Major cities around the world celebrate Ratha-yatra. It is a contribution of Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of ISKCON, who introduced a life of Krishna consciousness in the western world. Srila Prabhupada had a great ambition to celebrate this festival gorgeously in every city of the world and he inspired and guided his disciples to make this annual festival well-known in every part of the world. The first-ever Ratha-yatra in the western world was organized in San Francisco on July 9, 1967. Thereafter, this festival became popular and spread to many other countries. By 1975 the festival had become so popular that the mayor of San Francisco issued a formal proclamation of celebrating Ratha-yatra Day in San Francisco. For Srila Prabhupada, the idea of conducting Ratha-yatra was not new. Srila Prabhupada would worship Lord Jagannatha in his young age. When he was six years old, his father arranged for a small ratha and young Abhay (who later came to be known as Srila Prabhupada) would perform Ratha-yatra in his neighbourhood and distribute prasadam to all the children taking part in the festival. Thus, from the very beginning of his life, Srila Prabhupada used to conduct Ratha-yatra. What once had been a childhood activity later became a world-wide celebration as Srila Prabhupada vigorously preached all around the world. It is quite interesting to study the intimate connection of this blissful annual festival of Ratha-yatra with the history of Hare Krishna movement. When Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the father of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, was serving as the district magistrate, he was in-charge of the Puri Jagannatha temple. During one of the Ratha-yatra occasions in Puri, when the cart was passing before Srila Bhaktivinoda’s house, it stopped there. At that time, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura who was an infant then, was taken by his mother to the ratha and placed before Lord Jagannatha. Miraculously, one of the garlands of the Lord fell on the child, indicating Lord’s blessings and it was the first sign of the child becoming an acharya. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the initiator of the congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord, resided in Jagannatha Puri during the final years of His pastimes on this earth. There the Lord would take part in the Ratha-yatra every year and chant the holy names and dance in ecstasy. He exhibited the highest devotional mood of Radharani – the feelings of separation from the Lord. This was a wonderful occasion for His disciples and other devotees to experience the divine association of the Lord and enhance their devotional feelings during the festival. Regarding the significance of this Ratha-yatra, Srila Prabhupada explains that once on an auspicious day Lord Krishna started from Dwaraka and visited Kurukshetra with His elder brother Balarama and younger sister Subhadra on a chariot. Having received the news of Lord Krishna’s visit, the gopis and other inhabitants of Vrindavana came there to meet Him. Looking at Krishna in a royal dress, Srimati Radharani implored Him to come to Vrindavana, where they had spent their early days, performing pastimes in the forests. In commemoration of this grand visit of the Lord with His family, devotees pull a ratha carrying Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra Devi. Thus following the footsteps of Lord Chaitanya, Srila Prabhupada introduced Ratha-yatra in the Krishna Consciousness Movement and now it is a part of this movement. It plays an important role in bringing together all the devotees of Krishna. Ratha-yatra gives an opportunity to all including non-devotees to serve the Lord at least for one day, by remembering Him, chanting His holy names, dancing and honouring Krishna prasadam while the Lord takes a pleasure ride and blesses all on the way. Those who build a ratha and make other preparations of this festival indeed serve the Lord by engaging their energy and whatever possessions and talents they have in His service. This service attitude and devotional service purifies one’s materially contaminated heart and thus helps one make progress in developing attachment for Krishna which is dormant in the heart. Srila Prabhupada showed that no other material endeavours to achieve unity among the people of the world would be effective as the festival of carts. Spiritual activities like Ratha-yatra would do a lot in creating unity by bringing all under the shelter of Lord Jagannatha. Regarding this, Srila Prabhupada said in a lecture, “We cannot become united nations of united dogs. (laughter) It is not possible. Everyone is barking. And if you practice to bark, then simply some different types of dog, some bulldogs, some greyhounds, some this, some