Widely known as the ‘Festival of Chariots‘, the annual Jagannath Rath Yatra began on Thursday. The Rath yatra is celebrated at the Jaganath Temple in Odisha’s Puri. This is one of the most awaited festivals of Odisha dedicated to Lord Jagganath, his sister Goddess Subhadra and elder brother Balabhadra.
The festival basically is celebrated to commemorate Jagannath’s visit to Gundicha Temple through Mausi Maa temple in Puri. The term 'Rath Yatra' means a ride on a chariot. Through this yatra, Lord Krishna, the eight incarnation of Lord Vishnu on earth is worshipped as Jagannath.
On brand new chariots, the deity forms of Lord Jagannath Balabhadra and Subhadra are decorated and then the yatra is conducted from Jagannath temple to Gudicha temple covering a distance of almost 2.5 km. The chariots are known as Nandighosha, Taladhwaja, and Devadalana respectively
As per the Hindu mythology, Lord Jagannath wishes to pay a visit to Mathura for few days and this yatra is conducted to fulfil the desire of ‘Jagannath’ i.e. master of the world. It is believed that initially when the chariot pulled by devotees, it refuses to move. It is only after few hours of efforts that the chariot starts to move.
The festival is celebrated during Ashadh Shukla Dwitiya and it rains every year during this time of the year.
The Lord rests for 9 days at the Gundicha temple and then returns to the Jagannath temple with just one stop in between. Lord returns backv only after having his favourite sweet, Poda Pitha which is a special kind of pancake famous in Odisha.
It was in the year 1975 that Nandini Satpathy, who was the then Chief Minister of Odisha, had started the tradition of pulling of Devi Subhadra’s chariot exclusively by women devotees.