Also known as the Chariot Festival, the Rath Yatra is dedicated to Lord Jagannath when the huge idols of deities of Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra are taken for a religious procession on the garland clad chariots to the Jagannath temple for a week.
WORDS BY- AABHA TIWARI
‘Lord of the world’ leads us to the meaning from the name Jagannath – a form of the Hindi God Vishnu who is worshipped with an immense dedicated in the eastern state of Odisha.
The state is also known for its famous and massive sacred Jagannath Temple in Puri. Dedicated to Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna), his sister Goddess Subhadra and his elder brother Lord Balabhadra.
This festival is also known as Gundicha Yatra, Chariot Festival, Dasavatara and Navadina Yatra.
FESTIVAL STORY AND PROCESSION ITINERARY
On the second day of the ‘Shukla Paksha’ of Ashadh month (as per the traditional Oriya calendar), the festival is celebrated for nine days, the commencement is called as ‘Rath Yatra’ and the return journey on a ninth day is called as ‘Bahuda Jatra’ (where the chariot of Lord Jagannath stops at Mausi Maa temple and the deity is offered ‘Poda Pitha’), with that, the younger sister Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra are moved from their holy abode for a procession up to Gundicha Temple.
It takes one day to travel to Gundicha temple, where the deities stay for the next seven days, and, proceed to return home.
Three chariots are built, and the construction of the chariots starts with ‘Chandan Yatra’, carpenters are called as ‘Maharanas’. Lord Jagannath’s chariot is called as ‘Nandighosa’ (45.6 feet high with 18 wheels), Lord Balabhadra’s chariot is called as ‘Taladhwaja’ (45 feet high with 16 wheels) and Devi Subhadra’s chariot is called ‘Dwarapadalan’ (44.6 feet high with 14 wheels).
All the three chariots are pulled by the devotees with the help of ropes up to Gundicha Temple (2km away from Jagannath Temple). This festival showcases the art and culture of Puri as well as of the state. Many cultural activities are organized as a part of this festival.
THE UNIQUENESS OF JAGANNATH TEMPLE
Lord Jagannath is worshipped with his siblings and not with a spouse.
The idols are uniquely malformed with no hands or feet and the heads are disproportionately large.
The idols are made up of cloth and resin instead of metal or stone, therefore it should be replaced from time to time, leading to the rituals in which the shrines fall sick, die and are reborn.
The story dates back where the images of the deities were being carved and the artisans asked the king not to open the door until the work on the idols was complete, but the impatient king opened the door and the idols were left incomplete. During the festival, the deities were decorated with over 200kg gold to get the sense of completeness in the formation.
INTERESTING HIGHLIGHTS OF THE FESTIVAL
As per folktales, due to the peak of summers, the deity and his siblings bathe in public and gets ill. After recovering, their appetite returns and wish to eat the food cooked by their aunty Gundicha.
Since Lord Krishna embarks this epic journey with his siblings to relive his childhood and not wife Lakshmi (who is left behind in the main temple), much to her irritation (enacted by the temple dancers and priests) that even the great Jagannath has marital problems.
The kitchen of Puri Temple is famous for its kitchen and the mahaprasad is cooked with wood fire and steam. The interesting part is that the one who prepares the food is fed first, before giving to Lord Jagannath to avoid any feeling of gluttony when the mahaprasad is offered.