that. (laughter) So how they will be united? No. That is not possible. Here is unity, when you accept Jagannatha. There is unity. So actually, if we take Krishna consciousness movement very seriously, scientifically, then there is unity.” The Ratha-yatra festival is a mass movement for enlightening people about the Krishna consciousness movement. To take part in these festivals is a step forward towards self-realization. To support this, Srila Prabhupada quotes a verse, “rathe ca vamanam drstva punar janma na vidyate – simply by seeing the Lord on the chariot, one makes advancement for stopping the repetition of birth and death.” Once, a devotee asked Srila Prabhupada whether anyone who took part in Ratha-yatra would be liberated. Srila Prabhupada answered affirmatively but indicated that only if one took it seriously and did not come to maya again. He said that it should not become a hasti-snana; an elephant takes a thorough bath in a river but as soon as he comes on the bank of the river, he takes dust and throws it over his body again. Srila Prabhupada, in a lecture on a Ratha-yatra day in San Francisco, minutely described the significance of the names – Jagannatha, Balarama and Subhadra. He explains that jagat means the moving world; gacchati iti jagat – gacchati means that which is moving. Everything in this world – planets, sun, even this universe is moving. Not only animate things like the living entities, but also inanimate things like a machine are moving under the control of some animate object. Some of the animate objects like trees are standstill but ultimately they are also moving in this sense that one species of life is being transmigrated to another species of life. Therefore it is called jagat which means moving. And jagat-natha; natha means the proprietor or the master. So Jagannatha means the proprietor or the master of all these movements. And Balabhadra or Balarama – bala means strength and rama means enjoyment. So Balarama is the one who gives you spiritual strength for enjoying eternal blissful life. And Subhadra – su means auspicious and bhadra means well-being. Having explained the meaning, Srila Prabhupada said that Subhadra, Jagannatha and Balarama combined together were present there to reclaim all the devotees from their miserable condition of life.
At the Rajapur’s Sri Jagannatha Temple, Their Lordships getting dressed in nice outfits and adorned with beautiful ornaments and flower garlands. Amidst a roaring kirtan and in big procession, They are seated on three different chariots. They come to Sri Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir and shower their blessings there for the next seven days. Sometimes even a small chariot with Jaganntha, Baladev, and Subhadra Mayi deities comes in front, pulled by the children. Jagannatha-astaka is recited and wonderful kirtan accompanies the chariots. Every evening, during the seven days of a festival, lamps are offered to Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra and all the ladies blissfully serve Lord Jagannatha by offering a nice bhoga they prepare daily for pleasure of the Lord. After seven celebration days, the return Ratha Yatra takes place with pomp and splendor, returning to Rajapur temple.
At the height of Indian summer, right at the beginning of the Monsoon, the Lord of Puri goes to his garden palace for the annual summer vacation. Originally the festival has its foundation in the residents of Vrindavan bringing back their Lords, Krishna, Balaram and Lady Subhadra from Kurukshetra. The Lord of the Universe travels in some style from his temple in Puri, to his garden temple, located outside the town centre called Gundicha. Thousands of Hindus flock to see, and to pull the grand chariots from one temple to the other. The English word “Jagannaut” comes from the giantchariots of Lord Jagannath of Puri. The British were so stunned by the size of the chariots, they coined a word for it! In Puri, Lord Jagannath is worshipped with his elder brother Bala-Rama and his sister Subhadra. Each sibling has his / her own chariot and goes to the summer residence with great pomp. Each of the chariots is covered in distinctly coloured cloth. Various symbols and signs help pilgrims distinguish between the three gods. As a mark of respect, and humbleness, the king of Puri sweeps the chariots of the Gods of Puri. Festival begins with a huge fanfare of conches, trumpets, drums and cymbals. Accompanied by music and dancers, the divine travellers begin their journey to the garden temple. In order to accommodate the three chariots, the street leading from the main temple to the garden temple is very wide. Temples, ashrams, hotels, inns, shops and mansions of the old aristocracy line the route. All buildings are colourfully decorated with flags, buntings and awnings of bright colours. Ladies in colourful saries crowd the balconies, doors and windows decked with flowers. Men and women rush to pullthe chariots along this main street of Puri. This is an exciting time in Puri. The Lord who is rarely glimpsed outside his inner sanctum, is now easily accessible to everyone in the streets of Puri . Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, away from the innumerable temple servants, away from their spouses, the siblings enjoy their “Vrindavan-like” garden retreat. The temple routine in the garden temple is very much relaxed compared to the main temple. Various festivities and fun are planned for their short stay in this leafy abode. ( Depending on the lunar cycle, this festival can last anywhere from 1 – 2 weeks. ) As the Lord has only taken his brother and his sister on this holiday, the wives are left at home! Alone and brooding, Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth), seeks help from Goddess Vimala to get their husband back. Travelling by night, in a closed palanquin, she arrives at the garden temple of the Lord. She enchantsthe Lord and entreats him to return. A few days later, Lord returns to his city temple. Though delighted, goddess Lakshmi orders the temple doors to be shut in His face – in the vain hope of teaching Him a lesson! In the conversation that follows, female attendants (dev-dasi) of the Goddess blame the Lord of being inconsiderate, “Jack the Lad”, taking His wife for granted and being far too easily led by the in-laws (sounds familiar?). The mood of the sevaks in Puri is that Jagannath is their friend as opposed to Him being their Master, as in other lilas. In many cases the residents of Purushottam Sri Kshetra make many comparission with their own lives in dealing with Jagannath. These intimacies reflect the overall mood, and carry the tradition of heritage of Jagannath’s original coming to Puri many thousands of years before and the wonderful pastimes of the saintly Indradyumna maharaj vision of the Lord, Visvavasu the Sabara’s attachment to the Lord as Nila Madhav, and finally the mystical appearance of the Dharu-Brahma from which the first Deities were carved by the architect of the devas Vishvakarma, the mystical carrying of the log by the descendant of Visvavasu (Virabhadra) that many elephants and men could not budge. Such wonderful depictive pastimes make one’s hair stand in horipulations at their recitation. In Puri Lord’s servants explain that He really had no choice, as they bring Him back that He went against His will, He still loves Her deeply and respects Her enormously!! Eventually, the Lord offers the female gate-keepers bribess and enters the inner sanctum to pacify the Goddess Lakshmi. Such are the dramas of a married man’s life! The next day, Lord and the Goddess once again appear in the public, reconciled and as loving as ever. Lord’s summer vacation is over, and life in the great temple returns to its age old routine. Of all the festivals, the Ratha Yatra of Jagannatha is the most famous. This takes place on the second day of the waxing phase of the moon of the asadha month. Jagannatha ordered King Indradyumna to take him to his birth place, the Gundica Mandira (symbolically Vrindavana), on this day. Jagannatha’s ratha is marked with a cakra and garuda, is yellow in color, with four white horses. The protecting deity is Nrsimha. Baladeva’s cart is blue, with a palm tree insignia, and four black horses. The protecting deity is Sesa. Subhadra’s cart is black, with lotus insignia, protected by Vanadurga. Sudarsana is carried out first and placed on Subhadra’s cart. In succession Subhadra, Baladeva, and Jagannatha are moved to their carts using silk ropes. After being situated on their carts they are decorated and worshipped. Midway on the journey, the carts stop, the deities are bathed in pancamrta and cool water, and naivedyam and aratrika are offered. On arrival at the Gundica Mandira, aratrika is offered, and then the deities enter the temple for rest. On the fifth day of the lunar month, called Hera (looking for) Pancami, Laksmi comes looking for Jagannatha with Siva and her maid servants. When the servants of Jagannatha see her at the first gate of the Gundica Mandira, they close the door of Jagannatha’s bhoga mandira so that she cannot see him. She becomes angry and breaks a piece of Jagannatha’s ratha. After taking a meal she returns to the main temple.
On the ninth day of the moon, the return Ratha Yatra takes place, and Laksmi and her servants come to meet Jagannatha. Jagannatha gives her his garland to appease her. Several days later on dvadasi, Laksmi closes the temple doors in anger and her servants quarrel with Jagannatha’s servants. After Jagannatha concedes defeat, the doors are opened again. Such is the reverance, the fun, the mysticism, and overall bliss of Rathyatra in Jagannath Puri.
