Puri Rath Yatra: All About It

Every year on Ashad Dwitiya (Months of June-July), one of the biggest festivals of Puri, Orissa is organized which is called the Jagannath Rath Yatra.The 15 day festival is celebrated to commemorate the annual visit of the presiding deities of the Jagannath Puri temple to their Aunt’s house

The Jagannath Puri Temple is one of the four most sacred temples of India–the other three being: Rameshwaram in South, Dwarka in West and Badrinath in the Himalayas. This is the only temple where three siblings are worshiped together.

Lord Jagannath was originally worshipped by Savaras—a Scheduled Tribe of Orissa. This Festival symbolizes the Lord’s desire to come out of the temple for a brief period to give Darshan to the ‘Patitas’, (i. e., the lowest of the low) and redeem them.




The mythological story associated with the construction the temple goes like:

When Shri Krishna was being cremated in Dwarka, Balarama took his ashes and tried to drown himself with it in the ocean. Subhadra also followed his steps. At the same time, on the eastern shore of India, King Indradyumna of Jagannath Puri dreamt that the Lord’s body would float up to Puri’s shores. To honor him he should build a massive temple in the city and sanctify the wooden statues of Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra. The bones of Lord Krishna’s body should be put in the hollow in the statue’s back. The dream came true. The king found the splinters of bone and took them. It is believed that the Gods’ architect, Vishwakarma, arrived as an old carpenter to carve the statues. He made it clear that while carving the statues nobody should disturb him, and in case anybody did, he would vanish leaving the work unfinished. But after some months the impatient Indradyumna peeked inside the room. Vishwakarma disappeared immediately. Despite the unfinished statues, the king sanctified them; placing Lord Krishna’s holy cinders in the hollow of the statue and installed them in the temple.




The construction of the chariots is undertaken by carpenters known as “Maharana”, who hold hereditary rights for the same. Nearly 125 temple carpenters (including helping assistants) work for 58 days at the Mahakhala (in front of the Palace) and chisel out 2,188 pieces of wood for the construction of the three chariots of Rath The three chariots of Balarama, Subhadra and Jagannath are newly constructed every year with wood of specified trees like phassi, dhausa, etc. They are customarily brought from the ex-princely state of Dasapalla by a specialist team of carpenters who have hereditary rights and privileges for the same. The construction work commences on the AKSHAYA TRITIYA. The Kerala Coir Corporation provides these specially manufactured coconut fiber ropes. Iron nails, brackets, clamps, etc., used for this purpose are indigenously prepared by the native smiths near the Dolavedi and it takes them more than a month. The techno-engineering details of the chariots are indeed a technical marvel by any standard for their static and dynamic stability.



Name of the Chariot Presiding Deities Height Length & Breadth No. of wheels and their heights Color of The Cloth No. of Side deities No. of horses and their Color
Taladhwaja Shree Balabhadra 45 Feet 33′ * 33′ 14/6′-6” Green, Red 9 idols, the door guard deities 2 idols 4 , Black
Nandighosa Shree Jagannath 45′-6” 34′-6” * 34′-6” 16/6′ Yellow, Red 9 idols, the door guard deities 2 idols 4 ,White
Devadalana Devi Subhadra 44′-6” 31′-6” * 31′-6” 12/6′-8” Black, Red 9 idols, the door guard deities 2 idols 4 ,Red




Every festival has its unique customs and surely this Yatra has many.

The Jagannath Temple of Orissa is one of the few orthodox Hindu temples in India where only the followers of Hinduism are allowed to enter the premises and offer prayers However; the door of the Jagannath Temple is open to all, irrespective of caste and religion, during the Rath Yatra Festival.

A week before the Yatra the door to the temple is closed as the lord is suffering from fever. So after he recovers he decided to go to his aunt’s place and the Yatra commences.

When leaving the Puri temple, the front road in front of the Lord’s Rath is supposed to be sweeped by the present king of puri with a Gold handled broom. This king can be king of Nepal or Puri for only they belong to the Chandravanshi dynasty of Lord Krishna.

It is said that initially the Lord is adamant to move.Hundreds of people push and pull but only after hours of this cosmic effort the Rath finally starts moving.

A very interesting but strange ritual associated with this chariot festival is that the devotees chuck various possible obscenities and sacrilegious abuses at the God. It is an attempt to bring the Lord down from his glorious pedestal to a human level.

At Baripada in Mayurbhanj district of Orissa, only women are allowed to pull the Rath of Subhadra.

Upon reaching his aunt’s home, Lord Jagannath is fed his favorite sweet called PODA PITHA (fried cheese cake. Yes even god loves it!)



2015 is the year of Nabakalebara.

This year the idols are replaced with new ones as it has two Ashad months. This happens every 12 to 19 years. This event is known as Nav Kalevar (meaning “new body”). The idols are designed exactly as the original and also painted in the same manner. The Nabakalebara of the three deities, replacing the old idols with new ones – is an elaborate process in which they relinquish their old bodies and assume a new one. The last time Nabakalebara happened in 1996. The Nabakalebara process starts with the servitor starting their journey for the search of neem trees from which the idols were carved. This time, the neem trees were found in Jagatsinghpur and Khurda districts.


Being a overly crowded event there are risks of stampedes as seen this year but in the end it’s all about the faith.

The English word juggernaut comes from the Sanskrit word Jagannath which is used to describe Lord Krishna. When translated, it closely means master of the world. Nowadays, the word is used to describe an unstoppable force. So maybe mythology is not that far from reality. Think about it.


To visit the famous Rath Yatra next year:

LOOK AT: http://www.rathyatra.net


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