Rath Yatra 2017: All you need to know about its significance, history and celebrations

Also known as Rathjatra or Chariot festival, Jagannath Rath Yatra attracts a massive crowd of Hindu pilgrims from across India and even around the world, who join the procession every year in Puri, Odisha.

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi | Updated: June 25, 2017 7:09 pm
ratha yatra, jagannath ratha yatra, hindu festivals, puri, orissa, jagannath ratha yatra, Indian express, Indian express news The rath yatra is a journey in a chariot accompanied by the public. (Source: File Photo)

The cart festival of Lord Jagannath, traditionally known as the Jagannath Rath Yatra, is said to be the oldest of its kind and marks the return of Lord Krishna to Vrindavan with his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. Also known as Rathjatra or Chariot festival, it attracts huge crowds of Hindu pilgrims who join the procession every year in Puri, Odisha.

The rath yatra is a journey in a chariot accompanied by the public and it usually commences in the month of June or July. Three chariots of the deities with the temple in the background are led onto a 3km street in Puri, popularly known as Bada Danda. The procession culminates at the Shri Gundicha Temple, where the deities revel in a nine-day stay. After that, they ride the chariots back to Shri Mandir. This year, the festival is all set to commence on June 25 and the return cart festival or Bahuda Jatra will fall on July 3.

Considering the “body to be the chariot” and “the soul of the deity to be instilled inside it”, the concept of chariot festival has been explained in Kathopanishada in Sanskrit as:

Atmanam rathinam viddhi sareeram rathamevatu,
Buddhim tu saarathim viddhi marah pragrahameva cha!

The phrase gives out the message to let your wisdom be the charioteer so that it can “control the mind and its thoughts”. It is believed that people who attend the festival can find their way towards heaven after death.

The celebration begins with the pounding of drums and mridangams as the Gajapati King cleanses the road before the chariots with a gold-handled broom and sprinkles sandalwood water and powder with utmost devotion. The Rath Yatra at Puri makes for a fascinating sight as millions of people from the whole state and different corners of the country seek for darshan, or the holy view. The celebrations date back to the period of the Puranas. Vivid descriptions of this festival have been found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana.

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  1. H
    Harsimrat
    Jun 25, 2017 at 5:31 pm
    This article is full of contradictions and misleading. "The concept of chariot festival has been explained in Kathopanishada in Sanskrit .." No Upanishad prescribe any outward ritual or ceremony, instead they advocate inner search for God. The given mantra is wrongly interpreted to link it to rathyatra . It's in chapter 1:3:3rd mantra. It's correct meaning is further elaborated in 1:3:5th to 9th mantra. Meaning : whoever like a good character controls his senses and mind from wayward outer things to inner Brahma, he achieve True happiness. Also, writer points out this festival 5000 year old also totally wrong on historical basis. All piranhas date back to not earliest than 500 to 600 AD and not BC. IE should editor should exercise little discrimination while choosing such pieces of misinformation in future. Else it will send a wrong message being another lobbying of this newspaper, feeding to the prevalent Saffronizing agenda of this pseudo-nationalist govt.
    Reply
    1. H
      Harsimrat
      Jun 25, 2017 at 5:39 pm
      ......Meaning : whoever like a good charioteer controls his senses and mind from wayward outer things to inner Brahma, he achieve True happiness.........All Puranaas date back to not earliest than 500 to 600 AD and not BC. IE editor should exercise little discrimination ......
      Reply
    2. V
      vs
      Jun 25, 2017 at 1:32 pm
      Sometimes IE publishes some good Hindu news too.Nice article.
      Reply
      1. H
        Harsimrat
        Jun 25, 2017 at 5:34 pm
        This article is full of contradictions and misleading. "The concept of chariot festival has been explained in Kathopanishada in Sanskrit .." No Upanishad prescribe any outward ritual or ceremony, instead they advocate inner search for God. The given mantra is wrongly interpreted to link it to rathyatra . It's in chapter 1:3:3rd mantra. It's correct meaning is further elaborated in 1:3:5th to 9th mantra. Meaning : whoever like a good charioteer controls his senses and mind from wayward outer things to inner Brahma, he achieve True happiness. Also, writer points out this festival 5000 year old also totally wrong on historical basis. All Puranas date back to not earliest than 500 to 600 AD and not BC. IE should editor should exercise little discrimination while choosing such pieces of misinformation in future. Else it will send a wrong message being another lobbying of this newspaper, feeding to the prevalent Saffronizing agenda of this pseudo-nationalist govt.
        Reply
      2. R
        R Ragunandanan Raghunandan
        Jun 25, 2017 at 12:13 pm
        Great rathyatra and millions of devotees yatra to attend .theme body as ratha and Soul installed is deity.great .
        Reply
        1. C
          chitta
          Jun 25, 2017 at 2:28 pm
          I don't think rathyatra is attended by millions of people but certainly Eid is celebrated by Billions of people worldwide. I hardly find any Hindu enthusiast about rathyatra. But celebrations towards Eid start months ago.
          Reply
        2. S
          sumanta mondal
          Jun 25, 2017 at 7:14 am
          ratha yatara
          Reply