The Jagannath Temple in Puri is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Jagannath and located in the coastal town of Puri in the state of Odisha, India. The name Jagannath (Lord of the Universe) is a combination of the Sanskrit words Jagat (Universe) and Nath
RATH YATRA (CHARIOT FESTIVAL):
Each year, (open to all) in mid-summer, the proxy images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra, the deities enshrined in the Jagannath Temple at Puri, are carried in colourful processions every evening for 21 days to the Narendra Tank where they cruise in a bright decorated boat. In gaiety and colour this festival stands next only to the Car Festival. On the full moon day of Jyestha (June), the Snanajatra or the bathing festival is observed when the images in worship are actually brought out for public viewing. After the bathing festival, the deities spend 15 days in seclusion during which period they are repainted and prepared for the Car Festival. The Car Festival is celebrated on the second day of the bright fortnight of Ashadha (June-July) and the deities are taken on a journey of around 3 kms in stupendous and decorated chariots for sojourn in the Gundicha Ghar till the return Car Festival which is held 9 days later. The chariot of Lord Jagannath, known as ‘Nandighose’ is 23 cubits high and has 18 wheels. The chariot of Balabhadra which is 22 cubits in height and has 16 wheels is named ‘Taladwaja’. ‘Devadalan’, the chariot of Subhadra is 21 cubits in height and has 14 wheels. The chariots are constructed anew every year in accordance with strict and ancient specifications and are pulled by several thousand devotees at a time. In terms of splendor and fervent devotion, the Car Festival is one of the world’s most incredible spectacles.
The concept of temple procession, of which the Rath Yatra is probably the most famous illustration, is an important one in Hinduism. The term ratha (chariot) is itself often used as a word meaning ‘temple’, as both the palace and the vehicle of the God. The chariots in which the images of the deities in the Jagannath temple are pulled through the streets actually resemble moveable temples. In fact, these are designed keeping in view the features of the Bhaskaresvara Temple in Bhubaneswar which resembles a chariot. The relation between temple and chariot form is fascinating. Some scholars feel that the temple form may have developed, in part, from early wooden processional carts. And in Odisha (Formerly Orissa), of course, we have the supreme example of influence in the other direction: the Konark Sun Temple, clearly and beautifully replicating a huge chariot.