Jagannath Rath Yatra 2024 - Festival of Chariots

One of the four most famous holy pilgrimages of the Hindus in India is the Jagannath Temple of Puri. A majestic chariot festival, Rath Yatra is a Hindu festival dedicated to Lord Jagannath held at Puri in the state of Odisha every year. The world-famous Rath Yatra will be held on June 29, this year. The festival of Rath Yatra celebrated here, is world famous for the enormous crowd of devotees that gathers to witness Lord Jagannath's yearly journey in his huge chariot.

Celebration of Rath Yatra Festival


As the preparations for the procession begin, all routine activity in the town comes to a standstill. The temple kitchen - the largest in the world - serves more than 75 quintals of rice everyday along with 55 other dishes. These are offered to the gods in the temple and later distributed as Mahaprasad to the devotees.
Amidst the resounding clash of cymbals and the tumultuous thundering of drums, the three gods, Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra leave their abode, the Jagannath temple, to journey to the Gundicha Mandir, three kilometers away. Millions of devotees flock come to watch the trinity ride in their elaborate chariots through the streets of Puri. Since the portals of the Jagannath temple allow entry only to Hindus, one of the gods, Maitri Devta, who symbolizes universal brotherhood, steps outside during this time so people of all religions and castes can pay obeisance. A spiritual ambience pervades the whole scene as bells chime; conch shells blow and the saffron robed sadhus dance with abandon. It is fascinating to watch the delirious masses paying homage to the Lord as the chariots move on almost as if propelled by a divine force.
The concluding rituals of the Rath Yatra called Suna Besha and Adhara Pana are conducted on the tenth and eleventh day respectively. Suna Besha is a ritual when the Gods are decorated with gold ornaments and the Adhara Pana is the sweet offerings made to the gods after which they are taken around the city in a rath.
A glimpse of Lord Jagannatha on the chariot is considered to be very auspicious and saints, poets and scriptures have repeatedly glorified the sanctity of this special festival. The sanctity of the festival is such that even a touch of the chariot or even the ropes with which these are pulled is considered enough to confer the results of several pious deeds or penance for ages. In fact, there is a famous Oriya song which says that on this occasion, the chariot, the wheels, the grand avenue all become one with Lord Jagannatha himself.

Interesting Facts About Puri Rath Yatra


Every year, three giant separate wooden chariots are made of a kind of Neem tree for the deities Jagannath (ruler of the world), his elder brother Balbhadra (Balaram) and sister Subhadra.
Lord Jagannath’s Rath, "Nandighosha" also known as Garudadhwaja or Kapiladhwaja is about 44 feet tall. The chariot has 16 wheels and the dominant colours used for that are red and yellow. Balbhadra’s chariot is called Taladhwaja and it stands tall at 43 feet. It has 14 wheels and the colours used for decorating it are Red and Bluish-Green. Meanwhile Subhadra’s chariot has 12 wheels and the colours associated with her are Red and Black. Her chariot is known as Darpadalana (Devadalana or Padmadhwaja) and it is 42 feet in height.
The ritual of bringing the idols of Jagannath, Balbhadra and Subhadra out of the temple and installing them in their respective chariots is called Pahandi. Interestingly, the King (known as the Gajapati) dresses like a sweeper and cleans the road with a golden-handled broom and water scented with sandalwood paste. This ritual is called the Chera Pahara. It is repeated on the last day of the Yatra as well.
As per the tradition, the deities begin their return journey on Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dashami, a custom known as Bahuda. It is also called Dakshinabimukhi. According to the age-old custom, before returning to their abode, the Gods halt at Goddess Ardhashini’s temple to pay obeisance to her.
Ratha Yatra is perhaps the grandest festival on earth. Everything is on a scale befitting the great Lord. Full of spectacle, drama and colour, the festival is a typical Indian fair of huge proportions. It is also the living embodiment of the synthesis of the tribal, the folk, and the autochthonous with the classical, the elaborately formal and the sophisticated elements of the socio-cultural-religious ethos of the Indian civilization.
The world-famous Rath Yatra of Puri also finds a mention in ancient scriptures such as the Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, Skanda Purana and Kapila Samhita.

Time of the Rath Yatra Festival


Every year in June or July, the sacred coastal town of Puri comes alive to celebrate the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath, one of the biggest festivals during the monsoon season. According to the Indian solar calendar, it falls two days after the new moon day of the month of Asadh.