In Orissa, a highly anticipated festival is the Rath Yatra of the Jagannath temple. The event is celebrated annually in the month of June or July. The Yatra also called Gundicha Yatra, Chariot Festival, Dasavatara and Navadina Yatra, is dedicated to Lord Jagannath who is also Lord Krishna, to his sister and brother, Godess Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra.
The festival of Rath Yatra is organized in Puri with the belief that every year Lord Jagannath wishes to visit his birthplace Mathura for a few days. The yatra is conducted with an aim to fulfil this desire of the Lord and takes place from Jagannath temple to Gundicha temple.
The festival is celebrated on the 2nd day of the Shukla Paksha, Ashadh month according to the traditional Oriya Calendar.
Every year the wooden idols of the three deities are taken from the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple. These idols are placed in decorative chariots, and are accompanied by chants and conches, which can be heard all around.
In a ritual called the Snana Pornima, the idols are bathed with 109 buckets of water and placed in isolation till just before the yatra begins. This is due to the fact that the idols are believed to be ill. The whole event is known as Ansara.
Hordes of locals and devotees flock around the temple area on the day of the procession to witness the holy ritual of Chhera Pahara which is performed by the royal successor of Orissa. Here, the chariots are cleaned and decorated by the King himself. Even the ground on which the chariot will move is decorated by him and sprinkled with Sandalwood,
This ritual shows that everyone is equal in the eyes of the Lord. The deities remain at their aunt’s place in Mathura for 9 days after which they return in a procession called the Bahuda Yatra.
During the return Yatra, the Bahuda Yatra makes a halt at the Mausi Maa Temple. Here the deities are served Poda Pitha, a sweet pancake. It is believed that this pancake is the poor man’s food and the Lord is fond of it.
On reaching the Jagannath Temple in the evening, they wait outside until the next day when the idols are adorned with new clothes in an event called Suna Vesa. After this day, the deities are placed again into the sanctum sanctorum, marking an end to the Rath Yatra of Jagannath Puri.