(Last Updated on : 26/09/2014)
Ratha Yatra is the largest festival in Puri
. It is a festival of renewal which ushers in the monsoon months of June-July. This festival rejuvenates the deities. The temple servants stand in a kinship relationship to the deities. These are the daitas and the Devadasis. The daitas are the 'blood relatives' of Lord Jagannath
and the Devadasis are the wives of Jagannath.
Legend of Ratha Yatra
This event marks Lord Jagannath, travelling in the chariot with his brother, Lord Balarama
and sister Subhadra
. It attracts pilgrims and visitors from all over the world. The festival has been celebrated since ancient times. According to a legend about its origin, Jagannath is said to have expressed his desire to visit his birthplace every year for a week. Thus, the deities are taken to the Gundicha Mandir every year. According to another legend, Subhadra, wanted to visit Dwaraka
, her parent's home, and her brothers took her back to Dwaraka on this day. The Ratha Yatra is a commemoration of that visit. According to the Bhagavad Purana, it is also believed that it was on this day that Krishna and Balarama went to Mathura
to participate in a wrestling competition, at Kansa's invitation. The chariots are cleaned by the Gajapati Maharaja, with a golden broom to proclaim that he is the first of the Lord's servants.
The idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are brought out and bathed on a pedestal known as the snanamandap amidst series of rituals and chanting of 'Jai Jagannath' and 'Haribol' and beating of conch shells, bathing ceremony was performed on Purnima of Jyestha month (Devasnan Purnima), to commemorate the appearance day of Lord Jagannath.
The bathing ceremony discolours the painted wooden deities. Therefore nobody except the main priest is allowed to see and pay homage for a period of 15 days, which is known as Anavasara time. It is said that Lord Jagannath himself had ordered King Indradyumna about this Anavasara period.
For a staunch devotee of Jagannath, the Anavasara time is really a tough time of separation. The images are re-painted and brought to the Ratnavedi or the main platform for the devotees to see and pay homage. This ceremony is named as Netrotsava. On this day people take the opportunity of seeing the deities in all new and young form. This is called 'Nava Yauvana Darshan'.
The main journey of the "Car Festival" involves the large Deities of Lord Jagannath, Baladev and Subhadra to be transported from the temple, each on their own chariot, every year, where:
* Jagannath's chariot, Nandighosha is a 35 feet square, rising to a height of 45 feet, with 16 wheels, 7 feet in diameter and is yellow in colour.
* Balabhadra's chariot is called Taladhvaja, is blue in colour and has 14 wheels.
* Subhadra's chariot is the smallest, with 12 wheels and is called Devadalan.
Then the images are taken from the temple to Jagannath's country house at Gundicha Bari, two miles away. They are confined to a solitary abode for a fortnight where they undergo treatment, are offered special Ayurvedic medicine and some special liquid diet called sarapana. After a week's rest, they are taken back to the temple at Puri. This return car festival or Bahuda Yatra begins on the 'Ashadha Sukla Dasami', the 10th day of the bright fortnight of Ashadha (June-July).
On the Ratha Yatra day, temple staff and congregational members cook enormous quantities of foodstuffs, and everyone gets to enjoy as much Mahaprasadam as they care to consume. The continued success of Puri's Ratha Yatra is so fundamentally important to Orissa
that the state government has proclaimed the Yatra a "state festival".