Ratha Yatra is a festival associated with Lord Jagannath held at Puri in the state of Odisha, India.
It is the oldest Ratha Yatra taking place in India and the World, whose descriptions can be found in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana and Kapila Samhita.
This annual festival is celebrated on Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya (second day in bright fortnight of Ashadha month).
The festival commemorates Jagannath’s annual visit to Gundicha Temple via Mausi Maa temple (maternal aunt’s home) near Balagandi Chaka, Puri.
As part of Ratha Yatra, the deities of Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra and younger sister Subhadra are taken out in a procession out of Jagannath temple and placed in the Ratha which is known as Pahandi, then the Ratha is pulled to the gate of Gundicha Temple.
The next day again in a procession the deities are brought inside Gundicha temple, which is known as pahandi of Jagannath Deva, and remain there for nine days.
The procession starts with ‘Madan Mohan’ then ‘Sudarshana’ Balabhadra, Subhadra, and Jagannath Deva.
Then the deities return to the main temple. The return journey of Puri Jagannath Ratha Yatra is known as Bahuda Yatra or Punar Yatra.
Three richly decorated chariots, resembling temple structures, are pulled through the main street of Puri called Badadanda.
This commemorates the annual journey of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and their sister Subhadra to their aunt’s temple, the Gundicha Temple which is situated at a distance of 2 kms from their temple.
This is the only day when devotees who are not allowed in the temple premises, such as non-Hindus and foreigners, can get their glimpse of the deities.
During the festival, devotees from all over the world go to Puri with an earnest desire to help in pulling the Lords’ chariots with ropes.
The huge processions accompanying the chariots play devotional songs with drums, sounding gongs of bell metal, cymbals, etc.
Children line the streets through which the chariot will pass and add to the mass chorus.
The Ratha carts themselves are approximately 45 feet (14 m) high and are pulled by the thousands of pilgrims who turn up for the event.
The chariots are built anew each year only from a particular type of tree.
Millions of devotees congregate at Puri for this annual event from all over the country and abroad.
It is also broadcast live on many Indian and foreign television channels, and many websites also telecast Jagannath Ratha Yatra live.