Considered one of the most buzzing and large-scale festivals in India, Rath Yatra in Puri, Odisha displays a magnificent picture of splendour, devotion and utter faith. The festival is in a bid to celebrate Lord Jagannath along with his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. A majestic procession in huge chariots is carried around the city forming the crux of the mythological legend behind the festival.
As the story goes, the festival involves celebrating the vacation Lord Jagannath takes along with his siblings around the town. Lord Jagannath is supposedly an avataar incarnation) of Lord Vishnu and is worshipped by lacs of devotees during the festival.
The festival begins with an invoking ceremony followed by a majestic procession in the afternoon with grand chariots especially made for the deities and decorated for the festival. Each of the chariots carry huge idol of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhdra and are distinctly decorated different from each other. The idols are replaced every 12 years and are usually made of wood.
These chariots proceed over the city as the thousands of devotees pull along the chariots. The festival is so popular that even a new word is registered in English language called ‘Juggernaut’ meaning ‘destructive force’. Some even say this custom of placing idols on chariots and pulling them traces its origins in Buddhism.
The procession accompanies celebration, song and dance routine and as many as lacs of devotees creating a buzzed environment that no one can miss. This continues for nine days before the divine summer vacation completes its turn and the chariots proceed back to the city temple. The idols are placed back to where they belong and the festival comes to an end.
There is a lot that goes in behind preparing for these festivals. While numerous artists spend weeks completing the chariots, the dressing and cover for the chariot takes up around 1200 metres of cloth. But the festival acts as a great bridge between various communities and religions and the entire local community gets together to build and decorate the chariots and execute the festival with full fervour.