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Details of Rathayatra

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In the month of ashada Jagannath dev steps out of his royal palace onto the streets of Puri in what is known as the chariot festival of puri -- rathayatra .


The collection of wood for these rathas start on the auspicious day of vasanta panchami on the month of magha . The woods are brought from ranapur forest in the dashapaallaa district of orissa . Then on the day of akhshaya tritiya in the month of vaishakha the construction of these rathas begin . They are completed on the day of jagannath netrotsav or the day on which the eyes of jagannath are repainted after sananayatra . The three rathas are constructed by a particular class of men who aqquires this right from their forefathers .




The name of the ratha of jagannatha is nandighosh . It stands tall at the height of 45 foot . 832 peices of wood go into its construction . The dwhaja or flag at its top is named trailakyamohini . The ratha has chakra or garuda deva at its top thereby gaining its name chakradhwaja or garudadhwaja . The two dwarpala or door gaurds of this ratha are brahmaa and indra . The other presiding deities for this ratha are varaha , govardhan , gopikrishna , nrisimha , rama , naarayan , trivikrama , hanuman and rudra . This ratha has 16 wheels representing the shodasha-kala or 16 artforms . Each wheel is 7 foot in diameter . The ratha is coloured red and yellow . The protector of this ratha is sri nrisimha natha . The sarathi or charioteer is named matali . The four horses are named samkha , valaataka , sweta and haridrakhsha and are white in colour . Apart form the surrounding dieties there are some rishis in this ratha . They are narada , devala , vyasadeva , sukadeva , parashara , vashishta , vishwamitra and maarichi . The rope that is used to pull this chariot is called samkhachuda and the kalasa or pitcher below the topmost flag is named hiranmay .




The name of this ratha is taaladhwaja or haladwaja and is 47 foot high. It is constructed from 763 pieces of wood . The colour of this ratha is red and green . The flag is named unamini and there are two parakeets beside the kalasha named swadha and vishwasa . The surrounding deities in this ratha are ganesha , kartika , sarvamangala , pralamva , halayudha , mrityunjay , naateswar , maheshwar and sheshadeva . Each wheel is 6 foot in diameter and there is 14 wheels in total symbolising chaturdasha bhuvan or fourteen worlds . The protector of this ratha is sri sheshaavatar . The sarathi is named daaruk and there are four black horses by the name of tivra , ghora , srama , dirgha .





The ratha of devi subhadara is called devidalan , deviratha or padmadhwaja . It is 43 foot high and each wheel is 6 foot in diameter . This ratha needs 593 peices of wood fro her construction . The flag of this ratha is caled naadamvik . The two birds beside the flag are called sruti and smriti . The colour of the ratha is red and black . The surrounding deites are chandi , chamunda , ugratara , vanadurga , shulidurga , shyamaakaali , mangala , vaarahi and vimala . They are accompanied by their respective bhairavas . There are four wheels of this ratha which symbolises the twelve months . The protector of this ratha is sri vanadurga . the sarathi is arjuna . The four horses are black in colour and are named rachika , mochika , jita and aparaajitaa . Subhadra's ratha carries the sudarshana .



Each of these rathas are divided into 38 sections . Starting from the base towards the top they are named as follows :












rushipata etc





The dieties are slowly brought to the ratha in their characteristic slow motion which is locally called pahandi vijaya . The term originates from the sanskrit word padahundan meaning slow small steps . The responsibility of bringing the dieties to their respective rathas is entrusted to a particular class of non brahmin men called dayita-pati . They are local people of tribal caste and vishwavasu clan .


In ancient days the king used to appoint a special class of labourers to pull the rathas . They were named kallabathiya and were donated with tax free lands to meet with their living expenses in return of their service at the temple once a year . The records of 1848 shows that 4200 of such men were employed in pulling these rathas . However with a gradual increase in number of pilgrims , with the increase in transport facilities their requirements gradually decreased .


The rathayatra commences only after the king of puri performs his service to bhagavan in form of sweeping the ratha with scented water and flower petals , which is called chheraa pahraa .


When the ratha arrives at balagandi which is midway to the final destination the rathas stop for his rest . The deities are bathed in mirror reflection with panchamrita and scented water . Then the sevaks apply perfumed oils and sandal paste to help him cool off . Next he is offered various cooling drinks and fruits such as coconut , dates and sweets . This is called balgandi bhoga .


After this the rathas are finally drawn to their destination of gundicha mandir .




Every 12 years jagannath deva changes his form which is know as navakalevara . This takes place usually after every twelve years but more specifically in the month of ashada with two purnimaas . The last navakalebara was in 1996 .


