Rathyatra of Lord Jagannath held at Puri(Orissa), every year during the months of June or July.This festival is devoted to Lord Vishnu. It is believed that Lord Jagannath with his elder brother Lord Balarama and sister Subhadra, goes on vacation, travelling from his temple in Puri, to their aunt' s temple, the Gundicha Temple which is situated at a distance of 2 km from their temple.
Rath Yatra is of great significance to the Hindus. It is during this time that the three deities of Jagannath, Lord Balarama and Subhadra are taken out in a grand procession in specially made temple-like chariots called raths, which are pulled by thousands of devotees.
Historical OriginMany believe that the custom of placing idols on grand chariots and pulling them is of Buddhist origin. Fa Hien, the Chinese historian, who visited India in the 5th century AD, had written about the chariot of Buddha being pulled along public roads.
How the Festival is Celebrated
Three richly decorated chariots, resembling temple structures, are pulled through the streets of Puri. The festival begins with the Ratha Prathistha or invoking ceremony in the morning, but the Ratha pulling is the most exciting part of the festival, which begins in the late afternoon when the chariots of Jagannath, Lord Balarama and Subhdra start rolling. Each of these carriages have different specifications:
DESCRIPTION OF CHARIOTS
1) Chariot of Jagannath -NANDIGHOSHA/GARUDADHWAJA/KAPIDHWAJA
Number of wheels : 16 Total Number of wooden pieces used : 832 Height : 13'.5" Length and breadth : 34'6" x 34'6" Wrappings : Red, Yellow colour cloths Guarded by : Garuda Name of the charioteer : Dahuka The flag : Trailokyamohini The horses : Shankha, Balahaka, Suweta, Haridashwa The rope : Sankhachuda Presiding Nine Deities : (i) Varaha (ii) Gobardhan (iii) Krushna, Gopi Krushna (iv) Nrusingha (v) Rama (vi) Narayan (Vii) Trivikrama (viii) Hanuman (ix) Rudra
2) Chariot of Balabhadra - TALADHWAJA
Number of wheels : 14 Total Number of wooden pieces used : 763 Height : 13'2" Length and breadth : 33' x 33' Wrappings : Red, Bluish green colour cloths Guarded by : Basudev Name of the charioteer : Matali The flag : Unnani The horses : Tribra, Ghora, Dirghasharma,Swornanava The rope : Basuki Presiding Nine Deities : (i) Ganesh (ii) Kartikeya (iii) Sarvamangala (iv) Pralambari (v) Hatayudha (vi) Mrutyunjaya (vii) Natamvara (viii) Mukteswar (ix) Sheshadeva
3) Chariot of Subhadra - DARPADALANA/PADMADHWAJA
Number of wheels : 12 Total Number of wooden pieces used : 593 Height : 12'9" Length and breadth : 31'6" x 31'6" Wrappings : Red, Black colour cloths Guarded by : Jayadurga Name of the charioteer : Arjuna The flag : Nadambika The horses : Rochika, Mochika, Jita, Aparajita The rope : Swarnachuda Presiding Nine Deities : (i) Chandi (ii) Chamunda (iii) Ugratara (iv) Vanadurga (v) Shulidurga (vi) Varahi (vii) Shyamakali (viii) Mangala (ix) Vimal
Each year these wooden chariots are constructed anew in accordance with religious specifications. The idols of these three deities are also made of wood and they are religiously replaced by new ones every after 12 years. After a nine-day sojourn of the deities at the country temple amidst festivities, the divine summer vacation gets over and the three return to the city temple of Lord Jagannath.
Preperation for The Great Rath Yatra of Puri Many artists and artisans are engaged in building these three chariots, weaving its fabric covers that dress up the chariots, and painting them in the right shades and motifs to give them the best possible looks. The construction of the chariots starts on Akshaya Trutiya, the third day of the bright fortnight of Vaisakha, with ritual fire worship. Fourteen tailors are engaged in stitching up the covers that require almost 1,200 meters of cloth. Orissa's government-run textile mill usually supply the cloth needed to decorate the chariots. However, other Bombay-based Century Mills also donate cloth for the Rath Yatra.
A Festival For AllRath Yatra is a great festival because of its ability to unite people in its festivity. All people, rich and poor, brahmins or shudras equally enjoy the fairs and the joy they bring. You will be amazed to know that even Muslims participate in Rath Yatras! Muslim residents of Narayanpur, a village of about a thousand families in the Subarnapur district of Orissa, regularly take part in the festival, from building the chariots to pulling the rath