Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra of July 2022 - Many interesting facts!!

Puri Jagannath Rathyatra, July 2022  latestly.com

Among the  Rath Yatra or temple car festivals  across India  the most popular one is the annual  Rath Yatra festival of Puri in  Odisha. In terms of crowds, pomp, pageantry and religious fervor, no other Indian temple car festival can surpass 12 century old Puri Jagannath temple where the deities are  Lord  Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and their sister Goddess Subhadra. Their idols in the sanctum are made of neem wood and it  shows the temple's links with tribal worship.

This year in  July  the grand festival went off well after a gap of two years and there was no dearth of enthusiasm and dedication despite the fact that people  had just come out of the scare of COVID -19 third way threats.  A mind-boggling fact is  the Rath Yatra  that  has continued uninterrupted since 1730s could not take place 32 times between 1558 and 1735.  The last time it happened was in 1733 when Mohammed Taqi Khan attacked the temple and the idols were shifted to Ganjam district. After 285 years  the rath Yatra was stopped by Supreme Court in 2020. 

Puri Jagannath temple, Odisha zeenews.india.com

Many  interesting facts about the Rath Yatra, Puri: 

01. Puri jagannath  is a huge temple with lots of priests and helpers. It has the largest kitchen in the world, feeding more than 50000 people daily. The Maha Prasada of this temple is quite popular.  An interesting fact is the temple cooks use only earthen pots to make delicious food and only fire wood hearths are used for cooking. They shun modern kitchen gadgets and facilities  that will mar the divinity of  this place.  

02. Lakhs of devotees gather out side the  Puri Jagannath Temple from where the chariots are pulled and taken to  Gundicha Temple, a few miles away from here. This annual  rath yatra is believed to be the oldest religious chariot procession in the world. The chariots are physically pulled by the thousands of devotes all along the route and no bulldozer or any other heavy duty tractors are employed to push the raths from behind.

03. The convention has been that  Lord Jagannath and his brother and sister are ceremoniously  taken in  chariots from the main temple to their aunt's home - Gundicha Mata Temple.

04. The three deities stay at their aunt's house for long nine days as it is believed that the rath was damaged by Goddess Laxmi, who was upset over her husband (Jagannath) leaving  her behind. 

05. After a week or so the deities  begin their return journey called  the Bahuda Yatra which ends with the Niladri Bije.  This marks the return of the deities to the sanctum - garbagriha. 

06. In south Indian states Uttachava murtis (processional idols) are taken in a procession  on the chariot. But here the images of the deities are made of  neem wood specially selected by the sthapathi or Biswakarmas.  

07. The needed  wood logs are  selected among the logs  brought from Daspalla forest in Nayagarh district.The state government has an exclusive ‘Jagannath Bana Prakalpa’, a massive plantation project which provides logs for the purpose.

08.The government has also exclusive ‘Jagannath Bana Prakalpa’, a massive plantation project which provides logs for the purpose.

09. The work will begin on  Akshaya Tritya  after Srimandir/pundit  handed over the Agyanmala (order).  

10. Interestingly the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra are made of neem wood which is chosen because as per the Bhavishya Purana it is the most auspicious wood that makes idols of Vishnu.

11. The three chariots are made well at the Rathakala before the great event and it is a tradition to have new chariots made every year coordinating various professionals - carpenters, blacksmiths, roopakaras (painters), darzis (tailors) and ‘Bhoi’ servitors. 

12. Various parts of chariots are made from neem trees grown specifically for this purpose. When dismantled after the yatra, the wood from the chariot is used for making celestial toys. 

13. On  each chariot, along with the main deity nine other idols are also kept. So are the nine  sages. 

14. A rath or the chariot is built for each of the three deities well ahead of the festival. In each chariot, along with the main deity nine other idols are also placed. Nine sages are also depicted on each chariot.

15.The 45 foot tall massive rath in red and yellow color canopy is for Lord Jagannath chariot  and is called Nandighosa with 18 wheels.  and it alone takes two months to be built. The chariot of Balarama Taladwaja 44 ft tall , has 16 wheels and that of  Goddess Subhadra’s Padmadhwaja - 43 ft tall, has 14 wheels. 

16.Normally it takes a couple of months to make the raths (chariots). Normally 100 to 150 carpenters will work on the three chariots. Most of them hailing from traditional families do this work for satisfaction, love and devotion. Money is next to them. 

17. The Festival takes place during Ashadha Masa, the third month of the Odia Calendar. Rathe  Jatra of Lord Jagannath is taken out on the second day of the waxing phase of the moon. 

18. The chariot of Lord Jagannath is believed to be a symbol of 'Sand Sandhini Sakti'; therefore, a touch of the holy structure would confer compassion and energy of the lord on the devotees. 

19. A rare and interesting aspect of this festival is  before the rathyatra the king  (Gajapati) sweeps the ground before the chariot  with a golden broom symbolizing the fact that the king is just like common people is a servant of the all pervading almighty. This tradition has been in  vogue for centuries.