What makes Jagannath Rath Yatra so special?

Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit
RathYatra or chariot festival is celebrated on 1st July in honour of Lord Jagannath who is one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu in Hindu mythology. Rath Yatra is a symbol of unity, brotherhood, and peace. This is one of the most important festivals celebrated across India. Every year the Rath Yatra is celebrated on the day of Shukla Paksha Dwitiya of the month of Ashadha in the Hindu calendar. This traditional rath yatra is the center of attraction not only in India but also for foreign devotees. It signifies a journey through life with family members. The emergence of the god from the temple is a symbol of his presence among ordinary men on earth.Thousands of devotees travel from all over the country to participate in this yatra and get good fortune by pulling the Lord’s chariot. It is stated that anyone who takes part in the RathYatra would be blessed with pleasure and riches.Ratha means ‘chariot’ and yatra means ‘procession’. Up to 1400 carpenters build the three chariots each year for Ratha Yatra. It’s believed the festival receives rainfall every year on the day it takes place. The English word ‘juggernaut’ is derived from Jagannath. The rites associated with the journey of Jagannath and his two companions from the great temple and their return nine days later has been recalled. Prajnanananda Paramahansa says “He is the eye of all eyes, the nose of all noses, the ear of all ears. – He is the Lord of ever changing cosmos. The Lord of the universe or jagat, is Jagannath.”
Jagannath Puri temple is called ‘Yamanika Tirtha’ where, according to the Hindu beliefs, the power of ‘Yama’, the god of death has been nullified in Puri due to the presence of Lord Jagannath. The faith and belief attached to Puri’s rath yatra has come a long way and now many Indian cities and even countries like The UK, Dubai and Singapore observe their own versions of Rath Yatra. The festival of Rath Yatra commemorates and celebrates the annual journey of Lord Jagannath with his brother Balabhadra and his sister Subhadra, as he travels from his sacred temple located in Puri to visit his aunt’s temple located in Gundicha. The Puri Rath Yatra is world famous and attracts more than one million pilgrims every year, not only from India but also from the different parts of the world.
Lord Jagannath is a form of Lord Krishna, the complete avatar of Lord Vishnu. In the city of Puri in the state of Odisha, Lord Jagannath visits his sister Subhadra and brother Balarama. Every year the wooden temples like chariots are constructed newly. The idols of these three deities are also made of wood and they are religiously replaced by new ones in every 12 years.
The name of this city is derived from Jagannath Puri to Puri. Every year the festival of Lord Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra is celebrated with great pomp and show. Lord Jagannath Puri Dham is counted in the Char Dham of Hinduism. According to Hindu belief, Lord Vishnu dines in Puri, bathes in Rameswaram, sleeps in Dwarka and meditates in Badrinath. Char Dham Yatra is considered incomplete without a visit to Lord Jagannath in Puri. Legend says it always rains on the day of the procession. For a whole week before, the temple doors are shut and no one is allowed inside, because it is believed that the sibling deities have a fever after bathing in the sun with 108 pitchers of water. The breaking of their fever calls for a change of scene, which is why they go to their aunt’s home for a few days.
One thing is interesting is that the chariot that is pulled on the occasion of Rath Yatra is made of a type of Neem tree wood. It is however later dismantled and used as firewood in the temple kitchen. The temple offers prasad to the Lord, which is then distributed among devotees. Interestingly this Ratha Yatra is also seen as the journey of life undertaken to achieve Moksha.
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