Jagannath Rath Yatra on July 7, 2024: Date, Rituals and How it is celebrated?

The Jagannath Rath Yatra is one of the most significant and grand festivals in India, celebrated with immense fervor and devotion. This year, the auspicious festival falls on July 7, 2024. The Rath Yatra, also known as the Chariot Festival, is dedicated to Lord Jagannath, who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. This festival is primarily celebrated in Puri, Odisha, where it attracts millions of devotees from around the globe.

Historical Background:

The history of the Jagannath Rath Yatra dates back to ancient times.The legends and traditions associated with Lord Jagannath, his siblings Balabhadra and Subhadra, and their annual journey from the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple deeply root the festival.This journey symbolizes their visit to their maternal aunt’s home. The celebration of this festival is mentioned in ancient scriptures, and it has been a significant part of the cultural and religious fabric of India for centuries.

Date and Significance:

Devotees celebrate the Jagannath Rath Yatra on the second day of the bright fortnight of the month of Ashadha, which typically falls in June or July. In 2024, this will be on July 7. They choose this date based on the lunar calendar, which holds immense religious importance. So, the Rath Yatra marks Lord Jagannath’s annual visit, along with his siblings, to the Gundicha Temple, considered their birthplace.

Rituals and Preparations:

Preparations for the Rath Yatra begin months in advance. The most significant aspect of the festival is the construction of the gigantic chariots for Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra. Every year, artisans craft new chariots using wood from specific trees like phassi, dhausa, and others. They adorn the chariots with bright fabrics, intricate carvings, and paintings, each with distinct characteristics.

Rath Construction: Skilled craftsmen called ‘Maharana’ and ‘Bhoi Sevakas’ undertake the massive task of constructing the chariots, or ‘Rathas.’ They name Lord Jagannath’s chariot ‘Nandighosha,’ Lord Balabhadra’s chariot ‘Taladhwaja,’ and Subhadra’s chariot ‘Darpadalana.’

On Snana Purnima, the bathing festival begins the rituals. And, celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Jyestha, devotees bring out the idols of the deities and bathe them with 108 pitchers of water.

Anasara Period: Following the Snana Purnima, the deities take a period of rest known as ‘Anasara,’ during which they are believed to fall ill due to the extensive bathing ritual. During this time, the temple keeps the idols away from public view.

Nava Yauvana: After the Anasara period, the deities reappear with a rejuvenated look, a ritual known as ‘Nava Yauvana’ or ‘Nabakalebara’ (new embodiment), symbolizing their rebirth.

Chhera Pahara: On the day of the Rath Yatra, the king of Puri performs a symbolic ritual called ‘Chhera Pahara,’ where he sweeps the chariots with a golden broom, signifying that everyone is equal in the eyes of the Lord.

The Grand Celebration:

The Rath Yatra showcases unparalleled enthusiasm and devotion. Moreover, the festival starts with the deities emerging from the sanctum sanctorum of the Jagannath Temple in a ceremonial procession known as ‘Pahandi Bije.’ Devotees throng to catch a glimpse of the idols and seek their blessings.

Journey to Gundicha Temple

The priests place the deities on their respective chariots, and the grand procession starts. Hence, thousands of devotees pull the chariots using thick ropes, creating a spectacular sight as the massive chariots move through the streets of Puri. Therefore, the journey to the Gundicha Temple covers a distance of about 3 kilometers, and devotees believe that participating in pulling the chariots brings immense spiritual merit.

Stay at Gundicha Temple: The deities stay at the Gundicha Temple for nine days. During this period, priests perform various rituals and ceremonies, giving devotees the opportunity to offer prayers and seek blessings.

After the nine-day stay, the deities embark on their return journey to the Jagannath Temple, known as ‘Bahuda Yatra.’ Devotees celebrate this return journey with equal zeal and enthusiasm.

Significance of the Rath Yatra:

The Rath Yatra is not just a festival; it is a cultural phenomenon that brings together people from all walks of life. It signifies the importance of unity, devotion, and the eternal bond between the deities and their devotees. While, the festival also symbolizes the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, as depicted by the annual journey of the deities.

While the primary celebration takes place in Puri, people celebrate the Jagannath Rath Yatra in various parts of India and across the world. Here, cities with significant Odia communities, such as Kolkata, Ahmedabad, and New Delhi, host their own Rath Yatras, attracting large crowds. Internationally, cities like London, New York, and Sydney also witness grand celebrations organized by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

Conclusion:

The Jagannath Rath Yatra is a festival that transcends religious and cultural boundaries. Hence, it is a celebration of faith, devotion, and the rich cultural heritage of India. As millions of devotees gather to witness and participate in this grand event on July 7, 2024, the spirit of unity and devotion will once again come alive, reaffirming the timeless bond between Lord Jagannath and his devotees. Whether you are a devotee or a cultural enthusiast, experiencing the Rath Yatra is a profound and enriching experience that leaves an indelible mark on the heart and soul.

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