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Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra 2023: A Journey of Soul

The festival takes place during the Hindu month of Ashadha (June-July) and is spread over several days.

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Discover the spiritual significance and cultural richness of the Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra, a sacred journey of the soul that takes place annually in India.

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Introduction:

Rath Yatra, also known as the Chariot Festival, is one of the most significant Hindu festivals celebrated in the state of Odisha (formerly known as Orissa), India. It marks the annual journey of Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra, and their sister Subhadra from the Jagannath Temple in Puri to the Gundicha Temple, located a few kilometers away. This grand procession attracts millions of devotees from all over the world who come to witness this divine spectacle and seek blessings from Lord Jagannath.

The Rath Yatra holds immense cultural and religious significance in the state of Odisha and is celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion. The festival takes place during the Hindu month of Ashadha (June-July) and is spread over several days.

Highlights of Rath Yatra:

The highlight of the Rath Yatra is the procession of the three gigantic wooden chariots, each adorned with colorful fabrics, flags, and flowers. The chariots are pulled by thousands of devotees who consider it a great honor and a way to attain salvation. The chariots are named Nandighosa (for Lord Jagannath), Taladhwaja (for Balabhadra), and Devadalana (for Subhadra). Each chariot has a specific number of wheels, horses, ropes, and guardians.

Also read: The Ancient Temple That Doesn’t Cast a Shadow

History and Legends behind Rath Yatra:

The Rath Yatra has a long history and legend behind it. According to one version, Lord Jagannath was originally worshipped as Neela Madhava by a tribal king named Viswavasu. The king kept the deity hidden in a cave and did not allow anyone to see it. However, King Indradyumna of Puri heard about the deity and sent a Brahmin named Vidyapati to find it. Vidyapati married Viswavasu’s daughter Lalita and persuaded her to reveal the secret location of Neela Madhava. Vidyapati then informed King Indradyumna who rushed to the cave with his army. However, when they reached there, they found that the deity had disappeared and only a log of wood was left.

King Indradyumna was disappointed but decided to carve an image of Neela Madhava from the wood. He invited many sculptors but none of them could complete the task. Finally, an old man named Ananta Maharana appeared and offered to carve the image on the condition that he would be left alone in the temple for 21 days. The king agreed and sealed the temple doors. After 14 days, however, the king heard no sound from inside and became impatient. He broke open the doors and found that Ananta Maharana had vanished and only three incomplete images of Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra were left. The king was distraught but a divine voice told him that these were the forms that the Lord had chosen to manifest himself in and that he should worship them with love and devotion.

Another version of the legend says that Lord Jagannath is none other than Lord Krishna who came to Puri after his death at Dwarka. He was accompanied by his brother Balarama and sister Subhadra. However, they were attacked by a hunter named Jara who mistook them for deer and shot arrows at them. The arrows pierced their hearts and they fell down on the ground. Their souls then merged into a single form which was later found by King Indradyumna who installed it in the temple as Lord Jagannath.

The Rath Yatra is also associated with another legend that says that once Lord Jagannath fell ill after eating too much rice offered by his devotee Dasia Bauri. He told his brother Balabhadra that he wanted to visit his aunt’s place in Gundicha for a change of air. Balabhadra agreed and along with Subhadra they set out on their chariots to Gundicha temple where they stayed for seven days. On their way back, they stopped at another temple called Mausi Maa (aunt’s mother) where they were offered poda pitha (a type of cake) which is considered to be Lord Jagannath’s favorite food.

Preparation of Rath Yatra:

The preparations for the Rath Yatra begin months in advance. Skilled artisans and craftsmen construct three massive chariots, also known as raths, for Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra. These chariots are built with great precision and are beautifully decorated with intricate carvings, colorful fabrics, and flowers.

On the day of the Rath Yatra, the idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra are ceremonially brought out of the Jagannath Temple and placed on their respective chariots. The chariots are then pulled by thousands of devotees with ropes, amidst chants, hymns, and the sounds of traditional musical instruments. The devotees consider it a great honor and privilege to participate in pulling the chariots, as they believe it brings them closer to the divine.

The journey from the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple, which is about three kilometers away, is filled with joy, fervor, and religious fervor. The entire city of Puri comes alive with vibrant processions, colorful decorations, and a festive atmosphere. People from all walks of life, irrespective of their caste, creed, or social status, join in the celebrations, displaying the unity and inclusiveness that the festival represents.

The Significance of Rath Yatra:

The significance of the Rath Yatra lies in its symbolism. The chariot of Lord Jagannath, known as Nandighosa, is the largest among the three and has 16 wheels, representing the 16 aspects of the Supreme Being. The chariot of Lord Balabhadra, called Taladhwaja, has 14 wheels, while the chariot of Devi Subhadra, known as Darpadalana, has 12 wheels. The chariots are said to represent the earthly bodies that carry the divine souls.

The destination of the Rath Yatra, the Gundicha Temple, holds mythological importance. It is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra’s aunt. During their stay at the Gundicha Temple, the deities grant darshan (divine audience) to their devotees. After a nine-day sojourn, the deities return to the Jagannath Temple in a procession known as the Bahuda Yatra.

The Rath Yatra is not just a religious event; it also showcases the rich cultural heritage of Odisha. The festival provides a platform for traditional music, dance, and performing arts to thrive. Folk dancers, musicians, and artists from various parts of the state come together to entertain the crowds with their mesmerizing performances.

The significance and grandeur of the Rath Yatra have transcended geographical boundaries, attracting devotees and tourists from around the world. The festival has become a symbol of religious tolerance, unity, and spirituality. The state government and various organizations take extensive measures to ensure the smooth conduct of the event and the safety of the participants.

Conclusion

The Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath in Odisha is a magnificent spectacle that combines spirituality, tradition, and cultural heritage. It is a festival that unites people from different backgrounds and beliefs in a celebration of devotion and love for the divine. The festival not only offers a glimpse into the religious fervor of the region but also provides a unique opportunity to experience the vibrant culture and traditions of Odisha. If you ever have the chance to witness the Rath Yatra, it will undoubtedly be an awe-inspiring and spiritually uplifting experience.

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