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Lord Jagannath- God of Universe

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One of the most auspicious and anticipated Hindu festivals is the Jagannath Puri Ratha Yatra, which attracts devotees not only from India [Bharat] but across the world.

The celebration of this festival witnessed the grand procession of Lord Jagannath also refers as the incarnation of the Lord Krishna who in turn the incarnation of Bhagwan Vishnu – Preserver of the Universe. Besides Puri being the main site of celebration, people throughout India also celebrates Ratha Yatra in many ways.

Each year the Ratha Yatra begins with the worship of the idols of Balram [Elder brother of Krishna], Subhadra [sister of Krishna and balram] and Krishna himself in the form of Lord Jagannath by the millions of devotees across caste and creed. Much before the beginning of the actual celebrations, devotees decorate the Puri Jagannath temple with flowers, diyas and with delicate wood work of the temple complex.

Ratha Yatra is also known as Navadina Yatra, Dasavatara yatra or Gundicha yatra. According to the traditional Odia Calender, celebrations occur on the second day of Shukla Paksha. This festival takes significant place in the traditions and spiritual path in the Sanatana Dharma. Puri’s Yatra symbolizes fraternity, peace and harmony. According to the tradition, if anyone takes part in the procession and draw the chariot will get good fortune and will get rid of all the impure karmas.

HOW CHARIOTS FOR THE RATHA YATRA MADE?

The chariot used in the Ratha Yatra is totally made of the neem tree wood which eventually deconstructed and used as firewood in the temple kitchen. Around 1400 carpenters and devotees begin the work of building three massive chariots from Akshaya Tritiya [ this year on 22 April] every year for this Ratha Yatra of holy trinity. The entire work is done in front of the palace of the King of Puri. This palace is known as Ratha Khala which is Chariot yard.

The canopies of Chariots are madewith 1200m of cloth and about 15 skilled tailors work on it. Four wooden horses are fixed in front and ancient practices like hand length instead of measuring tapes, wooden pegs and joints instead of iron nails are used in making these chariots with complete precision. The structure, model, design, and measurement of the chariots remain the same every year which is an example of perfect artistry.

RATHA YATRA HISTORY AND SIGNIFIANCE-

There are many mythological stories regarding the origin of Ratha Yatra. According to one legend, Lord Jagannath with his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra visit the Gundicha temple every year as promised to queen Gundicha, wife of King Indradyumna, who built the Jagannath Temple of Puri. The present statutes of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and goddess Subhadra were made by lord Vishwkarma at the temple known as Gundicha temple, from a wood log.

It took many months and while Lord Vishwkarma was creating these idols of the deities, queen Gundicha opened the door but lord vishwkarma told the king Indradyumna to not open the door of his room before the completion of the idols, and after the door opened lord vishwkarma disappeared leaving the statutes incomplete thats whhy hands and some portion of the Lord Jagannath idol is incomplete but gives spiritual strength to its devotees.

Since it is believed that Lord Jagannath along with his siblings come out of the temple only once a year to visit their birth place as promised to Queen Gundicha. The Gundicha temple is around 3 km away from the Shri Jagannath temple. The deities stay at Gundicha temple for 8 days and on the ninth day they take return journey, which is known as Bahuda Yatra [In odia language Bahuda means return].

After the Bahuda yatra, the day three presiding deities of the Puri Shri Mandir enters the temple is known as Niladri Bije. With Niladri Bije the Ratha yatra festival comes to an end.

During the festival, deities are adorned with 208kg gold to complete their remaining limbs. Lakhs of devotees come to Puri to pull the Chariots. It is believed that Lord Jagannath comes out of the temple only once in a year for those who cannot enter the temple.

For people seeking Moksha, the Ratha Yatra hold enormous significance. It is also believed that on the fourth day after the Ratha yatra, Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Jagannath, comes to Gundicha temple in search of Lord Jagannath.

By Nikhil Pawdia, student of Delhi University, MA

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