Jagannath Rath Yatra Puri

If Puri seems to be teeming most of the time, that is nothing compared to the seething mass of humanity which arrives during the month of June for the Rath Yatra or Car Festival. The Rath Yatra or Car Festival commences from Jagannath Temple and ends at Gundicha Temple. Lord Jagannath leaves his temple on an enormous canopied car 45 feet high, 35 feet square and supported by 16 wheels, seven feet in diameter, pulled by thousands of pilgrims who vie with one another for this honor. This journey down the only broad avenue of Puri to Gundicha Mandir, the God’s Garden House, is a spectacle of the kind only India can provide. Some 200,000 pilgrims flock here to participate in the Jagannath Rath Yatra festival which commemorates Lord Krishna’s journey from Gokul to Mathura.

The deity is followed, on two smaller chariots, by his sister Subhadra and his brother Balabhadra. Our word “juggernaut” is certainly a corruption of Jagannath and it seems that occasionally some fanatical pilgrims did throw themselves under the wheels of his car, for to die in the god’s sight is a “blessing”. Such practices have been prevented during this century. The god’s return journey to the temple after seven days in his summer house is equally spectacular.

Twenty-four festivals are held every year in Puri. The Car festival (the Jagannath Rath Yatra), famed throughout the world, takes place in June or July and is the most important. Jagannath and his brother and sister, represented by wooden images, are mounted on huge cars (chariots) and dragged by pious multitudes across the broad and beautiful thoroughfares that stretch in front of the temple to the deity’s Garden House. The deity’s brother and sister have cars a few feet smaller. When the sacred images are brought forth and placed on their chariots, pilgrims fall on their knees and bow their foreheads in the dust. The vast multitude then shouts with one throat and, surging to and fro, drags the wheeled chariots along the broad street. The multitude includes many privileged drawers of the car, who hold parcels of land in the district, free of rent in return for this hereditary service. Music strikes up; cymbals and drums are sounded; the priests shout from the cars; and hired singers chant to induce the crowd to pull the cars vigorously. The distance from the temple to the Garden House is about 4 miles and though the road is level, on account of the rains and the heavy structure of the chariots, the procession takes several days to end. The festival is vastly attended and constitutes one of the most cherished celebrations to the peoples of West Bengal and Odisha.

Day & Date of Jagannath Rath Yatra in Puri

YearWeekdayDateFestival
2019Thu4 JulRath Yatra
2020Tue23 JunRath Yatra
2021Mon12 JulRath Yatra

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