In the begining the brahmins visit the mangala devi temple in kaakatpura . After worshipping her duely and asking for her blessings the dayitapatis , royal purohit and learned brahmanas set off to find out the suitable tree .


It must be a neem or margosa tree and it must have certain auspicious signs on it . The tree of jagannath deva should be slightly dark in colour , the one of balarama should be slightly whitish and of subhadra it should be reddish . The trees must have the auspicious signs of samkha chakraa gada and padma . They must have three , five or seven branches and must not have nest of birds on it . The leaves must not be exccessively bitter but should have a pleasant taste . They must be situated at the confluence of three roads or on the banks of a river . After finding out the suitable trees a yagna is performed for three days at its base . Then the tree is first struck with a gold axe followed by a silver axe and finally by a iron axe . The leaves are then stripped off and buried in a trench . Then the logs are covered with clothes and decorated with flower garlands and finally brought to the temple of devi mangala . The bullock carts used to transport the logs must be newly constructed from banyan or bilwa wood and must have four wheels . From the mangala temple they are brought to the temple at puri and the local villagers often pull the carts themselves to their destination.






In this way the puri rathaytra is carried on every year with ever increasing devotion and participation . Jagannath deva jayatu !!




One last point of thought -- In modern years rathaytra has been taking place virually all round the year in defiance of traditional scritpures . The reason forwarded is mainly relating to the loving bond between god and devotee . But do you think that such a deviation is justified by saying that the devotees are worshipping their loved ishta ? By that logic one can easily perform dola yatra or jhulan or chandan yatra anytime of the year !!

Is this right and justified ????

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I'm reading, wondering where we kill the goat. Then in the last paragraph, there it is.

initially i had in my mind just to write about the glories of rathayaytra . but then as i wrote i remembered that this is a forum for discussion and there should be an element of discussion in the topic .


now personally i differ from those who hold the opinion that rathayatra can be held all year round , because it is a ashada festival as per scriptures and every festival has its time . at the same time i must say the many of those devotees have wonderful exemplary love towards jagannath deva that many indians often dont have !! and strictly speaking it is not a wrong or sin to take out jagannathdeva at some other time . i know that it is done out of more practical reasons in foreign soil . even sanskrit verses say "yasmin deshe yadaachaar " -- the rituals differ in different nations . so it cannot be held as wrong or sinfull .


but it does amount a direct deviation from the scriptures and customs .


i was just wondering what other vaishnavas and non vaishnava people think of this !! it was just to promote a healthy discussion to have a greater understanding of other peoples perspectives .


i have attended rathayatras of the particular institution personally and the ambience is highly spiritual and of love !! i cannot overlook or criticise that !!

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The rathayatra has become famous all over the world, thanks to the work of the infallible spiritual master His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.



true . the credit for this goes to him alone .


but i was thinking whether it is right to conduct rathayatra all year round .

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Hi everyone,

I am a Hare Krishna Chanter since 1979 and

I am not aware that anyone conducts rathayatra all year round.


What I've heard is that the complaint is that the festival is done on days other than One (1) Singular Day simultaneously in sync with the Puri Temple in Orissa.


There is no need for complaint from any one --except if blasphemy is performed, which has not been the issue.


[The complainers should just thank our lucky stars --and, if possible, send me some maha-sweets].

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As far as I see it, the scriptures have in particular, the Yatra at Puri in mind, in which case it is an Ashada festival and should not deviate from the annual cycle. In other places though this isn't possible in which case the verse you quoted to would be applied.


I think too, if the Lord didn't want his rath taken out at other times he wouldn't allow it. He is most mercyfull though especially to those of us who may never make it to Puri Rathayatra and who will never step foot in the Puri temple. If it was wrong I don't think it would be successful around the world ike it is.


Thank you too for the great description of the festival :) I wasn't aware of all that went into the construction :)

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I think too, if the Lord didn't want his rath taken out at other times he wouldn't allow it. He is most mercyfull though especially to those of us who may never make it to Puri Rathayatra and who will never step foot in the Puri temple. If it was wrong I don't think it would be successful around the world ike it is.


that is another way of looking at things and a good one-lord wouldnt have allowed that to happen if he didnt want it . its sad that there are people who are not allowed in the temple . but with the rising levels of liberalism and decresing influence of priests in india , i think the day is not far off when this practice is voluntarily stopped or forced to stop by the government .


now all that is left to do is to pray that this happens in our lifetimes !!

