|Location :||Puri, Orissa|
|Falls On :||The Bright Fortnight of Ashadha (June – July)|
|Duration :||10 Days|
|Dates Back :||10th – 11th Century|
|Related Links:||Jagannath Temple, Puri|
Orissa is a land of innumerable fairs and festivals celebrated round the year but the most spectacular of them is the Rath Yatra, hitherto known as the Car Festival to western world. This chariot procession on the main streets of Ahmedabad city features a lot of colourful chariots, trucks and other vehicles. The procession commemorates the journey of lord Krishna to Mathura, leaving behind grieving Gopis. The massive procession begins at Jagdish temple in Jamalpur. The main chariots are dedicated to lord Krishna, his brother Balaram and sister Subadhra, followed by colourfully decorated elephants, trucks, motor vehicles, pilgrims on foot, acrobats and gymnasts.
The Period of Yatra
Every year in July, the sacred coastal town of Puri comes alive to celebrate the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath, one of the biggest festivals during the monsoon season. According to the Indian solar calendar, it falls two days after the new moon day of the month of Asadh.
Legends and Rituals
The famous Car festival of Lord Jagannath falls on the second day of bright fortnight of the month of Ashada when the Lord with his brother and sister coming out from the ‘Ratna Sinhasan’ to the streets of Puri joins His devotees while visiting His birth place The Gundicha Ghar. After a stay of nine days the return journey starts for the temple.
According to legend Lord Jagannath said to have expressed His desire to visit His birthplace Gundicha Ghar once every year. According to others Subhadra wanted to visit Dwarka, her parents home therefore, her two brothers Jagannath and Balabhadra took her there on this day. According to Bhagavad Puran on this day. Krishna and Balaram went to Mathura on the invitation of Kansa to participate in the competition.
The entire Ratha Yatra is a symbolic humanisation of God. All rituals associated with the festival demonstrate an attempt to bring the God down from His pedestal of glory to a more human level. On the day of journey the three chariots the yellow coloured Nandighosa, blue coloured Taladwaja and Deviratha are lined up in front of the temple and then the deities are brought on to their respective Chariots. Once the king of Puri the living symbol of Lord Jagannath sweeps the chariots with scented water and golden broom, the pilgrims lined up with the rope pull the chariots on the Badadanda to Gundicha Ghar.
Though this festival time is very special in India, the main Rath Yatra takes place in the holy town of Puri. At other places, those devotees of Lord Jagannath, who cannot make it to Puri, take out similar processions on a much smaller scale. Notable are the ones at Ramnagar (near Varanasi), Serampore (near Calcutta) and Jagannathpur (near Ranchi).
Places to Visit
Without doubt, the best place to visit during this festival time is Puri, situated a few kilometers away from Bhubaneshwar, the capital of the state of Orissa. This chariot procession on the main streets of Ahmedabad city features a lot of colourful chariots, trucks and other vehicles.