“The journey of chariots” is an old and glorious Hindu festival, with much to explore.
The Rath Yatra, or ‘the journey of the chariots’, is a massive Hindu festival that is organised every year at the Jangannath Temple at Puri. The reason the festival is so special is because this is the only time the three deities, Jagannath (considered to be the lord of the universe and an incarnation of Vishnu, the god of preservation, his older brother Balabhadra, and their sister Subhadra, leave the temple on wooden chariots (that are pulled by devotees) to visit the Gundicha Temple.
This little holiday lasts for 9 days, after which they return back home. The Gundicha Temple is said to have been built to honour the devotion of Queen Gundicha, wife of the legendary King Indradyumna who is said to have built the Puri Jagannatha temple. The three deities are made of wood and are replaced every 12 years.
Preparations for the festival
The preparations are almost as elaborate as the festival itself. The chariots are specially built for each of the deities every year and take exactly 58 days to make. The construction involves lots of rituals and numbers: Jagannath’s chariot is made out of 832 pieces of wood, Balabhadra’s gets 763, and Subhadra’s just 539. One day before of Ratha Yatra, Gundicha Temple is cleaned by devotees of Lord Jagannatha. The ritual of cleaning Gundicha temple is known as Gundicha Marjana and is held one day before Ratha Yatra.
Ratha Yatra day is decided based on Hindu Lunar calendar and it is fixed on Dwitiya Tithi during Shukla Paksha of Ashada month. Currently, it falls in the month of June or July in Gregorian calendar.
Why it’s so important
The Yatra attracts close to a million people every year. The city of Puri is flooded with tourists, national as well as international. Over the years, poets, saints, and scriptures have consistently praised the good fortune associated with attending Rath Yatra and the benefits its deities bestow upon pilgrims. Seeing the chariot procession is considered to purge you of your sins and this alone is the reason that so many people come to the festival every year. In fact, it is almost a staple for popular news and media channels to cover the event religiously for nine days.
Puri-One of the main reasons you should attend the festival
Besides coming alive and reveling in this festival every year, Puri is a city that you have got to visit. Though it is best known for the Rath Yatra, the city has a strange beauty to it that you won’t accept. The city is deeply rooted in culture and traditions, with some of the most beautiful temples around the country. The city also has some of the most beautiful beaches, with Puri Beach being the most popular. Even this beach is considered to be a holy Hindu place and it hosts the Puri Beach Festival, which is sponsored by the Indian Ministry of Tourism. The beach hosts sand art displays, including work by international award-winning local sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik.