A Sneak Peek Into Lord Jagannath’s Car Festival

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Bhubaneswar: World-famous Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath and his sibling deities in Puri, is an eagerly-awaited festival of Odisha which will begin from July 12. It is an important festival of Hindus that is organised each year at the famous Shree Jagannath temple in the Pilgrim Town, Puri.

In Rath Yatra, the presiding deities of Srimandir are taken out in their chariots which are pulled in a traditional ceremony by thousands of people. However, due to the pandemic situation, it will be a low-key affair and a limited number of sevayats (servitors) will pull the chariots.

And, devotees, who have been barred from participating in the car festival, could watch it live on television and social media networks. Only selected servitors and staff of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) will participate in the festival-related activites in order to keep the Coronavirus infection at bay.

Here’s all you need to know about the Lord Jagannath’s Car Festival:

What is Rath Yatra?

Rath Yatra is a festival in which seven deities  travel in three chariots which are pulled by thousands of devotess across two temples- the Shree Jagannath temple and Gundicha temple, also known as Gundicha Ghar, which are located at a distance of approximately three kilometres from each other.

When is the festival celebrated?

According to the Hindu traditional calendar the ‘Panchang’, Rath Yatra is celebrated on Ashadha Shukla Dwitiya, meaning the 2nd day of the bright fortnight of Ashadha (June- July of Roman calendar) every year.

About the deities

There are a total of seven deities namely Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra, Sudarshana, Madanmohan, Rama and Krishna who are seated atop wooden chariots and moved across the two temples. Mainly, three deities namely Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are prominent and are known as the ‘Trimurti’ (Holy Trinity). Lord Jagannath is regarded as the Supreme God and the sovereign monarch in the Odishan culture and also a form of Lord Vishnu. Balabhadra is the brother of Lord Jagannath and Devi Subhadra is his sister.

The three chariots

‘Nandighosha’, the chariot of Lord Jagannath having 16 wheels is the largest of the three chariots. The wheels and the roof of the chariot are covered in red and yellow coloured fabric. The second chariot is of Lord Balabhadra, known by the name ‘Taladhwaja’, which has 14 wheels with covering in red and green coloured fabric. The third and the last chariot is of Goddess Subhadra, called ‘Debadalana’, which has 12 wheels and is covered in fabric of red and black colour.

The festive procession

The wooden idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra are escorted from the Garba Gruha (Sanctum Sanctorum) are placed in their chariots along with their four companions and pulled by thousands of people across a three-kilometre long stretch from the Jagannath temple to Gundicha temple. On Snana Poornima, the idols are bathed with 109 buckets of water before the commencement of the yatra. After this, they are placed in isolation considering that they are ill until the day of the procession. This duration is called Ansara. The next ritual called ‘Chhera Pahara’ where the deities are placed on the chariots by the king (Gajapati Maharaj) or the royal successor of Puri, Odisha himself. Then the three deities are pulled in their chariots to Gundicha Temple and stay at their aunt’s place for a span of nine days before coming back to the Jagannath temple. The return journey is called ‘Bhahuda Yatra’.

The festival of Rath Yatra has different beliefs and people of many faith celebrate this festival. It is believed that Lord Jagannath the supreme god blesses the devotees with whatever they desire. Jagannath temple in Puri is considered as one of the main pilgrimage centres(Char Dham) of the Hindu religion.

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