Ratha Yatra

Ratha Yatra (Gundicha Jatra, Navadina Jatra) or the Festival of Chariots is celebrating the Lord Jahannath. Hindus believe that he is a form of Vishnu. For Buddhists he is a form of Buddha.

Ratha Yatra is held in the Indian city of Puri, Orissa on the second day of waxing cycle of moon (shukla pakshya) in the month of Asadh Maas. Asadh Maas is the 3rd month of the Hindu Lunar calendar. According to the western calendar it is in June or July. In 2013 Ratha Yatra will be organized on the 10th of July. The festival has its origin in the 11th century.

On the first day of the festival there is the bathing of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra. This ritual is known as the Snana Pumima. It is done on the platform called Snana Bedi. During next 15 days or Anabasara people can not worship the three deities.

Rathra Yatra chariots
Rathra Yatra chariots

The next event of the festival is the most spectacular one. It is a procession with three beautifully decorated chariots. Each of them has its own name. The one of Lord Jagannath is called Nandighose. It is the biggest of three charriots. Taladwaja is the chariot of Lord Balabhadra. The smallest one is Devadalan. It is dedicated to Devi Subhadra. It is interesting to mention that new chariots are built each year.

This procession is actually a journey of three deities from their temple to the Gundicha Temple which belongs to their aunt. The distance between these temples is some 2 kilometres. Priests and thousands of devotees use big ropes to pull the chariots. The procession is accompanied by performers of traditional music. Many people sing too.

Nine days after the Ratha Yatra procession there is another one, this time in the opposite direction. On their way participants stop near the Mausi Maa Temple. The Poda Pitha offerings made there include special pancakes. After a week the deities are finally returned to the temple where they will stay until next Ratha Yatra festival.