As the parched sunburnt Earth is, now, drenched by the first showers of monsoon, the atmosphere satiate the sweet smell of the rejuvenation. In the month of Ashadh, the Lord comes out of the Sanctum Sanctorum to give the most coveted Darshana to his devotees.
The Car or Chariot Festival
The most important festival of Lord Jagannath which draws millions of devotees from around the country and different parts of the world to Puri in Odisha.It is also believed that those who take part in this festival are known to earn their passage to Heaven.
This festival begins on the day of Snana Purnima when the three deities, Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra take a prolonged bath. Post this bath, the deities retire for fifteen days and remain in isolation and no public worship is performed during this time.
The Gods come out
After the fifteen days of isolation, Jagganath, Balabhadra and Subhadra idols are mounted on their respective rathas, and so begins the Rath Yatra. It generally starts in the monsoon, and the thundering chariots amidst the rains are a sight to behold and give experience of a lifetime. In terms of gaiety and colour, it is unimaginable as Rath Yatra being second to any other festival.
It’s believed that the etymological origin of the English word Juggernaut derives from the Mega-sized Rathas. These three separate Rathas have separate features and sizes.
The chariot for Jagannath is about 45 feet high and takes about 2 months to build. The artists and painters of Puri decorate the cars with bright motifs and art.
The Rathas are brought out to the Bada Danda and travel to the Shri Gundicha Temple where they stay for nine days.Thereafter, the deities again ride the chariots back to Shri Mandir in bahuda yatra.
Equality in Worship, ‘The sweeping Gajapati’
The most significant ritual associated with the Ratha-Yatra is the Chhera Pahara where the Gajapati King wears the outfit of a sweeper and sweeps all around the deities and chariots and sprinkle sandalwood water on the path. This signified that in the eyes of Lord Jagannath, there is no distinction between the powerful sovereign Gajapati and the most humble devotee. It is also seen in the main offering to the Lord the common rice cake consumed by everyone in Odisha,the Poda Pitha and no dainty stuff.
Intense Fervour and Deep Reverence
The sacred journey of the Gods is highly revered by the masses but the highlight of this festival is undoubtedly the stupendous and gorgeous chariots which will take your breath away. In terms of splendor, devotion, grandeur and liveliness, it is one of the grandest and most memorable spectacles of India. The God of the people rides to give Darshana even to the underrated deprived, in his procession everyone is an equal participant, pulling the Rathas to the immortal culmination of devotion and fervor.
This Rath Yatra allows the human soul to be driven by the pure unconditional love for the Supreme and its creation, is a reminder of the Nature’s Cycle of change, as is with the World. Nothing is stationary, and is always moving and ever-expanding.