Rath Yatra or Jatra is the celebration of the Lord Jagannath, who is believed to be the Lord of Universe’s journey towards his aunt’s house. Though it is a Hindu shrine but this chariot festival is not associated with any particular denomination of Hinduism entirety, though there are several common aspects with Vaishnavaism, Saivism, Shaktism, Buddhism and Jainism agannath Rath Yatra is more than five thousand years old and the most spiritual thing is, the celebration follows all the same rituals from its starting. There would not seen any changes in this festival. Traditionally the Rath Yatra festival is celebrated annually in Puri, Odisha. During this world renowned festival, lord Jagannatha is worshipped along with his brother lord Balabhadra and sister Devi Subhadra. According to spiritual significance of Katha Upanishad- The festival talks about Human body as Rath and sarathi or driver as God, who drives the chariot of body to the yatra/journey to material existence or Bhavasagar. Classically it is mentioned as- The soul drive with in the Rath of body, which has been intellect and total devoted to God the driver of the chariot towards the material existence. The wheels are the significance of velour. The horses are and persistence. The horses are the synonyms of vigor, self discipline, tolerance, charity and discrimination, where as pity, equanimity and forgiveness are the reins of horses. The popular Rath jatra is the time when the Deities come out of the temple for all to see. Each deity visit Gudicha Temple in their specific chariots drawn by devotees. Gudicha temple is dedicated to Lord’s Aunt. The chariots used during Rath Yatra are built every year. Carpenters began the construction of chariots on the Akshaya Tritiya day. The chariots are painted with bright colors and the tops are covered with red, black, yellow, or green canopies. Lord Jagannath uses red and yellow, Lord Balaram uses red and green, while Goddess Subhadra uses red and black. All the chariots have separate features to distinguish from each other. Lord Jagannath’s chariot is called as Chakradhwaja or Nandhighosa, which simply describe about tumultuous and blissful sound. 45 feet tall, 16 wheels, 65 tons weigh, Garuda on its crest along with four white wooden horses are the specific features of Lord Jagannath’s Rath. Lord Balaram’s cart is called Taladhwaja, which means the sound of significantly powerful rhythm. It has 14 wheels, and is drawn by four black wooden horses. It carries Hanuman on its crest. Goddess Subhadra’s cart is called Padmadhwaja or Darpadalan, which means destroyer of pride. It has a lotus on its crest, uses 12 wheels, and is drawn by four red wooden horses.On the celebration day devotees pull the chariots till the Gundicha temple. This time in Rath Yatra Puri 2017 also you will see the same celebration but wide more spiritual excitement. Because it is the Nabakalebar Rath Yatra where all the Lords will get new avatar after nineteen years. The return journey of Lords is also celebrated as Bahuda yatra. The deities reach the Puri temple on Ekadasi day, than attired in new costumes and this new form of the idols is known as ‘Suna Vesa’ . So come to be a part of Puri Rath Yatra 2017 to see new looks of deities and get blessing for your lifetime.
A few mythical stories related with Rath Yatra’s origins exist that reflect the socio-religious thinking and beliefs of the people of the region. Some of the chief ones are: To kill Lord Krishna and Balram, Kansa, their maternal uncle, invited them to Mathura. He sent Akrur with a chariot to Gokul. As asked, Lord Krishna, along with Balram, sat on the chariot and left for Mathura. The devotees celebrate this day of departure as Rath Yatra. Euphoric devotees celebrated the day when Lord Krishna, aftr defeating the evil Kansa, gave them darshan in Mathura in a chariot with his brother, Balaram. Devotees in Dwarika celebrated the day when Lord Krishna, accompanied by Balaram, took Subhadra — his sister, for a ride on a chariot to show the city’s splendor. Once Lord Krishna’s queens requested mother Rohini to narrate the many interesting amorous episodes (ras lilas) of Lord Krishna with the Gopis. Rohini–considering it improper of Subhadra to hear such episodes (Leela)–sent her away. Still, the Vrajkatha soon absorbed Subhadra along with Krishna and Balram, who by now had appeared on the scene. While they were completely engrossed with the stories arrived Narad. On finding the siblings standing together motionless, he prayed, “May the three of you grant darshan in this manner forever.” The boon was granted. And the three forever reside in the Puri Temple of the Lord Jagannath. There is an exciting story of Lord Krishna becoming the Sarathi – driver of Arjuna’s chariot, during the 18-day battle of the Mahabharata. Finally, a story which has been passed on from mouth to mouth, tells