India is a country of diverse religions and cultural backgrounds, and a true manifestation of its rich culture and traditions are its ‘festivals’. One such festival that’s been celebrated exactly the same way at exactly the same spot for hundreds of hundreds of years is the Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra.
Rath Yatra or Jatra is the celebration of the Lord Jagannath, who is believed to be the Lord of Universe's journey towards his aunt's house. Though it is a Hindu shrine but this chariot festival is not associated with any particular denomination of Hinduism entirety, though there are several common aspects with Vaishnavaism, Saivism, Shaktism, Buddhism and Jainism.
According to spiritual significance of Katha Upanishad- The festival talks about Human body as Rath and sarathi or driver as God, who drives the chariot of body to the yatra/journey to material existence or Bhavasagar. Classically it is mentioned as- The soul drive with in the Rath of body, which has been intellect and total devoted to God the driver of the chariot towards the material existence. The wheels are the significance of velour. The horses are and persistence. The horses are the synonyms of vigor, self discipline, tolerance, charity and discrimination, where as pity, equanimity and forgiveness are the reins of horses.
The popular Rath jatra is the time when the Deities come out of the temple for all to see. Each deity visit Gudicha Temple in their specific chariots drawn by devotees. Gudicha temple is dedicated to Lord’s Aunt.
The chariots used during Rath Yatra are built every year. Carpenters began the construction of chariots on the Akshaya Tritiya day. The chariots are painted with bright colors and the tops are covered with red, black, yellow, or green canopies. Lord Jagannath uses red and yellow, Lord Balaram uses red and green, while Goddess Subhadra uses red and black. All the chariots have separate features to distinguish from each other.
Lord Jagannath's chariot is called as Chakradhwaja or Nandhighosa, which simply describe about tumultuous and blissful sound. 45 feet tall, 16 wheels, 65 tons weigh, Garuda on its crest along with four white wooden horses are the specific features of Lord Jagannath's Rath.
Lord Balaram's cart is called Taladhwaja, which means the sound of significantly powerful rhythm. It has 14 wheels, and is drawn by four black wooden horses. It carries Hanuman on its crest.
Goddess Subhadra's cart is called Padmadhwaja or Darpadalan, which means destroyer of pride. It has a lotus on its crest, uses 12 wheels, and is drawn by four red wooden horses.
The awesome sand sculpture created by Sudarshan Patnaik celebrating Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra in Puri, Odisha.
On the celebration day devotees pull the chariots till the Gundicha temple. This time in Rath Yatra Puri 2016 also you will see the same celebration but wide more spiritual excitement.
Because it is the Nabakalebar Rath Yatra where all the Lords will get new avatar after nineteen years.
The return journey of Lords is also celebrated as Bahuda yatra. The deities reach the Puri temple on Ekadasi day, than attired in new costumes and this new form of the idols is known as ‘Suna Vesa’ .