Ratha Yatra is a combination of the terms ratha, which means chariot or carriage, and yatra, which means journey or pilgrimage. Other Indian languages, like Odia, utilise their phonetic equivalents, like jatra. The event is also known as the chariot festival or ratha jatra.
A chariot ride with spectators is known as a ratha yatra. Usually, it refers to a procession of religious saints and political leaders as well as deities or individuals costumed as deities. The phrase first appears in Indian mediaeval books like the Puranas, which discuss the Ratha Yatra of Surya (the sun deity), Devi (the mother goddess), and Vishnu. Extensive celebrations accompany these chariot journeys, whereby people or deities emerge from one temple and are followed by members of the general public. Sometimes returning to the temple’s sacrosanctum is part of the festivities.
Any public chariot procession is known as a Ratha Yatra, also known as the Chariot Festival. The term specifically refers to the annual Ratha Yatra in the East Indian states of Odisha, Jharkhand, and West Bengal, and particularly the Odia festival, which involves a public procession with a chariot pulled by the gods Jagannath (Vishnu’s avatar), Balabhadra (his brother), Subhadra (his sister), and Sudarshana Chakra (his weapon) on a ratha, a wooden deula-shaped chariot.
Ratha Yatra processions have historically been common in Vishnu-related (Jagannath, Rama, and Krishna) traditions in Hinduism throughout India; in Shiva-related traditions, with saints and goddesses in Nepal; with Tirthankaras in Jainism; as well as tribal folk religions found in the eastern states of India. The Puri Ratha Yatra, the Dhamrai Ratha Yatra, and the Mahesh Ratha Yatra are a few notable Ratha Yatras in India. Ratha Yatra, a festival honouring deities including Mariamman, Shiva, Krishna, and Jagannath, is celebrated by Hindu groups outside of India, such as those in Singapore. Knut Jacobsen claims that although a Ratha Yatra has religious roots and meaning, the gatherings also have significant cultural, social, and historical value to the organisers and participants.
Jagannath Rath Yatra, Puri
The triads are typically worshipped in the sanctum of the Puri temple during the Jagannath Rath Yatra, but once in the month of Asadha (Odisha’s rainy season, which typically falls in the months of June or July), they are brought out onto the Bada Danda (Puri’s main street) and transported (3 km) to the Shri Gundicha Temple in enormous chariots (ratha), allowing the general public to have a holy view.
The Rathas are enormous wooden wheels that are created from scratch each year and dragged by worshippers. It takes about two months to build Jagannath’s chariot, which is around 45 feet high and 35 feet wide. The wood-carved charioteer and horses, the painted inverted lotuses on the wall behind the throne, the painted flower petals and various decorations on the wheels, and the decorated chariots are all the work of Puri’s artists and painters. The Shri Gundicha Yatra is another name for the Ratha Yatra.
Dhamrai Jagannath Ratha Yatra
In Dhamrai, Bangladesh, there is a chariot temple called the Dhamrai Jagannath Ratha that honours the Hindu deity Jagannath. Several thousand people attend the yearly Jagannath Ratha Yatra, a well-known Hindu celebration. One of the most significant occasions for Bangladesh’s Hindu population is the Ratha Yatra in Dhamrai. In 1971, the Pakistani Army set fire to the original historical Roth. Since then, with Indian assistance, the Roth has been rebuilt.
Rath Yatra of Mahesh
The Rathayatra of Mahesh, which has been observed since 1396 CE, is the third-oldest chariot festival in Bengal and the second-oldest in India (after the Rath Yatra [at Puri]). A large fair is hosted during the month-long celebration at Mahesh in Serampore, West Bengal. People swarm to pull the long ropes (Roshi) that are linked to Lord Jagannath’s, Balarama’s, and Subhadra’s chariots as they go from the temple to Gundicha Bari (Masir Bari) and return. In the Jagannath Yatra, Subhadra and Krishna are both adored.