Ratha Yatra festival comes in the rainy season, during the months of June and July. This is a special event in the eastern part of India, particularly in Puri, in the state of Odisha. It is held in honour of Lord Jagannath, which literally means the Lord of the Universe..
The name of Puri comes from the word Jagannathpuri which means the home of the Lord of the Universe, Jagannath. The temple of Jagannath in Puri is one of the four major traditional centers of pilgrimage in India. The temple of Lord Jagannath enshrines wooden images of Lord Krishna, his brother Balaram or Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. The massive temple was built nearly eight centuries ago.
On the auspicious day of Ratha Yatra thousands of pilgrims from all parts of India throng to the city. The most impressive part of the festival is the chariot procession. Three richly decorated chariots, resembling temple structures, are drawn through the streets of Puri. In each chariot is seated each of the three deities – Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra. New chariots are built every year. New images, however are carved every twelve years which is known as Naba Kalebara. The devotees gathered in the city have an earnest desire to touch the rope of the chariot. They consider this a pious deed and risk their lives in that huge crowd. The legends associated with the temple and the Yatra tells that the temple proudly stood for many years until during the course of time the land gradually subsided under the sea along with the temple and a beach was formed over it. For several generations, no one knew about the temple until it was accidentally discovered by the then ruling king, Gala Madhav. He ordered for an excavation and the temple once again came into existence. This is what we see today in Puri, the temple of Jagannath.
chariot festival of sri jagannatha in puri
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The book Ratha Yatra: Chariot Festival of Sri Jagannatha in Puri witten by Subas Pani is a comprehensive account of the Rath Yatra. It provides the background on the syncretic faith represented by Jagannath, his origin and strong links with the heritage of aborigine tribes and an account of the Naba Kalebara ceremonies celebrating the periodic renewal of the bodies of the presiding deities. Rich in detail, the book covers a wide span including the sacred geography of Puri, legends surrounding the temple, the unique architectural style of the temple complex, the elaborate preparatory summer festivals leading up to the main festival and the process of making the chariots with its associated special ceremonies. In a nutshell, this book is an interesting read and a visual paradise with its photographs.
By Nilabh Krishna