Annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath: A Spectacular Celebration in Puri, Odisha

The annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath, accompanied by his siblings Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra, commenced on Sunday in the temple town of Puri, Odisha. This grand festival, deeply embedded in Hindu tradition, marks the deities’ journey to the Sri Gundicha temple for a nine-day sojourn. This year’s Rath Yatra is particularly noteworthy due to a unique celestial alignment, extending the event over two days for the first time in 53 years.

Rituals and Celebrations

The Rath Yatra began with a series of intricate rituals. Mangal arati, abakash, tadap lagi, mailum, rosa homa, suryapuja, and the offering of Gopal bhog to the deities were performed before the servitors began moving the deities to their elaborately decorated chariots on the Bada Danda, also known as the Grand Road. The ceremonial sweeping of the chariots was performed by Puri king Gajapati Dibya Singh Dev, a traditional act symbolizing humility and service.

Lakhs of devotees thronged Puri, eagerly participating in pulling the three chariots—Nandighosa, Taladhwaja, and Darpadalan. Puri district collector Siddharth Swain highlighted the rarity of this year’s event, noting that a similar celestial arrangement last occurred in 1971, extending the chariot-pulling over two days.

The Chariot Festival and Its Significance

The Jagannatha Rath Yatra, also known as the Chariot Festival, is a significant Hindu festival held annually in Odisha. Celebrated on Dwitiya Tithi, the second day of the bright half of Sharad Paksha in the Hindu lunar month of Asadh, the Yatra signifies the Holy Trinity’s journey to their maternal aunt’s temple, Goddess Gundicha Devi, culminating in their return after eight days.

During the Yatra, the deities—Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra—are carried on majestic wooden chariots from the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple. Before the ‘Nabajouban Darshan,’ a special ritual called ‘Netra Utsav’ is conducted, where the deities’ eyeballs are freshly painted, symbolizing rejuvenation and new vision.

Participation of Dignitaries and Wishes

This year’s Rath Yatra saw participation from notable dignitaries, including President Droupadi Murmu, who extended her heartfelt wishes to all Indians. In her message, she expressed her joy and prayers for happiness, peace, and prosperity for everyone. Odisha Governor Raghubar Das, Chief Minister Mohan Charan Majhi, and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan also joined the celebrations, highlighting the festival’s significance.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his wishes on the commencement of the sacred Rath Yatra, praying for the continued blessings of Lord Jagannath. His message echoed the sentiments of countless devotees who eagerly await this divine procession each year.

Upcoming Events

The festivities continue with the Bahuda Yatra (return car festival) scheduled for July 15, followed by the Sunabesha of the deities on July 17. The deities will then re-enter the sanctum sanctorum of the Jagannath Temple, concluding the vibrant and spiritually enriching Rath Yatra.