Rath Yatra 2024: Date and Time, History, Significance, and This Year's Theme

Ratth yatra 2024
Ratth yatra 2024

The Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra, a major religious festival in India, commenced in Odisha on July 7, 2024.

Annually, on the second day of the bright lunar fortnight in Ashadha, the coastal town of Puri is filled with joy and fervor as it celebrates the Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra.

 This revered festival features a grand procession of Lord Jagannath, along with his brother Balabhadra and sister Devi Subhadra, drawing crowds eager for a divine sighting. It is believed that during this event, the deities traverse the city to observe and bless their followers.

During this event, devotees pulled the grand chariots of Lord Jagannath and his siblings, engaging in various sacred rituals.

About 18 days before the Rath Yatra, a significant ritual known as Snana Yatra takes place, wherein Lord Jagannatha, his brother Balabhadra, and sister Devi Subhadra are ceremonially bathed. This sacred event occurs on Purnima Tithi in the Jyeshtha month.

Lord Jagannath, revered as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, holds a central position in the festivities, as detailed in ancient scriptures such as the Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, and Skanda Purana.

The Jagannath Rath Yatra, steeped in tradition and spiritual significance, symbolizes a journey of devotion and divine blessings for devotees worldwide.

Rath Yatra 2024: The Spiritual Significance  

1. Liberation from Rebirth: The Skanda Purana asserts that individuals chanting Lord Jagannath's name and journeying to Gundicha Nagar during Rath Yatra are absolved from the perpetual cycle of reincarnation.

2. Fulfillment of Desires: Participation in the Rath Yatra, accompanied by devout chanting of the Lord's name, is believed to grant fulfillment of all aspirations and wishes.

3. Sacred Pilgrimage: The Rath Yatra serves as a sacred pilgrimage, drawing devotees from far and wide to partake in the divine procession and experience spiritual renewal.

4. Traditional Customs: The rituals and customs observed during Rath Yatra, rooted in ancient scriptures, symbolize devotion, humility, and the eternal bond between devotees and the divine.

5. Community Celebration: Rath Yatra fosters a sense of community and unity among devotees, as they come together to honor and celebrate the divine presence of Lord Jagannath.

6. Eternal Blessings: The essence of Rath Yatra transcends temporal boundaries, allowing devotees to receive eternal blessings and grace from Lord Jagannath.

Rath Yatra 2024: A Journey of Sacred Rituals

  • Chariot Procession: The journey from Jagannath Temple in Puri to Gundicha Devi Temple marks the grand spectacle of Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra, where the three deities are transported on ornate chariots.

  • Global Pilgrimage: People from all corners of the globe converge in Puri to participate in this revered festival, welcoming an estimated 4-5 lakh pilgrims annually.

  • Ritualistic Bath: Before the procession, the idols undergo a ceremonial bath, after which they are secluded until the procession day due to slight discoloration, considered a sign of illness.

  • Royal Involvement: The Yatra commences with the arrival of a descendant of the Royal Family of Orissa, who holds sole authority over the Jagannath Temple. He performs symbolic rituals, including sweeping the chariot and ground with a gold-handled broom.

  • Chhera Pahara Ritual: A renowned aspect of the Yatra, the Chhera Pahara ritual signifies equality before the Lord, as the royal descendant sweeps the ground before the chariots and sprinkles sandalwood water.

  • Magnificent Chariots: Crafted by local artisans, the wooden chariots are adorned with intricate decorations. Lord Jagannath's chariot, the largest, boasts 16 massive wheels and stands at a towering height of 44 feet.

  • Manual Chariot Pulling: Enthusiastic devotees manually pull the chariots using 50-meter-long ropes, believing that this act earns them blessings and absolution for their sins. 

  • Journey to Gundicha Temple: Despite the short distance of roughly 3 km, the procession takes hours to complete due to the immense crowd. Upon arrival at Gundicha Temple, the deities reside there for nine days, allowing pilgrims to pay homage before their return journey to Puri.

Rath Yatra 2024: Insights into Gundicha Temple

  • Divine Sojourn: Rath Yatra signifies Lord Jagannatha's annual pilgrimage to Gundicha Mata temple, where the divine trio—Lord Jagannath, Balaram, and Subhadra—reside for nine auspicious days.

  • Homage to Queen Gundicha: Legend has it that Rath Yatra pays homage to Queen Gundicha, renowned for her unwavering devotion. She was the consort of the legendary King Indradyumna, credited with the construction of the illustrious Puri Jagannatha temple.

  • Preparatory Rites: A day before Rath Yatra, the Gundicha Temple undergoes a thorough cleansing ritual known as Gundicha Marjana, symbolizing purity and sanctity in anticipation of divine visitation.

  • Divine Encounter: On the fourth day post-Rath Yatra, Hera Panchami is celebrated, signifying the divine quest of Goddess Lakshmi to reunite with Lord Jagannatha at Gundicha temple, adding an enchanting layer to the festivities.

  • Return Journey: After eight days of tranquil sojourn in Gundicha temple, Lord Jagannatha embarks on his return journey, known as Bahuda Yatra or Return Yatra, observed on the eighth day post-Rath Yatra on Dashami Tithi.

  • Sacred Pause: During Bahuda Yatra, the deities make a revered stopover at Mausi Maa temple, dedicated to Goddess Ardhashini, where they are offered Poda Pitha, a sweet pancake beloved by Lord Jagannath, adding a sweet conclusion to the divine journey.

Year-Wise Rath Yatra Observances

Additionally, during the British colonial era in India, the vibrant and fervent atmosphere of the Puri Rath Yatra festival captivated the British rulers. They were so impressed by its energy and scale that they coined the term "Juggernaut" to describe it, likening it to a massive vehicle that could crush anything in its path. 

This perception stemmed from the belief among some pilgrims that dying under the Rath (chariot) during the festival would lead to instant salvation.

Interestingly, the term "Juggernaut" was derived from the Sanskrit word "Jagannath," which translates to "The Lord of the World." This linguistic connection highlights the cultural exchange and influence between the British colonialists and the indigenous traditions of India during that period.

Ratth yatra 2024
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