This spectacular chariot festival celebrated for 8 days, is held at the famous Jaganath Temple at Puri (Orissa). Thousands of devotees flock to Puri during the occasion as they believe that a glimpse of Lord Jagnath in his chariot gives salvation.
Images of Lord Jaganath - the Lord of the Universe, his sister Subhadra and brother Balbhadra are taken out in a procession in three immense chariots. The main chariot is 14 meters high and 10 meters square with 16 wheels. The deities are brought out of the temple to the chariots by rhythmic movement called 'Pahandi' in a royal procession to the accompaniment of the beat of the 'cymbals' and drums and chanting of prayers by devotees.
The pushing and shoving to seat Lord Jagannath on his chariot continues for hours. The god it seems is testing the perseverance of his devotees. The devotees in turn coax, cajole, they promise sweetmeats and other delicacies, when all this fails they call the Lord names and even give blows to the idol, all the while the surging crowd chants, sings and dances. It is believed that on these days Lord Jagannath will descend from his pedestal and mingle with his devotees with no barrier between them. After seating the idols, the traditional King of Puri sweeps the Chariots with a golden broom.
Thousands of devotees pull these chariots to Gundicha Mandir, a temple 3 km away. After a week, on 'Ashadha Sukla Dasami', the 10th day of the bright fortnight of Ashadha (June-July), return journey or 'Bahuda Yatra' of the deities commences in the same manner from Gundicha temple to the main temple like Rath Yatra.
When two months of Ashadha fall in one year, Rath Yatra is observed as the festival of 'Nabakalebar' the old deities are buried within the temple premises ('Koilibaikuntha') and are replaced by new deities, carved out of Margosa trees for which there are set procedures. Double Ashadha occurs at intervals of 8 to 19 years. Construction of the chariots begin as early as April.
How to get there
Air: Bhubaneswar is the nearest airport from Puri (60-km).
Road: Puri can also be approached by road directly from Bhubaneshwar and via Konark and then through the Marine Drive covering about 100-km.
Rath Yatra Photos
Festivals - Orissa