Celebrating Jagannath Rathyatra
Rathyatra is a famous Hindu festival associated with Lord Jagannath and His siblings, and held at Puri in Odisha. The day of the rathyatra is decided depending on the Hindu lunar month and is fixed on Dwitiya Tithi of Shukla Paksha in the month of Ashada. Lord Jagannath is worshipped at the temple of Puri. It is one of the most sacred religious ceremonies for the followers of Lord Vishnu or Lord Narayan as Jagannath is the incarnation of both of them.
About the festival of Jagannath Rathyatra
Visitors and followers from all over the world visit the temple of Puri, to participate in the Rathyatra of Jagannath. This is the only day when the non Hindu followers and foreigners can have a glimpse of the famous deities. The rituals of this festival however, start much before this particular date with the famous ceremonial bath of Lord Jagannath, his sister Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra known as the Snana yatra festival. The Snana Yatra festival is done depending on the lunar calendar of the Hindus. It is celebrated on the Purnima Tithi in the month of Jyaistha, which is more commonly known as Jyaistha Purnima.
The story behind the Jagannath Rathyatra festival
Rath Yatra commemorates the annual visit of Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra to the famous Gundicha temple. Legends say that to honor the devotion of Queen Gundicha, wife of the famous king Indradyumna, the builder of Puri Jagannath Temple, the trio leave their home in the Jagannath temple and spend a few days in the temple built by Gundicha for them.
Just before the commencement of the Rath Yatra festival, devotees clean and prepare the Gundicha temple for this holy occasion. The process of cleaning the Gundicha temple is known as Gundicha marjana.
The fourth day after the famous Rath Yatra festival is termed as Hera Panchami, where legends say that, Goddess Lakshmi, the wife of Lord Jagannath visits the Gundicha temple to search for Lord Jagannath. One special fact of Hera Panchami is that it is celebrated on the sixth day or the Sasthi Tithi and not the Panchami Tithi.
After staying for eight days in the Gundicha temple Lord Jagannath again returns to His original home in the Jagannath temple. This particular day is noted as the Return yatra or the Bahuda Yatra and is done on the eighth day after the original Rath Yatra festival on the Dashami Tithi. During this return journey, the chariot of Lord Jagannath also pays a visit to Mausi Maa temple, dedicated to the Goddess Ardhashini, who according to the Mythology is maternal aunt of Lord Jagannath. Lord Jagannath must return to his home before the Devshayani Ekadashi Tithi as on that day He goes to sleep for a period of four months and cannot be disturbed.
The Jagannath Rath yatra is known by many names among the devotees and followers of Hinduism. The foreigners call it Puri Car Festival.
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