|Orissa is a land of innumerable fairs
and festivals celebrated round the year but the most spectacular of them is
the Rath Yatra, hitherto known as the Car Festival to western world. This
chariot procession on the main streets of Ahmedabad city features a lot of
colourful chariots, trucks and other vehicles. The procession commemorates
the journey of lord Krishna to Mathura, leaving behind grieving Gopis. The
massive procession begins at Jagdish temple in Jamalpur. The main chariots
are dedicated to lord Krishna, his brother Balaram and sister Subadhra,
followed by colourfully decorated elephants, trucks, motor vehicles,
pilgrims on foot, acrobats and gymnasts.
The Period of Yatra
Every year in July, the sacred coastal town of Puri comes alive to
celebrate the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath, one of the biggest festivals
during the monsoon season. According to the Indian solar calendar, it falls
two days after the new moon day of the month of Asadh.
Legends and Rituals
The famous Car festival of Lord Jagannath falls on the second day of bright
fortnight of the month of Ashada when the Lord with his brother and sister
coming out from the 'Ratna Sinhasan' to the streets of Puri joins His
devotees while visiting His birth place The Gundicha Ghar. After a stay of
nine days the return journey starts for the temple.
According to legend Lord Jagannath said to have expressed His desire to
visit His birthplace Gundicha Ghar once every year. According to others
Subhadra wanted to visit Dwarka, her parents home therefore, her two
brothers Jagannath and Balabhadra took her there on this day. According to
Bhagavad Puran on this day. Krishna and Balaram went to Mathura on the
invitation of Kansa to participate in the competition.
The entire Ratha Yatra is a symbolic humanisation of God. All rituals
associated with the festival demonstrate an attempt to bring the God down
from His pedestal of glory to a more human level. On the day of journey the
three chariots the yellow coloured Nandighosa, blue coloured Taladwaja and
Deviratha are lined up in front of the temple and then the deities are
brought on to their respective Chariots. Once the king of Puri the living
symbol of Lord Jagannath sweeps the chariots with scented water and golden
broom, the pilgrims lined up with the rope pull the chariots on the
Badadanda to Gundicha Ghar.
Though this festival time is very special in India, the main Rath Yatra
takes place in the holy town of Puri. At other places, those devotees of
Lord Jagannath, who cannot make it to Puri, take out similar processions on
a much smaller scale. Notable are the ones at Ramnagar (near Varanasi),
Serampore (near Calcutta) and Jagannathpur (near Ranchi).
Places to Visit
Without doubt, the best place to visit during this festival time is Puri,
situated a few kilometers away from Bhubaneshwar, the capital of the state
of Orissa. This chariot procession on the main streets of Ahmedabad city
features a lot of colourful chariots, trucks and other vehicles.