Rath Yatra is a Hindu festival that is celebrated on the Eastern coast of India – in Puri, the temple town of Orissa – every year on the second day of the month of Ashad – between June and July on the Gregorian calendar. Also known as the Chariot Festival, this holiday commemorates Jagannath’s visit to Gundicha Temple. During this festival, the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken from the temple in Puri, loaded onto enormous chariots and pulled by thousands of devotees to the countryside. After a nine day sojourn in the countryside, the idols are then returned to the city temple.
Although the exact origin of this festival is unknown, many scholars attribute the practice of placing these three idols in giant chariots and transporting them back and forth from the temple to be a practice that was burrowed from the Buddhists. In Buddhist tradition, idols of Buddha were often placed in a cart and paraded around town for all the world to see.
Customs, Traditions And Observances
Although there are many rituals associated with Rath Yatra – including the construction and decoration of the chariots – the main spectacle that people come far and wide to see is the pulling of the enormous chariots by thousands of people.