Mythology of Lord Jagnnath
This Rath Yatra or chariot festival is celebrated in honour of Lord Jagannath who is one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu in Hindu mythology.
The festival of Rath Yatra commemorates and celebrates the annual journey of Lord Jagannath with his brother Balabhadra and his sister Subhadra, as he travels from his sacred temple located in Puri to visit his aunt’s temple located in Gundicha.
The three deities are brought out of the temple in a formal and elaborate procession known as Pahandi.
After the Pahandi is over, the holy chariots are swept with stately formality and ceremoniousness by the Gajapati of Puri. Jagannath is in rest for a week after reaching his aunt’s abode at Gundicha.
The worshippers pay their obesiance and make their offerings to him for a whole week. The Punarjatra or the return of Jagannath takes after a week when he returns to his own temple in Puri.
The Rath Yatra festival is a nine day period in which the devotees are engaged in the worship of their god and sing and dance for him. Brahmans are fed and the poor are given alms and charity.
The Chariot Festival
This is a chariot festival. Three separate chariots are created with unique structures and technical design specifications.
Nandighosat is the chariot of Lord Jagannath. It is a towering mammoth creation almost like a skyscraper with eighteen wheels.
Taladhvaja is the chariot of Balabhadra. It is a huge artistic creation but smaller in size to that of Lord Jagannath and it contains sixteen wheels.
Devadalana is the chariot of Subhadra. It is also a towering creation but smaller than the other two and contains fourteen wheels.
As per religious directions and established cultural practices, the idols and the chariots are made of wood and are refurbished after every twelve years in which new creations are established. This is called the Nabakalebara.
Rath Yatra in West Bengal
The most well-known Rath Yatra in India is that of Puri in Odisha and thereafter Ahmedabad in Gujarat. In West Bengal there are three famous rath yatras which date back to the past.
The first of these is the Mahesh Rath Yatra which began in the 14th century AD.
It was pioneered by Shri Dhurbananda Bhramachari and is celebrated till today. The rath or chariot for this was last donated by Krishnaram Basu and constructed by Martin Burn Company.
It is an iron cart, with an architectural design of nine towers rising to a height of 50 feet.
It weighs 125 tons and contains 12 wheels. It was made at an expenditure of INR 20,000 and has been used in the Rath Yatra since 1885.
The gigantic nine layered and multi-towered rath is decorated with coloured confetti and hangings of metal. It is fitted with wooden horses and several wooden statues.
The numerous wheels of the chariot are pulled by four thick ropes, out which one is reserved for being pulled only by women.
The Rath Yatra of Guptipara is a major festival and a source of immense attraction since the place is a major centre of Vaishnava cult worship.
Although Guptipara has the honour and fame of organising and instituting Bengal’s first public or “sarbjanin” Durga Puja , this is not Guptipara’s main festival.
Guptipara’s towering and colourful chariots are what makes it famous and sought after in West Bengal.
Mahishadal, in East Midnapur, although not so famous as Mahesh or Guptipara, is still quite renowned for having the tallest wooden Rath in the world.
The 70 feet high chariot is built in an architectural design of 13 towers and is lavishly decorated with colourful wooden horses and statues.
It was created under the patronage of Rani Janaki Devi in 1776 and despite the fact that the chariot has undergone multifarious changes in design and outlook, its main structure remains intact for the last 236 years.
Significance of Rath Yatra
The Rath Yatra signifies a journey through life with family members. The emergence of the god from the temple is a symbol of his presence among ordinary men on earth.
It is a lesson that God is present in our hearts and minds and is manifest among us only.
Thus we must respect and honour each other. The pulling of the divine chariot by congregations of devotees signifies the united force of human beings.
It illustrates how the power of god can be transmitted to man and how by collective efforts man can reach god. It also instills the value of unity, plurality and brotherhood on earth.
It is a time of joy, feasting, merrymaking and devotion. The air is filled with festivity and peace is in the hearts of men. This festival is an example of the unity in diversity in our incredible India.
