Puri Rath Yatra (Oriya: ରଥଯାତ୍ରା), the annual Chariot Festival is a Hindu festival associated with Lord Jagannath which takes place in Puri, Orissa. This festival takes place on the second day in bright fortnight of the Hindu calendar month of Ashadha (Ashadha Shukla Dwitiya) which often falls in the month of June – July in the Gregorian Calendar.
This festival is also known by several other names Like Gundicha Yatra, Dasavatara Yatra, Ghosa Yatra, Rath Jatra etc.
This annual Chariot Festival (Puri Rath Yatra) commemorates the journey of Lord Jagannath along with elder brother Balabhadra and younger sister Subhadra to the Gundicha Temple.
In this Rath Yatra, three richly decorated chariots, resembling Puri Jagannath temple structures, are pulled through the streets of Puri to the Gundicha Temple (Garden House of Lord Jagannath) which is situated at a distance of 2 km from the Jagannath temple.
The idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra remain at the Gundicha Temple for eight days and then return back to the Jagannath Temple in Puri through a return journey known as Bahuda Yatra.
The renowned Puri Rath Yatra Festival dates back to 10 – 11 century, the period of the Puranas and its descriptions can be found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana and Kapila Samhita.
Puri Ratha Yatra day coincides with the Kutchi New Year day which also falls on Ashadi Beej.
Importance of Puri Rath Yatra :
The is a saying “rathe ca vamanam dhrstva punar janma na vidyate” which means that a person who sees Lord Jagannath on the Chariot on the auspicious day of Puri Rath Yatra attains salvation from the cycle of birth and death, i.e., he attains moksha or goes to swarg. Hence the annual Rath Yatra festival attracts millions of devotees not only from India, but from all parts of the world.
Devotees from all over the world, gather in Puri for the Rath Yatra with a desire to help in pulling these chariots of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra with help of ropes.
During the entire year, only Hindu’s are allowed to enter the premises of the Lord Jagannath Temple and get a glimpse of the residing deity however, during the Rath Yatra day, when the deities are on the chariots, everyone including the non-Hindus and foreigners can get a glimpse of the deities. Hence lot of foreigners also come to Puri especially for the Rath Yatra festival.
Puri Rath Yatra Rituals & Celebrations :
A fortnight before the Rath Yatra, on the Purnima (full moon day) of the Hindu month of Jyeshtha, the bathing ceremony of Lord Jagannath (Snana Yatra) takes place. For this Snana Yatra ceremony, deities Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra, Sudarshan, and Madanmohan are brought out from the Puri Jagannath Temple and taken in a procession to the Snana Bedi (bathing platform) where they are ceremonially bathed with 108 pots of sanctified water drawn from the well situated in the northern side of the Puri Jagannath temple.
It is believed that after the Snana Yatra, deities fall ill and are they kept in a private room where they rest and are taken care by Raj Vaidya. During this period of 15 days, known as Anasara, no one can see these deities. After the end of this period, Lord once again gives darshan to his devotees on the day of the Ratha Yatra ceremony.
One day before the Rath Yatra, the entire Gundicha Temple and nearby roads are cleaned by devotees. This cleaning ritual is known as Gundicha Marjana.
The timings of Puri Rath Yatra 2017 ceremonies are mentioned below:
- Consecration of 3 Charriots – 8.30 am IST
- Pahandi – 9 am to 12 pm noon IST
- Chherapahanra (Sweeping of Chariots by Gajapati King) – 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm IST
- Pulling of Chariot starts at 3 pm IST
The chariot of Baladeva, Taladhvaja, moves first, followed by the chariot of Subhadra Devi, Darpadalana. The chariot of Lord Jagannatha, Nandighosha comes in the last. A huge variety of food is cooked, offered to the deities and is then distributed as Prasadam to the public on the route of the Rath Yatra. Finally by the evening the deities reach the Gundicha temple.
During the Rath Yatra, these three chariots are accompanied by huge processions in which people play devotional songs with drums, tambourines, trumpets etc. That’s not all, musicians and dancers perform for the pleasure of the Lord in front of the chariots. Devotees also chant ‘Haribol’ and ‘Jai Jagannath’.
Four days later, Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Jagannatha, visits the Gundicha temple in search of Lord Jagannatha. Lord Jagannath agrees to return soon.
After resting for eight days in the Gundicha temple, Lord Jagannatha returns to his main temple. This return journey is known as Bahuda Yatra and is observed on the Dashami Tithi and during this return journey, deities make a short stoppage at Mausi Maa temple which is dedicated to Goddess Ardhashini.
The next day is Devshayani Ekadashi, the day on which Lord Jagannatha goes to sleep for four months.
Every year, the three chariots of Balarama, Subhadra and Jagannatha are newly constructed with wood of specified trees like phassi, dhausa, etc.
Puri Rath Ratra 2018 Date :
In 2018, the Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra will take place on Saturday, 14th July 2018.