Rituals are part and parcel of Rath Yatra
festival at Puri. The Chandan Yatra constitutes the first phase
of the rituals where the ‘Chalanti Pratimas’ or moving images took
a ritual ride in a boat in Narendra Sarovar (pond) for twenty one days at a
stretch. It was preceded by a refreshing bath ‘chandan’ or fragrant
sandal wood water.
The next phase marks of rath yatra ritual
marks the performance of Snana Yatra or festival of bath. At
that time, three idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are being taken
to a grand bathing platform known as Snana Bedi (altar to take bath) where these
deities are bathed with the help of one hundred and eight golden pitchers of
Soon after the bath, the deities of Jagannath
and Balabhadra dresses in Gajavesha, or Ganapativesha (or,
in the form of elephant, or Lord Ganesha), except Subhadra, who dresses in Padmavesha
(or, dressed in lotuses). Afterwards the gods are believed to rest inside the
sanctum sanctorum until the day of the Rath Yatra.
It is the time for the deities to undergo
special treatment for betterment of health. Special ayurvedic medicine along
with ‘sarapana’, exclusive liquid diet, is being provided to them
as offerings. For fifteen days the deities remain secluded. No visitor was allowed
‘darshan’ of these idols. Instead they onle have to be satisfied
with the images on the Pattachitra paintings hanged there.
The Ratha Yatra in Puri actually takes
place during the full moon of the Hindu month of Ashadha (June/July),
in a spectacular riot of color and noise. Designed like a temple sanctuary the
immense chariots are draped with brightly colored clothes.
Amidst the sound of loud gongs the boarding
of the deities onto the chariots were announced. This was done with the arrival
of the ‘Raja of Puri’ in accompaniment of decorated elephants.
In Rath Yatra, the Raja has to perform
special rites and rituals. He needs to sweep up the road of the chariot to start
its journey, with a broom of gold, which rightly fulfills his role as the sevaka,
or the servant of God. It is a gesture that symbolizes modesty and equality
of all castes.
The procession is led by the chariot
of Balabhadra, followed by Subhadra with the Lord Jagannath's bringing up the
rear. Following the customs, nearly four thousand accompanied the deities to
their garden house, better known as the Gundicha Ghar. On the way special treat
is offered to the deities. Special cake, Podapitha are offered at the shrine
of goddess Aradhamsini (aunt or masi) of Lord Jagannath.
Once the chariots reach Gundicha Ghar
of Mandir, the deities give darshan to devotees every day. After a rest of 8
days, they return to Jagannath Temple with a similar procession.