Paragraph on Ratha Yatra (874 Words)

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In Orissa, the most popular of the numerous festivals celebrated round the year is the ‘Ratha Yatra’ festival in the sacred city of Puri.


This is the grand culmination of a number of celebrations spread over the summer and the monsoon months.

This, great festival begins with ‘Chandan Yatra’ means sandal-wood paste festival’ that falls on the third day of the bright fortnight of Vaisakh, Akshaya Tritiya.

This is a twenty-one day ceremony during which the moving images, proxies of the main deities Rama, Krishna, Madanmohan, Laxmi and Sarasvati- enjoy an evening cruise on decorated boats in the picturesque Narendra Tank. On this auspicious day starts the making of the Rathas, chariots for the ceremonial sojourn of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra to the Gundicha Temple on the day of Ratha Yatra.

In the month of Jaistha (May-June), on the full-moon day starts the Bathing Festival known as ‘Snana Yatra’. The three deities move in colourful processions to a platform in the outer enclosure of the temple, the ‘Snana Vedi’ the bathing platform. Here the deities bathe with one hundred and eight pitchers of perfumed water drawn from a temple well (the golden well) once a year.


After the bathing ritual is over, the deities take the special elephant form, recalling the legend of the Lord’s affection for a devotee, whom he proved that he was infact another mani­festation of Lord Ganesha. At the end of the ‘Snana Yatra’ day, the deities suppos­edly afflicted with fever, don’t return to their pedestal. For a period of fifteen days holy triad stays away. This is known as Anasara’. After this, they emerge in their Nabayaubana vesha means in a renewed youth, on the New moon day of the month of Asadh. During this fortnight, the images are given a fresh coat of painting which gets washed out on the day of Bathing Festival.

The devotees, temple servants also symbolically convalesce with the deities and remains in restricted diets and fruits on Anasara Patti, that is, cloth paintings representing the deities are exhibited beyond the enclosure, thus, hiding the icons for the devotees to see and worship.

On the second day of the bright fortnight of the month of Asadh, comes the much awaited ‘Ratha Yatra’ day. The three deities comes out of the temple in a spectacular procession known as ‘Pahandi’.

The big wooden statues of the deities are adorned with ‘Tahias’ in the form of grand floral crown’s. Now starts the moment of pulling, pushing and dragging of the deities in rhythmic manner to the accompaniment of the beat of cymbals, drums and chanting of their names in chorus by the frenzied devotees. All the images are taken to their respective chariots. This is followed by the ritual ‘Chera Pahanra’.

The Gajapati King of Puri, the foremost servant of God, the Adya Sevaka of Lord Jagannath now sweeps the chariots with a golden broom. The king arrives from his palace on a highly decorated palanquin. This symbolic rite denotes that the king is like all others but an humble servant of the real sovereign, Lord Jagannath. The most enjoyable moment begins, when thousands of devotees lay their hands on the sturdy ropes and drag the massive structures along the Bada Danda, the grand road. First, goes the chariot of Balabhadra, followed by those of Subhadra and Jagannath. When they arrive at the Gundicha temple, they rest for a night on their own chariots, adorned with the Dasavatara costumes. The next day morning, they enter the temple in their usual Pahandi style and stay there for seven days.

In the meanwhile, on the Hera Panchami day, the fifth day from the Rath Yatra, Goddess Laxmi, who is furious for being left out at the temple, comes to the Gundicha temple to meet her Lord, Jagannath. Giving a stealthy look at her Lord; she returns to the temple, damaging a portion of Jagannatha’s chariot in deep anguish.

After a seven day stay at Gundicha temple, their garden house, the deities begin the Bahuda Yatra, their return journey on the tenth day of the bright fortnight of Asadh in the same order as in the Ratha Yatra. Balabhadra’s chariot is followed by those of Subhadra and Jagannath.

On the way, the Lord stops for a while at the Mausi Ma temple or the temple of Aunt (Ardhasini Temple) to accept his favourite rice cake, Poda Pitha from his aunt. In the late afternoon of the Bahuda day, the three chariots, pulled by the devotees reach back the Simhadvar. The deities remain seated on their chariots. On the next day, the Bada Ekadashi, they are adorned with costumes made of glittering gold and the devotees offer their prayers to the deities in this ‘Suna Vesha’.

Dvadashi day, the deities go back to the Ratna Simhasana, in the Jewelled platform, their original place. This grand festival of chariots comes to an end with the arrival of the deities into the Sanctum Sanctorum amidst the chanting of the thousands of people in praise of Lord Jagannath in a spectacular procession in Pahandi style. Car festival on much smaller scale, are held at Ramnagar (near Varanasi), Serampore (near Calcutta) and Jagannathpur (near Ranchi).


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