Puri Rathyatra – The Chariot Festival
The most awaited festival of Puri Rath Yatra commenced on the 29th June with nearly a million devotees thronging the pilgrim city to witness the journey of Lord Jaganath (incarnation of Lord Vishnu), his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. The dieties are pulled on chariots from their grand temple Sri Mandir to Sri Gundicha temple where they stay for 9 days before returnin home.
Every year, wooden chariots are constructed anew in accordance with religious specifications. The chariot of Lord Jagannath is called Nandighosa, has 18 wheels and is 23 cubits high; the chariot of Balabhadra, called Taladhvajahas 16 wheels and is 22 cubits high; Devadalana, the chariot of Subhadra has 14 wheels and is 21 cubits high.The idols are also made of wood and they are religiously replaced by new ones every after 12 years. 14 tailors are engaged in stitching up the covers that require almost 1,200 meters of cloth.
The Sankaracharya, who is considered the highest religious guru of the Hindus, performs certain customary rituals atop the chariots.
Rath Yatras also held in Ahemdabad, & Mahesh in WB. However, Rath Yatra is known world over, and it is said that Fa Hien, the Chinese historian, who visited India in the 5th century AD, had written about the chariot of Buddha being pulled along public roads. Even when Britsh first observed the Rath Yatra in the 18th century, they were so amazed that they sent home shocking descriptions which gave rise to the term ‘juggernaut’, meaning “destructive force”!!