Puri Jagannath

Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra is celebrated on the second day of the Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon or bright fortnight),Ashadh month as per traditional Oriya Calendar.The Jagannath Temple is situated in Puri,the temple town of Orissa,India.Orissa state comes in to a lime light in the month of June-July because of this great event.

People from all across Orrisa and from various parts of India come to take part in this auspicious occasion.Orrisa is visited by 8 to 10 lakhs of pilgrims during this Car Festival. Foreigners also take major interest in the Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra.

It is situated on the eastern coastline of the Bay of Bengal and considered to be one of the Char Dhams and one of the four most important Hindu pilgrimage sites. It was built by King Chora Ganga Deva,during the 12th century and completed by his descendant Anangabhima Deva.The temple is one of the tallest monuments in the country, standing at an imposing height of about 214 ft atop an elevated platform of stone measuring about 10 acres.

It is a fine example of Kalingan architecture.The temple is crowned with Lord Vishnu's chakra (wheel) made of an alloy of eight different metals giving it a blue color. With a circumference of about 36 ft, a new flag is tied daily to the wheel.The temple has four gates at the eastern,southern,western and northern midpoints of the Meghanad Prachir and are respectively called Lions Gate, Horse Gate, Tiger Gate and the Elephant Gate

The large kitchen where 56 varieties of 'Maha Prasada (holy food) is prepared as an offering to Lord Jagannath,is an unique feature of the temple.It is a popular belief that eating maha-prasada turns one towards great spiritual advancement.Lord Jagannath, the symbol of universal love is worshipped in the temple along with Balabhadra, Subhadra, Sudarshan, Madhaba, Sridevi and Bhudevi on the Ratnabedi or an ornamented platform. The deities are made of margosa wood. Though non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple,they can view the temple proceedings from the flat roof of the Raghunandan Library.

Celebration

On the second day of the bright fortnight in the months of June-July,the poppular Rath Yatra or is held at Puri,every year.It celebrates the return of the Lord Jagannath to hs legendary kingdom on earth.The Rath Yatra is a procession from dark to light and commemorates the journey of Krishna from Gokul to Mathura.

In this religious journey,the presiding deities of the main temple, Shri Mandira, Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra,with the celestial wheel Sudarshana are taken out from the temple, in an elaborate ritual procession to their respective chariots.Lord Krishna is worshipped as 'Jagannath' the master of the universe. Balabhadra is the elder brother of Lord Krishna and Subhadra is his younger sister.This procession is followed by colourfully decorated elephants, trucks, motor vehicles, pilgrims on foot,acrobats and gymnasts.

The chariot of Jagannath has a yellow and red color canopy and it is also the largest of the chariots. Jagannatha's chariot is known as Nandighosh and it has 16 wheels and it is 43 ft tall and 33 ft wide.It also prominently displays the Sudarshana Chakra emblem.The guardian deity of the chariot is Garuda and the charioteer is known as Daruka.The flag on the chariot is known as Trailokyamohini.

The rope that is used to pull is known as Shankahchuda.Along with Jagannath, the chariot also has the idols of Hanuman, Rama, Lakshman, Narayan, Krishna, Govardhan Dharana, Chintamani, Raghav and Narasimha.The ropes of the chariots are pulled by millions of devotees,which is a very auspicious act.

The Gundicha Ghar or Gundicha Temple is an important part of the famous Rath Yatra festival of Puri. Gundicha Ghar is believed to be the house of Lord Krishna's loving aunt.On the day of the Rath Yatra, the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken in beautifully adorned wooden rath (chariot) from the main gate of the Jagannath temple to Gundicha temple.

At the garden house,their aunt welcomes them by feeding them padoapitha (specially baked rice cakes).This place is regarded as extremely holy as the Lord stays here for nine days during the festival. The Rath is is taken on the bada danda, the grand avenue to the Gundicha temple,almost two miles away to the North.After a stay of seven days,the deities return to their abode in Srimandira.

Ritual

The Puri Jagannath Rath festival has a month long several rituals,like Snana Purnima and Anasara which take place during this period.The Snana Yatra or Snana Purnima (Bathing Festival) takes place on the full moon day in the month of Jyestha (May - June). On this day, the three deities are given sacred bath in 108 pitchers of water.After the Snana Yatra festival,the three deities are kept away from the public sight,which is known as "Anasara."

It is believed that after such elaborate ritualistic bath the deities catch fever and do not return to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.The three deities then appear after 15 days of "Anasara" in a new look known as 'Navaya Yauvana Vesha.' The wooden idols of the deities are given a fresh coat of paint. Next auspicious ceremony is the renowned,popular and most famous Ratha Yatra.On this day, thousands of devotees pull the three huge chariots carrying Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra through the grand road (Bada Danda) to the Temple.

Here,the deities visit their aunt.The three deities enter the temple of their aunt on the next day and stay there for seven days.On the fifth day, Goddess Lakshmi, wife of Lord Jagannath, comes in search of him to the Gundicha temple.On finding his chariot there, she damages Jagannath's chariot and returns back in anger. After the week-long stay, the three deities return and the journey is called Bahuda Yatra.

During the return journey,the rath of Lord Jagannath stops at the Mausa Ma temple. Here, Lord accepts his favorite rice cake known as 'Poda Pitha' from his aunt who is the presiding deity of the temple.The deities reach the Puri Jagannath Temple in the evening and wait outside for the day.On the next day, the deities are draped in new clothes and this new form of the idols is known as 'Suna Vesa.' The following day, the deities move into the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and the Rath Yatra festival comes to an end.