The crowd is buzzing with anticipation. You can hear the musical notes as they dance in the air. The rhythmic sound of drums echo and the air seems full of happiness. There, from a distance, colourfully decorated floats appear in your vision. People begin to cheer and clap as the event begins … Where are we?
If you guessed a parade, you are correct! But wait, what parade is this? It’s quite a famous one; it takes place every year … in India! It is called the Rath Yatra, which translates to a procession of chariots which are usually led by horses. Rath Yatra is similar to a parade but there are some important differences. Rath Yatra is a big festival whose celebration originated in Jagannathpuri, India, although it is also celebrated throughout India. It takes place in the rainy season on the auspicious day of Ashadh sud 2, which usually falls in late June or early July.
When the Rath Yatra takes place in Jagannathpuri, the deities of Jagannath Mandir – Lord Krishna, Balram and Subhadra – are traditionally installed in huge chariots shaped like a mandir. The Rath Yatra originated in Jagannathpuri from the time of Lord Shri Krishna, who was also known as Lord Jagannath. It first took place when Lord Krishna returned from the great Mahabharata War. Rath Yatra was a celebration to welcome him back. Also, it was on this auspicious day when Lord Krishna gave darshan to all his devotees with his brother after having vanquished the evil Kansa. Also on this special day, Lord Krishna, accompanied by his brother Balram, showed the beauty of the city to his sister Subhadra.
The tradition of Rath Yatra has still been kept alive in many parts of India. Several months before the procession the important task of preparing the chariots takes place. The chariots are decorated with various types of materials. It takes a lot of time to decorate these chariots and the dazzling effect is seen once the procession begins. Each decorated rath is then placed on to a truck. The murtis are placed inside the raths. Just before the raths arrive, all the participants stand in an orderly fashion. When the raths arrive, people lovingly sprinkle rice and gulal (coloured powder) as a form of puja. The people who are sitting on the rath give out handfuls of prasad to all present. As the Rath Yatra starts, all the participants eagerly await their opportunity to move to the front to pull on the rope which is used to pull the rath. It really is a divine sight for all to see and is another one of India’s many colourful spiritual traditions.
Did you know? The English word juggernaut comes from the Sanskrit word Jagannath which is used to describe Lord Krishna. When translated, it closely means master of the world. Nowadays, the word is used to describe an unstoppable force.