Puri Rath Yatra 2020
Every year in the month of July the sacred city of Puri, Odisha becomes energetic to celebrate the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath. Amidst the resounding blows of cymbals, the chaotic sound of drums, the three gods, Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra leave their abode, the Jagannath temple, to journey to the Gundicha Mandir. Millions of devotees visit the city to witness the musical ride in the elaborate chariot through the streets of Puri. The festival is wonderful and makes the occasion unique and aura spiritual.
How does Puri Rath Yatra Festival Celebrate?
Throughout the year three deities of Jagannath Puri, Lord Jagannath Balabhadra and Subhaddra are given symbolic baths, dressed in new clothes and bedecked in ornaments and garlands and at night are put to bed to the singing of devotional verses. On all auspicious occasions, special ceremonies and rituals are performed replete with pomp and splendour. A fortnight before the actual Rath Yatra takes place the three deities are given a holy bath on an open platform - the Snana Vedi. Since the images become discoloured as a result of the bath they are kept away from the public. They are supposed to be ill and are left to rest in isolation.
A day before the procession three gigantic chariots are exquisitely decorated and lined up outside the temple gates. Lord Jagannath's Chariot- Nandighosh is about 45 feet in height with 16 massive wheels and a gold dome on top. The red and green Taladhwaj is only slightly smaller and belongs to Balabhadra. The smallest Dev Datan belongs to Subhadra who travels between the other two chariots. These grandiose structures with brightly coloured canopied tops resemble the 12th century Jagannath temple in shape. Embellished and decorated with tinsel and ancient accessories each of the chariots has a large platform covered with huge flower umbrellas. Four wooden horses and charioteers stand mounted.
On the morning of the Yatra, the rhythmic clang of metal gongs, blowing of conches and trumpets and chanting of holy men fill the air as special priests -Daityas bring out the bedecked idols to their raths. Lord Jagannath makes his appearance first amidst the ecstatic cries of Jai Jagannath. The overwhelmed jubilant crowds work themselves into a state of devotional frenzy, almost as if the large hypnotic eyes of their beloved Lord have mesmerized them.
The Triad then awaits the arrival of the Gajapati. The king comes in a traditional palanquin following a procession of decorated elephants and horses. The king of Pun is a descendant of the royal family of Orissa and has complete control over the management and property of Jagannath temple.
He performs the Chhera Paharna to denote humility before God. He sweeps the chariots with a golden broom and sprinkles holy water on them before the deities are placed on the raths. There is a deafening roar of cheer as the procession inches ahead. Balabhadra the eldest brother takes the lead followed by Subhadra and Jagannath. The chariots are drawn by 50-meter long ropes attached to them. Devotees push through the crowds for an opportunity to pull at the ropes for it will absolve them of all their sins and help them attain salvation. A virtual sea of humanity lines the entire three-kilometre route to Gundicha Mandir. Their aim, their purpose, their mission is to have the darshan of Lord Jagannath.
During the festive days, all routine activity in the town comes to a standstill. The temple kitchen - the largest in the world - serves more than 75 quintals of rice every day and a variety of dishes are prepared, offered to the gods and later distributed as Mahaprashad to the devotees. According to tradition and folklore, the origin of the Jagannath cult is tribal where the god was symbolized as a log of wood signifying growth, procreation, and tolerance. The Vedic period saw him emerge with a wooden stump-like structure for a body and large round eyes representing the sun and the moon -the ultimate sources of life and light. Even today the mystique of Jagannath lies in its shape. It is portrayed as a stumpy body with large prominent eyes on a shield-like face.
There is an interesting story about how Jagannath came about this shape. The image of Lord Jagannath is said to have been created by Vishwakarma himself. Commissioned by Lord Vishnu to create this idol Vishwakarma promised he would dazzle the gods by his creation but only if he was able to work alone unseen.
Many months passed. Getting impatient lord Vishnu forced open the doors. The image was ready but the arms were incomplete. Even today Lord Jagannath stands in the temple with two stumps for arms.
Since the portals of the Jagannath temple allow entry only to Hindus, one of the gods, Maitri Devta who stands for universal brotherhood steps outside so people of all religions and castes can pay obeisance. A spiritual ambience pervades the whole scene as the bells chime, the conches blow and the saffron-robed sadhus dance with abandon. It is fascinating to watch the delirious masses paying homage to the Lord as the chariots move on almost as if propelled by a divine force.
Rath Yatra Jagannath Puri Date 2021
Rath Yatra for the year 2021 on Monday, 1st July 2020
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