Updated May 30th, 2024 at 10:20 IST

Rath Yatra 2024: Dates, Rituals, Celebration

The elaborate rituals, rich history, and grand festivities make it a unique and unforgettable experience for all who participate.

Rath Yatra | Image:Freepik
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Rath Yatra is one of the most significant and celebrated festivals in India, particularly in the state of Odisha. This grand festival is primarily dedicated to Lord Jagannath, a form of Lord Vishnu, and is marked by the journey of the deity's chariots.  Puri Rath Yatra 2024 will start on the 29th June and will be celebrated till 7th July. Let’s look at the history, rituals, and celebrations associated with Rath Yatra.

History of Rath Yatra

The origins of Rath Yatra can be traced back to ancient times. The festival is centred  around the Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha, which was constructed in the 12th century by King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. The temple is a major pilgrimage site and one of the four Hindu Char Dham pilgrimage sites.

Rath Yatra commemorates the annual visit of Lord Jagannath, along with his siblings, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra, to the Gundicha Temple. This event signifies the journey of the deities to their aunt’s home, and they return to the main temple after a period of nine days. This festival symbolises unity, equality, and the devotion of the people towards their deities.

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Rituals of Rath Yatra

The Rath Yatra involves several intricate rituals that are performed with great reverence

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Rath Yatra | Image: Freepik

Snana Purnima

The festival preparations begin with Snana Purnima, which is the ceremonial bathing of the deities. The idols are brought out of the sanctum and bathed with 108 pitchers of water drawn from the temple well.

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Anavasara

After the bathing ceremony, the deities are believed to fall ill and rest for a fortnight in a ritual known as Anavasara. During this period, devotees are not allowed to see them.

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Netrotsava

Before the actual Rath Yatra, the deities are given a new appearance in a ceremony called Netrotsava or "festival of the eyes," marking their recovery from the illness.

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Rath Yatra Day

On the main day, the idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Goddess Subhadra are brought out of the temple and placed on three massive, beautifully decorated chariots. These chariots are then pulled by thousands of devotees through the streets of Puri to the Gundicha Temple, about 3 kilometres away.

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Sandhya Darshan and Hera Panchami

During their stay at Gundicha Temple, various rituals and daily worships are conducted. On the fifth day, Hera Panchami is celebrated, marking Goddess Lakshmi's visit to the Gundicha Temple in search of Lord Jagannath.

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Return Journey (Bahuda Yatra)

After the nine-day stay, the deities embark on their return journey, known as Bahuda Yatra, to the main temple. The return journey is also celebrated with equal fervour.

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Celebration of Rath Yatra

Rath Yatra is celebrated with immense enthusiasm and devotion. Millions of devotees from across India and around the world flock to Puri to witness this grand spectacle. The streets of Puri are filled with people singing devotional songs, dancing, and chanting the name of Lord Jagannath.

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The festival also has a significant cultural impact, with local artists and craftsmen displaying their talents through the construction and decoration of the chariots. The chariots themselves are architectural marvels, made anew each year from specific types of wood and adorned with intricate designs and motifs.

Various communities set up makeshift camps along the procession route, offering food, water, and medical aid to the devotees. The sense of unity and communal harmony is palpable, as people from diverse backgrounds come together to celebrate the divine journey.

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Published May 30th, 2024 at 10:20 IST