Festivals of Chariots - Puri Rath Yatra

Festivals of Chariots - Puri Rath Yatra
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The Puri Rath Yatra or Festival of Chariots is set to begin today, on 4th July 2019. It is one of oldest festival in India and is celebrated yearly on shukla paksha dwitiya of Ashadha month i.e. second day in bright fortnight of Ashadha month in the Orissa state of India. During this festival crowds of people from all over the world reach Jagannath Puri to become the part of this festival. This festival continues for 10 days. In this festival, chariots of lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are pulled from temple to the Gundicha Mata Temple through the Mausi Maa Temple. The chariots are temple shaped and decorated beautifully with flowers and other ornaments. The preparation for this festival begins months before.

There are several stories related to Rath Yatra. According to some stories, when lord Krishna’s sister Subhadra came to her parent’s home, she expressed her desire to visit entire land, which started the tradition of Rath Yatra. According to others, the goddess in Gudicha temple, who is Krishna’s aunt, invite three of them to come home, after which Rath Yatra started. Also according to one belief, Kamsa, the uncle of Lord Krishna, invited Krishna and Balram to Mathura with the intention of killing them. Krisha and Balram accepted the invitation, and proceed to Mathura in a chariot. This day of departure is celebrated as Rath Yatra.

In this festival, idols of lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are placed in a decorated chariot and pulled through the streets of Puri from temple to Gundicha temple. The mahaprasad is served to every person attending the Rath Yatra. The Puri temple is famous for its kitchen also. It has capacity to cook for 100,000 people per day.  The mahaprasad is served in banana leaf and consists of dal, sabji, khichadi and some sweets, etc.

Important dates for Rath Yatra rituals 2019:



Sri Gundicha

July 4, 2019

Hera Panchami

July 8, 2019

Bahuda Yatra

July 12, 2019

Suna Besha

July 13, 2019

Niladri Bijaya/Bije

July 15, 2019


Sri Gundicha:

The idols of lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra will be placed in chariots and pulled to Gundicha temple in the afternoon, once all initial rituals are completed.

Hera Panchami:

Goddess Lakshmi becomes impatient as lord Jagannath did not return to temple after 5 days and hence decides to go to Gundicha temple. But lord Jagannath asks his servant to close the doors of temple in order to refrain goddess Laxmi from entering into the temple. She gets angry and breaks a part of lord Jagannath’s chariot and return to Jagannath temple via a secret route. The Hira Panchami songs express the anger of goddess towards lord Jagannath.

Bahuda Yatra:

The return journey of lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra’s chariots to the Jagannath temple is called as Bahuda Yatra. In this ritual, the chariots are pulled in reverse direction towards the temple.

Suna Besha:

It is very famous ritual of the Rath Yatra. In this ritual, the deities are dressed in all gold and decorated with gold ornaments.

Niladri Bijaya/Bije:

It is the last day of the Rath Yatra festival. The deities enter into the Jagannath temple. Before entering into the temple, they are offered ‘Rasagola bhog’ on the chariot. This day is called as ‘Rasagola day’ by the people residing in Orissa.

This year cyclone Fani hampered the construction of chariots in the initial phase but now the work is in full swing. Also, the chariot designs have incorporated several safety measures in order to avoid any injuries or accidents. Technological advanced brake systems with large head nails and thick rubber sheets have been implemented in order to brake chariots smoothly and effectively, thus avoiding accidents and deaths due to chariots.

The three chariots are remarkable and one of the main highlights of Rath Yatra festival. Every year new chariots are made by carpenters of neem tree wood. The chariots made are temple-shaped and the process takes place in several stages such as wood cutting, construction of chariots and decoration. Every year three new chariots are made, one for lord Jagannath, one for Balabhadra and last for Subhradra.

The lord Jagannath’s chariot is named as ‘Nandighosha’. The chariot is coloured in yellow and red colour with white coloured horse and it has 16 wheels.

The lord Balabhadra’s chariot is called as ‘Taladhwaja’. It is 14 wheeled chariots with green and red colour with black coloured horse.

The goddess Subhadra’s chariot is ‘Debadalana’. It is back and red colour chariot with 12 wheels. The horse is of red colour.

Jagannath Puri is a sacred place for Hindus. It is believed that whoever pulls the chariot of lord Jagannath, does not take birth again and gets liberation in this life. Therefore, lakhs of people from all over the world attend the Rath Yatra and feel liberated in the lifespan.