Ratha Yatra: Here’s everything you need to know about this Chariot Festival

 Monday, June 27, 2022 

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Ratha-Yatra

Ratha Yatra is the biggest and most anticipated festival in the land of Lord Jagannatha and one of the most revered Hindu festivals in India. This year the festival commences on Friday, 1 July 2022 and ends on Saturday, 9 July 2022.

Ratha Yatra is celebrated in Orissa and few other states as a symbol of unity and integrity. Every year in the month of June or July, (Asadha according to the Oriya calendar), Ratha Yatra is held on the second day of Shukla Paksha. The three chariots are taken out onto the streets of Puri in the afternoon and that is when the traditional Hindu festival Yatra begins.

Significance of the festival

The word ‘ratha’ means chariot and ‘yatra’ means journey. A chariot is conventionally made of wood and recognised by its specific name, its charioteer, its colours, its horses and even the wheels used to control them.

Carpenters called as ‘Maharana’ undertake the construction of these chariots, which is their hereditary right since ages. After the construction, decoration starts with different colour clothes.

Ratha Yatra is also known as Gundicha Yatra, Navadina Yatra, Ghosa Yatra, Dasavatara Yatra and by many other names. Three chariots of Lord Jagannatha, Goddess Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra are pulled by the devotees with the help of ropes up to Gundicha temple which is just two km away from the Puri Jagannatha Temple.

This festival showcases the art and culture of Puri as well as of Odissa as a whole. Believers have it, visiting the temple during this time is most auspicious.

The commencement of Lord Jagannath’s journey is called Ratha Yatra and his return on the ninth day is called Bahuda Yatra. While returning Lord Jagannath stops at Mausi Maa (Jaganath’s aunt) temple where he is offered his favourite ‘Poda Pitha’ (burnt cake).

The yatra ends with the Niladri Bije, which marks the return of the deities into the garbha-griha.

Highlights of Ratha Yatra

Festivities revolving around Ratha Yatra

Many cultural activities are organized as part of this festival. The festivities are inaugurated by the famous event of Chera Panhara. In this, the Gajapati ruler, as a ‘servant of the Lord’, sweeps the platform of each ratha before they are allowed to proceed.

Devotees pull these large chariots three kilometres down the main avenue to the ‘Garden home’ of the deities, the house of their aunt, Gundicha. They stay at their aunt’s residence for a week.

During this time, it is believed that Goddess Laxmi, upset with her husband, Lord Jagannath for having left her behind, damages His ratha in anger. This ritual is practised today as Hera Panchami– ‘hera’ means to look for or find.

The homecoming of the three divine siblings from their aunt’s residence is called ‘Bahuda Yatra’ (the return journey). They are received by doting devotees who await their arrival in Srimandir.

The deities take a gold-laden form called ‘Sunabesha’ being adorned by all the jewellery offered by their devotees. This short darshan marks the return of Lord Jagannatha Goddess Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra.

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