Filed Under: Essay, Festival
For the political march, see Ram Rath Yatra.
Three chariots of the deities with the Temple in the background, Puri
|Begins||Ashadha Shukla Dwitiya|
|Ends||Aashaadha Shukla Dashami|
|2017 date||25 June|
Ratha Yatra (-), also referred to as Rathayatra, Rathjatra or Chariot festival is any public procession in a chariot. The term particularly refers to the annual Rathayatra in Odisha and Jharkhand, particularly the Odia festival that involve a public procession with a chariot with deities Jagannath (Vishnu avatar), Balabhadra (his brother), Subhadra (his sister) and Sudarshana Chakra (his weapon) on a ratha, a wooden deula-shaped chariot. It attracts over a million Hindu pilgrims who join the procession each year.
Rathayatra processions have been historically common in Vishnu-related (Jagannath, Rama, Krishna) traditions in Hinduism across India, in Shiva-related traditions, saints and goddesses in Nepal, with Tirthankaras in Jainism, as well as tribal folk religions found in the eastern states of India. Notable ratha yatras in India include the Ratha yatra of Puri, the Dhamrai Ratha Yatra and the Ratha Yatra of Mahesh. Hindu communities outside India, such as in Singapore, celebrate Rathayatra such as those associated with Jagannath, Krishna, Shiva and Mariamman. According to Knut Jacobsen, a Rathayatra has religious origins and meaning, but the events have a major community heritage, social sharing and cultural significance to the organizers and participants.
Rathayatra are festival processions, occasions for religious, social and cultural celebrations.
Ratha-yatra is derived two Sanskrit words, Ratha which means chariot or carriage, and yatra which means journey or pilgrimage. In other Indian languages such as Odia, the phonetic equivalents are used, such as rotho and jatra. Other names for the festival are ratha jatra or chariot festival.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it.(June 2017)
A Rathayatra is any journey in a chariot accompanied by the public. It typically refers to a procession (journey) of deities, people dressed like deities, or simply religious saints and political leaders. The term appears in medieval texts of India such as the Puranas, which mention the Rathayatra of Surya (Sun god), of Devi (Mother goddess), and of Vishnu. These chariot journeys have elaborate celebrations where the individuals or the deities come out of a temple accompanied by the public journeying with them through the Ksetra (region, streets) to another temple or to the river or the sea. Sometimes the festivities include returning back to the sacrosanctum of the temple.
Jagannath Rath Yatra at Puri (Odisha)
Main article: Ratha-Yatra (Puri)
Triads are usually worshiped in the sanctum of the temple at Puri, but once during the month of Asadha (Rainy Season of Odisha, usually falling in month of June or July), they are brought out onto the Bada Danda (main street of Puri) and travel (3 km) to the Shri Gundicha Temple, in huge chariots (ratha), allowing the public to have darśana (Holy view). This festival is known as Rath Yatra, meaning the journey (yatra) of the chariots (ratha). The Rathas are huge wheeled wooden structures, which are built anew every year and are pulled by the devotees. The chariot for Jagannath is approximately 45 feet high and 35 feet square and takes about 2 months to construct. The artists and painters of Puri decorate the cars and paint flower petals and other designs on the wheels, the wood-carved charioteer and horses, and the inverted lotuses on the wall behind the throne. The huge chariots of Jagannath pulled during Rath Yatra is the etymological origin of the English word Juggernaut. The Ratha-Yatra is also termed as the Shri Gundicha yatra.
The most significant ritual associated with the Ratha-Yatra is the chhera pahara. During the festival, the Gajapati King wears the outfit of a sweeper and sweeps all around the deities and chariots in the Chera Pahara (sweeping with water) ritual. The Gajapati King cleanses the road before the chariots with a gold-handled broom and sprinkles sandalwood water and powder with utmost devotion. As per the custom, although the Gajapati King has been considered the most exalted person in the Kalingan kingdom, he still renders the menial service to Jagannath. This ritual signified that under the lordship of Jagannath, there is no distinction between the powerful sovereign Gajapati King and the most humble devotee.
