In Tweets: How Rath Yatra in Puri Has Become Intertwined With The Local Culture

In Tweets: How Rath Yatra in Puri Has Become Intertwined With The Local Culture

The largest chariot festival in the world is one of a kind, and stands as an epitome of faith and love for Lord Jagannath in Hinduism.  This auspicious day is termed to hold a great significance in the lives of the devotees of Lord Krishna, since thousands of years. And here’s why it is celebrated.

Why do we celebrate Rath Yatra?

The world’s largest chariot festival has its roots in the very famous Jagannath temple of Puri in Odisha – the east Indian state known for celebrating more than thousands of festivals every year. But Rath Yatra holds a special place in the list, believed to be celebrated since the 12th Century.

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The three chariots this year (Twitter)

Dedicated to Jagannath and his mythological siblings – elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. The festival marks the annual journey of Lord Jagannath and his siblings to the famous Gundicha Temple, 2.5km away from the 12th century old Jagannath temple.

Interestingly, Gundicha temple plays an important segment during Rath Yatra festival. The Gundicha ghar (temple) is believed to be the home of Krishna’s beloved aunt Gundicha. On the auspicious occassion of Rath Yatra, the three siblings, Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra pay a visit to their aunt’s home to savour the delicacies prepared by her.

The prime delicacy served as offering to the deities on this day is ‘Poda peetha’ (a delectable sweet cake prepared from rice). Jagannath and his siblings enjoy their sojourn at the Gundicha temple for nine days. 

To this day, more than a million devotees visit Puri to participate in the annual festival. They witness the festival as the King of Puri sweeps the way ahead of the chariot with a broom encrusted with pure gold.

The 18-wheeled huge chariots, three in number, bearing the holy trio, make their way through the crowd of millions.

The chariots are framed as mini architectural wonders – carefully constructed for over 42 days. And more than 4,000 pieces of wood are used in the construction. 

 

Highlights of Rath Yatra

Rath Yatra is the only Hindu festival in the entire globe where the deities are taken out from the temple to pay a visit to their devotees once in a year. This festival holds a huge cultural importance in every Odia family, because Lord Jagannath is considered to be the Royal Majesty of Puri. 

Alongside the deities, the devotees travel on foot, dragging the chariot ropes as a symbolic gesture.

It is believed (and there has rarely been an exception), that it will rain every year on the day of Rath Yatra. 

The crowd for this festival tops more than a million every year and devotees participate all the way by walking 2.5 kms along with the chariot. However, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the festival was cancelled for the first time in history. It was termed extremely inauspicious and unusual natural events were correlated by devotees to the cancellation of the festival. 

This time, adequate COVID-19 safety protocols have been enacted to ensure the festival does not become a hotspot for the disease. A curfew has been imposed across Puri, barring devotees to step out from their homes to participate in the procession. Needless to say, the crowd is rather sparse this year The main Pandits of the temple, numbered at more than a thousand, are allowed to participate only after getting tested.

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