The Ratha Yatra in Puri, Odisha is India’s largest chariot festival. The Jagannath Puri Yatra 2020 is scheduled to begin on 23rd June this year. Till now thousands of pilgrims used to pull the Ratha, but due to the recent coronavirus outbreak, mass gatherings of people at a place is restricted. Keeping that in mind, the Supreme Court of India has instructed to carry out the yatra with no public attendance.
The court ordered the Odisha government to maintain a record of persons allowed in Rath Yatra after testing the details of their medical conditions. It also said that before, during and after Rath Yatra, those engaged in pulling the chariot; will maintain social distance.
Also, the apex court has ordered the govt to impose curfew during the procession in Puri. The government of Odisha imposed a shutdown on Wednesday in the Puri district from 9 PM on Monday to 2 PM.
Moreover, The SC said no more than 500 people would pull the rath, and they will all be screened for coronavirus. “Those engaged in chariot pulling shall keep the social distance before, during and after the Yatra. Puri Rath Yatra will not be cancelled amid COVID 19,” the bench said.
Jagannath Rath Yatra History, Procession and Cultural Importance
Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra is elegant in more than one ways. It is being carried out by Hindu devotees for a very long time. This Rath Yatra has become a symbol of identity for Puri and Odisha state. Let’s dive deep into this procession and understand why and how it is celebrated.
History of Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra
The Jagannath Rath Yatra festival is dedicated to Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna), his sister Goddess Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra or Balaram, his elder brother. Jagannath Rath Yatra is widely celebrated and one of India’s largest festivals, where millions of devotees arrive and take part in the Rath Yatra processions and seek Lord Jagannath’s blessings.
Jagannath Rath Yatra is organized in Odisha, in Puri on the 2nd day of Ashada Shukla. It’s believed Lord Jagannath wants to visit his birthplace every year. The journey passes through different parts of the city and creates a mesmerizing scene.
Why Do We Celebrate Jagannath Rath Yatra?
Different rath yatra stories are popular among Hindu devotees. One of the most famous and believed stories is that Lord Krishna and Balram’s maternal uncle Kansa invited the brothers to murder them at Mathura. Kansa sent Akrur out to Gokul with a chariot. Lord Krishna and Balram were sitting on the chariot and heading for Mathura. All the Krishna devotees celebrate Rath Yatra on this day of departure of Lord Krishna.
There is another famous story among many devotees that the Rath Yatra festival is associated with Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra in Dwarka. Once upon a time, the eight wives of Lord Krishna decided to listen to some holy tales about Krishna and Gopi from Mother Rohini. But she did not want to narrate the story.
After frequent requests from Lord Krishna’s wives, his mother agreed to tell the story, but she wanted Subhadra to be guarding the door so that no one but only those 8 would listen. While Rohini’s mother narrates the stories, Subhadra became very enchanted. It captivated her so much that she didn’t notice that Lord Krishna and Balram were at the door. She stood between those two holding her hands apart as a way to stop them.
Saint Narad came to their place at that time, and together he saw the three siblings. He chanted a prayer and asked for their blessings. It is said that Lord Krishna, Subhadra and Balaram resided in the temple of Puri for eternity and shower blessings on devotees.
Interesting Facts About Lord Jagannath Yatra
Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra is the biggest chariot festival for all Hindus and Indians. There are so many things that make it unique and lovely. Let’s see some interesting facts about this grand procession.
- Every year three separate chariots are made out of Neem tree for Lord Jagannath (ruler of the world), his elder brother Balbhadra (Balaram) and his sister Subhadra. No other wood can be used to make these grand chariots. It is one of the most interesting facts about Puri Jagannath chariot.
- The highest chariot is made for Lord Jagannath with a height of 44 feet. His chariot is called Garudadhwaja or Kapiladhwaja. It has a total of 16 wheels and is decorated primarily in red and yellow colour. The height of Balaram’s chariot (Known as Taladhwaja or Langaladhwaja) is 43 feet, and it has 14 wheels. It is primarily decorated in red and bluish-green colour. Subhadra’s chariot, known as Darpadalana or Padmadhwaja, is 42 feet tall and has 12 wheels. It is decorated primarily in red and black.
- Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra is an old-age ritual since it has been mentioned in ancient scriptures like Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, Skanda Purana and Kapila Samhita.
- Devotees call this ritual of bringing the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra out of the temple and installing them in their respective chariots as ‘Pahandi‘. Before the Rath Yatra starts, the idols are bathed with 109 buckets of water which is known as ‘Snana Purnima‘.
- ‘Chera Pahara‘ is a ritual involved in this procession in which the King cleans the road with a golden-handled broom and water scented with sandalwood paste.
- Tens of thousands of devotees from all over the world participate in this huge Rath Yatra which begins from the iconic puri temple.
- A temple, called Gundicha temple, was built in the memory of the famous Queen of King Indradyumna, who built the iconic Puri Temple. The famous Rath Yatra starts from the Jagannath temple in Puri and ends at Gundicha temple.
- Goddess Laxmi, the wife of Lord Jagannath, comes to visit her husband in Gundicha temple on the 4th day of the procession.
- All the deities start their return journey on the 10th day of Ashada Shukla Paksha. This ritual is called ‘Bahuda‘ or ‘Dakshinabimukhi‘. Before returning to their places, they halt at Goddess Ardhashini’s temple to pay obeisance to her.
- There are two more concluding rituals called Suna Besha, and Adhara Pana. Suna Besha is conducted on the 10th day when the Gods are decorated with gold ornaments. Adhara Pana is performed on the 11th and final day of the yatra when sweets are offered to the gods.
Cultural and Religious Importance of Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra
Jagannath Rath Yatra symbolizes the journey from Dwaraka, a kingdom that he ruled to Braj Bhoomi (modern-day Mathura and Vrindavan), where Shri Krishna grew up. It is also expected to be a recreation of the departure of Lord Krishna from Gokul when he was invited to Mathura by Kansa.
Every Lord Krishna devotee is interested in the Rath Yatra irrespective of who they are. The pulling of the cart symbolizes clearing the mind and surrendering to the Supreme.
Each year, millions of Hindu pilgrims flock to the Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra, one of the most important annual events in Hinduism to witness the grand procession of the Lord of the Universe.
The Lord Jagannath is regarded as a manifestation of Lord Vishnu and the famous Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha, is considered one of the ‘Char Dham’ pilgrimages and worshipped by all Hindus. In fact, the temple is also called Puri Jagannath Dham. During the Chariot festival, entry to the temple is only permitted for Hindus during the rest of the day. Puri Jagannath temple is probably visited once in a lifetime by every Hindu.
Due to the ISKCON Hare Krishna campaign, the Ratha Yatra Festival has been a famous sight in most of the world’s major cities Since 1968. Now, this chariot festival is celebrated in different cities including Moscow, New York, London, Rome, Zürich, Kolkata, Mumbai, Karachi, Berlin, Sydney, Nairobi, Mexico City, Dublin, Manchester, Birmingham, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Stockholm, Budapest, Auckland, Toronto, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, etc.
If you’re travelling to Puri, you can also order food in train online at the Puri Junction through RailMitra.