Ratha Yatra Festival

Ratha Yatra is a major Hindu festival held at Puri in India during the months of June or July. According to the traditional Odia calendar, the festival begins on the second day of Shukla Paksha, the waxing phase of the moon or bright fortnight, of the Hindu lunar month of Ashadha. The festival is a joyous event that has been celebrated for thousands of years. Not only does the Puri Rath Yatra attract people from India, it also attract people from different parts of the world. Rath Yatra or the Chariot Festival is the only day that allows devotees into the temple to get a chance to see the deities. The festival symbolizes equality and integration.

The 3 deities are worshipped within the temple. However, during the festival, they are taken to the streets of Puri so that everyone has a chance to see them. The Jagannath Temple is among the four most sacred temples in India. The other three temples are Rameshwaram in south, Dwarika in west and Badrinath in north. The festival begins in the morning with the the invoking ceremony. The festival proceeds in the afternoon with the chariot pulling on the roads of Puri, which is the most exciting part of the festival. The festival is associated with the worship of Lord Jagannath, which is a reincarnation of lords Vishnu and Krishna. The name of Jagannatha refers to the euphoric form of the lord with large eyes and rugged features. The festival celebrates his annual visit to his birth place, Gundicha Temple, and his aunt’s home along with his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra.

The 3 deities are worshipped within the temple. However, during the festival, they are taken to the streets of Puri so that everyone has a chance to see them. The Jagannath Temple is among the four most sacred temples in India. The other three temples are Rameshwaram in south, Dwarika in west and Badrinath in north. The festival begins in the morning with the the invoking ceremony. The festival proceeds in the afternoon with the chariot pulling on the roads of Puri, which is the most exciting part of the festival. The festival is associated with the worship of Lord Jagannath, which is a reincarnation of lords Vishnu and Krishna. The name of Jagannatha refers to the euphoric form of the lord with large eyes and rugged features. The festival celebrates his annual visit to his birth place, Gundicha Temple, and his aunt’s home along with his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra.

The Rath Yatra festival starts with taking the idols of Lord Jagannath, his older brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra out of their residence in the Jagannath Temple. Then travel to Gundicha Temple which is a few kilometers away. They remain for seven days in Gundicha Temple before returning via Mausi Maa Temple to the residence of Lord Jagannath's aunt. The idols are transported on towering chariots, made to resemble a temple. Thus, the name of the festival is Ratha Yatra or the Chariot Festival. The 3 deities have different chariots. The chariot of Lord Jagannath, called Nandighosa, has 18 wheels and is 45.6 feet high. The chariot of Lord Balabhadra, called Taladhwaja, has 16 wheels and is 45 feet. The chariot of Subhadra, known as Devadalana, has 14 wheels and is 44.6 feet.

The idols of Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra are made from wood. Hence, they are to decay over time and need to be replaced by new ones every 12 years. They are crafted from specific neem wood, because not all neem wood are suitable for this purpose. The trees need to have specific qualities: number of branches, color and location, for each idol. On the year of their replacement, a group of priests, servants and carpenters go out and search for the appropriate neem trees.

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