Puri Rath Yatra, the world famous chariot or car festival, at the Puri Jagannath Temple in Orissa. It is celebrated on the second day of the Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon or bright fortnight) Ashadh month as per traditional Oriya Calendar. On the day of the Ratha Yatra (car festival), chariots (Rath) carrying Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra is pulled to the nearby Gundicha Temple.
The return journey of the chariots or Bahuda Jatra is on July 14, 2016.
At the world famous Puri Jagannath Temple in Orissa, Lord Krishna is worshipped as ‘Jagannath’ – ‘master of the universe.’ Balabhadra is the elder brother of Lord Krishna and Subhadra is his younger sister.
The making of the Rathas for the annual festival begins on the Akshaya Tritiya day. The main rituals associated with Puri Rath Yatra festival is spread over a month and several rituals, like Snana Purnima and Anasara, take place during this period.
The Snana Yatra or Snana Purnima (Bathing Festival) takes place on the full moon day in the month of Jyestha (May – June). On this day, the three deities are bathed in 108 pitchers of water.
After the elaborate Snana Yatra festival, the three deities stay away from public view and this is known as ‘Anasara.’ It is believed that after such elaborate ritualistic bath the deities catch fever and therefore they do not return to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.
The idols of the three deities then make an appearance after 15 days of ‘anasara’ in a new appearance known as ‘Navaya Yauvana Vesha.’ The wooden idols of the deities are given a fresh coat of paint.
Next auspicious ceremony is the world famous Ratha Yatra. On this day, thousands of devotees pull the three huge chariots carrying Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra through the grand road (Bada Danda) to the Gundicha Temple. The deities visit their aunt here.
The three deities enter the temple of their aunt on the next day and stay there for seven days.
On the fifth day, Goddess Lakshmi, wife of Lord Jagannath, comes in search of him to the Gundicha temple.
On finding his chariot there, she damages Jagannath’s chariot and returns back in anger.
After the week-long stay, the three deities return and the journey is known as Bahuda Yatra.
During the return journey, the chariot of Jagannath stops at the Ardhasani Temple (Mausa Ma temple). Here, Lord accepts his favorite rice cake known as Poda Pitha from his aunt who is the presiding deity of the temple.
The deities reach the Puri Jagannath Temple in the evening and wait outside for the day.
On the next day, the deities are attired in new costumes and this new form of the idols is known as ‘Suna Vesa.’
The following day, the deities move into the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and the Rath Yatra festival comes to an end.