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Rath Yatra, The Car Festival of Odisha

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

Braj Gopika Seva Mission rejuvenates Odisha by spreading happiness with devotional vibes.

Lord Jagannath possesses a significant place in the heart of devotees, not constrained to Odisha only, but across pan-Indian consciousness and overseas nations as well. Rath Yatra or Car festival is thus celebrated everywhere around the world as a symbol of cultural ethos, harbinger of bonhomie among people around the globe, cutting across the myriad barriers of cast, class, region or ethnicity; sustaining and strengthening the spirits of divinity, absolute peace and harmony.

Precedent to this world-famous Rath Yatra or Car festival, the devotional rituals of deities trio: Lord Jagannath, lord Balbhadra and Devi Subhadra get started a month ago, from the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritiya. After the Royal bath of 108 pots of fragranced water with, a blend of numerous herbal ingredients such as sandal wood paste, turmeric, rose water etc. on the occasion of Snan Poornima, these three deities: Lord Jagannath, lord Balbhadra, and Devi Subhadra fall sick and then they are taken to ‘Ansar house’ for a fortnight for recuperation.

This year, Snan Poornima or the Royal bath celebrated at Braj Gopika Dham, at Tutumbar -palli as held every year in presence of a huge gathering, including Ashram inmates, sansangees/followers, village people from nearby locations and ashram visitors. As per the ritual, the deities were then, taken to Ansar house (Jagadguru Bhawan premises) where they stayed for a fortnight to convalesce from the sickness. The daily ritual was performed secretly by the pandas or servitors with the requisite medicinal herbs , Bhog , free from abstinence and other essentialities for their speedy recovery before the Rath Yatra. During the period of stay at Ansar house, the deities are treated as the patients, suffering with body ache with fever, exactly happens in the case of humans.

On the 16th day, deities trio return to their temple at Sri Mandir from the Ansar house at Jagannath Dham, Puri. The same ritual followed here at Braj Gopika Dham; the deities were taken out of the Ansar House (Jagadguru Bhawan) to the Upasana Hall (where the deities stay) on a huge procession with the chants of slokas, kirtans and dance performance by the inmates, satsangees and the visitors. On the same day, Lord Jagannath, Balbhadra and Subhadra appeared before the devotees in their ‘Nav Yovan’ or new- regained- youth form after sickness. The trio decked up with new attire, with the adornment of beautiful silver and gold ornaments. The devotees felt overwhelmed after the darshan of deities with such rare attire, which takes place, once in a year. This occasion is also known as ‘Netrotsava’.

On 1st July, the Chariot Festival or Rath Yatra observed at Braj Gopika Dham with great enthusiasm amidst 1100 devotees, including the ashram inmates, satsangees and visitors. The chariot was adorned with flower garlands, patitapavan vana (a holy flag clings to a pole on top of the Rath), which is the symbol of spreading purities and positive energy, Tahiyas (made of flowers and holy leaves, herbs like a cushion to rest deities head), other adornments and thus it was very eye catching. Seated on top of the chariot, the deities trio: Lord Jagannath, lord Balabradra and Devi Subhadra pulled by the devotees to the nearby villages such as Pari-orada, Tutumbar-palli, Panaspur and adjacent areas as per the ritual. The respective villages worshipped the deities with the offering of beautiful flower garlands, bhog/oblation and expressed their devotion towards the deities. The beautiful thing to notice is that the chariot stops at the door step of devotees in response to their call for offering to lord Jagannath, which continues until the chariot reaches its destination, Mausi Maa temple. It seems as if lord Jagannath listens every devotee’s wish and prayer with absolute interest and comes to bless him individually.

The Rath, finally reached at Braj Gopika Dham around 4: 30 pm evening after circumambulation of these nearby villages. The devotes were offered prasadam before their departure from the campus. Afterward, the evening arti was performed and the deities were finally taken to Mausi- Maa temple, where the deities trio stay for 9 days at their aunt’s residence.

Followed by evening arti, there was the offering of Chhapan Bhog (56 types of recipes) to the deities who relish a royal meal after the sickness. The prime attraction of the evening was the ‘Bhajan- Sandhya’ , the musical concert held to entertain the deities. Devotional songs were performed by the artists amongst the ashram inmates, filled the air with the fragrance of devotion and made the audience, spellbound. The deities were to shifted to Mausi- maa temple after the program. The final phase of the one-month Rath Yatra program will come to an end following the ‘Bahuda Yatra’ or the Return Car Festival which will take place after 9 days.

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