Ratha Yatra also known as Ratha or Ghosa Jatra falls on the Suklapaksha Dwitiya tithi of the Asadha month, when Lord Jagannath or the Lord of the Universe and his siblings Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra travel on their much adorned carts and amidst much fanfare to the Gundicha temple. The temple is dedicated to Devi Gundicha, who was the wife of Indradyumna, the king who built the Jagannath temple in Puri.
After spending about seven days at the Gundicha temple, the time for the return of the Gods to their temple abode comes. This homecoming journey is termed as Bahuda and falls on the Asadha Suklapaksha Dashami tithi. The rituals and customs involved are almost similar to how they were carried out when the Lords had begun their journey from Srimandir. The Yatra or the procession takes place in the bada-danda or the Grand Avenue, between the Gundicha and Jagannath temples.
Nandighosa, Devadalana and Taladhwaja, the carts of Jagannath, Subhadra and Balabhadra respectively are beautifully decorated. Amidst the divine sounds of conch, gongs, mridung and cymbals the three gods are brought to their respective chariots. Gotipua and Odishi dancers and martial artistes perform in front of the gods.
Lakhs of devotees assemble to catch a glimpse of the lords. Those who had not been able to get the darshan of Jagannath on the Ratha day, make it a point to see him on Bahuda. In the eyes of the devotees, the lord is supreme. With raised hands they welcome him and surrender themselves, mesmerized in his magical aura. With boundless enthusiasm and heightened spirits they pull the ropes of the carts. The air gets filled with the magical chants of Jai Jagannath.
While returning, the chariots halt at the Mausi Maa temple. The goddess is considered to be the aunt of the lords. It is the same temple where Devi Subhadra stayed when Jagannath and Balabhadra were out on the streets begging after Lakshmi had left the Srimandir. Here the deities are offered their favorite delicacy Poda Pitha, which is a special cake, made of cheese and sugar. After a brief halt, the gods continue with their journey on the badadanda towards Srimamdir.
Apart from Puri, Ratha and Bahuda are also celebrated amidst much pomp and show in other parts of Odisha. In western Odisha there are several Jagannath ’Gudi’ or temples in almost every village and so ratha and bahuda are celebrated in a wide-scale in this part of the state. In Baripada, the chariot of Devi Subhadra is pulled only be women, which is unique. In Remanda, the festival is being led by a Muslim family from the past six generations which again is a novel thing. Even outside India Ratha is celebrated with zeal. In fact the festivities in foreign lands gives the devotees a feeling of being at home away from home. It serves as an opportunity for them to stay connected to their roots.
Post Bahuda and after the famed Sunabesha of the Lords, an amusing exchange of dialogues or ‘bachanikaa’ happens between the mortal representatives of Jagannath and Lakshmi, the former requesting to get into the temple while the latter refusing him. After coaxing and cajoling the aggrieved wife, the lord is finally let inside the temple.
Note: This year due to Covid, Ratha Yatra and Bahuda Yatra took place amidst restrictions in Puri. In rest of Odisha, the festival remained suspended.