Puri Jagannath Ratha Yatra is the oldest Ratha Yatra taking place in the world. It is mentioned in many Hindu sacred texts like Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, Skanda Purana and inKapila Samhita. The celebration follows all the same rituals from its starting.
The festival is celebrated every year on Dwitiya Tithi that is falling in Shukla paksha of Ashada month (second day in the bright fortnight of Ashadamonth).
RathaYatra is also called as Gundicha Yatra or Navadina Yatra.
Procession during Jagannath Rath Yatra
Before yatra commences, the idols of the three deities Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra and his younger sister Subhadra are bathed with 109 buckets of water, the process is called as Snana Purnima.
On the day of the procession, the holy ritual Chhera Pahara takes place, it is performed by the royal successor of Orissa. The King himself sweeps the chariot with a broom that has a golden handle and brought idols from the temple and is placed on the Chariot. Later he decorates idols with flowers.
Ratha Yatra is conducted from Jagannath Temple to Gundicha Temple. As part of ratha Yatra, the idols of the three deities Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra and his younger sister Subhadra are taken out in a procession to Gundicha Temple on chariots.
The deities are remains in Gundicha Temple for nine days. Later, the idols are back to Jagannatha’s temple.
Bahuda Yatra & Suna Vesa
The return Yatra is called as Bahuda Yatra. After reaching the temple, the idols are placed outside and on the next day, idols are adorned with new clothes. The event is called as Suna Vesa. After this event, the idols are placed again in Garba Gruha or Garbhalaya, marking an end to Puri Ratha Yatra.
The Chariots in Rath Yatra
The chariots used for Ratha Yatra are built every year. On Akshaya Tritiya day carpenters begin the constructions of chariots. Three chariots will be constructed for three deities and each decorated with different colors.
Lord Jagannath’s chariot is decorated with red and yellow. The height of the chariot is 45.6 feet with 18 wheels and Garuda on its crest with four white wooden horses. The chariot is called as Chakradhwaja or Nandighosa.
Lord Balabhadra’s chariot is decorated with red and green. The height is 45 feet with 16 wheels and Hanuman on its crest with four black wooden horses. It is called as Taladhwaja
Goddess Subadra’s chariot is decorated with red and black. The height is 44.6 feet with 14 wheels and Lotus on its crest with four red wooden horses. It is called as Padmadhwaja or Darpadalan.