Jul 2, 2022
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About the Indian Festival of Chariots (Ratha Yatra)
The Jagannath triad are usually worshipped in the sanctum of the temple, but once during the month of Asadha (rainy season of Odisha, usually falling on the month of June or July), they are brought out onto the Bada Danda (Puri's main high street) and travel 3 km to the Shri Gundicha Temple, in huge chariots, allowing the public to have Darshan (i.e., holy view). This festival is known as Ratha Yatra, meaning the festival (yatra) of the chariots (ratha). The rathas are huge wheeled wooden structures, which are built anew every year and are pulled by the devotees. The chariot for Jagannath is approximately 14 metres (45 ft) high and 3.3 square metres (35 sq ft) and takes about 2 months to construct. The artists and painters of Puri decorate the cars and paint flower petals etc. on the wheels, the wood-carved charioteer and horses, and the inverted lotuses on the wall behind the throne. The huge chariot of Jagannath pulled during Ratha Yatra is the etymological origin of the English word juggernaut.
The most significant ritual associated with the Ratha Yatra is the chhera pahara. During the festival, the Gajapati king wears the outfit of a sweeper and sweeps all around the deities and chariots in the Chera Pahara (Sweeping with water) ritual. This ritual signified that under the lordship of Jagannath, there is no distinction between the powerful sovereign, the Gajapati king, and the most humble devotee. As per another ritual, when the deities are taken out from the Shri Mandir to the chariots in Pahandi vijay, disgruntled devotees hold a right to offer kicks, slaps and make derogatory remarks to the images, and Jagannath behaves like a commoner. On the way back, the three Lords stop at the Mausi Maa Temple and the deities are offered poda pitha, a kind of baked cake which is generally consumed by the poor sections only. The observance of the Ratha Yatra of Jagannath dates back to the period of the Puranas and the Indian Kings is now celebrated Worldwide, though the grandest festival in terms of scale and popularity takes place at Puri.
About Lord Jagannath:
Jagannath (Odia: Jagannatha) literally means "Lord of the Universe" and is a deity worshipped in regional traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism in India and Bangladesh. Jagannath is considered an ‘abstract form’ of Lord Vishnu or Lord Krishna. He is a part of a triad along with his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra symbolizing “universal brotherhood and sisterhood” and ‘Unity in diversity’. Jagannath is considered a truly non-sectarian deity. He is significant regionally in the Indian states of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Gujarat, Assam, Manipur and Tripura. He is also significant to the Hindus of Bangladesh.
The idol of Jagannath is a carved and decorated wooden stump with large round eyes and asymmetric face, and the idol has a conspicuous absence of hands or legs. The worship procedures, sacraments and rituals associated with Jagannath are syncretic and include rites that are uncommon in Hinduism (For example, Jagannath lives in the temple as a common man; who brushes teeth, takes bath, becomes sick, observes 14 day isolation) from the time immemorial. Unusually, the icon is made of wood and replaced with a new one at regular intervals (every 12-19 years).
The Jagannath temple in Puri, Odisha is particularly significant in Vaishnavism, and is regarded as one of the Char Dham (4 major pilgrimage sites) in India. The Jagannath temple is massive, over 61 metres (200 ft) high in the Nagara Hindu temple style, and one of the best surviving specimens of Kalinga architecture, namely Odisha art and architecture. It has been one of the major pilgrimage destinations for Hindus since about 800 CE.Regarding the origin of Lord jagannath, In hymn 10.155 of the Rig veda, there is mention of a Daru (wooden log) floating in the ocean as apurusham (a drft saviour of the mankind and the World). The Valmiki Ramayana mentions Jagannath and the mythical place where King Janak performed a yajna and tilled land to obtain Sita is the same as the area in which the Gundicha temple is situated in Puri (Odisha)., The Mahabharata, describes King Indradyumna's Ashvamedh Yajna and the advent of the four deities of the Jagannath cult. Thus, Jagannath origin goes back to two million BC.