Ratha Yatra - Festival of Chariots

Ratha Yatra also known as Rath Jatra, Gundicha Jatra, Ghosa Jatra, Dasavtara Jatra etc. is one of the major festival in Hinduism and celebrated with great faith, pleasure, drama and color across the India on Ashadhi Beej, second day of Shukl Paksh of Ashadh month. This festival is also known as Chariot festival of Lord Jagganath as the idols of Lord Jagannathji, Lord Balaramji and their sister Subhadraji are placed on colorful chariot - raths and pulled by devotees. It is believed that whole year we people as devotees going to temple for praying god but at the day of Rath Yatra all three deity coming out from their temple to see and blessed us.

History and Stories of Rath Yatra

Many stories behind the origin of Rath Yatra mentioned and believed by devotee of Lord Jagannath, few key tales are describe here.

Lord Shree Krishna, incarnation of supreme Lord Vishnu took birth on earth to establish the Dharma over Adharma. Demon King Kansa, maternal uncle of Krishna wanted to kill Krishna and elder brother Balramji. He tried a lot but not able to succeed in motive thus finally Kansa invited Shri Krishna and Balramji to Mathura by sending Akrurji, the friend of Shree Vasudev, father of Lord Shri Krishna to Gokul with Chariot. Shri Krishna and Balramji left Gokul, climbed onto the chariot and moved towards the Mathura to complete the one chapter and main motive to takes birth on earth. As per the Shrimad Bhagwad Puran this departure is celebrated as Rath Yatra.

Shri Krishna killed the devil king Kans and gave darshan to devotees of Mathura on sitting in chariot with Balramji.

Lord Krishna, accompanied by Balaram, took Subhadra for a ride on a chariot to show the glory of Dwarka is celebrated as Rath Yatra.

Once queen of Lord Shree Krishna, put up her desired to mother Rohini, to listen the various tales of Bal Krishna in Gokul and specifically related to Radha and Gopis. Rohini told all the Leela of Bal Krishna including the Maha Rass Lila and asked Subhadra to stay at door so no other could listen. But one by one Lord Krishna and Balram ji reached at door and all siblings heard the stories and stands like a statue.

Ultimately these all were the Lila of Lord Krishna to showcase the importance of Gokul, Gopis and Radhaji in heart of people of Dwarka and queen. Narad Muni, Great devotee of Lord Vishnu saw Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra standing like statue at door and requested Lord to give darshan together forever. Thus Lord granted a boon to saint Narad and reside in the Jagannath Temple of Puri, Odisha.

Other famous tales is related to Lord Krishna and king Indradyumna of Jagannath Puri. King dreamt that Asthi – bones of Lord Shree Krishna reached east shores of Jagannath Puri from the west ocean from Somnath and he should construct the wooden statues of Krishna, Balaram and Subharaji. Dream of King became the true and he found the Asthi of Lord thus decided to create the statue, it is believed that God Vishwakarma –the architecture of Devata came in form of carpenter and started carving the statue with condition not to disturbed while he was working. After some time King Indradyumna lost his patient and open the door, while he open the door Vishwakarma disappeared with unfinished statue. But same statue installed at temple by king and then started the annual chariot procession starts. Every after 12 years same kind of wooden idol are carved and replace with old one.

These stories were also mentioned in Kathopnishad and the Skand Purana as well.

About Rath used in Rath Yatra

Three different sizes of chariots are made for the Rathayatra every year, it takes around two month to complete and dedicated group of expert people involved in design as per ancient style. Chariot of the Lord Jagannath is named as NANDIGHOSH, chariot of Balaram is called TALADVAJA and chariot of sister Subhadra is called PADMADHVAJA. Thousands of Devotees pulls these chariots with the help of ropes with great devotion towards the supreme Lord with chanting various Bhajan and slogan with full form. Darukji was the sarthi of Lord Krishna, Mataliji as the sarthi of Balaram and Arjun as sarthi of Subhadraji.

Celebrations and Rituals of Rathyatra at Jagannath Puri, Orrisa

Jagannath Rathyatra in Puri, Odisha is the biggest chariot festival across the world and most awaited in much celebrated in all the major city of India. Around one million people across the world takes part in Rathyatra also called Rath Jatra, Jatra means spiritual travel and crores of devotee of Lord Krishna watch on television and online.

Prior to Rathyatra of Jagannath, certain rituals are followed like Snan Yatra held on the Purnima of Jyeshtha month. Then it is believed that lord becomes sick till Amavasya of Ashadha so one first day darshan of Jagannath open again for devotee.

Chariot – Rath of the deity are made up of wood and decorated with beautiful flowers and colors in traditional ways. Lord Jagannath's chariot is the biggest one with 16 massive wheels and 44 feet in height. While Lord Balabhadra's chariot has 14 wheels and 43 feet in height, Goddess Subhadra's chariot has 12 wheels and 42 feet in height.

Usually deity worshipped in the temple campus but for the day of Rathyatra, People believe that Lord Jagannathji, Jagat means universe and Nath means master, want to visit his native place and give darshan to devotee for few days. Thus idols of Lord Jagannath, Balram and sister Subhadra are placed in big temple structure decorated Rath – Chariot which is pulled by devotee with rope on Dwitiya tithi of ashadh month.

