Rath Yatra in India
Rath Yatra, also known as the Chariot Festival, is a significant Hindu festival celebrated in India. The name Rath Yatra is derived from two Sanskrit words, "Rath" meaning chariot and "Yatra" meaning journey or pilgrimage. In the local language of Odia, it is referred to as "ରଥଯାତ୍ରା" (Ratha Jatra).
Rath Yatra is celebrated every year, usually in the month of June or July. The date of the festival is determined according to the Hindu lunar calendar, falling on the second day of the Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of the moon) in the month of Ashadha.
The origin of Rath Yatra dates back to ancient times in India. It is primarily associated with the Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha, one of the four sacred pilgrimage sites for Hindus. The celebration of Rath Yatra in Puri is believed to have started around the 11th century when the temple was constructed by King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. The festival commemorates Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, along with his siblings Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra.
National customs for Rath Yatra in India
Rath Yatra is celebrated all over India, but the grandest and most famous celebration takes place in Puri, Odisha. The main event involves the construction of three massive wooden chariots, one for each deity - Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Goddess Subhadra. These elaborately decorated chariots are pulled by thousands of devotees through the streets, symbolizing the journey of the deities from the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple, their aunt's place, where they stay for nine days before returning to their main abode.
During the festival, devotees follow several rituals such as fasting, singing devotional songs, and offering prayers. The deities are also adorned in different forms of dress and ornaments on each day of the festival.
Local customs for Rath Yatra in India
While the customs and rituals of Rath Yatra are quite similar throughout India, some regions have their unique way of celebrating the festival. In the state of Gujarat, the city of Ahmedabad hosts its annual Rath Yatra, where the chariots are pulled through the streets, accompanied by decorated elephants, horses, and cultural troupes. In West Bengal, the festival is known as Ratha Yatra Mahotsav and is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the city of Kolkata.
In some parts of South India, particularly in the state of Tamil Nadu, the festival is celebrated as Aani Thirumanjanam. Here, the idols of the deities are taken out in a procession on a temple car, locally known as "Ther."
Rath Yatra is a vibrant and significant festival celebrated with great fervor and devotion in India. It brings together people from all walks of life to participate in the grand procession of the deities, fostering a sense of unity and spirituality. The festival is an extraordinary display of India's rich cultural heritage and the deep-rooted faith of its people.