Jagannath Puri Ratha Yatra will be celebrated today on July 4. It is one of the most awaited festivals in India and Odisha. It is also one of the grandest festivals and is believed to be the oldest chariot festival in the world. It is said that this festival is much old than it is mentioned in Brahama Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana.
Lord Jagannath’s three decorated chariots along with his brother Lord Balabhadra and sister Goddess Subhadra are pulled through the streets of Puri. The festival marks the siblings’ annual visit to their aunt’s temple Gundicha Temple.
Procession of Rath Yatra
- Every year, wooden idols of three deities are prepared and taken from Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple. Before commencement of the yatra, idols are bathed with 109 buckets of water which is Snana Purnima.
- Following which the idols are placed in isolation as it is believed that they are ill. The event is called Ansara.
- On the day when the procession is held, the holy ritual of Chhera Pahara is performed by the royal successor of Orissa. Also at this time, hordes of locals and devotees gather around the temple area.
- The deities are brought from the temple by the king and are placed on the chariot during Chhera Pahara.
- Before keeping idols on Rath, the king himself sweeps the chariot with a broom that has a gold handle. Also, the chariot is decorated with flowers by the king.
- Also, the ground on which the chariot will move is cleaned by hum after which sandalwood is sprinkled on it.
- Then the devotees start to pull the Rath. The three deities remain at the Gundicha Temple for 9 days and later they are back to their home. The return journey is called the ‘Bahuda Yatra.’
Every year the three chariots of Balabhadra, Subhadra and Jagannath are newly made with the wood of specified trees like phassi, dhausa etc. They are brought customarily from the ex-princely state of Dasapalla by a specialist team of carpenters who have hereditary rights and privileges for the same. In the river Mahanadi, the logs are traditionally set afloat as rafts. These are collected near Puri and then transported by road.
The main chariot of Lord Jagannath which is also called Nandighosa is of 45 feet and is decorated beautifully. The three chariots look like temples and are decorated with idols, diyas, and garlands. The procession is carried out with drums, trumpets, and devotional songs. Also, there are traditional dances and performances that make this procession a very vibrant affair.
It is said that getting a chance to pull the chariot is auspicious and is considered to bring a lot of luck and prosperity in one’s life.