Annual Rath Yatra Of Lord Jagannath Held In India And Around The World

One of India’s largest religious festivals, the Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra has now become part of religious celebrations for Hindus around the world. The biggest of these processions takes place in Puri in the eastern state of Orissa, while the other takes place in the western state of Gujarat. The Rath Yatra or chariot festival is traditionally celebrated by Hindus on the second day of Sukla Paksha of the month of Ashadh.

The festival is unique in that three Hindu gods are taken out of their temples in a colorful procession to meet their devotees. Believed to be the oldest Rath Yatra or chariot procession in the world, this festival marks the annual ceremonial procession of Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra and younger sister Subhadra, from their home temple to another temple, located in what is believed to be their aunt’s home. This journey is documented in undated Hindu sacred texts known as the Puranas which are believed to have been written a few thousand years ago.

In Gujarat, the 145th Annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath is in progress in Ahmedabad amidst tight security arrangements. The Chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Baldev and their sister Devi Subhadra will travel during the day on 18 kilometres of its traditional route. Rath Yatra began on Friday, July 1, 2022 from 400 year- old historic Lord Jagannath Temple in Jamalpur area of old city. The  Rath Yatra or chariot festival is traditionally celebrated by Hindus on the second day of Sukla Paksha of the month of Ashadh.

As per reports, eighteen decorated elephants led the Rath Yatra- as according to century old traditions, the elephants have the first glimpse of Lord Jagannath ji. It is said that Lord Jagannath ji along with brother Baldev ji and Sister Devi Subhadra are taking a round of the city to see the well being of their devotees. Lakhs of devotees gathered on both sides of the entire route to get a glimpse of Lord Jagannath.

Apart from decorated elephants, 101 trucks, 30 religious congregations, 18 singing troupes and thousands of Sadhus and Saints are adding colors to the procession. Devotees’ along with the Rathyatra have halted at Saraspur- the maternal home of Lord Jagannath for Prasad and again started its return journey for the Temple.

Thousands of devotees gathered in Odisha’s Puri to participate in the Jagannath Rath Yatra festivities that begin today at the 12 century iconic shrine of Lord Jagannath. “Greatest festival of Supreme Lord is Rath Yatra which happens every year. For last 2 yrs devotees’ participation was barred due to pandemic but is allowed this year. Expecting huge public participation today,” Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb, the current titular Gajapati Maharaja and the King of Puri was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

The annual Rath Yatra of the holy trinity – Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath – is being held with full public participation after a hiatus of two years due to the pandemic. It will culminate next week on July 9. Tight security has been put in place for the mega event.

“We expect a large gathering of about 10 lakh on Ratha Yatra as people are allowed to participate in the festival after a gap of two years,” development commissioner, P K Jena, was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

The Rath Yatra or the ‘Chariot Festival’ is believed to be as old as the iconic shrine. It’s also said to be a rare festival as deities are taken out of the temple premises. Also the idols are carved out of wood, and not metal. The deities set out for the Yatra along with the celestial wheel – Sudarshana Chakra, which is also removed from the temple during the ceremonial procession.

On their way back to the temple after more than a week, the deities stop for a while near the Mausi Maa Temple (Aunt’s abode). Here, they have an offering of the Poda Pitha, said to be a special type of pancake.

Though many think it’s a nine-day festival – the onward journey of the Holy Trinity to their maternal aunt Goddess Gundicha Devi’s Temple and culminates with the Return Journey after eight days. In reality the festival stretches from the day of AkhayaTrutiya (in April) and culminates with the Return Journey of the Holy Trinity to the Shree Mandir premises.

While the celebrations of Lord Jagannath has been ongoing for centuries in various parts of India, Hindus across the globe have brought with them these traditions. Sri Siddha Lalitha Peetham (Sree Vijaya Durga Temple) organized Sri Jagannath Rath Yatra on July 22nd in Burlington, MA.  The procession was  in a 14’ tall chariot specially for the purpose and decorated with various designs and colors and with flowers. Sree Vijaya Durga Temple has been conducting the event for several years.

The celebrations commenced with the head of the Ashram Sri. Bhavani Tejasvi Athmaram preparing Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna), his sister Goddess Subhadra and his elder brother Lord Balabhadra ready for procession. With all the Vedic chants the procession began from the temple, proceeded on Wilmington Road towards Cambridge street, Burlington covering over 1.6 miles. Devotees sang Bhajans during the procession which was followed by Suna Besha Darshan, Maha Puja and Nritya Seva in Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam and odissi to Lord Jagannath.

In New Jersey, a state with one of the largest number of Indian Americans, the Rath Yatra began on July 3rd and the Bahuda (Return Rath Rath) Yatra with cultural programs will be held on Sunday Jul 10th at Wayne Hindu Temple.

After a stay of seven days, the deities will return to their abode in Srimandira. Devotees, young and old, are expected to participate in this colorful festival and pull the beautifully decorated Rath. On this day Lord Jagannath  comes out of His sanctum sanctorum to give Darshan to all Devotees belonging to all sects and communities. lt is said that those who take part in the Car Festival earn their passage to the Heaven. “The sanctity of the festival is such that even a touch of the chariot or even the ropes with which these are pulled is considered enough to confer the results of several pious deeds or penance for ages,” organizers of the event stated in a press release.

Meanwhile, there are now efforts to make these celebrations eco-friendly. Sand artists from Odisha, Sudarsan Pattnaik and Manas Sahoo, have devoted their works to the Rath Yatra, or the car festival, celebrated every year in Puri.

Pattnaik has created 125 sand chariots and a sand sculpture of Lord Jagannath at Puri beach in Odisha. He has already a record of creating 100 sand chariots placed in Limca Books of World Records. Now he is attempting to create another record for the Limca Book of Records.

He says sand art is believed to have originated during Rath Yatra in the 16th century by Balaram Das, a staunch devotee of Jagannath and a famous poet who was once humiliated by servitors and not allowed to pull the chariots during Rath Yatra. He then went to the beach and sculpted chariots on the sand. Through his sand animation, Sahoo has depicted the construction of the Shree Jagannath Temple, the construction of the chariots, and how the Lord is coming out of the temple to give darshan to the devotees. He has beautifully animated the scene of the devotees being enthralled by the sight of the Lord in a chariot as they have not seen the Lord for the last two years due to the pandemic. It took Sahoo 10 hours to make this 1-minute and 16-second video. In it, he conveyed the message of “Happy Rath Yatra” to the whole world.


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