The Rath Yatra is one of the most sacred festivals of the country. It is a festival of Hindus. It generally takes place in the month of Asarsh (June).
Why it is celebrated
This festival is celebrated in the memory of Lord Jagannath. He is one of the ten incarnation of Vishnu. Fifteen days after his annual bath, He is brought out. He is placed on a car with his elder brother, Balbhadra, and his sister, Subhadra. The sacred car of Rath is then drawn to Ganga boro. Here Jagannath rests for a week. The worshippers continue to shower their offerings on the Lord for a week. The Punarjatra or the return of Jagannath comes after a week. Then he come back to his own temple.
The Description of Rath
The Rath itself is a curious thing. It is the specimen of old chariot-making. It is generally made of wood. Its turrets are like those of a church. It has a covering of gold and silver. It has all sorts of paintings and wooden figures all about it. It is 13.7 meters high and 10.7 meters square. It has sixteen wheels. Each wheel is 2.13 meters in diameter. The Rath is shown as being drawn by horses. But it is actually drawn by men with the help of ropes tied to it.
Period of Celebration
The Rath Yatra festival lasts for seven days. It begins from the day when the Lord leaves his temple. It continues to the day of his return. This period passes in the worship of the god in Hari-Sankirtan. Brahmans and beggars are fed. Alms are given.
All the Hindus look forward to the day fixed for drawing of the Car. Thousands of people gather on either side of the road along which the cart passes. All the spectators try to get opportunity of having a darshan of the god. They struggle hard to get near the car (Rath) and pull it.
The father take their children's to market to buy toys. The middle aged men buy articles for domestic use. Shop-keepers, small dealers and hawkers have a very good time. They earn a lot of money on this occasions. Flowers plants and grafts of fruit trees have a large sale of this festivals.
The celebration of the Rath Yatra at Puri are the grandest in India. Thousands of pilgrims assemble on this sacred place. They come from different parts of the country. The gathering at Puri on this occasions is the largest in India or perhaps in the world.
The cart of Lord Jagannath is worthy of the temple of Jagannath. It is one of the grandest specimen of ancient architecture. Special police arrangements are made to check accidents. The police officers remain on the spot to direct the movements of the police.