Puri Rath Yatra also known as 'Rath Festival' is an important Hindu festival dedicated to Lord Jagannath. It is also called Jagannath Rath Yatra. It is an annual event which is celebrated on ‘Dwitiya’ during ‘Ashadh Shukla Paksha’. Puri Rath Yatra is Puri's biggest religious festival which attracts tourists and devotees from India as well as abroad. More than a million pilgrims visit Puri every year to witness this grand chariot festival.
The festival commemorates Lord Jagannath's visit to the famous Gundicha temple while passing through the Mausi Maa temple located near Balagandi Chaka in Puri. During the Puri Rath Yatra, the main deities of the temple, Lord Jagannath, Goddess Subhadra, and Lord Balabhadra are taken out in a huge procession in their chariots. In 2021, the Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra is scheduled to take place on Monday, July 12.
Rituals performed during Puri Rath Yatra
The Puri Rath Yatra festival begins with offering special prayers and rituals to the deities and is known as ‘Rath Pratishtha’. After this, the three main deities, Goddess Subhadra, Lord Jagannath and Lord Balabhadra are seated in their chariots. The brightly decorated chariots are then pulled onto the streets of Puri and are known as 'Baddanda'.
The most exciting part of this ritual is the 'chariot tana' or pulling of the chariots. Devotees from across the country come with a keen desire to pull the chariot of the Lord as the work is considered very sacred.
The colorful processions proceed with the sound of devotional songs playing on tambourines, trumpets or drums. The streets of Puri are crowded with devotees who come to get a glimpse of their lord. The procession finally reaches the Gundicha temple which is known as the abode of Lord Jagannath's aunt.
Importance of Puri Rath Yatra
The Puri Rath Yatra festival is dedicated to Lord Jagannath, who is considered one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The Jagannath temple is one of the four major pilgrimages of the Hindus and holds religious significance.
On the auspicious day of Puri Rath Yatra devotees who are prohibited from entering the temple premises are very keen to have a glimpse of their deities.
This festival is also known as 'Ghosh Yatra', 'Dashavatar Yatra', 'Navadina Yatra' or 'Gundicha Yatra'. Rath Yatra in Puri is one of the grandest events attracting tourists from all corners of the world.
It is believed that the person who devoutly participates in this Puri Rath Yatra is freed from the cycle of birth and death. A glimpse of Lord Jagannath on his chariot is considered very auspicious. It should be noted that every year these chariots are newly constructed with a special wood according to religious specifications.
Even the idols of the deities are made of wood and are religiously replaced every twelve years. The Puri Rath Yatra festival is a symbol of integration and equality. It is one of those rare festivals that is above all kinds of discrimination. Even Muslims participate in this amazing chariot ceremony.
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