Rathyatra starts from Jagannath temple and taken through the street of Puri so everyone have forture to view their lord. Gundicha Temple around 3 km away. Here deity lives till Shukla Dashmi of Ashadh for nine days and devotee are allowed for darshan. Then return to main temple via Mausi Mata Temple, aunt of Lord Jagannath, this yatra is called Bahuda Yatra. During the stay at Gundhicha temple, goddess Laxmi reached to Gundicha temple as Ma Laxmi wife of Lord Jagannath could not live without him.

The great sage Adi Shankaracharya choose Puri as one of the Chaar Dham – four most scared place along with Badrinath, Dwarka, Rameshwarm for attain the Moksha. Jagannath Puri is visited by thousands of devotee and tourist all the year round, but during the time of the Ratha Yatra, it is regarded as holy as a visit to Hardwar and Kashi.

As idols of are made up of wooden so over certain time it needs to be replaced with new one thus at every nine to 19 years, when the month of Ashadha is followed by another month of Ashadha – also called Adhik Maas, holy month for hindu, special Nabakalebar ritual – making of new idols takes place. The new idols are crafted from neem wood which are suitable for this purpose as per scriptures.

Celebrations of Rathyatra around the World

Ratha Yatra is just celebrated in India, but devotee of Lord Krishna across the world celebrate chariot festival with immense joy. San Francisco, USA, Durban, South Africa, Prague, Czech Republic, Rome Italy, Brisbane, Australia, Moscow Russia, Bhaktpura, Nepal, Dhamrai, Bangladesh, Florida, USA, London, England, Auckland, New Zealand are the major city or state of the world where Rathyatra – the biggest chariot festival celebration held with accepting Lord Jagannath as the Supreme Lord of Universe. Iskon group and other Hindu Sampraday spread across the globe raised the trust and devotion towards lord in lot of people and thus major festival of India are now celebrated across the world.

Celebrations and Rituals of Rathyatra at Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Third Biggest Rath Yatra of India after Puri and West Bengal held at Jagannath Mandir , near Jamalpur Darwaja, Ahmedabad , Gujarat for a day. In year 1878 lord Jagannath told Shree Narsinhdasji Maharaj, Mahant of Jagannath Temple, Ahmedabad in dream to start Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad.

Jal Yatra and Netrotsav are two major rituals to be followed before the Rathyatra. On Jyestha Shukla Purnima, Jalayatra of Lord Jagannath to River Sabarmati comes with a procession, perform the Ganga Pujan and returns the vessels of water to be used for Abhishek of Lord Jagannath. After performing the Shodashopachar Pujan chanting with Vedic mantras, the Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadraji symbolically sent to their maternal uncle’s home. Netrotsav rituals of Idol of Lord held before two days of Rathayatra in which eyes of all three gods covered with cloth as belief that they have infection in eyes by eating excess Jamun

The Raths are made up from coconut tree by the devotees of Khalas caste of Bharuch.

Finally the day arrived for which devotee of Lord Jagnnath are awaiting for a year, Ashadh Sudh Beej. Day starts with the Mangal Aarti at 4 AM then after Pahind vidhi by the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Then Chariot procession starts, Raths of Lord Jagannathji, Balram and Shubhadraji, followed by elephants, lots of trucks, then athletes of Akhadawala, disciples with decorative flags of the temple, music, Bhajan Mandali, Ras Garba, chanting of “Jay Ranchhod Manakh Chor”, thousands of devotee who pulled the chariots are the main attraction of Rath Yatra of Ahmedabad. Rathyatra covers the various area like Jamalpur, Kalupur, Shahpur, Dariyapur with distributing Mag and Jamun as prasad and around 14 km long in center of Ahmedabad. The procession halts at Saraspur, where devotees of Lord Jagannath takes food called Maha Bhoj. In the evening the Rathayatra returns to the Neej Mandir, Jagannath Temple at Jamalpur. Thus Rathyatra becomes the “LOKOTSAV” of Gujarat.

Celebrations and Rituals of Rathyatra of Mahesh in Serampore, Hooghly, West Bengal

Rath Yatra of Mahesh in West Bengal is second biggest Rath Yatra after the Puri and celebrated for week from 1396. As the neighbor state of Odisha, West Bengal the state with diverse culture and spirituality is not behind of Odisha to celebrate chariot festival but in Mahesh, Serampore in Hooghly district is very popular and grand celebration takes place.

History of Rathyatra at Mahesh went to fourteen century, great saint Drubananda used to went to Puri for pilgrimage with desire to offer Bhoga to Lord Jagannath. But Temple authority did not allow him offer Bhog with his hand so Drubananda decided to fast until death. Lord blessed with him and told in dream that go back to Bengal at place called Mahesh on the bank of Bhagirathi. Then make idols of Balarama, Subhadra and mine from Daru Brahma - Neem trunk. This is how Idols of the Holy Trinity and Jagannath Temple constructed here at Mahesh.

Now let’s see how the celebration of chariot festival started here at Mahesh, once Mahaprabhuji reached at Mahesh on the way to Puri and absorbed deep Samadhi feel this place same sacred as Puri. On request of Drubananda to take charge of temple, Mahaprabhuji assign temple to Kamalakar Piplai, the fifth of his twelve Gopalas. After taking the charge of Mahesh Temple, he started the famous chariot festival, more than 600 years ago.

Dates of Rathyatra or Ratha Jatra or Chariot Festival or Gundicha Jatra

Year Date
2020 Tuesday, 23rd of June
2021 Monday, 12th of July
2022 Friday, 1st of July
2023 Tuesday, 20th of June
2024 Sunday, 7th of July