Falls On :
The Bright Fortnight of Ashadha (June - July)
Dates Back :
10th - 11th Century
The most famous Orissan festival is of course the Ratha Yatra or Car Festival (June-July) which attracts pilgrims and visitors from all over the world. On the full moon day of the month of Jyestha known as
snana Purnima, the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra slid Subhadra are brought out and bathed on a pendal known as the snarlamandap according to religious rites.
Each year, (open to all) in mid-summer, the proxy images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra, the deities enshrined in the
Jagannath Temple at Puri, are carried in colourful processions every evening for 21 days to the
Narendra Tank where they cruise in a bright decorated boat.
The chariots are cleaned by the Gajapati Maharaja of purl with a golden broom to proclaim that he is the first of the Lord's servants and on this particular day he performs the duty of a scavenger to demonstrate socialism in action and the dignity of
labour. 'this act is connected with " famous incident in Orissan history in course of which the king
Purushottama Deva was outwitted by his minister to marry the princess Padmavati. The deities then So to
Gundichaghar where they stall for eight days at the end of which the return car festival (Bahuda
Yatra) takes place, One has only to see the vast sea of humanity on these occasions to convince oneself about the influence of religion on the people of Orissa for whom Jagannath is no other Supreme Brahman, without beginning and without end, and the saviour of mankind.
From the many specialties of the festival the most unique one is that, this is the only occasion to see, even embrace the deities irrespective of caste, color and creed outside the Temple.
After performing all the necessary prostrations, he carried the lump of wood to the temple and, following instructions from 'Brahma', called the court carpenter 'Vishvakarma' to carve out the image.
Vishvakarma agreed to perform the task on condition that no one so much as set eyes on the deity until it was completed. The king, however, unable to contain his excitement, peeped through a crack in the door of the carpenter's workshop during the night to see how the job was progressing.
Vishvakarma spotted him, downed tools just as he had promised and cast a spell on the deity so that no one else could finish it.
Sequence of the Rath
Divine Procession (Pahandi Bije): The deities are brought out of the temple to the chariots by rhythmic movement called "Pahandi" in a royal procession to the accompaniment of the beat of the 'cymbals' and drums and chanting of prayers by devotees.
Sweeping of the Chariots (Chhera Pahanra): After the deities are installed on their respective Chariots, the traditional King of Puri sweeps the Chariots with a golden broom, which is known as "Chhera
Pulling of Chariots (Rath Tana)
The most exciting part of the Rath Yatra is the pulling of Chariots by thousands of devotees to the Gundicha Temple, which is about 3-kms away from the starting point of the 'yatra'. Devotees stay in the temple for a week.
Return Journey (Bahuda Yatra):
Sukla Dasami', the 10th day of the bright fortnight of Ashadha (June-July), return journey or 'Bahuda
Yatra' of the deities commences in the same manner from Gundicha temple to the main temple like
Before going in their original abode, the deities are dressed in Golden attire on the Chariots the next day.
When two months of Ashadha fall in one year, Rath Yatra is observed as the festival of 'Nabakalebar' the old deities are buried within the temple premises ('Koilibaikuntha') and are replaced by new deities, carved out of
Margosa trees for which there are set procedures. Double Ashadha occurs at intervals of 8 to 19 years. As history records,
Nabakalebar was held in 1996, 1977, 1969, 1950 and 1931 during this century.