Ratha Yatra is a Hindu festival associated with Lord Jagannath held in Puri in the state of Odisha, India. It is the oldest Ratha Yatra taking place in India and the world, descriptions of which can be found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana and Kapila Samhita.
Rath Yatra in 2021
This year, the Rath Yatra will take place on July 12, 2021. It is considered part of the Char Dham pilgrimages. The Puri Rath Yatra displays three majestic chariots possessing the idols of the deities – Lord Jagannath, Lord Balrama and Devi Subhadra.
Why is Jagannath Rath Yatra Celebrated
The Jagannath Rath Yatra symbolises the journey of Shri Krishna from Dwaraka, a kingdom that he ruled, to Braj Bhoomi (modern-day Mathura and Vrindavan), a place where he grew up. It is also believed to be a recreation of Lord Krishna’s departure from Gokul after being invited by Kansa to Mathura.
1. Brahma Paribartan
To symbolize reincarnation, old temple idols are destroyed and new idols are inaugurated. The creation of the new idols is an interesting ritual in itself. During this sculpture, prayers and Vedic chants are sung from outside the area. Once completed, the idols are taken to the inner sanctum of the temple. The song procession will follow the idol. The old idols are placed in front of the new idol, face to face. Then songs and prayers are performed to transfer the supreme power from the old idol to the new one.
2. Koili Baikuntha Burial
The old idol is then taken to the Koili Baikuntha. After a sacred ceremony, the old idols will be buried. This ceremony happens before dawn. It is said that if any commoner sees this ritual, it would be fatal. Only the priests who perform this ritual could witness it.
3. Ritual Bath
18 days prior to the festival, the idols will be given a ritual bath with 108 pitchers of fresh water. This ritual is called as Snana Yatra. This ceremony takes place on the full moon day of Jyeshtha month. It is a belief that the idols would feel unwell after the bath and the idols are kept away from the public until the Ratha Yatra festival.
Ratha Yatra Rituals and Dates for 2021
- Sri Gundicha: July 12, 2021. Placement of the deities in the chariots and journey to Gundicha Temple. The first chariot to move is that of Lord Balabhadra. Next is Subhadra’s, and last Lord Jagannath’s. Pulling of the chariots starts at 4 p.m. after the relevant rituals have been completed.
- Hera Panchami: July 16, 2021. Goddess Lakshmi, the wife of Lord Jagannath, gets concerned because he hasn’t come back. Irritated, she goes to Gundicha Temple to find him and see what’s going on. Devotees carry the deity in a palanquin to the temple.
- Bahuda Yatra: July 20, 2021. The grand return journey to the Lion’s Gate entrance of Jagannath Temple. Rituals take place from noon to 2 p.m. The chariots are drawn in reverse order, commencing at around 4 p.m.
- Suna Besha: July 21, 2021. Decoration of the deities in gold ornaments. This ritual was introduced during the reign of king Kapilendra Deb in 1430 and is particularly popular. It happens in the evening, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
- Niladri Bijaya/Bije: July 23, 2021. Deities are placed back inside Jagannath Temple.
How To Go Jagannath
- By Air: Though Puri doesn’t have an airport, but the Bhubaneswar Airport, which is 53 kms away from Puri helps in connecting the city to other cities of the country. Flights to all major destinations ply to and from the airport and a cab or local bus can be used for visiting Puri from the airport.
- By Road: From local transport buses to cabs and taxis, there are many ways in which one can reach Puri. It is connected with neighbouring cities through well constructed roads.
- By Rail: Puri has a railway junction that connects it to the other parts of the country and vice-versa. Regular and direct train services are available to cities like Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, etc.
Best Time To Visit Puri
Months ranging from October to February are ideal for a visit to Puri as the climate stays cool, pleasant, and soothing during this time. During these months, the climate stays pleasant and Puri tourism also touches its peak hosting the maximum number of visitors.