Ratha Yatra or Chariot festival is a Hindu festival that is held in Puri and is devoted to Lord Jagannath. It is one of the oldest and famous Ratha Yatras that takes place in India. The notes related to the yatra can be found in Brahma Purana, Skanda Purana and Padma Purana. The festival is celebrated on Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya. It celebrates Jagannath's annual visit to the Gundicha Temple passing through the Mausi Maa Temple. As part of the yatra, the deities of Lord Jagannath along with those of Balabhadra and Subhadra, his elder brother and younger sister respectively are taken to Gundicha temple as part of the procession. The deities remain there for a total of nine days. They are then returned to the main temple. The return journey of the deities is named as Bahuda Jatra.
The chariots are beautifully decorated and resembles the temple structures. They pass through the streets of Puri also known as Badadanda. This marks the annual travel of Jagannath and his siblings to their aunt's temple called the Gundicha Temple that is located at a distance of 2 km from the temple. This is the only day when non-Hindus and foreigners get to see deities as they are not allowed in the temple before.
The procession is accompanied by drums, devotional songs, trumpets etc. Millions of devotees flood the streets of Puri for this annual event. It is also broadcast live on many Indian and foreign TV channels.
By: Neha Maheshwari