The Indian festive calendar has an assigned place for one of the most commemorated festivals of the Hindu clan, the Ratha Yatra. Aging back to the 11th century, this festival is primarily celebrated in the month of June or July to mark the almanac journey of Lord Jagannath to the residence of his aunt in the Gundicha temple that is about 2 km from the actual temple.
Unfolding facts about the age old festival
The term Ratha Yatra means “a travel on chariot”. It is all through this yatra that Lord Krishna, the eight incarnation of Lord Vishnu on earth is worshipped as Jagannath, the name implicating the master of the world. Walking back on the sands of time, you get to know that Ratha Yatra finds its initiation about 5000 years back in the coastal state of Orissa. Three large chariots primarily of divinities Lord Jagannath, Subhadra and Balaram are brought out on the streets and worshipped with a complete amalgamation of all the Puja samagri.
A national festival, Ratha Yatra has gained an international stature. Millions of people from all across the globe pouring down on the streets of Orissa to pull the ropes of the richly decorated chariots that resemble three distinct temples. Devotees offer all kinds of puja items required for the entire ceremony. All through the journey the ceremony is celebrated with immense grandeur, accompanied by the sound of ecstatic drums and trumpets all through.
Mythological strings attached to the celebration
Keeping at par with the socio-religious mind set of the people of Orissa, there have been several stories that have been formulated and spread among the common masses. It has completely been a matter of belief for people to consider the truth.
As one of the perception goes, Lord Krishna and Balaram’s maternal uncle Kansa asked Akrur to bring them to Mathura with the evil intention of killing them. Hundreds of devotees celebrate the day to signify their departure from Gokul. Apart from this there are a number of ecstatic devotees who celebrate the Ratha Yatra as the victory of Lord Krishna over Kansa.
Other stories often indicate it as the commemoration of Lord Balaram taking his sister Subhadra for a ride across the city on a chariot pertaining to the request of Rohini forbidding Subhadra to hear stories of Krishna’s ras with the gopi’s.
The history of Gundicha
Speaking of the Gundicha temple, the birthplace of Lord Jagannath, to where the chariots are finally headed, the origin of the name has been a matter of debate since a prolonged time span. A certain section of the masses claim that the temple derives its name from Gundicha, Lord Krishna’s aunt. On the other hand, there are some who claim that the place derives its name from her husband King Indradyumna, also called Gundicha by his loyal followers.
Amidst several stories and beliefs, the Ratha Yatra continues to be commemorated as one of the greatest festivals in the Indian subcontinent.