Puri, the capital of the Indian state of Odisha (Orissa) holds a major spiritual significance for Hindus. If you haven’t yet visited this beautiful city, make it a point to add it to your bucket list during the next Puri Rath Yatra Festival (Chariot Festival). It is a popular Hindu festival dedicated to Lord Jagannath, marking his yearly visit to Gundicha Temple via Puri’s Mausi Maa Temple (which means ‘aunt’s home’). It is a splendid sight to see the statues of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra (his elder brother), and Subhadra (their sister) that are taken around the streets for devotees to see. The tour involves carrying the deities till Gundicha Temple and back home after nine days (Bahuda Jatra is the return journey). Sounds interesting? You should experience this grand event for yourself and feel the spirituality!
Also popularly known as Rath Jatra or the Jagannath Rath Yatra, Puri Rath Yatra Festival is one of the world’s oldest Rath Yatras to be celebrated even today. The yatra or procession is carried out on three grand chariots that are bedecked with rich colors and flowers. This religious event signifies equality of all before the Lord. That is why foreigners, non-Hindus, and other devotees who are prohibited within the temple premises, get a chance to see and worship the deities while in procession on this auspicious day!
Significance of the Festival
So, do you know why this festival is celebrated? Well according to Hindu beliefs, it is Lord Jagannath’s wish to make a yearly visit to Mathura (his place of birth) and stay there for a few days. In order to fulfill the Lord’s desire, devotees carry out this sacred Yatra every year, starting from Jagannath Temple, going up to the Gundicha Temple.
The Holy Preparations
Preparations for this Yatra are carried out very carefully and systematically, according to the Hindu precepts. All the idols are prepared by bathing them using 109 buckets of water (known as Snana Pornima). After this, they are left to rest until the big day because they are believed to be ill (known as Ansara). Then on the day of Rath Yatra, the royal successor of the state of Orissa performs a holy ritual known as Chhera Pahara. The King first cleans the chariot with a gold-handled broom and then decorates the chariot with beautiful flowers. He also cleans the ground where the chariot will be moving, after which he sprinkles some sandalwood on the cleaned area. Finally, he brings out the deities from the temple and places them inside the chariot with due respect.
End of the Yatra
After nine days of the Yatra, on returning to the holy Jagannath Temple in the evening, the idols are made to wait outside until the next day. On the next day, the Suna Vesa event takes place wherein the deities are dressed in new clothes (as they are considered to be babies). Finally, the next day marks the end of the Yatra, when the idols are placed back in the holy sanctum.
About the Statue
The ancient Puri Jagannath Temple, dedicated to Lord Jagannath (who is another form of Lord Vishnu) is a major attraction here. While the spectacular architecture and spiritual importance make it worth a visit, its another striking feature is that the Lord Jagannath statue is specially carved from wood and replaced with a new one once in 12 years!
More About the Sacred City of Puri
Apart from Maths, temples, ashrams, shrines, and places of religious importance, Puri also boasts of beautiful architectural marvels, museums, beaches, and natural attractions. Tourists from across the globe visit this place to experience its natural and spiritual grandeur, while residing in some of the best Puri hotels and holiday resorts in Puri
Do not miss the famous Puri Beach – a peaceful getaway in Puri, which hosts the annual beach festival and also exhibits some spectacular sand art from time to time.
Plan a trip to Puri on your next vacation and experience the grandeur of the Puri Rath Yatra Festival. Stay in one of the best Puri hotels like The Hans Coco Palms, OYO 3058 Hotel Vishal Plaza, Gadadhar Resort, Coastal Villa, etc. during your visit and have a wonderful holiday.