The Jagannath Rath Yatra

Archita Baweja 

India is a land of varied cultures, traditions and beliefs which reveal our rich heritage. Amongst these contrasts, countless festivals bind us together, with the festive spirit profoundly imprinted in people’s hearts and souls.

Festivals mark those unique times that connect the dots between our past, present and future. The culture and history from the past touch our present moment in the form of an ecstatic spirit of celebration and create a distinct legacy for our future generations.

Following this legacy, Rath Yatra, also known as the chariot festival of the Lord Jagannath is held annually in Puri, Odisha. It is considered as world’s largest car festival. It is also organised in other Jagannath temples across the world. On rath yatra, Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra and his beloved sister Subhadra visit his aunt’s place every year on three majestic chariots with a lot of pomp and show which starts from the Jagannath Temple Puri. In 2022, Jagannath rath yatra starts on Friday, 01 July.

An interesting fact about Hinduism and how they worship Gods is that the Gods have different forms, depending on the depicted emotion or even on different parts of the country. The Rath Yatra is a religious festival depicting Lord Krishna in his jubilant form, in which state he is also known as Jagannath.

One of the grandest festivals in Odisha’s cultural calendar this show draws lakhs of devotees every year. With the festival being held without any COVID restrictions this time, the district administration is expecting a crowd of 12 lakh to 15 lakh devotees.

The Rath Yatra signifies the journey of Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna) from Gokul to Mathura. The devotees believe that whoever pulls the rath will be blessed with good fortune and will get their wishes fulfilled.

The three idols are bathed and dressed and taken from Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha temple. The decorated chariots, the sound of millions of devotees chanting and the blowing of conches, all these are unforgettable experiences one can have at the festival.

As with most Indian festivals, the food and the specific delicacies consumed in Puri during the Rath Yatra festival are fascinating. The food is cooked in what appears to be the world’s largest pressure cooker, essentially created by placing large pots of food atop one another and then cooking the food on a wood fire and steaming it. All the food is then made available to every person at the festival in markets adjacent to the temple where the idols have been brought.  Traditionally, the food consisted of ‘khichdi’, vegetables, dal and sweets and was served on a banana leaf. However, today the food served is much more extensive, consisting of dal, rice, khichdi, vegetables, flatbread, namkeen, drinks like lassi, chaas, and jal-jeera; and it is served in a thali, which is a large, steel plate.

The festival is a wonderful show of rigour and colourful vibrancy, owing to which millions of Hindu devotees worldwide flock to observe the same. In contemporary times, the festival has also become famous worldwide, with visitors from across the world flying down to India to witness it for themselves.

By Archita Baweja