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Home > Temple Festivals > Jagannath Temple
Jagannath Temple
Jagannath TemplePuri, one of the four Dhams of Hinduism, is a coastal town located at the south end of the Mahanadi Delta. It has a famous shrine of Krishna in the form of Jagannath (lord of the universe), the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. In honour of Lord Jagannath, people celebrated car festival on the Bright Fortnight of Ashadha (June - July) .Ratha Yatra is a yearly celebration of the original chariot festival of Jagannatha Puri in Orissa. This event marks Lord Jagannatha, travelling in the chariot with His brother, Lord Balarama and sister Subhadra. It attracts pilgrims and visitors from all over the world.

The festival has been celebrated since ancient times. According to a legend about its origin, Jagannatha is said to have expressed his desire to visit his birthplace every year for a week. Thus, the deities are taken to the Gundicha Mandir every year.

According to another legend, Subhadra (Lord Krishna`s sister), wanted to visit Dwarka, her parent`s home, and her brothers took her there on this day. The Yatra is a commemoration of that visit.

The wooden images at Puri are incomplete. As one story goes, a hunter saw Krishna in the forest, thought he was a deer and killed him. He left the deity`s body under a tree, where a pious person found it, cremated it, and placed the ashes in a box. The god Vishnu then asked king Indradumna to make an image from these sacred relics. The king asked Vishvakarma, an architect of Gods, to do the work. He said, he would, if he were allowed to do it without being disturbed. The king became impatient after fifteen days and disturbed Vishwakarma. The architect was so angry that he left without completing the work. To this day, the image is only a stump without arms or legs. The god Brahma gave the image its eyes and a soul. The temple in Puri keeps this legend alive by representing Krishna as a block of wood.

According to the Bhagavad Purana, it is believed that it was on this day that Krishna and Balarama went to Mathura to participate in a wrestling competition, at Kansa`s invitation.

The process of Rath Yatra involves following ceremonies:

Snan YatraSnan Yatra

The idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are brought out and bathed on a pedestal known as the snanamandap amidst series of rituals and chanting of `Jai Jagannath` and `Haribol` and beating of conch shells, bathing ceremony was performed on Purnima of Jyestha month (Devasnan Purnima), to commemorate the appearance day of Lord Jagannath.


The painted wooden deities get discoloured by the bathing ceremony. Therefore nobody except the main priest is allowed to see and pay homage for a period of 15 days, which is known as Anavasara time. It is said that Lord Jagannath himself had ordered King Indradyumna about this Anavasara period.

For a staunch devotee of Jagannatha, the Anavasara time is really a tough time of separation. The images are re-painted and brought to the Ratnavedi or the main platform for the devotees to see and pay homage. This ceremony is named as Netrotsava. On this day people take the opportunity of seeing the deities in all new and young form. This is called `Nava Yauvana Darshana.

Rath Yatra

Rath YatraEach year, the large Deities of Lord Jagannath, Baladev and Subhadra are transported from the temple, each on their own ratha cart. Jagannath`s chariot, Nandighosha is a 35 feet square, rising to a height of 45 feet, with 16 wheels, 7 feet in diameter and is yellow in colour. Balabhadra`s chariot is called Taladhvaja, is blue in color and has 14 wheels. Subhadra`s chariot is the smallest, with 12 wheels and is called Devadalan. People gather from all over the country, irrespective of religion, caste or creed to witness this festival. The chariot is dragged to the deity`s summer abode where the deities are worshipped for a week, and then there is a re-enactment of the chariot festival, when the deities are brought back in procession. New chariots are made each year. Construction of the chariots begins in early April.

The chariots are cleaned by the Gajapati Maharaja, with a golden broom to proclaim that he is the first of the Lord`s servants. This act is connected with " famous incident in Orissan history in course of which the king Purushottama Deva was outwitted by his minister to marry the princess Padmavati.

The images are taken from the temple to Jagannath`s country house at Gundicha Bari, two miles away. There they are confined to a solitary abode for a fortnight where they undergo treatment, are offered special ayurvedic medicine and some special liquid diet called sarapana. After a week`s rest, they are taken back to the temple at Puri. This return car festival or Bahuda Yatra begins on the `Ashadha Sukla Dasami`, the 10th day of the bright fortnight of Ashadha (June-July). When two months of Ashadha fall in one year, Rath Yatra is observed as the festival of `Naba kalebara`. During this festival, the old deities are buried within the temple premises (`Koilibaikuntha`) and are replaced by new deities, carved out of Margosa trees for which there are set procedures. Double Ashadha occurs at intervals of 8 to 19 years.

One has only to see the vast sea of humanity on these occasions to convince oneself about the influence of religion on the people of Orissa for whom Jagannath is the Supreme One, without beginning and without end, and the saviour of mankind. On Ratha Yatra day, temple staff and congregational members cook enormous quantities of foodstuffs, and everyone gets to enjoy as much Mahaprasadam as they care to consume.

Because the continued success of Puri`s Ratha Yatra is so fundamentally important to Orissa, the local government has proclaimed the Yatra a "state festival" and decreed that wood for the chariots should be supplied free of charge.
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