Rathe vaamanam drishtva! It is said, those who welcome the Lord Jagannath by seeing him or greeting him, he becomes free from all sins”
The festival of carts or Ratha Yatra is celebrated every year in Jagannath Puri, Odisha whereby the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna manifests his most merciful form for the degraded people of Kaliyuga. Rath Yatra is the chief attraction festival of Jagannath Puri whereby lakhs of devotees come to celebrate the Lord’s festival and get his blessings. It is celebrated every year in the month of Aashadha, the second day of bright fortnight on pushya nakshatra.
The three presiding deities, Sri Baladeva, Sri Subhadra and Sri Jagannath travel from the premises of Sri Mandir and travel to Gundicha Mandir located a few kilometers away at the sea shore, where the Lord made his appearance in the Satyuga of Swayambhu Manu, the first Manu of Lord Brahma’s day.
By Vedic calculations one can determine when the Jagannatha Temple was first built, when the Temple was inaugurated and when the Deities were installed (on their simhasana). According to the authority of Skanda Purana, this period is fifteen crores and thirty-four lakhs (more than 150 million) years ago. From this it is clear that Ratha-yatra began in the time of Svarochisa Manu, the second Manu from the day of Lord Brahma.
The deities of Sri Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra were installed by Lord Brahma himself, who is a great devotee of Lord Sri Krishna. The Lordships have very strange form and this accounts to a wonderful story about why the lord has these forms.
When Lord Krishna was in Dwaraka, he kept on remembering his cowherd friends and the gopis of Vrindavan who had no other means of survival other than Krishna himself. Once the Lord became too anxious to hear about their well-being and went away with Balaram. Meanwhile, the 16,000 queens of Sri Krishna asked Mother Rohini, the mother of Balaram about the anxiety of Krishna. She told them about the Vrindavan past times of the lord and they all became very eager to hear them. But, Rohini devi was afraid, if Krishna hears these past times, he would run to Vrindavan immediately. So, she locked all the doors and windows and asked Krishna’s sister, Subhadra to stand at the door and don’t allow Krishna and Balaram to enter and she started narrating the incidents. Meanwhile, Krishna and Balaram came and asked Subhadra to allow them to enter. When she refused to do so, Krishna by his mystic power opened one of the windows to hear and as soon as he could hear and remember the past times, all three of them manifested the symptoms of eight fold ecstasy. Their hands shrunk, their eyes widened and legs melted. This is the form of Jagannath, Lord Krishna is feeling separation from his dear devotees. When the story was over, Narada Muni came to see the lord’s form but couldn’t see the same. He asked the lord about this peculiar form, to which Sri Krishna replied that this form is especially meant for people of Kaliyuga whereby they can easily attain the supreme perfection of spiritual life.
Thefestival started to mark the pulling of Krishna’s chariot by the Brajwasis from Kurukshetra to take him back to Vrindavan. They let go the horses and themselves pulled the rope of the chariot. The chariots are made from wood without using any iron nail to join pieces together. Three magnificent chariots are prepared which take the lord from Sri Mandir to Gundicha Mandir, where the deity of the lord was prepared i.e. the place where lord appeared. The lord stays there for about a week and then returns back to the temple again. A day before the Rath yatra, the gundicha temple is thoroughly cleaned and washed, which was initiated by Sriman Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. People come in huge numbers, just to pull the carts.
Simply by pulling the carts and dancing before the lord makes the person free from all the sinful reactions and makes them very joyful. Lord, being most merciful personally comes out to see his devotees and the people of the world so as to shower his unprecedented mercy on them.
Here is some of the information about the Rathas of the Lordship
- Sri Jagannath
Name of Ratha: Nandi Ghosh Ratha
No. of wheels: 16
- Sri Baladeva
Name of Ratha: Taal Dhvaja Ratha
No. of wheels: 14
- Sri Subhadra
Name of Ratha: Dev Dalan Ratha
No. of wheels: 12