Ratha Yatra (Puri)

Rathayatra of Puri
Rath Yatra Puri 2007 11028.jpg
Puri Rathayatra, 2007
PlacePuri, Odisha, India
Pahandi of Lord Jagannath during Rathajatra 2017.

Ratha Jatra (/ˈrʌθə ˈjɑːtrə/) (also called as Car Festival or Chariot Festival) is a Hindu festival associated with Lord Jagannath held at Puri in the state of Odisha, India. It is the oldest Ratha Yatra taking place in India and the World, whose descriptions can be found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana and Kapila Samhita.[1]

This annual festival is celebrated on Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya (second day in bright fortnight of Ashadha month).

The festival commemorates Jagannath's annual visit to Gundicha Temple via Mausi Maa Temple (maternal aunt's home) near Saradha Bali, Puri.

As part of Ratha Yatra, the deities Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and younger sister Devi Subhadra, along with Sudarshan, are taken out in a procession out of the main shrine of Jagannath Temple and placed in the Ratha (Chariot) which are ready in front of the Temple. This process is called as 'Pahandi'. The procession starts with 'Madan Mohan' then 'Sudarshana' Balabhadra, Subhadra, and Jagannath Deva.

After that, Gajapati Maharaja, the king of Puri, who is also known as the first servitor of the Lords, does 'Chhera Pahanra' (the holy cleaning of the chariots). Finally, the devotees pull the chariots up to the Gundicha Temple, which is also known as the birthplace of the Lords.

Once the deities reach the Gundicha temple, in the onward car festival, they are taken in Pahandi and installed on the holy platform, called Ratna Simhasan. The Lords remain at the Gundicha Temple for nine days. After that, the process of taking back the deities to the Main temple is observed. The return journey or return car festival of Puri Jagannath Ratha Jatra is known as Bahuda Yatra or Punar Yatra (also called as Jatra).

Three richly decorated chariots, resembling temple structures, are pulled through the streets of Puri called Badadanda. This commemorates the annual journey of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and their sister Devi Subhadra to their aunt's temple, the Gundicha Temple which is situated at a distance of over 3 km from the main temple. This is the only time when devotees who are not allowed in the temple premises, such as non-Hindus and foreigners, get glimpse of the deities.

During the annual event, devotees from all over the world throng to Puri with an earnest desire to help pulling the Lords' chariots. They consider this as an auspicious act. The huge processions accompanying the chariots play devotional songs with drums, sounding plates of bell metal, cymbals, etc. The Ratha carts themselves are approximately 45 feet (14 m) high and are pulled by the thousands of pilgrims who turn up for the event; the chariots are built anew each year only from a particular type of tree (Neem).

It is also broadcast live on many Indian, foreign television channels as well as many of the websites telecast Jagannath Ratha Jatra live.[2]

There are 6 events which are considered as the key activities of this annual spectacular event. 1. 'Snana Yatra' is the one where the Deities take bath and then fell sick for almost 2 weeks. They are thus treated with ayurvedic medicines and a set of traditional practices. 2. On 'Sri Gundicha', the Deities are taken in the onward car festival from the main shrine to the Gundicha Temple. 3. On the Bahuda Yatra, the return car festival, the Lords are brought back to the main Temple. 4. Suna Besha (Golden Attire) is the event when the Deities wear golden ornaments and give darshan from the chariots, to the devotees. 5. 'Adhara Pana' is an important event during Ratha Yatra. On this day sweet drink is offered to the invisible spirits and souls, who would have visited the celestial event of the Lords, as believed by the Hindu tradition. 6. And finally the Deities are taken back inside the main shrine i.e. the Jagannath Temple and installed on the Ratna Simhasan, on the last day of the Ratha Yatra activity which is called as 'Niladri Bije'.


The "Bada Danda" or the Grand Avenue

Ratha Jatra, the Festival of Chariot: Chariots of Shri Jagannath is celebrated every year at Puri, the temple town in Odisha, on the second (dwitiya) day of shukla pakhya (waxing cycle of moon) of Ashadha Maasa (3rd month in Lunar Calendar). The presiding deities of the Jagannath Temple, Puri's main temple, Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra, with the celestial wheel (Sudarshana Chakra/ସୁଦର୍ଶନ ଚକ୍ର ) are removed from the temple in a ceremonial procession to their chariots. The huge, colourfully decorated chariots are drawn by multitude of devotees on the bada danda, the grand avenue to the Gundicha Temple (Gundicha – King Indradyumna's Queen), two miles away to the North. On the way the chariot of Lord Jagannatha, Nandighosa (ନନ୍ଦିଘୋଷ) waits near the crematorium of Bhakta Salabega (ଭକ୍ତ ସାଲବେଗ) a Muslim devout to pay him tribute.

