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Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra 2021 begins: Know more about Chariot Festival, History and Significance

Shikha Goyal

Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra 2021: The World's biggest Chariot festival rituals began in Odisha's Puri amid COVID-19 restrictions. This festival lasts for over nine days. This year, the yatra took place without any devotees. Proceedings of the Rath Yatra can be watched by the devotees on Television. 

Greetings to everyone on the special occasion of the Rath Yatra. We bow to Lord Jagannath and pray that his blessings bring good health and prosperity in everyone’s lives. Jai Jagannath!

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 12, 2021

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 seek the blessings of Lord Jagannath.

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Why is Jagannath Rath Yatra celebrated every year? History

Jagannath Rath Yatra is organised at Puri in Odisha. It is believed that Lord Jagannath every year visits his birthplace. Various stories are associated with this festival some of them are as follows:

The maternal uncle Kansa of Lord Krishna and Balram invited them to Mathura to kill them. Kansa sent Akrur with a chariot to Gokul. Lord Krishna and Balram sat on the chariot and left for Mathura. The devotees celebrate this day of departure as Rath Yatra.  

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Another story says that the Rath Yatra festival is associated with Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra in Dwarka. Once upon a time, eight wives of Lord Krishna wanted to listen to some divine tales related to Krishna and Gopi's from mother Rohini. But the mother was not willing to narrate the story. After a 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 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. God granted Narad's wish and so, Lord Krishna, Subhadra and Balaram reside in Puri's Jagannath temple eternally.

In Dwaraka, devotees celebrated the day when Lord Krishna, accompanied by Balaram, took Subhadra his sister, for a ride on a chariot to show the beauty of the city.

An exciting story was there of Lord Krishna becoming the Sarathi that is the driver of Arjuna's chariot, during the 18th day battle of the Mahabharata.

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Jagannath Rath Yatra: Procession

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

- Before Rath Yatra, the idols are bathed with 108 buckets of water which is known as Snana Purnima.

- 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 Pahara 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 brings deities from the temple and is 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 Temple for a span of 9 days. Later, they are back at their home. The return journey of the three deities is termed '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 which is ‘Lord of Universe’. In fact, Lord Jagannath is considered one of the reincarnations 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 the 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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