Rath Yatra – 12th July 2021 – Jagannath Puri
Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) has finalised the date for the revered and famous Puri Rath Yatra 2021. This year, the yatra are going to be persisted July 12, 2021 with COVID-19 protocols.
The annual Rath Yatra in Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannath is arguably the world’s most iconic religious festival. The sheer scale of the yatra boggles the mind. Those who actually witness it from close up see the unfolding of a miracle. The Rath Yatra takes place on the second day of the Ashadh Month (Shukla Paksha).
This festival was earlier celebrated in Puri only and has been written about in various Puranas. Over the centuries it spread to a few places in the Indian Subcontinent – notably Ahmedabad in Gujarat and Dhamrai (now in Bangladesh). Presently the Rath Yatra festival is celebrated in nearly 108 cities worldwide by ISKCON, along with numerous cities and towns in India.
All about the Celestial Chariots (Raths)
Three new gigantic Raths are constructed every year – one each for Shri Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra. Balbhadra is another name for Balaram, Lord Krishna’s brother and Subhadra is His sister. As per tradition, the wood for the Raths is collected from the forests of Daspalla, about 160 km away. The logs are floated down the Mahanadi River, recovered near Puri and brought to the temple. Construction of the Raths starts on Akshaya Tritiya.
Each Rath has one main name and one alternate name. Shri Jagannath’s Raths are named Nandighosha and Garudadhwaja. Balabhadra’s Raths are called Taladhwaja and Langaladhwaja. Subhadra’s Raths are named Darpadalana and Devadalana. Four ceremonial horses are attached to each rath.
Nandighosha – Shri Jagannath’s Rath with 16 wheels is 44 feet high, 35 feet long and 35 feet broad! 832 pieces of wood are used to construct this Rath. The other two Raths are only marginally smaller. Each Rath is accompanied by a Devta, nine Parshva Devtas and two Dwarpalas. These mammoth structures gave rise to a new word in the English language – Juggernaut.
The journey of Shri Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra
The Murtis of Shri Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken to the Raths in a ceremonious procession. The procession starts with the beating of drums, bells and blowing of trumpets. The chariots are pulled by devotees and taken to Gundicha Mandir, about 3 km away. There the Murtis are enshrined in the Simhasana and ritualistic puja done. The siblings (Shri Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra) stay here for seven days. Each day puja is done as it is done in the main temple. Hera Panchami is observed on the sixth day of Ashadh. On the tenth day of Ashadh the return journey begins and is known as Dakshinamukhi Yatra. The Raths stop at Mausimaa Mandir on the way back. This is their maternal aunt’s house. Here the deities are offered prasad of ‘Poha Peetha’.
On Niladri Bije – the thirteenth day of Ashadh (Shukla Paksha) the Raths return to their abode. Thus ends the iconic Rath Yatra of Shri Jagannath and siblings.
Rath Yatra 2021
This year the yatra has been allowed by the authorities but with strict guidelines. The Shri Jagannath Temple will be open to the public from July 25th, 2021.