On their way back from the Gundicha Temple, the three deities stop for a while near the Mausi Maa Temple (Aunt's abode) and have an offering of the Poda Pitha, which is a special type of pancake supposed to be the Lord's favourite. After a stay for seven days, the deities return to their abode.

Rath/chariots under construction for the Rath Yatra in Puri
Jagannath being brought out of the Puri temple to the Rath
Jagannath on his chariot

The Chariots[edit]

The three chariots of Balabhadra, Subhadra and Jagannatha are newly constructed every year with wood of specified trees like phassi, dhausa, etc. They are customarily brought from the ex-princely state of Dasapalla by a specialist team of carpenters who have hereditary rights and privileges for the same. The logs are traditionally set afloat as rafts in the river Mahanadi. These are collected near Puri and then transported by road.

The three chariots are decorated as per the unique scheme prescribed and followed for centuries stand on the Bada Danda, the Grand Avenue. Covered with bright canopies made of stripes of red cloth and combined with those of black, yellow and green colours, the huge chariots are lined across the wide avenue in front of the majestic temple close to its eastern entrance, which is also known as the Sinhadwara or the Lion's Gate.

Lord Jagannatha's chariot is called Nandighosa. It is forty-five feet high and forty-five feet square at the wheel level. It has sixteen wheels, each of seven-foot diameter, and is decked with a cover made of red and yellow cloth. Lord Jagannatha is identified with Krishna, who is also known as Pitambara, the one attired in golden yellow robes and hence the distinguishing yellow stripes on the canopy of this chariot.

Lord jagannath riding his chariot.jpg
Nandighosa Rath

The chariot of Lord Balarama, called the Taladhwaja, is the one with the Palm Tree on its flag. It has fourteen wheels, each of seven-foot diameter and is covered with red and green cloth. Its height is forty-four feet.

Taladhwaj balaram.jpg
Taladhwaja Rath

The chariot of Subhadra, known as Dwarpadalana, literally "trampler of pride," is forty-three feet high with twelve wheels, each of seven-foot diameter. This chariot is decked with a covering of red and black cloth – black being traditionally associated with Shakti and the Mother Goddess.

Lady subhadra on her rath.jpg
Dwarpadalana or Padmadhwaja Rath

Around each of the chariots are nine Parsva devatas, painted wooden images representing different deities on the chariots' sides. Each of the chariots is attached to four horses. These are of different colours – dark ones for Balarama, white ones for Jagannatha, and red ones for Subhadra. Each chariot has a charioteer called Sarathi. The three charioteers attached to the chariots of Jagannatha, Balarama and Subhadra respectively are Daruka, Matali and Arjuna.

Descriptions of the Chariots

Nandighosha (ନନ୍ଦିଘୋଷ)[edit]

The chariot of Lord Jagannath is named as Nandighosha or Garudadhwaja or Kapiladhwaja. The Lord is accompanied by Madanmohan.

Number of wheels: 16 Total Number of wooden pieces used: 832 Height: 44' 2" Length and breadth: 34'6" x 34'6" Wrappings: Red, Yellow colour cloths Guarded by: Garuda(ଗରୁଡ) Name of the charioteer: Daruka The flag: Trailokyamohini(ତ୍ରୈଲୋକ୍ୟମୋହିନୀ) The horses: Shankha, Balahaka, Suweta, Haridashwa The rope: Sankhachuda Naguni Presiding Nine Deities: 

1. Panchamukhi Mahabir 2. Harihara 3. Madhusudana 4. Giri Goverdhan dhari 5. Pandu Narasingha 6. Chitamani Krishna 7. Narayana 8. Chatra Bhanga Rabana 9. Rama & Hanuman (i)

riding the chariot

Taladhwaja (ତାଳଧ୍ୱଜ)[edit]

The Chariot of Balabhadra named as Taladhwaja or Langaladhwaja. The Lord is accompanied by Ramakrishna.