Chera pahara is held on two days, on the first day of the Ratha Yatra, when the deities are taken to garden house at Mausi Maa Temple and again on the last day of the festival, when the deities are ceremoniously brought back to the Shri Mandir.
As per another ritual, when the deities are taken out from the Shri Mandir to the Chariots in Pahandi vijay.
In the Ratha Yatra, the three deities are taken from the Jagannath Temple in the chariots to the Gundicha Temple, where they stay for nine days. Thereafter, the deities again ride the chariots back to Shri Mandir in bahuda yatra. On the way back, the three chariots halt at the Mausi Maa Temple and the deities are offered Poda Pitha, a kind of baked cake which are generally consumed by the poor sections only.
The observance of the Rath Yatra of Jagannath dates back to the period of the Puranas. Vivid descriptions of this festival are found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana. Kapila Samhita also refers to Rath Yatra. In Moghul period also, King Ramsingh of Jaipur, Rajasthan has been described as organizing the Rath Yatra in the 18th Century. In Orissa, Kings of Mayurbhanj and Parlakhemundi were organizing the Rath Yatra, though the most grand festival in terms of scale and popularity takes place at Puri.
Moreover, Starza notes that the ruling Ganga dynasty instituted the Rath Yatra at the completion of the great temple around 1150 AD. This festival was one of those Hindu festivals that was reported to the Western world very early. Friar Odoric of Pordenone visited India in 1316-1318, some 20 years after Marco Polo had dictated the account of his travels while in a Genoese prison. In his own account of 1321, Odoric reported how the people put the "idols" on chariots, and the King and Queen and all the people drew them from the "church" with song and music.
International Jagannath Ratha Yatra
The Ratha Yatra festival has become a common sight in most major cities of the world since 1968 through the Hare Krishna movement. Local chapters put on the festival annually in over a hundred cities worldwide.
Dhamrai Jagannath Roth festival
Main article: Dhamrai Jagannath Roth
Dhamrai Jagannath Roth is a chariot temple, a Roth, dedicated to the Hindu God Jagannath located in Dhamrai, Bangladesh. The annual Jagannath Roth Jatra is a famous Hindu festival attracting thousands of people. The Roth Jatra in Dhamrai is one of the most important events for the Hindu community of Bangladesh. The original historical Roth was burnt down by the Pakistan Army in 1971 The Roth has since been rebuilt with Indian assistance.
Ratha Yatra of Mahesh
Main article: Rathayatra of Mahesh
The Ratha Yatra of Mahesh is the Second oldest chariot festival in India (after Rath Yatra at Puri) and oldest in Bengal, having been celebrated since 1396 A.D. It is a month-long festival held at Mahesh in Serampore of West Bengal and a grand fair is held at that time. People throng to have a share in pulling the long ropes (Roshi) attached to the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra on the journey from the temple to Gundicha Bari (Masir bari) and back.
- Ratha-Yatra (Puri), at Puri in the state of Odisha, is the largest and most visited Rath Yatra in the world attracting a large crowd every year.
- Rathayatra of Mahesh inSerampore, West Bengal Ratha Yatra is the second oldest in the world.
- Rath Yatra of Kolkata is the second largest Rath Yatra in the world.
- Rath Yatra also takes place in Ahmedabad, Gujarat State, which is known to be the third largest in the world.
- Sukinda Ratha Yatra in Odisha is also known to attract a large number of devotees.
- Dhamrai Jagannath Roth, at Dhamrai in Bangladesh, is the most famous Rath Yatra in Bangladesh.
- ISKCONDhaka Ratha Yatra is the second famous Rath Yatra in Bangladesh.
- Rajbalhat Ratha Yatra, West Bengal, India.
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Left: A 1914 painting of Rathayatra in Chennai; Right: A Matsyendranath Rathayatra in Nepal