Rath Yatra Puri: Rituals, Celebration and Significance of Odisha’s Famous Chariot Festival

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The Rath Yatra of Puri, also known as the Jagannath Rath Yatra, Ratha Jatra or Chariot festival, is an annual Hindu chariot festival celebrated in India’s Odisha with great fanfare. Jagannath Rath Yatra takes place on the bright half of the lunar month of Ashadh, which usually falls in the month of June or July in the Gregorian calendar. The festival is associated with the deity Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and is held in the city of Puri, Odisha. Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra commemorates Lord Jagannath’s annual visit to Gundicha Temple via his maternal aunt’s home Mausi Maa Temple near Saradha Bali, Puri.

Ratha Yatra day is decided based on the Hindu Lunar calendar, and it is fixed on Dwitiya Tithi during Shukla Paksha of Ashada month. This year, Ratha Yatra 2023 will be celebrated on Tuesday, June 20. The mention of the Ratha Yatra can be found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, the Skanda Purana, and the Kapila Samhita. One day before of Ratha Yatra, Gundicha Temple is cleaned by devotees of Lord Jagannatha.

Rath Yatra 2023 will be celebrated on Tuesday, June 20.

Rath Yatra 2023 Tithi and Timings
The Dwitiya Tithi will begin on June 19, 2023, at 11:25 am and end on June 20 at 1.07 pm.

Rath Yatra Puja Tithi
Ahead of the Puri Rath Yatra, the three idols- Lord Jagannath, his brother Lord Balabhadra and sister Goddess Subhadra, are given a ritualistic bath. They are then kept in isolation till the procession (yatra) day as they become slightly discoloured after the bath and are considered ill for that duration of time.

On the day of the yatra, people gather around the temple, chanting mantras and awaiting a glimpse of the deities. The King of Puri, a descendant of the Royal Family of Orissa, who has authority over the Jagannath Temple, brings the idols out of the temple. He sweeps the chariot with a gold handle broom and decorates it with flowers before placing the deities on it. He also sweeps the ground and sprinkles sandalwood water around the chariot. This is a famous ritual of the Yatra called the Chhera Pahara. Following this, the idols are placed in the Chariots.

Rath Yatra Significance
Lord Jagannatha is considered a form of Lord Vishnu and is also revered by the followers of Vaishnavism. Jagannatha literally means Lord of the Universe. The Jagannatha temple is one of the four Hindu pilgrimage places called Char Dham. During the festival, the three deities – Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra, are pulled in three massive, wooden chariots to Gundicha Temple, whereby they reside there for a week and then return to the Jagannath temple.

As per legends, Lord Jagannath resides in the temple town of Puri along the Bay of Bengal in Odisha’s Bhubaneswar, and he desires to visit his birthplace Mathura once every year along with his brother Lord Balabhadra and sister Goddess Subhadra to show her Mathura on a chariot. This Journey from the Jagannath Temple in Puri to Gundichi Devi Temple in Mathura is known as the Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra. The ritual of cleaning the Gundicha temple is known as Gundicha Marjana and is held one day before Ratha Yatra.

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