The Great  Chariot Festival of Puri                                                

 

Jagannath Temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath at  Puri is One of the Four Holiest Shrines of India.  Though it celebrates as large a number as that of  24 Festivals in an year the Most Important One that it celebrates  is the  Chariot Festival  or ‘Rath Yatra’ or Car Festival.  It is celebrated  in the Fourth  Month of  Hindu Calendar called ‘Ashadha’ which  generally falls  in the month of June-July every year.

Puri is located approximately 65 km from Bhubaneshwar, the Capital City of Orissa State, India.   

Commencement

Before the commencement of the Festival Huge Wooden Statues of all the Three Deities are carved out with Big Floral Crowns or ‘Tahias’  placed  upon them. The Chariot Festival starts when Three Deities of Jagannath  Temple, namely Lord Jagannath, his Elder Brother Lord Balbhadra and Sister  Goddess  Subhadra  are taken out of Temple in Three Separate Chariots in a Spectacular Procession called ‘Pahandi’  to another Temple of Town called Gundicha Temple.   Thousands  of devotees pull  these Three Chariots  with the accompaniment of  beat of cymbals, drums, etc, with  Chanting the Names of  Deities.  Chariot of Lord Jagannath is called ‘Nandighosh’, that of Balbhadra and Subhadra are called ‘Taladhwaja’ and  ‘Padmadhwaja’ respectively.

The 45 Feet High ‘Nandighosh’ has 16 wheels decorated with red and yellow fabric on its roof.  ‘Taladhwaja’ is 44 Feet High with 14 wheels and a roof in red and green adorned with a fruit on top.  The 43 Feet Tall ‘Padmadhvaja’ has 12 wheels with a roof in red and black. Four highly decorated  wooden horses  precede each of the chariots.

Orderly Move

Chariot of Balabhadra moves first followed by those of Subhadra and Jagannath.  Chariots move slowly until they reach Gundicha Temple which is located 3 km from Jagannath Temple  and the Three Deities take rest for a night at entrance of Temple in their  chariots.  They enter Temple on the next day in a spectacular procession and stay there for Seven Days.

Return Journey

After their Seven Days stay there Deities commence their Return Journey called ‘Bahuda Yatra’ in the  same order as in Car Festival.   On his  way back Lord Jagannath stops at  ‘Ardhasani ‘ Temple or Temple of Aunt.  Lord accepts  rice cake from his Aunt .  The Three Chariots pulled by thousands of devotees reach back  the Lion Gate or ‘ Simhadwara’, the Main Gate of Temple,  in late afternoon and deities remain seated on their chariots.

Grand Finale

On the next day known as ‘Bada Ekadasi’ or on the Eleventh Day  of Waxing Phase of Moon, the Three Deities dress up in costumes of glittering gold  are worshipped by  devotees.  On the 12th Day of Hindu Lunar Calendar or on ‘ Dwadasi’ Day  the Three  Deities are taken  back to their original places of Jewelled Platform or ‘Ratna Simhasanas’  in Procession or’ in ‘Pahandi’ Style.  The Festival of Chariots comes  to a grand finale  when  the Deities occupy their Holy Seats in  Sanctum Sanctorum.

Davis  Akkara