Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra – An Experience of a Life-time

The Rath Yatra in Jagannath Puri is one of the most spectacular congregations in the world.
The festival takes place in the month of Ashad (in June/July).
On the day of Rath Yatra, the Gods – Jagannatha and Balabhadra along with their sister Subhadra embark on their annual sojourn to Gundicha temple through the Bada Danda or the Grand Avenue.

It is interesting to note that the English word – ‘juggernaut’ finds its origin in this festival due to the unstoppable force with which the chariot moves.

Each ratha (or chariot) has specific name, dimensions, colour with specific number of wheels. As a custom, the woods used for the chariot are procured from the erstwhile princely state of Daspalla.

The devotees believe that the a ‘darshan’ of the gods during this time grants moksha or salvation.

There are many interesting legends associated with the festival one of which is the story of a Muslim poet named Salabeg. Surpassing all odds, he went to Puri to visit Jagannath temple. Since non-Hindus are not allowed in the temple, he was disappointed and went to Brindavan to know more about the god. Since anyone can catch a glimpse of the lord during the Rath Yatra, he was travelling back to Puri. Unfortunately, he fell sick and prayed to Lord Jagannath to wait until he comes. And that’s what happened. Nandighosha, the chariot of the god, didn’t move despite all the efforts until he arrived. To commemorate the miraculous event, every year, the ratha pauses near Salabeg’s Samadhi.

Here are some of my captures from the festival.

Most of the people who come to witness the festival cannot afford a plush hotel room and sleep in the open.

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Even before the yatra begins, people start gathering around the chariots.

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The Rath begins to move…

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Many people break coconuts on this auspicious occasion.

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People get dressed in form of gods and goddesses and chant bhajans and kirtans on the way.

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There are volnuteers from several organisation who provide support the to devotees. Some distribute food and drinks. Here they are sprinkling water to get relief from the hot sun.

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People take bath in the holy Narendra sarovar.

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The rathas are decorated with beautiful paintings based on mythological stories apart from beautiful designs.

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What I did not like about this event is the role money plays. The greedy pandas or priests can get you inside the ratha bypassing all the queue. There was one particular panda who allowed a person to climb onto the rath after taking money. There was one poor person who tried to follow him and he was hit really hard by the panda.

Overall, it was an experience for a lifetime. Of all the congregations that I have seen earlier, this was another different one. The more I travel and witness these festivals, the more I realize how diverse our country is. There is so much so see and explore.

Puri Rath Yatra 2014 falls on 29th June, 2014, Sunday. 

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Thank you for reading this article.  You might like to read my previous posts.

This photo-blog is compiled by Saurabh Chatterjee. He is a professional wedding and travel photographer and a photography trainer. He strives to ‘make every camera-owner a great photographer’ through his Photo tours and Photography workshops.

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