On the bank of the Bay of Bengal in Odisha and near West Bengal is a town named Puri, which is India and one of the famous pilgrimage places. This is one of the Char Dham of India.
Here thousands of pilgrims visit the temple of Jagannath every day. Ratha Yatra is a Hindu festival in which everyone worships Lord Jagannath.
This is one of the oldest Chariot Festivals, which is also written in Bramha Puran. Ratha Yatra in Puri, also known as Ghosa Jatra, is a world-famous car festival.
The colorful Ratha Yatra draws millions of devotees from different parts of India and Globally to Puri and is held every year in June-July.
Lord Jagannath, who is the Lord of the Universe, is taken out of His sanctum sanctorum and gives Darshan to all his Devotees who belong to different sects and communities. He is considered the form of Lord Vishnu.
lt is believed that those who participate in this Car Festival would earn their place in Heaven.
Ratha Yatra and Its History
Ratha Yatra is celebrated once every year on the second day of Ashadha Shukla Paksha, the Odia calendar’s third month. Normally in June- July, this festival takes place.
The chariot starts from Jagannath Temple and ends in Gundicha Temple, which is 2 miles away in the north.
On the way, Jagannath Dev takes some rest in his maternal aunt’s home, known as Mausi Maa Temple, and eats his favorite and special pancake known as poda pitha.
After seven days, all the three chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Goddess Subhadra return to Jagannath temple.
Jagannath temple was protected by Kabir Saheb Ji. In Treta Jug, Ocean tried to take revenge on Lord Krishna. But as per the promise of Kabir Saheb Ji to Kall, he went and saved the Jagannath Temple from destruction by the ocean. Since then, the temple has been in its place.
Every year the three chariots are constructed new with the phassi and dhausa tree woods.
The 3 chariots are uniquely decorated and are lined in front of the grand temple on its eastern entrance; this is known as the Sinhadwara or Lion’s Gate.
Jagannath Rath Yatra is a 9-day festival that is celebrated with various rituals and traditions.
Chariot 1 – Nandighosa or Kapiladhwaja is the chariot for Lord Jagannath.
It has 16 wheels and a Trailokyamohini flag at its top. Charioteer Daruka, with the help of four white horses named Shankha, Suweta, Haridashwa Balahaka, tied with the chariot with the rope named Shankhachuda Nagini, possesses the holy movement.
The gatekeepers are Jaya and Vijaya, and the guardian is Garuda.
Chariot 2 – Taladhwaja or Langaladhwaja is the chariot for Lord Balabhadra.
It has 14 wheels and a Unnani flag at its top. Charioteer Matali, with the help of four black horses named Tribra, Dirghasharma, Swornanava, Ghora, tied with the chariot with the rope named Basuki Naga, possesses the holy movement.
The gatekeepers are Nanda and Sunanda, and the guardian is Vasudev.
Chariot 3 – Darpadalana or Padmadhwaja is the chariot for Goddess Subhadra.
It has 12 wheels and a Nadambika flag at its top. Charioteer Arjuna, with the help of four red horses named Rochika, Jita, Aparajita, and Mochika, tied with the chariot with the rope named Swarnachuda Nagini, possesses the holy movement.
The gatekeepers are Ganga and Jamuna, and the guardian is Jayadurga.
Lakhs of devotees come to pull the ropes of chariots.
On the day of Akshaya Tritiya, the third day of Jaistha Shukla Paksha, The formation of chariots starts in front of the palace of the king of Puri, and some rituals are done by worshipping God Agni.
On this day, the summer festival is also started by harvesting new crops in the field. This day is known as Chanda Yatra or the sandalwood festival. It is celebrated for three weeks.
The images of Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra are bathed with water and sandalwood.
On the Purnima of Jyestha month, the seats of the lords are bathed with the water of sona Kua situated in the eastern boundary of the temple. This ritual is celebrated for two weeks. New clothes then cover the seats.
After returning from Gundicha Temple, all the deities are worshipped by wearing new gold ornaments. This is known as Suna Besha. It was started in 1460 after a victorious win by the King of Odisha. For now, 215 kgs of gold ornaments are used in this event.
COVID-19 and Ratha Yatra
Every year in May, lakhs of people go to Puri to pull the chariots. But due to COVID-19, the Festival has been happening without any visitors for the last two years.
The temple authority of Puri Jagannath Temple got permission after a case was filed in the Supreme Court to maintain the history of Ratha Yatra but without any devotee and maintaining the COVID protocols. At the same time, in other places of India, Ratha Yatra was totally banned in 2020 & 2021.
International Ratha Yatra
The Hindu community is now spread all over the world. Besides India, Ratha Yatra is also celebrated in Bangladesh, Denmark, Australia, Canada, Singapore, UK, Netherlands, and Russia.
The world is healing soon from the damages of COVID-19. Though, large gatherings are strictly prohibited till now. In the next year, on 1st July 2022, again the Ratha Yatra will come. Hopefully, by that time, the Supreme Court will allow us to celebrate this holy festival all over India.
Lakhs of devotees will again visit Puri on that day to celebrate this holistic festival by chanting ‘JAY JAGANNATH.’
How to Reach:
Air – The Nearest Airport is Biju Pattnaik International Air Port at Bhubaneswar distance of 60 Km
Train Railways – Nearest Railway Station is Puri, 3 Km from the Temple. There is Regular direct train from Puri to major cities in India, like Bhubaneshwar, New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Patna, etc.
By Road – Regular Bus, Taxi, and Autos are available from Bhubaneswar and Railway Station at Puri.
Official Website of Temple Authorities – https://www.shreejagannatha.in/
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