Jagannath Rath Yatra

Iskcon Vapi

Jagannath Rath Yatra

The Rath Yatra Festival  or “The Festival of Chariot” as it often called, is a centuries old festival which takes place in Jagannath Puri, Orissa,  India.  At the height of Indian summer, right at the beginning of the Monsoon, the Lord of Puri goes to his “Garden Palace” for the annual summer vacation. Originally the festival has its foundation in the residents of Vrindavan bringing back their Lords, Krishna. It celebrates the return of Krishna (Jagannath) along with his elder brother and younger Sister (Baldeva and Subhadra) to Vrindavan, the place of the pastimes of his youth. Srila Prabhupada very simply explained the meaning of Rath Yatra saying that “Krishna resides within heart of all living beings, but we have forgotten him. Rath Yatra is the meditation in bringing Krishna back into our hearts.

“Jagannath” means the “Lord of all Universe”, the father,and the mother of all living beings. Vedanta Sutra states “Janmady asya yatah” that “The absolute truth is the one from whom everything and everyone emanates.” Today in Puri He, the Lord of the Universe travels in style from his temple in Puri to his garden temple, located outside the town centre called Gundicha. Thousands of devotees flock to see, and to pull the grand chariots from one temple to the other. Each sibling (Jagannath-Baldeva-Subhadra) has his / her own chariot and goes to the summer residence with great pomp. Each of the chariots is covered in distinctly coloured cloth. Various symbols and signs help pilgrims distinguish between the three gods. As a mark of respect, and humbleness, the king of Puri sweeps the chariots of the Gods of Puri. Festival begins with a huge fanfare of conches, trumpets, drums and cymbals. Accompanied by music and dancers, the “Divine Travellers” begin their journey to the garden temple. This is an exciting time in Puri. The Lord who is rarely glimpsed outside his inner sanctum, is now easily accessible to everyone in the streets and  shower His mercy to everyone irrelavent of their cast,, gender, religion, occupation etc.

As the Lord has only taken his brother and his sister on this holiday, the wives are left at home! Alone and brooding, Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth), seeks help from Goddess Vimala to get their husband back. Travelling by night, in a closed palanquin, she arrives at the garden temple of the Lord. She enchants the Lord and entreats him to return.

A few days later, Lord returns to his city temple. Though delighted, goddess Lakshmi orders the temple doors to be shut in His face - in the vain hope of teaching Him a lesson! In the conversation that follows, female attendants (the Dev-dasis) of the Goddess blame the Lord of being inconsiderate, "Jack the Lad", taking His wife for granted and being far too easily led by the in-laws. Eventually, the Lord offers the female gate-keepers bribes and enters the inner sanctum to pacify the Goddess Lakshmi. Such a Past time of the Lord and His most intimate associate!!  The next day, the Lord and the Goddess once again appear in the public, reconciled and as loving as temple returns to its age old routine.

Of all the festivals, the Ratha Yatra of Jagannatha is the most famous. This takes place on the second day of the waxing phase of the moon of the asadha month. Jagannatha ordered King Indradyumna to take him to his birth place, the Gundica Mandira (symbolically Vrindavana) on this day.

Jagannatha's Ratha is marked with a Cakra and Garuda, is yellow in color, with four whitehorsses.The protecting deity is Nrisimha Dev. Baladeva's cart is blue, with a palm tree insignia, and four black horses. The protecting deity is Shesa.

Subhadra's cart is black, with lotus insignia, protected by Vanadurga.

Sudarsana is carried out first and placed on Subhadra's cart. In succession Subhadra, Baladeva, and Jagannatha are moved to their carts using silk ropes. After being situated on their carts they are decorated and worshipped. Midway on the journey, the carts stop, the deities are bathed in pancamrta and cool water, and naivedyam and aratrika are offered. On arrival at the Gundica Mandira, aratrika is offered, and then the

Deities enter the temple for rest.

On the fifth day of the lunar month, called Hera (looking for) Pancami, Laksmi comes looking for Jagannatha with Siva and her maid servants. When the servants of Jagannatha see her at the first gate of the Gundica Mandira, they close the door of Jagannatha's bhoga mandira so that she cannot see him. She becomes angry and breaks a piece of Jagannatha's ratha. After taking a meal she returns to the main temple.


On the ninth day of the moon, the return Ratha Yatra takes place, and Laksmi and her servants come to meet Jagannatha. Jagannatha gives her his garland to appease her.

Several days later on dvadasi, Laksmi closes the temple doors in anger and her servants quarrel with Jagannatha's servants. After Jagannatha concedes defeat, the doors are opened again. Such is the reverance, the fun, the mysticism, and overall bliss of Rathyatra in Jagannath Puri.

In todays context, the Rath Yatra has a very huge significance. In this age, being the ‘Kalyuga” - the Iron age of Querrel, people’s spiritual life is declining, whereas in the past age – in the Treta Yuga, many people used to come to the temple to worship because that was the process for that age. But in todays’s age, people are distracted by many material concepts, material knowdedge and material gadgets. So Lord Jaggannath being the most kind goes out of way and comes to the streets specially to bless people who don’t come to visit him. Srila Prabhupada once  said” The Lord us to come back to Godhead more than we want to go back!”. Lord Jagannath has big wide eyes that never blinks, so that he never miss anyone ,That is the Lord’s mercy!

The Ratha Yatra festival has become a common sight in most major cities of the world since 1968 through the ISKCON - Hare Krishna movement. By the mercy of Lord Jagannath and Caitanya Mahāprabhu, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada successfully transplanted the festival which now happens on an annual basis in places all over the world in over 108 cities

ISKCON Vapi also  celebrates Rath Yatra Festival festival with great enthusiasm every year in the month of April. We invite all of you to become a part of this joyous festival.



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