Number of wheels: 14 Total Number of wooden pieces used: 763 Height: 43' 3" Length and breadth: 33' x 33' Wrappings: Red, Bluish green colour cloths Guarded by: Basudev Name of the charioteer: Matali The flag: Unnani The horses: Tribra(ତ୍ରୀବ୍ର), Ghora(ଘୋର), Dirghasharma(ଦିର୍ଘଶର୍ମା), Swornanava(ସ୍ଵର୍ଣ୍ଣନାଭ) The rope: Basuki Naga Presiding Nine Deities: (i) Ganesh(ଗଣେଶ) (ii) Kartikeya(କାର୍ତ୍ତିକେୟ) (iii) Sarvamangala(ସର୍ବମଙ୍ଗଳା) (iv) Pralambari(ପ୍ରଳମ୍ବରୀ) (v) Halayudha(ହଟାୟୁଧ) (vi) Mrityunjaya(ମୃତ୍ୟୁଞ୍ଜୟ) (vii) Natamvara(ନତାମ୍ବର) (viii) Mukteswar(ମୁକ୍ତେଶ୍ଵର) (ix) Sheshadeva(ଶେଷାଦେବ) 

Darpadalana(ଦର୍ପଦଳନ )[edit]

The chariot of Subhadra named as Darpadalana or Devadalana or Padmadhwaja(ପଦ୍ମଧ୍ଵଜ). The Goddess is accompanied by Sudarshana(ସୁଦର୍ଶନ). (ମନୋଜ)

Number of wheels: 12 Total Number of wooden pieces used: 593 Height: 42' 3" Length and breadth: 31'6" x 31'6" Wrappings: Red, Black color cloths Guarded by: Jayadurga Name of the charioteer: Arjuna The flag: Nadambika The horses: Rochika(ରୋଚିକା), Mochika(ମୋଚିକା), Jita(ଜିତା), Aparajita(ଅପରାଜିତା) The rope: Swarnachuda Naguni Presiding Nine Deities: (i) Chandi(ଚଣ୍ଡି) (ii) Chamunda(ଚାମୁଣ୍ଡା ) (iii) Ugratara(ଉଗ୍ରତର) (iv) Banadurga(ବନଦୁର୍ଗା ) (v) Shulidurga (vi) Varahi(ବରାହୀ) (vii) Shyamakali (viii) Mangala (ix) Vimala 

Ratha Yatra Car Info

Chandana Jatra(ଚନ୍ଦନ ଯାତ୍ରା)[edit]

The Kings palace in Puri

The construction of the chariots starts on Akshaya Trutiya, the third day of the bright fortnight of Vaisakha, with ritual fire worship. This takes place in front of the palace of the King of Puri and opposite the main office of the Puri temple. On this day, the new agricultural season starts and farmers start plowing their fields. This day also marks the beginning of the summer festival of the deities, also known as the sandalwood festival or Chandan Yatra, which lasts for three weeks. In this festival, the representative images of the presiding deities are taken out in colorful processions and given a ceremonial boat ride in the Narendra pokhari/tank(ନରେନ୍ଦ୍ର ପୋଖରୀ) every day. In an interesting demonstration of the assimilative character of the Jagannatha cult, Madanmohana(ମଦନମୋହନ) and Rama Krushna, representing Jagannatha & Balarama partake in the festival with the representatives' images of the presiding deities of five main Shiva temples of Puri. These are curiously known as Pancha Pandava(ପାଞ୍ଚ ପାଣ୍ଡବ), the five brothers of the Mahabharata story. Later the deities have a ritual bath in a small temple in the middle of the tank, in stone tubs filled with water, sandalwood paste, scents, and flowers.

The chariots under construction

This sandalwood festival culminates in the Snana Yatra(ସ୍ନାନ ଯାତ୍ରା ), the Bathing Festival on the full moon day of the month of Jestha. On this day, the presiding deities descend from their seats on an elevated platform in the sanctum sanctorum, the bejeweled throne. They are bathed in 108 pots of water brought from the suna kua, the golden well and assume the elephant form on the special bathing platform, close to the Eastern boundary wall of the temple. From that day the deities remain in symbolic and ritual convalescence for about two weeks. They are barred from the view of the ordinary devotees. Only three special patta chitras, traditional Oriya paintings of natural colors on cloth stiffened with starch, known as Anasara Pattis, are strung on a bamboo screen hiding the deities from public view, can be seen by the public. During this period, the deities are given only roots, leaves, berries and fruits to cure them of their indisposition. This ritual is a reminder of the strong tribal elements in the genesis and evolution of the Jagannatha cult. The progeny of Lalita, daughter of the original tribal worshipper Biswabasu, chieftain of hunters, and the Brahmin priest Vidyapati, are known as daitapatis or daitas. They have the almost exclusive privilege of serving the Lord during the convalescence and through the entire period of Ratha Jatra or the Festival of Chariots.

