8 July, 2019
Starting from the 4th of Jul to 15th of Jul, Puri Rath Yatra is a major pilgrimage and tourism event that is taking place in Puri, Orissa. This is the Lord Jagannath’s annual festival, which commemorates the Lord’s visit to his birthplace, the Gundicha temple. The belief about this Rath Yatra is that the Lord along with Balabhadra and Subadhra takes this journey every year. This year, three new chariots, Nandighosha, Taladhwaja, and Devadalana have been built for the Lord’s journey.
This is a major pilgrimage for most Hindus in these parts and they travel from far and wide to take part in the Lord’s journey and pull the chariot. This is also a major tourist attraction as many foreigners too, visit Puri during this time to watch this colorful festival. The important dates for this year’s festival are Sri Gundicha - July 4, Hera Panchami - July 8, Bahuda Yatra - July 12, Suna Besha - July 13 and Niladri Bijaya - July 15.
As is known to most of us, there are three wooden, incomplete idols in the Lord Jagannath temple; Lord Jagannath, Subhadra, and Balabhadra. These idols are worshipped in this incomplete form, and there is a legendary story attached to it. However, once in 19 years, whenever double ‘Ashada’ month occurs in the Odia calendar, there is a ritual called Nabakalebar that takes place. This means that the Lord takes on a new body, and therefore the idols are redone in exactly the same form using fresh wood. The Nabakalebar last happened in 2015 and is again a major event.
The wood for carving the three idols come from specially chosen Neem trees, based on their location, no. of branches, color, etc. The wood from the trees is secretly transported back to the temple in wooden carts, and a special team of carpenters works on crafting these idols. Devotional songs are sung during the whole process. Once the carving is done, the Brahma Paribartan, or changing the souls from the old idols to the new idols happen. The new idols are then seated on the throne for worshipping. The priest who does this is blindfolded and the whole ceremony is done in secrecy. The old idols are then taken to Koili Baikuntha and buried in a before dawn sacred ceremony.
What to watch out for?
This is a huge gathering and lakhs of devotees from across the country take part in this. The crowds are really huge and therefore and it is best to take some precautions if you plan on attending. State government makes special safety arrangements and issues advisories so that people do not come to any harm due to the huge surge of pilgrims. There have been occasions when people have lost their lives due to stampede during the Rath Yatra. It is best to stay away from the crowds and get a glimpse of the Lord and his siblings if you cannot stand crowded places.
How to reach?
Here are your best options to reach Puri, in case you plan to visit and get a Darshan of the Lord.
By Air: Bhubaneshwar airport, situated about 60 Km away. Daily flights from many major Indian cities like Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai, Mumbai, etc. operate in this Airport.
By Rail: Puri can be reached from many major cities in India like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Okha, Ahmedabad, Tirupati, etc. by Rail and there are many trains that can be explored.
By Road: Puri is also well connected by road, within and outside the state.
There are more than enough hotels in and around Puri, almost of all which can be booked online through various travel sites or directly as well. You could choose your dates of travel and plan accordingly and make bookings beforehand. Getting accommodation after reaching there can prove to be a hassle during the Rath Yatra. While you are at it, you could also choose to explore a few of the other nearby tourist attractions like the few beaches, Raghurajpur Artist village, Chilika Lake and Wildlife Sanctuary, Light House as well as a few other temples in the vicinity.
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