Duration: One to Two weeks
Location: Jagannath Puri
Highlights: The procession of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra, the deities of the Sri Mandira
Rath Yatra, which is also known as the Chariot Festival, is one of the most prominent festivals of Orissa, which is celebrated in the holy city of Puri. Rath Yatra has derived its name from the words Rath, meaning Chariot, and Yatra, meaning Procession. This festival is celebrated with gusto in almost every part of the country. However, it was initiated in Jagannath Temple and it still attracts devotees from different parts of India. Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra is a very colorful festivity, in which people participate enthusiastically.
In the yatra, the idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra, enshrined in the Sri Mandira, are brought out and placed on their respective chariots. These chariots are then pulled by the devotees and the idols are taken to Gundicha Temple. The deities stay at this temple for seven days and then, return to Sri Mandira, in a similar procession. Before the procession starts, Gajapati (the ceremonial King of Puri) comes and cleans the chariots with a golden broom and then, sprinkles holy water on them.
Originally, the local king used to sweep the road on which procession was to take place with a golden broom, proclaiming to be the Lords first servant. Rath yatra has been gaining popularity and drawing more and more devotees year after year. It is believed that it is very auspicious if one manages to catch even a glimpse of Lord Jagannath on the chariot. People also hold a belief that the one who manages to touch the chariot, or even the ropes with which it is pulled, is bestowed with the results of several pious deeds for ages.