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Jagannath Rath Yatra 2023: Date, Time, and Significance

On April 13, 2023

Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra is an important festival that Hindus celebrate in India. It takes place in Puri, Odisha. The festival features a grand procession that involves carrying the idols of Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra, and his sister Subhadra in chariots or raths, which are pulled by devotees. The festival occurs on the 2nd day of Shukla Paksha in Ashadha month (June-July).

Devotees believe that taking part in the festival brings good fortune and blessings. The festival brings people from all walks of life together. It is also a visual treat with its decorated chariots, colorful dresses, and stirring music.

Also called Chariot Festival or Car Festival, this is an eagerly awaited event in the state as well as the country. The celebrations begin days earlier with the construction and decoration of the Raths or Chariots by devotees and volunteers. The three chariots are pulled by ropes.

The chariot of Jagannath is 45 feet high, has 16 wheels, and its name is Nandighosa. Balabhadra’s chariot is 45.6 feet high with 14 wheels, and its name is Taladhwaja. The chariot of Subhadra is called Devadalana and has 12 wheels. It is 44.6 feet high. Jagannath Rath Yatra is a 9-day festival.

Jagannath Rath Yatra 2023: Date and Timings

In 2023, the Jagannath Rath Yatra will begin on 20th June at 22:04 pm. It will end on 21st June at 19:09 pm.

Rituals of Jagannath Rath Yatra

The Jagannath Rath Yatra commemorates Jagannath’s journey from his temple to his aunt’s place, 3 km away. Let us explore some of the rituals of the festival:

  • The preparations begin with the construction of the chariots. Devotees build 3 huge chariots for Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra.
  • On the day of the Rath Yatra, the idols of the three deities are taken from their shrines and placed on their chariots. Devotees pull the chariots with ropes and chant the names of the deity.
  • The procession makes its way through the streets of Puri, and devotees stand on either side to see the deities. The sounds of conch shells, drums, and cymbals fill the air.
  • The chariots halt at various places, where devotees pay homage to the deities and offer them things like fruits, sweets, and flowers.
  • The Rath Yatra takes one day to reach Gundicha temple, and the deities remain here for 7 days. They take one day to return back home. This journey is Gundicha Yatra or Nava Dina Yatra (9-day journey), or Ghosa Yatra.
  • The return journey on the 9th day is called the Bahuda Yatra. During this return journey, the chariot of Jagannatha stops at Mausi Maa temple (the deity’s aunt). Also, the deity is offered Poda Pitha, a cake that is a favorite of his.
  • Devotees take a dip in the sacred river of Mahodadhi to purify themselves before they take part in the Jagannath Rath Yatra.
  • During the Jagannath Rath Yatra, people wear their finest clothes and jewelry.
  • Taking part in the Jagannath Rath Yatra and pulling the chariots supposedly brings good luck and blessings from Jagannath.
  • Importance of the Gundicha temple

    The Gundicha temple is the destination of the Jagannath Rath Yatra procession. Here, the idols of the deities remain for 9 days. The temple has great significance. Let us look at the reasons for it.

  • The Gundicha temple is the birthplace of Jagannath. Another name for it is the Garden House of Jagannath. The deities take a vacation here during the Jagannath Rath Yatra.
  • The Jagannath Rath Yatra is a symbolic journey of the 3 deities from their temple to the Gundicha temple. The journey represents their annual visit to their aunt’s house, according to mythology.
  • The Gundicha temple is the holiest place during the Jagannath Rath Yatra. People clean the temple and use flowers and lights to decorate it. This is to welcome the deities during their stay.
  • Devotees worship the deities with great devotion in the Gundicha temple by performing various rituals and offering Prasad.
  • The return journey of the deities to their temple is the Bahuda Yatra. Hordes of devotees come to witness the procession.
  • Legends Related to the Jagannath Rath Yatra

    There are many legends about the Jagannath Rath Yatra. Here are some of them:

    One of the legends about the origin of the Jagannath Rath Yatra dates back to the Dwapara Yuga. It is related to an incident in the life of Krishna. Kamsa, who was the maternal uncle of Krishna, invited Krishna and his brother Balarama to Mathura. His plan was to kill them. He sent a chariot with Akrura as the charioteer to bring them to Mathura. Krishna and Balarama got into the Ratha and left Gokul for Mathura. Legend says that the annual Jagannath Rath Yatra commemorates this journey of Krishna to Mathura.

    As per another legend, Krishna killed Kamsa, thereby fulfilling a divine prophecy. Then, he and Balarama got on a chariot and went around Mathura. The people of Mathura cheered them, and this event is celebrated as the Jagannath Rath Yatra.

    Another legend claims that when Krishna ruled Dwarka, he took Subhadra and Balarama in a chariot to show them the beautiful city. The Rath Yatra supposedly reenacts this incident.

    Once, the wives of Krishna requested Rohini, Balarama’s mother, to narrate the exploits of Krishna in Gokul. She sent Subhadra to guard the palace door to make sure that no one entered while she narrated the stories of Krishna Leela to the queens. As Subhadra stood guard at the door, Krishna and Balarama came there. Subhadra stretched out both her hands to prevent them from entering. Just then, Sage Narada arrived. On seeing the three divine siblings standing together, he asked them to reside on earth forever and give Darshan eternally to human beings. Since then, the three deities reside eternally in Jagannath Puri. The Jagannath Rath Yatra celebrates this incident.

    Another popular story says that Jagannath and Balabhadra wanted to visit their aunt’s house. But they left their sister Lakshmi behind. A hurt Lakshmi visited Puri in the form of a human and went to see the idols of her brothers. But the temple guard stopped her. On hearing this, Jagannath made a vow that he would never see his sister again. Hence, the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra are not worshipped for nine days after the Rath Yatra.

    In another story, the divine architect Visvakarma carved the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra using a wooden log. Jagannath promised Visvakarma that people would worship him for many years, but after that, he would die, and people would replace him with new idols. This is why the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra are replaced every 12 years during the Nabakalebara ceremony.

    Astrological Importance of Jagannath Rath Yatra

    The Jagannath Rath Yatra has an astrological significance, too. On the day of the Yatra, the Sun enters the zodiac sign Cancer. This is an important event in astrology. This transition also marks the advent of the monsoon season in India. People celebrate the Yatra during this time as it brings good fortune and prosperity.

    Astrologically, Jagannath is associated with the planet Jupiter or Guru. Jupiter signifies knowledge, wisdom, and prosperity. During the Jagannath Rath Yatra, people take out the deity from his temple and place him on a chariot. This supposedly represents the movement of the planet Jupiter.

    Another astrological connection is that the festival marks the beginning of the Chaturmas, a four-month period of spiritual and religious importance. During this time, the belief is that Vishnu enters into a state of slumber, and his devotees observe austerities to gain his blessings.

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