Ratha Yatra also called Car festival or Chariot festival is a major festival of Odisha. Ratha Yatra means ratha means “chariot” and yatra meaning “journey“, this festival involves annual journey of the dieties.
This festival draws millions of tourists both in-land and foreigners to the Grand Road. And the deities come down from the main temple to the Grand Road to meet the ocean of pilgrims.
The Rath yatra festival commences on 25th June, Sunday 2017.
Preparations for the festival start much before. Every year new chariots are constructed. Only the ‘Sarathi‘ (charioteer), Ghoda (horses), Kalasa (Crowning element) and Parswa devatas are not made new every year. They are prepared on the year of Navakalebara
(New-body ceremony). In terms of the provisions laid down in the Puri Car Festival code, it is the responsibility of the Forest Department of Govt. of Orissa to supply the required timber for construction of the Rathas free of cost every year.
The construction of the Rathas starts on the Akshaya Trutiya day. Each of these grand and very huge Rathas (chariots) have different specifications:
The chariot of Lord Jagannath is called ‘Nandighosa’ – has 18 wheels and is 23 cubits in height. Jagannatha’s ratha is marked with a cakra and garuda, is yellow in color, with four white horses. The protecting deity is Nrsimha.
The chariot of Balabhadra is called ‘Taladhvaja’ – has 16 wheels and is 22 cubits in height. Baladeva’s cart is blue, with a palm tree insignia, and four black horses. The protecting deity is Sesa.
The chariot of Subhadra is called’ Devadalana’ – has 14 wheels and is 21 cubits in height. Subhadra’s cart is black, with lotus insignia, protected by Vanadurga.
These rathas are extremely, beautifully decorated with lots of special colored fabric, colors, flowers, beads, mirrors and etc. Various symbols and signs are also used for the pilgrims to distinguish between the three Gods. The idols of these three Deities are also made of wood and they are religiously replaced by new ones after every 12 years. This is a very peculiar and rare custom, exclusive only to the temple of Puri.
The Puri Rath Yatra is world famous for the crowd that it attracts. Puri being the abode of these three deities, the place plays host to devotees, tourists and some millions of pilgrims from across India and abroad. Many artists and artisans are engaged in building these three chariots, weaving its fabric covers that dress up the chariots, and painting them in the right shades and motifs to give them the best possible looks.
Then comes the graceful day of Yatra, when these 45-feet high idols are pulled by millions of devotees came here from all over the world. The act of pulling the Rath by the ropes during Rath Yatra Puri is believed to be an extremely religious act, the belief which attracts millions of tourists from all over the world.