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Jagannatha Rath Yatra on 13 July 2010 : A festival you should be part of

Last Updated: 6/12/2010 2:06:13 PM

Ankush Khungar

Ratha Yatra, the Festival of Chariots of Lord Jagannatha is celebrated every year at Puri, the temple town in Orissa, on the east coast of India on the second (dwitiya) day of shukla pakshya (waxing cycle of moon) of Ashadh Maas (3rd month in Lunar Calendar). The presiding deities of the main temple, Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama and Goddess Subhadra, with the celestial wheel Sudarshana are taken out from the temple precincts in an elaborate ritual procession to their respective chariots. The huge, colourfully decorated chariots, are drawn by hundreds and thousands of devotees on the bada danda, the grand avenue to the Gundicha (King Indradyumna's Queen) temple, some two miles away to the North.


HOLINESS AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE:

The festival is also known as Gundicha Yatra, Ghosa Yatra, Navadina Yatra, Dasavatara Yatra and by a variety of other names. For the devoted and believers, it is considered the most auspicious occasion. Rathe tu vamanam drishtwa punarjanmam na vidyate A glimpse of the Vamana, the dwarf form, an incarnation of Lord Jagannatha, is sure to ensure emancipation, release from the cycle of birth and death.

Yatra is an essential part of the ritual of the Hindu system of worship. Yatra literally means travel or journey. Normally, it is the representative deities of temples more popularly known as Utsava Murti in south and Chalanti Pratima or Bije Pratima in Orissa, partake in these journeys. The Yatra for the Ritual Journey take two forms – one involving the short circumbulation around the temple and other involving a longer journey from the temple to some other destination. The Yatra is considered as an important part of festivities and ceremonies of each temple and is considered as a special and sacred occasion. Rath Yatra being unique among all Yatras is the grandest festival of the supreme divinity who has manifested himself in the Kali Yuga to emancipate humanity and to relieve them from their sufferings. Lord Jagannatha is identified fully with Krushna. In his original manifestation as Nilamadhaba, he was worshipped in a sacred Nyagrodha Briksha or banyan tree. The branches of the tree had spread for several miles and any one entering this area was instantly emancipated and was relieved of the travails of the birth and re-birth. In fact, the influence of Yama, the God of Death, is supposed to have been curtailed in the sacred city of Puri – Srikshetra on account of the presence of Lord Jagannatha and therefore it is also called the Yamanika Tirtha.

A glimpse of Lord Jagannatha on the chariot is considered to be very auspicious and saints, poets and scriptures have repeatedly glorified the sanctity of this special festival. The sanctity of the festival is such that even a touch of the chariot or even the ropes with which these are pulled is considered enough to confer the results of several pious deeds or penance for ages. In fact, there is a famous Oriya song which says that on this occasion, the chariot, the wheels, the grand avenue all become one with Lord Jagannatha himself.

The concept of the chariot has been explained in the Kathopanishada in the following words-

Atmanam rathinam viddhi sareeram rathamevatu Buddhim tu saarathim viddhi marah pragrahameva cha.

This means that the body is the Chariot and the soul is the deity installed in the chariot. The wisdom acts as the charioteer to control the mind and thoughts.

THE CHARIOTS:

The three chariots of Balarama, Subhadra and Jagannatha are newly constructed every year with wood of specified trees like phassi, dhausa, etc. customarily brought from the ex-princely state of Dasapalla, by a specialist team of carpenters who have hereditary rights and privilege for the same. The logs are traditionally set afloat as rafts in the river Mahanadi. These are collected near Puri and then transported by road.

Lord Jagannatha’s Chariot is called Nandighosa. It is forty-five feet high and forty-five feet square at the wheel level. It has sixteen wheels, each of seven feet diameters, and is decked with a cover made of red and yellow cloth. Lord Jagannatha is identified with Krushna who is also known as Pitambara, the one attired in golden yellow robes and hence the distinguishing yellow stripes on the canopy of this chariot.

The Chariot of Lord Balarama, called the Taladhwaja, the one with the Palm Tree on its flag, has fourteen wheels, each of seven feet diameters and is covered with red and blue cloth. Its height is forty-four feet.

The Chariot of Subhadra, known as Dwarpadalana, literally trampler of pride, is forty-three feet high with twelve wheels, each of seven feet diameters. This Chariot is decked with a covering of red and black cloth, black being traditionally associated with Shakti and the Mother goddess.

Around each of the chariots are nine Parsva devatas, painted wooden images representing different deities on the chariots’ sides. Each of the chariots is attached with four horses. These are of different colours – white ones for Balarama, dark ones for Jagannatha and red ones for Subhadra. Each chariot has a charioteer called Sarathi. The three charioteers attached to the chariots of Jagannatha, Balarama and Subhadra respectively are Matali, Daruka and Arjuna.

2010 RATH YATRA:

In 2010, the date of Puri Rath Yatra is July 13th . On the day of the Ratha Yatra (car festival), chariots (Rath) carrying Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra will be  pulled to the nearby Gundicha Temple.

At the world famous Puri Jagannath Temple in Orissa, Lord Krishna is worshipped as ‘Jagannath’ – ‘master of the universe.’ Balabhadra is the elder brother of Lord Krishna and Subhadra is his younger sister.

The making of the Rathas for the annual festival must begun on the Akshaya Tritiya day. The main rituals associated with Puri Rath Yatra festival will be  spread over a month and several rituals, like Snana Purnima and Anasara, will take place during this period.

The Snana Yatra or Snana Purnima (Bathing Festival) takes place on the full moon day in the month of Jyestha (May – June). On this day, the three deities were bathed in 108 pitchers of water.

After the elaborate Snana Yatra festival, the three deities stayed away from public view and this is known as ‘Anasara.’ It is believed that after such elaborate ritualistic bath the deities caught fever and therefore they did not return to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

The idols of the three deities then made an appearance after 15 days of ‘anasara’ in a new appearance known as ‘Navaya Yauvana Vesha.’ The wooden idols of the deities were  given a fresh coat of paint.

The three deities entered  the temple of their aunt on the next day and stay there for seven days.

On the fifth day, Goddess Lakshmi, wife of Lord Jagannath, comes in search of him to the Gundicha temple. On finding his chariot there, she damages Jagannath’s chariot and returns back in anger.

After the week-long stay, the three deities return and the journey is known as Bahuda Yatra.

During the return journey, the chariot of Jagannath stops at the Ardhasani Temple (Mausa Ma temple). Here, Lord accepts his favorite rice cake known as Poda Pitha from his aunt who is the presiding deity of the temple.

The deities reach the Puri Jagannath Temple in the evening and wait outside for the day.

On the next day, the deities are attired in new costumes and this new form of the idols is known as ‘Suna Vesa.’

The following day, the deities move into the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and the Rath Yatra festival comes to an end.

To consult astrologer Ankush Khungar, Please click here
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