‘RATHA YATRA’: FAITH, DEVOTION, AND CRAFTSMANSHIP — INDIAN FESTIVITY, NOW A GLOBAL PHENOMENON
In India, Lord Shree Jagannath’s Rath Yatra is an annual festival celebrated on Beej or Dwiteey tithe (second day) of Shukla Paksh (bright fortnight) of the month Aashaadh (fourth month of Hindu Calendar)—Aashaadh is the first month of the monsoon season, and the second month is Shravan. Lord Shree Jagannath’s Rath Yatra is well described in Brahmana Purana, Padma Purana, Skanda Purana, and Kapila Samhita—and is being celebrated since ancient times. The celebration of Rath Yatra festival is actually celebrated as a weeklong ceremony. This ancient Indian festivity is now a global phenomenon- in almost One-Hundred and Eight cities- right from its origin—Lord Jagannath’s temple at Puri, Odisa of India to Moscow -to- New York -to- Houston -to- Atlanta -to- London, Paris, Rome, Zurich, Manchester, Mexico City, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, Dhamrai in Bangladesh——the Rath Yatra is observed as Lord Shree Jagannath (with Sudarshan Chakra), Lord Balbhadra and Goddess Subhadra’s ceremonial procession (their visit to the city) on their distinct chariot. The Rath means chariot and Yatra means travel, commuting, or to go and visit a particular place. Very carefully crafted the giant chariots of these three deities are accelerated with hands by thousands of devotees. In Puri, India every year these three chariots are newly built with wood of Phassi and Dhausa tree traditionally brought from ‘Dasapalla’ a place in Odisha state—a maverick team of carpenters who are inherently privileged to carry out the art, build these chariots. Each of these three sacred chariots has nine Parshva devatas, individual Sarathi (charioteer) and four horses, and their other interesting facts are:
The first chariot- Lord Shree Jagannath’s chariot name is Nandighosha, alternatively named as Garudadhwaja or Kapiladhwaja -it has sixteen-wheels – the height of the chariot is Forty-Four Feet Two inches and the Length-Breadth is Thirty Four Feet Six Inches. As Lord Vishnu is associated with the colour Yellow- the chariot canopies colours are Red and Yellow, the chariot flag is named as Trailokyamohini, Guardian of the chariot is Garuda —— and, the Sarathi’s (charioteer) name is ‘Daruka’. The horses colour is white and their names are- Shankha, Balahaka, Suweta, and Haridashwa; the deity who accompanies Lord Shree Jagannath is Madanmohan, and Nine Parshvadevatas are: Panchamukhi Mahabir (that is Hanuman), Harihara, Madhusudana (Vishnu), Giridhar (Krishna), Pandu Narasingha, Chintamani Krishna, Narayana (Vishnu), Chatra Bhanga Ravana (Rama), and Rama seated on Hanuman; and finally the Dwarpal (gatekeepers) of the chariot are Jaya and Vijaya.
The second chariot of Balabhadra is named as Taladhwaja, alternatively named as Langaladhwaja -it has fourteen-wheels – the height of the chariot is Forty Three Feet Three inches and Length-Breadth is Thirty Three Feet. Balabhadra’s chariot canopies colours are Red and Bluish Green, the chariot flag is named as Unnani and has Palm Tree as an emblem on it, the Guardian of the chariot is Vasudev —— and, the Sarathi’s (charioteer) name is ’Matali’. The horses colour is black and their names are- Tribra, Ghora, Dirghasharma, and Swornanava; the deity who accompanies Balabhadra is Ramakrishna, and Nine Parshvadevatas are: Ganesha, Kartikeya, Sarvamangala, Pralambari (Balarama), Halayudha (Balarama), Mrityunjaya (Shiva), Natamvara (Shiva), Mukteshwar (Shiva), and Sheshadeva; and finally the Dwarpal (gatekeepers) of the chariot are Nanda and Sunanda.
The third chariot of Subhadra is named as Darpadalana, alternatively named as Devadalana or Padmadhwaja -it has twelve-wheels – the height of the chariot is Forty Two Feet Three inches and Length-Breadth is Thirty One Feet Six inches. Subhadra’s chariot canopies colours are Red and Black (Black colour is associated with Devi (Goddess), the chariot flag is named as Nadambika, the Guardian of the chariot is Jayadurga —— and, the Sarathi’s (charioteer) name is ’Arjuna’. The horses colour is red and their names are- Rochika, Mochika, Jita, and Aparajita; the deity who accompanies Subhadra is Sudarshana, and Nine Parshvadevatas are: Chandi, Chamunda, Ugratara, Banadurga (Durga), Shulidurga (Durga), Varahi, Shyamkali, Mangala, and Vimala; and finally the Dwarpal (gatekeepers) of the chariot are Ganga and Jamuna.
One interesting fact of these three chariots is -the names of the chariot ropes by which each charioteer commands the horses (the power and speed) and manages the directions of the chariot to go— these ropes are: The rope name of Lord Shree Jagannath’s chariot is ‘Sankhachuda Nagini’; the rope name of Balabhadra’s chariot is ‘Vasuki Naga’, and the rope name of Subhadra’s chariot is ‘Swarnachuda Nagini’.
Truly, Indian festivity has intricate facts with deep meaning and is deeply rooted to its ancient history.