Jagannath Ratha Yatra Festival
Jagannath Ratha Yatra starts on the 04th of July 2019
Ratha Yatra Timings:
Dwitiya Tithi Begins = 22:04 on 3/Jul/2019
Dwitiya Tithi Ends = 19:09 on 4/Jul/2019
Jagannath Ratha Yatra is one of the biggest Hindu festivals organized each year at the famous Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha. The day of the Ratha Yatra is decided based on the Hindu calendar and is fixed on the Dwitya Tithi during Shukla Paksha of Ashada month.
The Ratha Yatra is popularly called as the Festival of Chariots and is associated with the deity of Lord Jagannath. It is considered one of the oldest Yatra that takes place in India whose mentions can be found in the Padma Purana, Brahma Purana, Skanda Purana and Kapila Samhita.
The festival celebrates the annual visit of Lord Jagannath to Gundicha Temple via Mausi Maa Temple in Puri. As part of the Ratha Yatra, the deities of Lord Jagannath, along with his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra are taken out during the procession and remain at the Gundicha temple for nine days. The three deities are also accompanied by the Sudarshana Chakra.
The construction of the chariots starts on Akshaya Tritiya. The construction of the chariots takes place in front of the palace of the king of Puri and opposite the Puri temple.
The three chariots are richly decorated resembling temple structures. Every year new chariots are built using wood from trees and pulled through the streets of Puri called Badadanda (the grand avenue). The chariot of Lord Jagannath is approximately 45 feet high, supported on 16 wheels and is pulled by thousands of devotees and pilgrims who attend the event from all over the world. The chariots of Balabhadra and Subhadra are 44 feet high, has 14 wheels and 43 feet high with 12 wheels respectively.
The chariots are decorated with brightly colored canopies made of stripes of red cloth and combined with black, green and yellow colors. The chariots are lined in front of the temple close to the eastern entrance known as the Simhadwara or the Lion’s Gate, on the Badadanda.
Nandighosha – Lord Jagannath
Lord Jagannath’s chariot is called the Nandighosa, and is decked with a cover made of red and yellow cloth. The yellow stripes of the canopy of his chariot identify Lord Jagannath with Krishna who is also known as Pitambara, the one in golden yellow robes. The Chariot is guarded by Garuda and the charioteer is Daruka. The flag is Trailokyamohini, the horses are named Shankha, Balahaka, Suweta and Haridashwa. The nine presiding deities are Panchamukhi Mahavir, Harihara, Madhusudana, Giri Goverdhan dhari, Pandu Narasingha, Chitamani Krishna, Narayana, Chatra Bhanga Rabana and Rama & Hanuman.
Taladhwaja – Lord Balabhadra
Lord Balabhadra’s chariot is called the Taladhwaja, the one which has the Palm Tree on its flag. It is decked with red and green cloth. The chariot is guarded by Basudev and the charioteer is Matali. The flag is Unnani and the horses are named Tribra, Ghora, Dirghasharma and Swornanava. The nine presiding deities are Ganesh, Kartikeya, Sarvamangala, Pralambari, Halayudha, Mrityunjaya, Natamvara, Mukteswar, and Sheshadeva.
Dwarpadalana – Goddess Subhadra
The chariot of Goddess Subhadra is called Dwarpadalana, which translates to ‘trampler of pride’. It is decked with a covering of red and black cloth. The black cloth is symbolic to Shakti and Mother Goddess. The chariot is guarded by Jayadurga and the charioteer is named Arjuna. The flag is Nadambika and the horses are named Rochika, Mochika, Jita, and Aparajita. The nine presiding deities are Chandi, Chamunda, Ugratara, Banadurga, Shulidurga, Varahi, Shyamakali, Mangala and Vimala.
The nine different deities are painted on wood around the sides of the chariots and each chariot is attached to four horses. These horses are of different colors; White ones are for Lord Jagannath, Dark ones are for Balarama and the red ones are for Subhadra.
Before the Yatra commences, the idols are bathed in 108 buckets of water, which is called the Snana Yatra. The ritual of the Snana is performed on the Full Moon Day (Purnima) of the month of Jyeshtha as per the Hindu calendar and is also called the Jyeshtha Purnima.
It is a ritual in which the deities are taken from the Jagannath temple to their chariots to commence their journey towards Gundicha Temple. The deities visit the temple to pay respect towards her devotion to Lord Krishna. The idol of Lord Jagannath is the last to leave the temple. The first idol to be taken out of the temple is that of Balabhadra followed by the idol of Subhadra.
It is one of the most significant rituals performed on the first day of the journey. The ritual is performed by the Gajapati King who wears the uniform of a sweeper and cleans the area surrounding the temple with sandalwood water and a gold handled broom. This ritual is performed for the first time when the deities are taken to the Gundicha temple and for the second time when the lords return to the Jagannath temple. When the three deities arrive at the Gundicha temple, they are given a ceremonial bath and dressed in boirani cloth. This ritual signifies that all are equal in the eyes of the Lord. The fourth day of the festival is celebrated as Hera Panchami which marks the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi in search of Lord Jagannath.
The fourth day of the Jagannath Ratha Yatra festival is celebrated as Hera Panchami. It is the day when Goddess Lakshmi visits the Gundicha temple looking for Lord Jagannath.
The return of Lord Jagannath to his main abode is called Bahuda Jatra (return journey). The return journey happens on the eighth day of the festival. Lord Jagannath during the Bahuda Jatra, makes a short stay at the Mausi Maa Temple which is dedicated to Goddess Ardhashini. During the stay at the temple Lord Jagannath is served his favorite food Poda Pitha (a sweet pancake). Lord Jagannath returns to the temple before Devshayani Ekadashi, as after this the Lord goes to sleep for four months.
Rituals Performed during the Festival
Prayers and devotional songs are chanted by devotees outside the area where the new idols are carved out of neem wood. Once the idols are completed, they are carried inside the inner sanctum of the temple and are placed facing the old idols. The Brahman (Supreme Power) is transferred from the old idols to the new ones. This ritual is known as Brahman Paribartan (Changing the Soul). This entire ritual is carried out in privacy, the priest is blindfolded and his hands and feet are wrapped in thick layers of cloth so that the priest cannot see or feel the transfer of the Brahma.
The new idols are then placed on their throne once the ritual is completed. The old idols of the deities are taken to the Koili Baikuntha and buried before dawn in a sacred ceremony. No one is allowed to see the ceremony apart from the priest. Due to this reason the government orders a complete blackout in Puri on the night of the ritual.
Legend of Lord Jagannath
As per legend, the Lord came in the dreams of the King and instructed him to make the idol. However, if anyone saw the idols before the work was finished the idol would not be completed.
The idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are all deformed with no hands and feet and heads which are largely disproportionate. The story goes, when the sculptor was carving the idols, he had informed the king not to see the idols before they are complete. The king, however, grew impatient and opened the door to the workshop and took a peek at the idols. Thus, the idols remained incomplete.