Ratha Yatra is an annual Hindu festival celebrated in honor of the god Jagannath. This festival is held at Puri in the state of Odisha in India. It commemorates the annual visit of Jagannath to the Gundicha Temple via Mausi Maa Temple in Balagandi Chaka, Puri.
Also known as the Chariot or Car Festival, Ratha Yatra is celebrated on Ashadha Shukla Dwitiya. Ashadha Shukla Dwitiya is the second day of the bright fortnight of the Ashadha month (June or July). During the festival, millions of devotees from all over India would come to Puri to watch beautifully crafted chariots being dragged from the Lion’s gate of the Jagannath temple to Sri Gundicha Temple. The distance between the Jagannath Temple and Sri GundichaTemple is over 3 kilometers long. The Ratha Yatra marks the end of a series of festivals spread over the summer and the monsoon month in India.
What to Expect at the Car Festival of Lord Jagannath
The festival attracts locals, tourists, and devotees by the millions. During the festival, certain parts of Puri become congested with visitors. Roads could be closed or jammed with traffic. The roads leading up to the temples are filled with devotees watching the chariots make their holy journey.
The festival is quite lengthy; the deities honored during Ratha Yatra will remain at the Gundicha Temple for 7 days. Then, the return journey – called Bahuda Yatra – is held on the 9th day. During the return, the three glittering chariots will go back to the main temple by the evening. On the next day, the deities will be dressed in elaborate costumes to be worshiped by devotees. This period is called the Suna Vesha.
After the Suna Vesham, the deities will make their journey back to their original place of the temple. This marks the conclusion of the annual event.
A Celebration of Religious Beliefs and Divine Values
The Ratha Yatra is more than just a religious event. This festival is also a celebration of divine values, of love, equality, and compassion. All the devotees are allowed to pull the colorful chariots regardless of creed, sect, gender, or religion. The freedom to participate and assist in the festival symbolizes equality in the world.
A Journey with the Gods
Pulling the chariot from one temple to another is a symbol of a religious journey with the gods. The festival signifies the willingness of benevolent deities to come down to the level of the common man, sharing joy and suffering with the devotees. The gods will travel together with the common folk on the Grand Road to reach Sri Gundicha Temple.
The Grand Chariot
The three chariots featured in the Ratha Yatra are constructed every year using specific types of wood. Each chariot is also made specifically for a certain god. Lord Jagannatha’s golden chariot is called Nandighosa. This chariot is about 45 feet tall and has 16 wheels.
On the other hand, Lord Balarama’s chariot is called Taladhwaja. This forty-four feet chariot is covered in red and blue cloth. It has a distinct feature of a palm tree. Finally, Subhadra’s chariot is called Dwarpadalana. This forty-three feet high chariot is decked out in red and black cloth.