The world famous chariot festival of Lord Jajanath, popularly known as Ratha Yatra and Gundicha Yatra. The colourful festival is held on ‘Ashdha Sukla Ditiya’, the second day of bright forth night of Aslhadha in June – July, every year in one of the old costal city of Orissa known as Puri. This year in 2002 the yatra would be held on 12 th July.
Ratha Yatra is the most significant one and celebrated in a grand style. The preparation of the festival started from summer to early part of the monsoon. The event took place infront of the temple road called “Badadanda”.
In the English dictionary, the word “Juggernant” is defined as an “irresistible destructive force”. This term was coined by the British settlers in India . Ratha Yatra is recognized as one of the most stupondous and fanatical processions anywhere on the globe.
Nandighosa, name of Lord Jaganth’s chariot and Nandighosa and Devadolona of Balavadra and Subhadra, brother and sister of Lord Jaganath. The chariots are huge wooden structure that are built each year, wheels that are nearly eight feet in diameter! Lord Jaganath has the tallest chariot, covered with red and yellow bunting, Balabhadra has green bunting and Subhadra is covered in black, each of the chariot is well designed and beautifully carved, and are constructed each year with Sal wood, customarily brought from the ex-princely state of Dasapalla, by a speciallist team of carpenters who have hereditary rights for this.
The chariots are pulled with thich ropes by 4,200 workers from the temple (the total employes in the temple – 20,000). The devout believe that by pulling these ropes they get heavenly salvation. Tens of thousands of ecstatic singing and dancing crowd in front of the chariots as they make their way through town.
The starting point of the procession is the 12 th century Jaganath temple which looks like a huge one, height nearly 200 ft above the town, the temple is one of the four Dhams. Commonly known as Lord of universe. This festival is known as Ratha Yatra and Gundicha Yatra . This festival celebrated at Puri with great pomp and ceremony.
Before the chariot festival, the Netrotsava of the deities is hels in Anasara house. On the bright day of second day of the bright fortnight of the month of Asadha when the three deities, come out of the temple in a spectacular procession called Pahandi , the deities, colosal wooden statues, adorned with giant floral crowns, called tahias , are literally pulled, pushed and drums and chanting of their names in chorus by devotees in frenzied ecstasy. Then the Chhera Pamhara, the ritual sweeping of the chariots with a golden broom by the Gajapati King of Puri, the foremost servant of God. The King comes from his palace of a richly decorated palanquin. Chhera Pamhara is a symbolic rite wihic proclaims that the King lide all others but a humble servent of the real Sovereign, Lord Jagannath.
The most exciting part of the Ratha Yatra ills the pulling of chariots by thousands o people who lay their hands on the sturdy ropes and drag the massive structures along the Bada Danda, the grand road. The chariot of Balabhadra moves first, followed by those of Subhadra and Jagannath. The chariots grind forwards slowly until they rich the Gundicha temple where the three deities rest for a night on their own chariots. Adorned with the Dasavatara costumes. They enter the Gundicha temple on the next day morning in the usual Pahandi style and stay there for seven days.
Goddes Laxmi, who gets angry for being left out at the temple, proceeds to the Gundicha temple to meet her Lord. Jagannath, on the Hera Panchami day, the fifth day from the Ratha Yatra, after having a stealthy look at her Lord, she returns to the temple, damaging. A part of Jagannath’s chariot in anger and dilsgust.
The deities, after a seven-day stay at Gundicha temple. Their garden house, commence their return journey, the Bahuda Yatra, on the tenth day of the bright fortnight of Asadha. The return of the chariots takes place in the same order as in the Ratha Yatra. On his way back Jagannath stops for a while at Ardhasani temple, popularly called Mausi Ma temple or the temple of Aunt . He accepts from the aunt His favourite rice cake, Poda Pitha.
The three chariots, pulled by thousands of devotees, reach back the Simhadwara in the late afternoon of the Bahuda day and deities remain seated on their chariots. On the nest day the Bada Ekadasi, the three deities, are worshipped by thousands of devotees. This form of the deities is known as the Suna Vesa.
On the Dwadasi day, the three deities go back to their original place, the Ratna Simhasana, literally the jewelled platform, with the usual fanfare and in the Pahandi style. Their arrival into the sanctum sanctorum marks the end of the Ratha Yatra, the grand festival of Chariots.