Art & Culture Culture of India

Puri Rath Yatra

  • Millions of travellers from all over the world flock to Puri, Odisha, for the Rath Yatra (Chariot Procession).
  • The significance and main features of the Rath Yatra Festival are discussed in this article.

What exactly is Rath Yatra?

  • Sacred pilgrimage: According to legend, Lord Jagannath travels with his siblings for nine days to his birthplace, the Gundicha Temple.
  • The deities, Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra, will remain at the Gundicha Temple till the “Bahuda Yatra” (returning car festival) on June 28.
  • Procession: On the second day of the Odia month of Ashadha Shukla Tithi, the Rath Yatra takes place. The deities are paraded from the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple.

The main attractions

  • Chariots with specific colours, dimensions, wooden horses, guardian deities, and charioteers: The three giant chariots, Taladhwaja Rath for Lord Balabhadra, Darpadalan Rath for Goddess Subhadra, and Nandighosa Rath for Lord Jagannath, are made with unique colours, dimensions, wooden horses, guardian deities, and charioteers. These chariots are built by skilled artisans using ancient techniques.
  • Ritual of Chhera Panhara: The scion of the former Puri royal family performs the Chhera Panhara ceremony before the chariots are drawn. With a golden broom, the king washes the chariot floors, emphasising the dignity of labour and equality before the Lord.
  • The Chhera Panhara ritual has been performed by Puri’s (ceremonial) king, Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb, since 1971, demonstrating the long-standing tradition.

The importance of the festival

  • Participation of devotees: The Rath Yatra attracts a large throng, including foreigners, who flock to see the great spectacle.
  • Touching the chariot ropes: Devotees attempt to touch the chariot ropes since it is believed that the Lord bestows favours on those who pull the chariots.

Bahuda Yatra and Suna Besha Bahuda Yatra:

  • The return celebration is held on Ashadha Shukla Dasami. Before returning to the Jagannath Temple, the deities are given a special cake called “Poda Pitha” at the Mausimaa Temple.
  • Suna Besha: The deities are decorated with gold jewellery during the Suna Besha festival, which follows the Bahuda Yatra. Devotees go to see this spectacle, in which the lords are lavishly decked in gold.
  • Homecoming: Niladri Bije marks the end of the Rath Yatra and represents the deities’ return to the Jagannath Temple.
  • Offering to Goddess Laxmi: On behalf of Lord Jagannath, devotees offer Rasagola, a sweet delicacy made of cheese. This rite is intended to appease the goddess, who is said to be angry about not being taken on the chariots.
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