Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra 2019: Chariot Festival, History and Significance

Jagannath Rath Yatra festival is dedicated to Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna), his sister Goddess Subhadra and his elder brother Lord Balabhadra or Balaram.  Jagannath Rath Yatra is widely celebrated and one of the biggest festivals of India where millions of devotees arrive and participate in the Rath Yatra processions and seeks blessings of Lord Jagannath.

When Jagannath Rath Yatra festival is celebrated?

Jagannath Rath Yatra festival as per the traditional Oriya calendar begins on the second day of Shukla Paksha of the Hindu lunar month of Ashadha. This year it will start on 4 July, 2019 and ends on 15 July, 2019.

Why Jagannath Rath Yatra is celebrated every year? History

Jagannath Rath Yatra is organised at Puri in Odisha. It is believed that Lord Jagannath every year wishes to visit his birthplace. Various stories are associated with this festival:

One of the tales is linked with King Subal who was a great devotee of Jagannath. Once he asked a sculptor to create Lord Krishna idol with his chariot at Kurukshetra along with his elder brother Balaram and sister Subhadra. The sculptor agreed to create idol but he wanted to remain in solitude in a room. The King agreed with the condition of the sculptor. After waiting long, the King in the anger opened the door of the room where the sculptor was working. Suddenly, the sculptor disappeared and the King could see were the deities. It is said that the three idols are same in the Rath Yatra in Puri that the King asked to create the sculptor.

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Another story says that the Rath Yatra festival is associated with Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra in Dwarka. Once, eight wives of Krishna wanted to listen some divine tales related to Krishna and Gopi's from mother Rohini. But mother was not willing to narrate the story. After long request she agreed but on the condition that Subhadra would guard the door so that no one overhears. While the stories are being narrated by Rohini mother, Subhadra was got so in captivated that meantime Lord Krishna and Balaram arrived at the doorway and Subhadra stopped them by standing in between them with her hands wide apart. That time sage Narad arrived and saw three siblings together he prayed for the three of them to give their blessings in this way forever. The Gods granted Narad's wish and so, Lord Krishna, Subhadra and Balaram reside in Puri's Jagannath temple eternally.

Another story is associated with the King Indrayumna, who was to be quite virtuous. Once the king went to the Nilanchal mountain due to the disappointment that there were no ideals of Lord Vishnu because it was taken by the Gods. Then, a divine intervention in the heaven announced that he will be incarnated in the form of stone or wood as Jagannath. And so to please his devotees he came back in the form of wood.

Jagannath Rath Yatra: Procession

- The three idols are taken from Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha temple. These idols are placed in the decorative chariots, accompanied by chants and conches, which can be heard all around.

- Before Rath Yatra, the idols are bathed with 109 buckets of water which is known as Snana Pornima.

- Till the day of procession, they are placed in isolation as it is believed that they are ill. This event is known as Ansara.

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- On procession day, the holy ritual Chhera Phara is performed by the royal successor of Odisha. Various hordes of locals and devotees flock around the temple area.

- In Chehra Pahara ritual the King bring deities from the temple and are placed on the chariot.

- Before placing them, the King himself sweeps the chariot that has a gold handle. Later, he decorates the chariot with flowers. The ground on which the chariot will move is also cleaned by him and then sandalwood is sprinkled on it.

- This ritual shows that everyone is equal in the eyes of God.

- The three deities are placed in the aunt's place the Gundicha Templa for a span of 9 days. Later, they are back to their home. The return journey of the three deities is termed as 'Bahuda Yatra'.

- In the evening when deities reached the Jagannath temple wait outside the temple.

- On the next day, the idols are adorned with new clothes like babies and the ritual is known as Suna Vesa.

- After this day, the deities are placed again into the sanctum sanctorum, marking an end to the Rath Yatra of Jagannath Puri.

Jagannath Rath Yatra: Significance

The word Jagannath is made up of two words Jaga which means Universe and Nath means Lord that is ‘Lord of Universe’. In fact the Lord Jagannath is considered as one of the reincarnation of avatars of Lord Vishnu. Every year, the Rath Yatra is celebrated by the devotees. Idols are taken out on a chariot and the three chariots are pulled by the devotees through the streets of Puri to the Gundicha temple a few kilometres away. There is a belief that pulling the chariots of their God during the procession is a way of engaging in the pure devotion of Lord and it also destroys the sins which might be committed either knowingly or unknowingly.

Jagannath Rath Yatra is celebrated by millions of devotees that came from across the world to seeks the blessings of God's and fulfil their wishes. The atmosphere at the time of Rath Yatra is so pure and beautiful. Devotees with the chariots keep singing songs, mantras with the sound of drum beatings. Jagannath Rath Yatra is also famous as Gundicha Yatra, Chariot Festival, Dasavatara and Navadina Yatra.

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