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  • 2 weeks later...

i am just back after attending prabhu jagannath's punar-rathayatra in puri and thought of sharing these with all .


the first day as i was about to enter the gundicha mandir where jagannath is residing for seven festive days i saw a old lady of western descent quietly doing a parikrama round the gundhicha temple with the chanting bag in her hands . as she walked along she sometimes touched her forehead onto the big fortified boundarywall of the ancient temple . being a westerner she did not have the 'right' to get inside and have a glimpse of the lord . it was almost 1'o clock in the morning and sun was beating down heavily . i felt like she was some dreadfull 'enemy' who was to be kept outside the fortified battlements of a deity whom we call(mistakenly ?) jagannath !!! i felt really bad .


again in the evening there was a western saffrom devotee standing at the doors of gundicha gazing intently inside the premises while jostling crowds of indian people happily entered the temple . there was no sign of remorse on the saffrom devotees face - perhaps he is accustomed to the facts and has accepted the jurisdiction . but looking at him , far away from his home and culture just for sake of jagannath i wished that i could back out and give him the 'right' or entry . actually i felt far less eligible to enter the temple than him .


what do we call this ? brahminical hypocrisy ? corruption ? or divine business with a 'commodity ' called god ? looking at the behaviour of the infamous puri pandas and priests one couldnt help but think that all this is a big organised business . there is no place for the poor . the more the amount you pay the more close you get to jagannath . the poor remains the deprived . the day after rathayatra common people are allowed to climb up the chariots parked in the front of the main temple and hug their lordships(cant decribe how beautifull experience it was) . but the next moment i was horrified to hear a panda shouting abuses(mother f#@% in hindi ) to some helpless pilgrim for paying less money , all the while leaning on one of the arms of jagannath !!!


on second thoughts i realise that whatever happens is for good and according to will of the lord !! and looking into history we can see that it has been a standard practice to use god as a commodity by the priests . but judging the lives of great saints i realised their power to derive the mellow even out of such anarchy !! they came , extracted the honey and bathed in ananda and quietly left . perhaps it is their way to teaching to us how to see good in all . i am thinking of chaitanya mahaprabhu .......... he didnt even step inside the sanctum sanctorum and yet had the highest prema !!


while the ratha of sri jagannath was on move the nearby shop owners started throwing small plastic made pouches of distilled water(the ones that are commonly sold for drinking) at the rathas . they banged against the giant charitoteer's cheeks , wheels and at the priests standing atop the ratha !! some of these pouches didnt burst and were thrown back by the priest to the shops !! it was a kind of miniature water-holi !! all the while there was thunderous sounds of "haribolo" from the crowds . a perfect way of rejoicing with the lord !! they are his neighbours after all .



in the jagmohan or the second hall of puri temple there stands the ancient garuda stambha where sri chaitanya stood to gaze upon their lordships . he used to gently hold on to the nearby stone wall of the temple . regular usage gradually caused three small indents to be formed in that adjoining wall from the three nails of three middle fingers of sri chaitanya . and it is visible there still today . people come and touch their forehead on that sacred mark !!


the day after rathaytra they allow people to climb up the ratha and hug jagnnath deva . this was more than i could have expected !! i barely stepped on the ratha when it started to rain in torrents . lord gave me shelter in his chariot . it was a moment of total bliss ..........indescribable . i hugged the lord with both my arms and then stood at a corner as the rains lashed across the chariot verandah .


guess what ? the main body of lord sri jagannath is circular in shape instead of what is usually shown in commercially available deities and paintings !! and his body is soft like a baby !! this is because he is covered with soft clothes and sandal paste many times over . except his face the rest are covered with such wrappings . he felt like a giant soft toy !! ha ha ............and he was looking so sweet and yet majestic .


yesterday (3rd july) night they had the famous sona-besha where the lord is dressed entirely in gold . he is decorated in gold hands and gold feet . there is a massive gathering of millions of men from all over for this occassion !


one day as i was about to enter the gundhica temple i was approached by a poor blind couple asking me to show the way to the entrance of the temple . they had sticks in their hand and groped to find their way . as i led them to the queue i couldnt control my emotions ...........they are blind and have probably never even seen a human or the world in which they live ....................they can never see god the way we do ...................they are blind..........and yet they are slowly making their way to jagannath . i dont know .........probably never can know how will they feel his (jagannaths) presence if not by seeing .!! the only question that hammered in my mind was " why ? " ......karma ? sins of past birth ? what made these sincere bhaktas so miserable ? miserable ? on second thought i felt it is me who is miserable . as they slowly made their way to their destination i saw their heads dissapear in the crowds . all i thought was ........." perhaps they have greater eyes than me ! after all whoever has ever seen him with eyes of flesh and blood ?




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Dear Sambya,


Thank you so much for the very wonderful experience(report) you made on Jaganatha Puna Rathayatra at Puri. It was as if I was there also. It`s amazing the three indents on the stone where Lord Caitanya held unto are still there.


God Bless!




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