• India
  • Jul 07
  • Kevin Savio Antony

Jagannath Rath Yatra begins

President Droupadi Murmu participated in the annual Rath Yatra festival in Puri, Odisha.

Jagannath Rath Yatra

• The Rath Yatra, also known as the Chariot Festival, is believed to be as old as the Jagannath Temple in Puri.

• According to the Hindu calendar, the festival is celebrated on the Dwitiya Tithi of Shukla Paksha (waxing moon fortnight) in the month of Ashadh.

• The festival is associated with Lord Jagannath, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, and his siblings. During the Yatra, the deities Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra, and his sister Subhadra are carried on wooden chariots from Jagannath Temple to Gundicha Temple in Puri.

• The legend behind the festival is that once, Goddess Subhadra expressed her desire to visit her aunt’s place in Gundicha. To fulfil the wish, Lord Jagannath and Lord Balabhadra decided to accompany her on a chariot ride. 

• This event is commemorated every year by taking the deities on a similar journey. 

• The festival dates back to at least the 12th century CE, when the Jagannath temple was built by King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. However, some sources suggest that the festival was already in practice since ancient times. 

• The festival is also known as Festival of Chariots, as the deities are carried on three massive wooden chariots that are pulled by devotees with ropes. 

• The three chariots, newly constructed every year and decorated as per the unique scheme prescribed and followed for centuries, stand on the Bada Danda, the Grand Avenue. 

• Covered with bright canopies made of stripes of red cloth combined with those of black, yellow and blue colours, the huge chariots are lined across the wide avenue right in front of the majestic temple close to its eastern entrance, also known as the Sinhadwara or the Lion’s Gate.

• Lord Jagannatha’s Chariot is called Nandighosa. It is 45 feet high and 45 feet square at the wheel level. It has sixteen wheels, each of seven feet diameters, and is decked with a cover made of red and yellow cloth. 

• Lord Jagannatha is identified with Krishna who is also known as Pitambara, the one attired in golden yellow robes and hence the distinguishing yellow stripes on the canopy of this chariot.

• The Chariot of Lord Balabhadra, called the Taladhwaja, the one with the Palm Tree on its flag, has 14 wheels, each of seven feet diameter and is covered with red and blue cloth. Its height is 44 feet.

• The Chariot of Subhadra, known as Darpadalana, literally trampler of pride, is 43 feet high with 12 wheels, each of seven feet diameter. This Chariot is decked with a covering of red and black cloth, black being traditionally associated with Shakti and the Mother goddess.

• Around each of the chariots are nine Parsva devatas, painted wooden images representing different deities on the chariots’ sides. Each of the chariots is attached with four horses. These are of different colours – white ones for Balabhadra, dark ones for Jagannatha and red ones for Subhadra. Each chariot has a charioteer called Sarathi. The three charioteers attached to the chariots of Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra respectively are Matali, Daruka and Arjuna.

(The author is a trainer for Civil Services aspirants.)

Related Topics