Rath yatra or Chariot festival is the most awaited festival among the innumerable festivals illustrious around the globe. The festival is also identified through these names such as Festival of Chariot, Car Festival, Dashavatar Yatra, Gundicha Jatra, Navadina Yatra and Ghosa Jatra. These auspicious festival Rath Yatra is associated with the lord Jagannath (avatar of lord Vishnu) which is celebrated every year in Ashad Shukla Dwitiya (2nd day of the bright fortnight of the month of Ashad) this year the date is set to be commence on 25th of June and the fest is celebrated for about 9 days therefore the end day ceremony falls to be on 3rd of July.
The festival defines the formal procedure of visiting maternal home in every summer holidays as it is believed that lord Jagannath with is elder brother Balabhadra and his sister Subhadra annually visits their maternal aunt’s home and their return falls after 9 days. The procession starts from Jagannath Temple to Gundicha Temple or Masi Maa Temple near Balagandi Chaka, Puri both temples are 3km away but happiness of devotees clubbed with prayers and drums take few hours to reach. The procession carries the wooden idols of the three siblings i.e. lord Jagannath his elder brother Balabhadra and his sister Subhadra. The three idols are placed to their respective chariots which are accompanied with chants (mantra or bhajan), conches (shankha) and drums along with millions of devotees.
The main highlights of the procession are the three chariots. The preparation of these chariots starts from the day of Akshay Trithiya. All three chariots are named differently and have different number of wheels along with difference in their heights. Nadighosa Lord Jagannath’s chariot is 45.6feet in height and has 18 wheels attached, Taladhvaja Lord Balabhadra’s chariote is 45feet in height and has 16 wheels attached and Devadalana Goddess Subahdra’s chariot is 44.6feet in height and has 14 wheels attached to it. The three huge chariots are not pulled by horses nor by any other animal but are dragged by the hands of devotees itself. The chariots are connected with the long ropes which are 50meter long in length. It is believed that pulling the rope is nourishing the good karma and brings subtraction to their bad deeds. Procession is has Lord Balabhadra’s chariot at the fist followed by Goddess Subhadra’s chariot and at last Lord Jagannath’s chariot is placed.
Before the commencement of Ratha Yatra there are series of celebrations or rituals performed. In the very first ritual the three idols are taken for the bathing ceremony on a full moon day, the bathing festival is known as Snana Purnima. 109 buckets of water are drawn from temples well are poured over the idols. After the Snana fest the idols are kept away from public view for about fifteen days as it is believed that idols are affected with fever. During this period the Pujaries of the temples are also said to be ill and recommended to eat fruits and diet foods only. This ritual of not letting public to view the Lords and Goddess idols is known as Anasara. After these fifteen days idols are been seen Navayauvana Vesha (renewed vesha) on the new moon day in the month of Ashadha. And finally on the second new moon day comes the occasion of Rath Yatra. On the day of procession the famous and main ritual is performed which is known as Chhera Pahara. This ritual is performed by the royal successor of Orissa. In this ritual the idols are brought from the temple by the king and placed on the chariot before placing the idols it is the king who sweeps the chariot with broom that has golden handle to it. He late has to decorate the chariot with fresh flowers. The ground where the chariot will move through is also being cleaned by him. This ritual directly points out to the saying that all humans either rich or poor are equal in the eyes of lord.
As Chhattisgarh being a neighboring state of Orissa also witness the enthusiasm and happiness of this positive festival. Chhattisgarh also enjoys the Rath Yatra with same essence and rituals as the population has loads of Oriya people living here. Even the Governor and the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh also take part in the celebration.
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