Puri Ratha Yatra
Ratha Yatra is a huge Hindu festival and it is organized each year at famous Jagannatha temple inPuri. Ratha Yatra day is decided based on Hindu Lunar calendar and it is fixed on Dwitiya Tithi during Shukla Paksha of Ashada month. Currently it falls in month of June or July in Gregorian calendar.
Lord Jagannatha is worshipped primarily in city of Puri at famous Jagannatha temple. Lord Jagannatha is considered a form of Lord Vishnu and also revered by the followers of Vaishnavism. Jagannatha literally means Lord of the Universe. Jagannatha temple is one of the four Hindu pilgrimage centers known as Char Dham pilgrimages that a Hindu is expected to make in one’s lifetime. Lord Jagannatha is worshipped along with his brother Balabhadra and his sister Devi Subhadra.
Ratha Yatra commemorates Lord Jagannatha’s annual visit to Gundicha Mata temple. It is said that to honor the devotion of Queen Gundicha, wife of the legendary King Indradyumna who built the Puri Jagannatha temple, the Lord Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra leave their regular abode in the main temple and spend a few days in this temple built by Gundicha in their honor.
One day before of Ratha Yatra, Gundicha Temple is cleaned by devotees of Lord Jagannatha. The ritual of cleaning Gundicha temple is known as Gundicha Marjana (मार्जन) and is held one day before Ratha Yatra.
The fourth day after Ratha Yatra is celebrated as Hera Panchami when Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Jagannatha, visits Gundicha temple in search of Lord Jagannatha. Hera Panchami should not be confused with Panchami Tithi as Hera Panchami is celebrated on the fourth day after Ratha Yatra and usually observed on Shashthi Tithi.
After resting eight days in Gundicha temple Lord Jagannatha returns to his main abode. This day is known as Bahuda Yatra or Return Yatra and is observed on the eighth day after Ratha Yatra on Dashami Tithi (if we don’t have any skipped or leaped Tithi during Lords’ stay in Gundicha temple). During Bahuda Yatra Lord makes a short stoppage at Mausi Maa temple which is dedicated toGoddess Ardhashini.
It should be noted that Lord Jagannatha returns to his main abode just before Devshayani Ekadashi when Lord Jagannatha goes to sleep for four months. Ratha Yatra is also known as Puri Car Festivalamong foreign visitors.
It should be noted that rituals of Ratha Yatra start much ahead of Ratha Yatra day. Approximately 18 days before of Ratha Yatra Lord Jagannatha, his brother Balabhadra and his sister Devi Subhadra are given famous ceremonial bath which is known as Snana Yatra. Snana Yatra day is observed on Purnima Tithi in Jyaishta month which is popularly known as Jyestha Purnima.