If you have to witness a confluence of humanity, faith, and devotion, the Rath Yatra held at the world famous Jagannath Temple, situated at Puri, Odisha is a stunning example. This year the Rath Yatra will be held on 25th June.
Legend has it that Krishna, Balaram, and Subhadra listened to some confidential narration by Rohini, Balaram’s mother, of Krishna’s childhood antics.They became so ecstatic upon hearing this that their bodies contracted and compressed with the head and their eyes became dilated. Their new avatars became Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra and are celebrated with the Rath Yatra.
Let us take a look at the unique rituals associated with Rath Yatra, which is spread over a month.
Snana Purnima: This marks the ceremonial bathing of the three deities on Purnima(full moon day), in the month of Jeth of the Hindu calendar. The deities are bathed with 108 pitchers of water.
Anasara: It is believed that after such an elaborate bath, the deities might fall sick and thus are kept away from the public view. During this time, they do not return to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.
Navaya Yauvana Vesha: After 15 days of being away from the public during ‘Anasara’, the three deities make an appearance in their new avatars. The wooden idols are decorated with a lot of love and enthusiasm.
Pahandi: This marks the beginning of the Rath Yatra when the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra are carried on huge chariots to the Gundicha temple. Gundicha was a great devotee of Krishna and the three deities visit her as a mark of respect. Thousands of people tug the ropes attached to the chariots. They are welcomed at the temple with huge garlands known as ‘tahias’.
Hera Panchami: Legend had it that Goddess Lakshmi came looking for her husband, Lord Vishnu, but couldn’t find him in the Gundicha Temple. Angry, she breaks a part of the Nandighosa Chariot to teach her husband a lesson. This is known as ‘Hera Panchami’. All the three deities enjoy their stay at their maternal aunt’s place for nine days and are offered a type of pancake known as ‘Poda Pitha’. They then return to the Jagannath Temple.
Suna Vesha: After returning to the Jagannath Temple, the deities wait outside for a day. The next day, they are dressed in new attires known as ‘Suna Vesha’. After that, the deities enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and this marks the end of the Rath Yatra.
During this time, Puri displays the most vivid colors. But the most colorful part is the devotion of the people towards the deity. Millions of people from all around the world flock here to witness one of the most sacred traditions.