Puri located in Orissa, along the coast of Bay of Bengal is considered to be one of the holiest places for Hindus. It is due to the fact that the temple of Lord Jagannath is situated here. Lord Jagannath is the incarnation of Lord Krishna/Lord Vishnu.
Every year, this festival is celebrated on second day in bright fortnight of Ashad month. On this auspicious day, the idols of Lord Krishna, Shri Balarama and Devi Subhadra are taken out in procession to Gundicha temple. The devotees are given darshan for 8 days and on the 9th day, they make their return journey to Jagannath temple. The return journey procession is known as Bahuda Jatra.
It is believed that people who get glimpse of this scene will get a good fortune. Every year, millions of devotees visit this holy land to participate in Rath Yatra.
History of Rath Yatra Celebrations
There are several stories on how the Rath Yatra celebrations started. Few are listed out below:
- It is said that the devotees of Krishna, celebrated this day when Lord Krishna conquered Kamsa, his maternal uncle and gave darshan to the people in Mathura, in Chariot (Rath) with his brother Balarama.
- The other story that people believe is that, Kamsa, invited both Krishna and Balaram to Mathura with the plan to kill them. Kamsa sent Akrura with Chariot to Gokul. Lord Krishna and Balaram climbed onto the Ratha and started off to Mathura. Devotees celebrate this day of departure of Krishna and Balaram as the festival of Rath Yatra.
- People in Dwaraka celebrate this day when Lord Krishna with Balaram took his sister Subhadra on the Chariot to show the city of Dwaraka.
Specifications of Rath Yatra Chariots
In Puri, every year, a grand procession is held with the idols of Lord Krishna, Subhadra and Balarama in 3 huge Raths. The devotees at Puri celebrate Rath Yatra festival by pulling the Raths.
Three of These Chariots have Different Specifications
Chariot of Lord Krishna
This rath is called as Nandighosa. It has 18 wheels and is 23 cubits high. (cubit is a length of the forearm from the elbow to the tip of the finger)
Chariot of Balarama
This rath is called Taladhvaja. It has 16 wheels and is 22 cubits high.
Chariot of Subhadra
The rath of Subhadra is called Devadalana. This rath has 14 wheels and is 21 cubits high.
Every year these Raths are built new based on the religious specifications. The idols of the three deities are made of wood and are replaced every 12 years.
Rituals at Puri
On the day of the Rath Yatra, devotees get up early in the morning and take bath. Then, they do Puja at home and go to the Jagannath temple. The huge chariots that are to be taken in procession are lined up just in front of the temple. After couple of hours, the existing king of the region brings the deities out and places them on the respective chariots. Once the deities are placed on the chariots, the procession starts. First chariot that is pulled is the chariot of Lord Balarama, the second pulled is the chariot of Subhadra and then the chariot of Lord Krishna.
This ritual is observed with lot of programs conducted and then followed by the prayers offered by the devotees to the Lord.
After this, the son of the King arrives on Elephants and sweeps the platforms of the chariot with a gold-handled broom. And then they mop it with scented water.
This ritual at Puri explains that every human being is equal irrespective of caste or color. Getting out the deities from the temple can be done only by the King of Nepal or by the King of Puri as they belong to the Chandravanshi family of Lord Krishna.
Mahaprasada to Lord Jagannath
Mahaprasada is a spiritual food that is offered to Lord Jagannath. It is said that just by eating mahaprasada one can make a great spiritual advancement. Every day, 56 varieties of prasada are offered to Lord Jagannath and all of these are made traditionally without adding any onions and garlic.
These prasada that is offered to Lord Jagannath is then offered to Goddess Bhimala Devi, which then turns into Maha-prasada. One should respect maha-prasada and should have it sitting on the floor.
Rath Yatra is the festival that unites rich and poor, Brahmins or Shudras equally enjoy the fairs. It is surprised to see that even Muslims take part in this festival. Muslim residents of Narayanpur, in Orissa regularly take part in this festival by building the Raths and by pulling the chariots.
The idol of Lord Krishna doesn’t have arms and legs. It is because the idol was carved by a carpenter when the Lord appeared in dreams of the King and instructed him to get the idol made. The carpenter asked the king not to disturb him till he finishes the making of idol. But the King, out of curiosity, opened the doors. Soon after he opened the door, the carpenter was nowhere to be seen; he disappeared leaving the idol incomplete. This is why the idol of Lord Krishna doesn’t have arms and legs.
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