The religious city of Odisha, Puri has geared up for the grand celebrations of Rath Yatra that goes on for nine long days. Also, known as the Chariot Festival, The Rath Yatra has started from Thursday, July 4 and will end on July 13 (9-days celebrations). Two months after the Cyclone Fani had completely destroyed Puri, the pilgrim town is back to rejoice the nine-day wonderful Rath Yatra in a bigger way, just like the past years. The hotels are back to business and tourists too have come in huge numbers to have a darshan of Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra, and Lord Balabhadra. Puri is restored to its original glory.
Puri has indeed welcomed tens of thousands of people today with open arms who have arrived to witness the beginning of the chariot journey starting from Jagannath temple to the temple of Devi Gundicha. Lord Jagannath with his siblings, Devi Subhadra, and Lord Balabhadra are paying a visit to their aunt’s place, Gundhicha Temple, which is also their birthplace.
Puri district collector Balwant Singh conveyed, “We have made complete preparations to host the meg festival. All the required tourist amenities and infrastructure are in place. The devotees will have a smooth stay during the Rath Yatra.” The Puri administration made sure that the huge preparations are perfectly executed with last-minute finishing touches done by Wednesday. The Grand Trunk was filled with devotees on the Rath Yatra eve, chanting ‘Jai Jagannath’ and playing of flutes, drums, and cymbals, and also purohits and devotees singing and dancing religiously in happiness while Devi Subhadra, Lord Balabhadra and Lord Jagannath approached their individual chariots.
Many people are anticipated to come in the following days from across India and abroad to get a glimpse of the deities. Devotees feel blessed on getting the chance to touch the chariot ropes that carry the deities. This time at least 155 platoons of police, including rapid action force (RAF), are being mobilized for crowd control, traffic management and security of the pilgrims and the VIPs.
Delhi Trader decorated Puri Temple with Beautiful Flowers
It is amazing to watch the exterior of the Jagannath Temple complex beautifully adorned with flower decorations for the annual Rath Yatra. A Delhi-based entrepreneur and philanthropist, KK Sharma has offered voluntarily the free decoration service to the temple. Permission was given to him by the temple administration. Mr. Sharma had engaged his 250 men with experience in flower decoration to decorate the Jagannath temple with colorful flowers, and they have done the same for the Gundicha Temple.
Mr. Sharma had bought 20 truckloads of flowers of 10 varieties, including jasmine, marigold, rose, lily, tuberose, tulip, lotus, and lily. He said, “Our intention is to exhibit our devotion to the deities and seek their blessings. Only the low-height and accessible places in the temple have been decorated.” People on social media have greatly appreciated the decoration of the temple. A devotee tweeted, “love of Lord through flowers. On the eve of #RathYatra, decorated Singhadwara at #Srimandira, #Puri.”
The Wonderfully Decorated Chariots
Originating from Puri, Odisha, the Rath Yatra (Chariot Festival) has become a global phenomenon. Rath Yatra represents the journey of three deities on the chariots. On this auspicious occasion, Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra, and Lord Balabhadra come out of their temple to give darshan to thousands of their devotees. Devi Subhadra is first taken to her chariot named Devasalana, which has 14 wheels and is 44.6 feet high; followed by Lord Balabhadra, her elder brother who is taken to his chariot, Taladhwaja, which has 16 wheels and is 45 feet high; and lastly Lord Jagannath, another elder brother is taken to his own chariot, Nandighosa, which has 18 wheels, and is 45.6 feet high.
The construction and decoration work of these 3 chariots began in June first week by many volunteers and devotees. These chariots, fastened with thick ropes, are pulled b lakhs of devotees who have come for darshan. As per the strict 58-day deadline set by the administration, around 200 carpenters, blacksmiths, helpers, tailors, and painters work tirelessly in the complete decorations of the chariots. The workers actually reproduce the architecture of the main Jagannath Temple to design the chariots. Also, the canopies of the chariots are covered with approx. 1,250 meters of green, black, yellow, and red cloth. The red is for Goddess Subhadra, the yellow color is for Lord Jagannath and green color is for Lord Balabhadra.
Rituals and Beliefs
Known to be one of the world’s biggest car festival, the 3 chariots are rolled on the Grand Trunk Road, also known as Bada Danda in Puri, where devotees have gathered in huge numbers. After the Lords are placed on their chariots, the Puri Raja, Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb performed cheera pahanra (he cleans the chariots with his broom), a ritual followed every year in Rath Yatra, and gotipua and Odissi dancers dance wholeheartedly in joy and mesmerize the crowd. Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra, and Lord Balabhadra stay for 9-days at Gundicha temple where they are served with chenna poda or sweet pancakes.
It is followed by the rituals that are conducted by the pandits during the 9-days of Rath Yatra and ends with the Bahuda Jatra, the day the deities return to their temple, and Suna Besha where the deities are adorned by gold for the people to come and have darshan and be blessed. The ritual culminates with the deities entering the Jagannath temple on 13th July this year.
Rath Yatra celebrations in full-swing
Devotees coming to Puri prefer taking a dip in the sea beach and then go to pay darshan on the Grand Trunk. Lots of devotees including foreigners walk on the streets of Grand Trunk in the holiness of Lords and Goddess. Many people residing in Puri volunteer for this festival. Khaja rues the festive menu as vendors make khajas in huge numbers. People visiting Puri carry the local khaja while returning back home. Devotees buy loads of khajas (sweet delicacy) as it’s one of the prasads of the Puri temple.
You can watch the latest videos of Rath Jatra on social networking sites, and viewers can watch Rath Yatra updates on Odisha news channels. Don’t forget to watch live on 12th when the deities return back to the Puri temple on their chariots and also the Suna Bheso when they’re beautified with gold ornaments. Rath Yatra is also celebrated in different cities of Odisha and other states of India and abroad too. If possible, you can visit your city’s Jagannath Temple for darshan. 🙂
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