Rath-Yatra of Lord Jaggan-Nathji



Excessive fun and frolic during Sanan-Yatra leads to the deities "catching a cold".  This "illness" confines the divine siblings of Puri to quarantine in the inner sanctum for 15 days.  Every 12 years, the wooden idols of Shri Jaggan-Nathji, Balaramji and Subhadraji are "renewed" in a nab-kalavar uttsav.  During this 15 day interval, when no one but the "daitya" clan of temple servants may serve the Lord, new idols are carved and �life-essence� transferred from the old to the new icons.  Revived and refreshed, the siblings go to their sea-side-temple to rest and recuperate and the whole town celebrates the Ratha Yatra of Lord Jaggan-Nath !!!

At the height of Indian summer, the Lord of Puri goes to his garden palace for the annual summer vacation. He travels in some style from his temple in Puri, to his garden temple, located outside the town. Thousands of Hindus flock to see, and to pull the grand chariots from one temple to the other. The English word "Jagannaut" comes from the giant chariots of Lord Jagannath of Puri. The British were so stunned by the size of the chariots, they coined a word for it!

In Puri, Lord Jagannath is worshipped with his elder brother Bala-Rama and his sister Subhadra. Each sibling has his / her own chariot and goes to the summer residence with great pomp. Each of the chariots is covered in distinctly coloured cloth - red, yellow and black. Various symbols and signs help pilgrims distinguish between the three gods. As a mark of respect, and humbleness, the king of Puri sweeps the chariots of the gods of Puri. Festival begins with a huge fanfare of conches, trumpets, drums and cymbals. Accompanied by music and dancers, the divine travellers begin their journey to the garden temple.

In order to accommodate the three chariots, the street leading from the main temple to the garden temple is deliberately made wide. Temples, ashrams, hotels, inns, shops and mansions of the old aristocracy line the route. All buildings are colourfully decorated with flags, buntings and awnings of bright colours. Ladies in colourful saries crowd the balconies, doors and windows are decked with flowers. Men and women rush to pull the chariots along this main street of Puri. This is an exciting time in Puri. The Lord who is rarely glimpsed outside his inner sanctum, is now easily accessible to everyone in the streets of Puri !

Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, away from the innumerable temple servants, away from their spouses, the siblings enjoy their garden retreat. The temple routine in the "garden temple" is relaxed compared to the main temple. Various festivities and fun are planned for their short stay in this leafy abode. ( Depending on the lunar cycle, this festival can last anywhere from 1 - 2 weeks. )

As the Lord has only taken his brother and his sister on this holiday, the wives are left at home! Alone and brooding, Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth), seeks help from Goddess Vimala to get their husband back. Travelling by night, in a closed palanquin, she arrives at the garden temple of the Lord. She enchants the Lord and entreats him to return. In anger, Lakshmiji also instructs her servants to beat the servants of Lord Jaggan-Natha and breaks a piece of his chariot (a bit like "keying" someone's new car") on her way back to the main temple.

On Vaikuntha Ekadashi, Lord returns to his city temple wearing his golden attaire - Suvarna Vesha. Though delighted, goddess Lakshmi orders the temple doors to be shut in His face - in the vain hope of teaching Him a lesson! In the conversation that follows, female attendants (dev-dasi) of the Goddess blame the Lord of being inconsiderate, "Jack the Lad", taking His wife for granted and being far too easily led by the in-laws (sounds familiar)?

The Lord's servants explain that He really had no choice, He went against His will, He still loves Her deeply and respects Her enormously etc etc!!
Eventually, the Lord bribes the female gate-keepers with clothes and presents and enters the inner sanctum to pacify his beloved Lakshmi. Such are the dramas of a married man's life!

The next day, Lord and the Goddess once again appear in the public, reconciled and as loving as ever. Lord's summer vacation is over, and life in the great temple returns to its age old routine.


Some videos of the Ratha Yatra

Ratha Yatra of the Lord of Puri

Suvarna Vesh of Shri Jaggan-Nathji � on the last day of the Ratha Yatra (commentary in Oriya)

Ratha Yatra and Suvarna-Vesh (golden attire) of the Lord on His return to the inner temple (commentary in Hindi)

(To know more about Jagannath-Puri as a holiday destination, please click here.)

Further resources :- 

Festivals of Puri - these come from Randy Leighton's page.

 To read more about the how the Dev-Dasies are/ were involved in the temple rituals at Jaggan-Nath Puri, please read " Wives of God King ". Excellent resource material for all things "Puri".




� Bhagwat    [email protected]


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