SC gives nod for Lord Jagannath’s annual Rath Yatra; here’s why it is historically significant

Pic: PIB Bhubaneswar

The Grand Trunk Road also known as the Bada Danda, in Puri, bears the hues of festivity and fervour. The colourful flags, lakhs and lakhs of devotees dancing and humming as the beats of drums, conch shells and gongs resonate the 2.5km stretch from the Jagannath Temple to the Shri Gundicha Temple. This is how a typical year would look like in Puri. However, this year is different.

Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a general apprehension as to what would happen this year, will the yatra be even held or not. However, the Supreme Court, on Monday, passed a judgement in favour of the Rath Yatra. The Apex Court said, “Puri Rath Yatra will be held with coordination of the Temple committee, State and Central government without compromising with a health issue.”

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Here’s the historic significance of this nine-day festival –

The three deities are said to have fallen sick after the famous Snana Purnima, the first key activity in the festival. Here they are bathed with 108 pots of water drawn from the northern well of the temple. It is said to be the first time during the Odia calendar that the deities are brought out of the Garbhagriha (sanctum-sanctorum) for their devotees to have a glimpse of them. Right after the Snana Purnima, the deities go into Anasara (sickness) and cannot be seen by the devotees.

Exactly a fortnight later, the Gods are taken out for their annual outing, on the Rathas (chariots) during Pahandi Bije. The Chariot festival of Lord Jagannatha of Puri, Sri Gundicha, commences on the Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya (second day in bright fortnight of Ashadha month) every year. The annual festival marks the visit of Lord

Jagannatha, and his siblings Balabhadra and Subhadra, to the Gundicha Temple or his maternal place in Puri. The three Rathas have rather distinctive differences and are marked with various colour schemes, number of wheels, flags and even guardians. The woods for the chariot are uniquely obtained and only readied by carpenters with hereditary rights and a long lineage in the same.

The Gajapati (king) of Puri then sweeps the chariot before it rolls. The devotees pull the massive chariots, and one after the other, the Lords embark on yet another Rath Yatra.

The Lords return after a seven-day long stay at the Maa Gundicha Temple, during the Bahuda Yatra. Adhara Pana is the next activity wherein a sweet drink is offered to the invisible spirits and souls that have graced the celestial event of the Lords.

They then disembark the chariots to return to the Ratna Singhasana (Throne of jewels) in the Puri Temple during the Niladri Bije. However, after all is said and done, Goddess Lakshmi,

Lord Jagannath’s wife is said to be angry at the Lord for being away from so long and locks one of the doors to the sanctum-sanctorum. To appease the Goddess, the Lord offers her Rasgullas, originally known as Khira Mohana, during the Bachanika ritual.

The annual Rath Yatra has immense meaning hidden in it. In today’s world where race, caste and creed are often the reasons of prejudice, the Lord teaches one to accept each one for who they are, as he comes out every year to give Darshan to non-Hindus and foreign nationals also.

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