Rath Yatra: A divine yatra meant for all
The Car Festival or the Ratha Yatra of Lord Jaganath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra- and a sacred festival is a celebration of universal brotherhood and unbound devotion. On this occasion The Universal Lord leaves the temple to give darshan to his devotees irrespective of caste and creed.
Reference to Rath Yatra can be traced in ancient Buddhist, Jain and Hindu scriptures. According to Hindu Mythology, Car Festival was first arranged when Lord Krishna and Balaram travelled from Gokul to Mathura on a chariot for being worshipped. Though the exact date of its inception till date has not been found, but it is assumed that it started way back in the 12th century.
It is believed by the Hindu’s that a darshan of the Lords on the Chariot frees the earthly body from repeated cycles of life and death.
According to the Lunar Calendar the festival is held in the month of Ashad i.e June or July as per the English calendar. But the preparation for this festival starts from Akshay Trithya, 58 days before the festival when the woods cut from the dense forests of Daspalla are given shape for different parts of the chariot.
Rath Yatra in Puri is unique. Unlike other procession of deities where in the Utsava Murti are taken out in the processions, in Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath- the actual deities from the sanctum-sanctorum of the temple are taken in an elaborate ritual procession to their respective chariots. The huge, colourfully decorated chariots are drawn by thousands of devotees irrespective of religion, caste or creed on Bada Danda, the avenue to the Gundicha temple.
The journey of the deities starts with an elaborate royal ritual called Pahandi with the accompaniment of several devotees beating the ghanta, kahali and telingi baja. The Sudarshan Chakra initially comes to Devi Subhadra’s Chariot only to be followed by the three deities. Though Devi Subhadra is easily carries by the Senapati’s, Lord Balabhadra plays a little but the the Lord of the Universe Jaganathji comes with much fanfare with the accompaniment of dancers, tunes of mridanga and mardala, sankirtan by the devotees and amidst chanting of mantras.
Thereafter the deities leave for their Gundicha Temple leaving Goddess Laxmi alone in the temple. Staying for 7 days the deities return to their temple (Bahuda Yatra). Only to be rebuked by Goddess Laxmi. On their way back the deities are offered Poda Pitha by their aunt (Mausi Ma). Then the much awaited ‘Suna Besa’ where in the deities are decorated with all gold ornaments and are offered adhara pana-a sweet drink.
After this the deities are taken to the temple but there in Goddess Laxmi expresses her anger and jealousy before being persuaded to enter the temple.
With Rath Yatra the hotels are well decorated with special meals being served to the Guests and elaborate arrangements are made by them to take care of their Guests from visiting the temple to the sea beach to shopping. Special packages are available for the smooth stay and visit of other places.
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