Today we are here to experience a cultural Indian festival – rich of colours, joy and faith of millions of people.
Ratha Yatra (also called as Car Festival or Chariot Festival) is a Hindu festival associated with Lord Jagannath held at Puri in the state of Odisha, India. It is the oldest Ratha Yatra taking place in India and the World, whose descriptions can be found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana and Kapila Samhita.
This annual festival is celebrated on Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya (second day in bright fortnight of Ashadha month) starting from today 23 June after clearance by Supreme court of India.
The festival commemorates Jagannath’s annual visit to Gundicha Temple via Mausi Maa Temple (maternal aunt’s home) near Saradha Bali, Puri.
As part of Ratha Yatra, the deities Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and younger sister Devi Subhadra, along with Sudarshan, are taken out in a procession out of the main shrine of Jagannath Temple and placed in the Ratha (Chariot) which are ready in front of the Temple. This process is called as ‘Pahandi’. The procession starts with ‘Madan Mohan’ then ‘Sudarshana’ Balabhadra, Subhadra, and Jagannath Deva.
After that, Gajapati Maharaja, the king of Puri, who is also known as the first servitor of the Lords, does ‘Chhera Pahanra’ (the holy cleaning of the chariots). Finally, the devotees pull the chariots up to the Gundicha Temple, which is also known as the birthplace of the Lords.
During the annual event, devotees from all over the world throng to Puri with an earnest desire to help pulling the Lords’ chariots. They consider this as an auspicious act. The huge processions accompanying the chariots play devotional songs with drums, sounding plates of bell metal, cymbals, etc. The Ratha carts themselves are approximately 45 feet (14 m) high and are pulled by the thousands of pilgrims who turn up for the event; the chariots are built anew each year only from a particular type of tree (Neem).
It is also broadcast live on many Indian, foreign television channels as well as many of the websites telecast Jagannath Ratha Jatra live.
There are 6 events which are considered as the key activities of this annual spectacular event. 1. ‘Snana Yatra’ is the one where the Deities take bath and then fell sick for almost 2 weeks. They are thus treated with ayurvedic medicines and a set of traditional practices. 2. On ‘Sri Gundicha’, the Deities are taken in the onward car festival from the main shrine to the Gundicha Temple. 3. On the Bahuda Yatra, the return car festival, the Lords are brought back to the main Temple. 4. Suna Besha (Golden Attire) is the event when the Deities wear golden ornaments and give darshan from the chariots, to the devotees. 5. ‘Adhara Pana’ is an important event during Ratha Yatra. On this day sweet drink is offered to the invisible spirits and souls, who would have visited the celestial event of the Lords, as believed by the Hindu tradition. 6. And finally the Deities are taken back inside the main shrine i.e. the Jagannath Temple and installed on the Ratna Simhasan, on the last day of the Ratha Yatra activity which is called as ‘Niladri Bije’.
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