what happened after the cremation of Lord Krishna’s mortal body. When Shri Krishna was being cremated in Dwarika, Balaram, much saddened with the development, rushed out to drown himself into ocean with Krishna’s partially cremated body. He was followed by Subhadra. At the same time, on the eastern shore of India, King Indradyumna of Jagannath Puri dreamt that the Lord’s body would float up to the Puri’s shores. He should build a massive statue in the city and sanctify the wooden statues of Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra. The bones (asthi) of Lord Krishna’s body should be put in the hollow in the statue’s back. The dream came true. The king found the splinters of bone (asthi) and took them. But the question was who would carve the statues. It is believed that the Gods’ architect, Vishwakarma, arrived as an old carpenter. He made it clear that while carving the statues nobody should disturb him, and in case anybody did, he would vanish leaving the work unfinished. Some months passed. The impatient Indradyumna opened the door of Vishwakarma’s room. Vishwakarma disappeared immediately as he had warned before. Despite the unfinished statues, the king sanctified them; placing Lord Krishna’s holy cinders in the hollow of the statue and installed them in the temple. A majestic procession is carried out with the statues of Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra, every year, in three gigantic chariots. The huge chariots are pulled by devotees from Janakpur to the temple in Jagannath Puri. The statues are changed every 12 years–the new ones being incomplete also. The Jagannath Puri Temple is one of the four most sacred temples in the four directions of the India–the other three being: Rameshwar in South, Dwarka in West and Badrinath in the Himalayas. Maybe, the temple in Jagannath Puri is the world’s only temple with the statues of three deities who are siblings — Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra.
Ratha Yatra is a major Hindu festival associated with Lord Jagannath (avatar of Lord Vishnu) held at Puri in India during the months of June or July. The Puri Rath Yatra is world famous and attracts more then one million pilgrims every year, not only from India but also from the different parts of the world. Rath Yatra in other words the Chariot Festival is the only day when devotees who are not allowed into the temple can get a chance to see the deities. This festival is a symbol of equality and integration. The 3 deities, Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and their sister Subhadra are worshipped within the temple, on this festival they are taken to the streets of Puri so that everyone can have the fortune to see them. The 3 deities make an annual journey to their aunt’s temple (Gundicha Temple), 2 km away from Lord Jagannath temple. The Jagannath Temple in Puri is one among the four most sacred temples in India. The other three are: Rameshwaram in south, Dwarika in west and Badrinath in north. The festival begins with the invoking ceremony in the morning and the chariot pulling on the roads of Puri in afternoon is the most exciting part of the festival. The 3 deities have 3 different chariots – the chariot of Lord Jagannath, Nandighosa, has 18 wheels and is 45.6 feet high, the chariot of Lord Balabhadra, Taladhwaja has 16 wheels and is 45 feet high and the chariot of Subhadra, Devadalana has 14 wheels and is 44.6 ft high. Every year the wooden temples like chariots are constructed newly. The idols of these three deities are also made of wood and they are religiously replaced by new ones in every 12 years.
After the chariots of the deities return to the main temple from the Gundicha temple, the deities are attired in gold ornaments and worshipped on the chariots. This celebration is known as Suna Besha. Tradition maintains that this event was first started by King Kapilendra Deb in 1460, when after returning victorious from war he donated gold to Jagannath. The deities are adorned with gold jewelleries weighing nearly 208 kg. In 2014 nearly nine hundred thousand devotees witnessed this event held on 9 July The Ratha yatra in Puri of 2014 started on 29 June amid great fanfare and religious fervor with tight security arranged by the authorities.The Indian Prime minister Mr Narendra Modi greeting the people on the occasion of the Ratha Yatra tweeted “My warm greetings to the people on the occasion of the rath yatras that would be held across India today. We bow to Lord Jagannath on this auspicious day. Today once again He sets out on His chariot, giving blessings to the people,”. More than a million devotees are expected to throng Puri on the occasion for the festival that is watched by millions on television. The Bahuda yatra or the return journey of Jagannath from Gundicha temple occurred on 7 July and was attended by more than 400,000 devotees.