Rath Yatra literally means “Chariot journey” or “Journey on a chariot.” In India, it refers to a public procession carried out on a chariot, more specifically to the famous chariot festivals that happen across the country. The most notable Ratha Yatra are in Odisha (taking place at the Puri Jagannath temple), West Bengal, and Jharkhand. The processions typically consist of wooden deities mounted on a ratha which is then drawn through the city on a pre-decided route. Devotees follow the procession on foot. Over the years, the rath yatra festival has evolved to become an event of great social and cultural significance. People from all over the world converge to take part and witness the various Rath Yatras around India and join in the festivities too!
The Jagannath Ratha Yatra of Puri is one of the oldest and certainly one of the grandest of all the Rath yatras in the world. It takes place primarily at the Puri Jagannath temple. In fact, we have vivid and detailed descriptions of it mentioned in the Puranas. There is comprehensive evidence to suggest that the Yatras took place even as late as the Mughal period. The story goes that upon the completion of certain temples, the King would dictate the establishment of the rath yatra, which continues until today.
The Rath Yatra at Puri
At Puri, the rath yatra starts from the Puri Jagannath temple. Lord Jagannath is an avatar of Shri Krishna. It is believed that once every year, Shri Krishna pays a visit to his home, Mathura. The yatra signifies his journey to his home and back to the temple.
The three deities of the temple of Lord Jagannath are Subhadra (Shri Krishna’s sister) and Balabhadra (Sri Krishna’s brother). The three idols are placed in their respective chariots and taken to the Shri Gudicha temple, which is three kilometers away. For this reason, the Jagannath Rath Yatra is also known as the Sri Gundicha Jatra. The deities stay here for nine days, after which they are taken back to the Jagannath temple. On the way, they stop at the Mausi Maa Temple where a sacred offering (prasad) of Poda Pitha is made to the deities. It is believed that Poda Pitha was Sri Krishna’s favorite sweet.
One of the most significant events during this festival is called the “Chhera Pahara.” Here, the king, dressed like a sweeper, takes a broom and sweeps the road that the idols will be taken on. The king performing the duties of a sweeper symbolizes that everyone is equal in the eyes of the Lord. The Chhera Pahara happens on two days. The first occurrence is at the beginning of the festivities and once at the end when the idols are once again brought back to the main temple.
The Majestic Ratha
The three raths, or chariots, are the main attraction of the festival. A special type of wood is used to build them, and only a certain group of carpenters are allowed to build them. Construction starts on the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritya.
Standing at about 45 feet tall and 35 feet in width, the main ratha is one of the most magnificent rathas in the world. It takes a total of two months to build and people from all across the city volunteer for this propitious task. Artists and painters decorate the ratha with flowers and other auspicious designs. In this way, it becomes a way for the community to come together and generates much bonhomie amongst people.
redBus has all you need to plan your trip for the Jagannath Rath Yatra 2021.
Other Things to Do
Puri is not only about the Jagannath Rath Yatra. While you’re there, do visit the Chilika Lake, where you can spot wildlife at the Bird Sanctuary and visit the ancient Goddess Kalijai temple. You may also want to spend some time at the Puri beach, looking at the sand sculptures created by the artist Sudarshan Patnaik. A lesser-known gem of Puri is the Raghurajpur Artist Village. Only three kilometers from Puri, this is a heritage arts village and is known for its famous Pattachitra paintings. Visitors can spend an entire day looking at various displays of art such as palm leaf engravings, stone, and papier-mache art and even Gotipua Folk Dance.
Best Time to Visit and Where to stay
If you plan to catch the Rath yatra 2021 at Puri, you must plan in advance, as it is one of the most anticipated events of the year. It happens on the second lunar day of the bright fortnight (Shukla paksha) of the Ashada (rainy season) month of the Hindu calendar. This is usually in June or July. The Puri Jagannath rath yatra starts on the 12th of July this year, so plan ahead of time.
How to Get There
The closest airport is the Biju Patnaik Airport at Bhubaneshwar. Numerous cab and bus services are available from the airport to Puri, which is only 60 kilometers away.
You can also travel to Puri via train or redBus. The Puri Railway Station is only 28 kilometers from the Puri Jagannath temple.
With the influx of tourism, there is accommodation to fit all kinds of budgets. However, the key is to book early as most hotels are sold out during the festival. With redBus’s user-friendly interface you can easily plan your entire trip. redBus can help you with all your travel needs, including hotels, taxis and even provides you with numerous amazing packages when you book your vacation. Centuries ago, devotees arrived at Puri and made arrangements for their stay, in 2021, you can do so at the click of a button.
NOTE: In light of the recent Coronavirus pandemic, we at redBus would like to urge you to take all necessary precautions when you travel and follow every instruction provided by your local government. If you're not planning on traveling, practice social distancing and stay indoors to help slow down the spread of COVID-19 or the Coronavirus disease and prevent it from spreading any further. Stay safe!