custom of Chhera Pahara sends out a very important message of Dignity of Labour and started by the King Purushottama Deva.
- This festival signifies that everyone is equal in the eyes of the God. Puri Jagannath Temple is reachable only by Hindu devotees, but on the day of Rath yatra Indians, as well as foreigners are allowed to pull the chariots by ropes. This magnificent sight of a million devotees together pulling the gorgeously decorated chariots all the way along the Bada danda ( Puri Grand Trunk Road) is really incredible!
- The three deities stay at Maushi Maa temple (Gundicha temple) for a span of nine days. During this period many rituals and ceremonies are performed. Later, they are back to their abode and the return journey of three deities is called as ‘Bahuda Yatra’.
- After reaching the temple in the evening, the deities wait outside in front of the Lion gate of Shri Jagannath temple. On the day of Bada Ekadashi (the 11th day of the bright fortnight in Asadha Month), the wooden deities are made to wear the gold ornaments; with hands, arms, feet and crown made of solid gold. This golden attire of the Lord Jagannath and other deities is called Suna Besha / Raja Besha/ Rajadhiraja Besha / Rajarajeshwar Besha.
- After this event, the idols are placed again in the main temple, marking an end to the Jagannath Rath Yatra of Puri.
Now let’s discuss about the Chariots in Jagannath Rath Yatra.
The centre of attractions of Lord Jagannath’s Rath Yatra is the elaborated and richly decorated Chariots. There are three main chariots, which are dragged by hands using long and thick ropes. There is a belief among Hindus that simply touching the chariot or rope in the event of Rath yatra can bring prosperity in life and will free them from all their sins of past and present lives. As per the Katha Upanishad, the Chariot represents the body and the deity inside it is the soul. Our wisdom performs as the charioteer that controls the mind and its notions.
The chariots are newly made every year and the preparation starts on the day of Akshaya Tritiya. For the decoration of the Chariots, great care and attention is given that highlights the superb craftsmanship of the Odia artisans. When the Rath Yatra is finished, the Chariots are disassembled and the wood is used in the kitchen of Puri Jagannath Temple.
Each of these three temple-shaped chariots in Jagannath Rath Yatra festival carries one of the deities of Jagannath Temple. The details of the Chariots are as follows:
Lord Jagannath’s Chariot:
|Height||45 feet, 6 inches|
|Number of Wheels||16|
|Height Of Wheels||6 feet in diameter|
|Colors||Yellow and Red|
|Number of Horses||4|
|Gate keepers||Jay and Vijay|
|Weapons of the Chariot||Sankha and Chakra|
Devi Subhadra’s Chariot:
|Name||Debadalana / Darpadalana/ Padmadhwaja|
|Height||44 feet, 6 inches|
|Number of Wheels||12|
|Height Of Wheels||6 feet 8 inches in diameter|
|Colors||Black and Red|
|Number of Horses||4|
|Gate keepers||Ganga and Yamuna|
|Weapons of the Chariot||Padma and Kalhar|
Lord Balabhadra’s Chariot:
|Number of Wheels||14|
|Height Of Wheels||6 feet 6 inches in diameter|
|Colors||Green and Red|
|Number of Horses||4|
|Gate keepers||Nanda and Sunanda|
|Weapons of the Chariot||Hala and Musala|
What is Lord Jagannath’s Nabakalebara?
Nabakalebara is derived from two Odia words: ‘Naba’ means new and ‘Kalebara’ means body. Therefore, the symbolic change and recreation of the wooden forms of the main Hindu deities (Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra) at Jagannath temple is popularly known as Nabakalebra. The deity’s rebirth takes place every 8th, 12th or 19th year after the previous Nabakalebara. When the extra month is meant to line up in Hindu lunar calendar that appears in the summer and makes two months of Ashadha, i.e. Joda Asadha (June-July); this ritual of Nabakalebara takes place. In the last century, this rare and special Nabakalebar ritual was performed in 1912, 1931, 1950, 1977, 1996 and 2015.
How to reach?
- By Road
Puri is a beautiful and religious city and the bus stand near Shree Gundicha temple provides connections to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack in every 15-20 minutes. Minibuses for Konark are available after every 20-30 minutes and also from Jatiababa Chhak. Direct buses for Kolkata and Visakhapatnam are also available here. You can rent a Cab or Auto rickshaw of your own which is another option.
- By Rail
As Puri is the terminus on the East Coast Railway, it is well connected through direct express and super fast train linked with important cities of India such as Mumbai, Kolkata, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Okha, Tirupati and so on.
- By Air
The nearest airport to Puri is Biju Patnaik International Airport, Bhubaneswar. It is situated at a distance of 60km from Puri and well connected with important Indian cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Chennai and Visakhapatnam.
Jagannath Rath Yatra in Puri is the only day in the whole year when the non-Hindu devotees have an opportunity to see the deities of Jagannath temple. This annual Jagannath Rath Yatra festival is largely organized all over the country and outside India by Hindu communities, all for the convenience of the Lord Jagannath’s devotees. Apart from Indian, this colossal spectacle of Rath Yatra attracts a large number of international tourists across the world.