July 16: The nine day long Chariot festival or Car festival of Orissa commence today in Puri (Orissa) and in all other cities across India. Known as Rath Yatra the festival of Lord Jagannath that draws lakhs of devotees from all across the globe is the foremost festival of the eastern Indian state Orissa.
The festival marks the return of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra to their home Vrindavan after a long gap. According to puranas Jagannath is the reincarnation of Lord Krishna who along with his elder brother Balabhadra or Balaram and sister Subhadra are worshiped in the Puri temple known as Shrimandira.
The name of Lord Jagannath is a culmination of two words Jagat means universe and nath means Lord. So Jagannath means Lord of the universe. The Puri Jagannath temple has bared the entry of non-Hindus and foreigners but in this auspicious day all devotes irrespective of any religion can get the glimpse of their Lord.
Due to the presence of Lord Jagannath temple, the holy place Puri is regarded as one of the four holiest pilgrimages of Hindus and hence visited by thousands of pilgrims from all across the globe for seeking blessings of the Lord.
The festival starts with various rituals that include the march of the lord to the three chariots (rath). The marching ceremony from temple Shrimandira to the chariots is known as Pahandibije or Pahandi. After that the King of the princely state Puri named Dibyasingha Deo who holds the only right to worship the Lord in this very special day does the rest of rituals including the primary one Chhera Pahanra. It is the ritual of cleaning chariots with a golden broom and mandatory before pulling all three chariots on the grand road (Bada Danda).
Lakhs of devotees assemble at the grand road to witness this divine procession, the journey of Lord from the main temple to the Gundicha temple situated at a distance of 2km. The Rath Yatra comes to an end after eight days vacation of Lord with their return to the main temple. The return journey in Oriya language is known as Bahuda Yatra.
Like Puri this grand festival is also celebrated in all most all other major cities, towns and villages of Orissa. This marks the faith of the people and a magnificent culture. The festival is not confined to Orissa only and has been celebrated in other states as well.
This is the holy day when one can only hear Jai Jagannath, Jai Jagannath in all corner of the state for the blessing of Lord and with a prayer to destroy all evil powers and propagate peace and love in the whole universe.