Rath Yatra, the Festival of Chariots of Lord Jagannath is celebrated every year in Odisha’s temple town of Puri. The festival is associated with the Hindu and Buddhist community of India. The Supreme Court on June 22 (Monday) agreed to allow the annual rath yatra in a restricted manner. The court had earlier halted the Puri’s rath yatra in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. Annual ceremonial procession of the Lord Jagannath that goes on for about 10 days will take place from June 23 amid the coronavirus outbreak. The Odisha government has imposed a 41-hour curfew in the temple town and started COVID-19 tests of 700 temple priests who would pull the chariots. As per the Hindu calendar Rath Yatra is observed on the second day of Ashadha month (in late June or early July). In ancient literature this day is also referred as ‘Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya’.
Rath Yatra Significance
The word ‘Jagannath’ is derived from the Sanskrit language which means ‘Lord of the Universe’. Lord Jagannath is considered as one of the reincarnations of Lord Vishnu. As per the ancient literature - Brahma Purana, Padma Purana and Skanda Purana, Puri Rath Yatra is one of the most prominent festivals of the Hindu religion.
Lord Jagannatha is not the only deity worshipped in the temple. Along with Jagannatha two other deities - Balabhadra and Subhadra are also worshipped here. These three constitute the fundamental trinity and are considered to be the forms and manifestations of the omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent supreme power.
The origin of the Rath Yatra can be traced back to the 12th Century. The holy rituals of this festival include the procession of three chariots - carrying Lord Jagannath, brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra for a 3-km-long procession till the Gundicha Temple. Once the chariot reaches the Gundicha Temple the idols are given a holy bath. After that they are rested in the temple for nearly a week before bringing them back to the Jagannath Temple. Lakhs of people visit Puri to witness and take part in the age-old festival.
Rath Yatra Celebrations
Puri Rath Yatra is celebrated with great fervour by organizing a procession of chariots carrying the idols of Lord Jagannath and his siblings. Devotees from all across the world visit the Puri with an earnest desire to help pull the Lords chariots. The preparation of the 14 meter high and 11 meter wide chariots festival starts 2 months before the ‘Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya’. The chariots are decorated with bright colours and religious graphics by the local artists of Puri.
Every year 4-5 lakhs of pilgrims visit the Puri during the Rath Yatra festival. Indians as well as foreigners flock in large numbers to get a glimpse of the idols in the chariot. It is believed that those who manage to get a glimpse of the idols will have a prosperous year ahead. Jagannath Rath Yatra is also known by the name - Gundicha Yatra, Chariot Festival, Dasavatara and Navadina Yatra.
How to reach
The nearest airport to reach Puri is Biju Patnaik International Airport also known as the Bhubaneswar Airport that is located at a distance of 59 km from the temple city. From there hire a taxi or cab that can take you to Puri. The airport is well-connected with major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai. For train travellers the nearest railway station is Puri but due to the COVID-19 there are no direct trains from Delhi to Puri. Here is a list of trains that run between New Delhi and Bhubaneswar. You can hire a personal taxi that can take you straight to Puri which is located 59 km away from Bhubaneswar. Puri is well connected with state and road transport buses of Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and other nearby cities.
Apart from the Jagannath Puri temple there are various other attractions in Puri like Swargadwar beach, Markandeshwara temple, Ganesha temple, Puri beach, Chilika lake, Loknath temple, Vimala temple, Mausi Maa temple, Sakshi Gopal etc.
Puri Jagannath Yatra is celebrated with great ardour in Odisha but this year it will not be the same as the coronavirus continues to infect India’s population in growing numbers. If you want to know about the coronavirus outbreak in India check the latest COVID-19 updates. Stay home, stay safe! For your one-stop solution, book your train and flight tickets through Trainman app. Download the Trainman App to check PNR Status of your ticket, Running Status, Seat availability in special trains and a lot more.