Suna Besha(ସୁନା ବେଶ)[edit]

The Suna Besha of Jagannath

After the chariots of the deities return to the main temple from the Gundicha temple, the deities are attired in gold ornaments and worshipped on the chariots. This celebration is known as Suna Besha. Tradition maintains that this event was first started by King Kapilendra Deb in 1460, when after returning victorious from war he donated gold to Jagannath.[3] The deities are adorned with gold jewelry weighing nearly 208  kg. In 2014 nearly nine hundred thousand devotees witnessed this event held on 9 July[4]

The Ratha Yatra and Pahandi of 2015[edit]

Lakhs of devotees thronged the coastal town of Puri to catch the glimpse of deities re-embodied after 19 years on chariots on the occasion of Rath Yatra, marking largest-ever religious congregation in Odisha.

International Ratha Yatra[edit]

Rath Yatra Festival in New York
Rath Yatra Festival in Toronto

The Ratha Yatra festival has become a common sight in most major cities of the world since 1968 through the ISKCON Hare Krishna movement. By the mercy of Mahaprabhu Shri Jagannath and Chaitanya, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada had successfully transplanted the festival which now happens on an annual basis in places all over the world in over 108 cities including; Moscow, New York, Houston, Atlanta, London, Rome, Zürich, Kolkata, Mumbai, Karachi, Berlin, Heidelberg, Cologne, Florence, Wroclaw, Sydney, Perth, Kampala, Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Mexico City, Dublin, Belfast, Manchester, Birmingham, Alchevsk, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Stockholm, Bath, Budapest, Auckland, Melbourne, Montreal, Paris, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver, Santiago, Tallinn, Lima, Antwerp, Sofia, Kuala Lumpur, Oslo, Zhongshan, Myitkyina, Bangkok and many other cities.[5] The Ratha Yatra in Dhamrai, Bangladesh, is one of the most important in Bangladesh.

Service offerings[edit]

Jagannath temple employs different kinds of sevakas who offer their services on the Ratha.

  • Suara
  • Mahasuara
  • Dahuka: Ratha dahuka boli (Odia: ଡାହୁକ ବୋଲି, also "Dahuka gita" (ଡାହୁକ ଗୀତ)) which are poetic recitations. Ratha Yatra being a symbolic expression of fertility and Life cycle, these "boli" sung by the Dahuka contain bawdy songs. It is believed that unless the Dahuka boli is sung 'Ratha' does not move.[6] These songs are sung publicly without any kind of hold on the lyrics.[7] Dahuka controls the movement of Ratha during the festival.[8][9]
  • Daita pati
  • Puspalaka
  • Banati Players: Banati is an age-old art, in which a person spins balls set on fire and tied to the ends of a rope. Every year during the Rath yatra devotees perform "Banati" to appease Lord Jagannath.[10] Knives and fireballs, which are attached to the Banati add colour to the procession of the Lord as it reaches its destination


  1. ^ "About Puri Rath Yatra : Jagannath Rath Yatra". RathYatraLive. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  2. ^ ISKCON TRUTH Live broadcast Jagannatha Ratha Yatra festival throughout the day
  3. ^ "Jagannath glitters in golden get-up". Times of India. 9 July 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  4. ^ "Jagannath glitters in golden get-up". Times of India. 9 July 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  5. ^ Festival of India
  6. ^ Ethnographic and Folk-Culture Society (Lucknow, India) (2001). The Eastern anthropologist, Volume 54. Lucknow, India.
  7. ^ Surendra, Mahanty (1982). Lord Jagannatha: the microcosm of Indian spiritual culture. Bhubaneswar, Orissa: Orissa Sahitya Akademi. p. 93.
  8. ^ B. B. Jena (1980). Orissa, people, culture, and polity. Kalyani Publishers. p. 313. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  9. ^ Sarat Chandra Mahapatra. Car Festival of Lord Jagannath, Puri. Puri, India: Sri Jagannath Research Centre (Purī, India). Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  10. ^ ""Banati" players perform martial art ode to Lord Jagannath". Hindustan Times, Delhi – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). 27 June 2006. Archived from the original on 1 June 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2012.

External links[edit]