Lord Jagannatha’s Rath Yatra or the Chariot Festival, is celebrated every year on the second day of Shukla Paksha in the Hindu month of Asadh. This year it falls on Sunday, 29th July, 2014.
Jagannath Puri in Orissa, East India, is one of the four Dhams or holiest of shrines in the four corners of the country, the other three being Badrinath (North India), Dwaraka (West India) and Rameshwaram (South India). It will once again be the cynosure of all eyes, when the three newly constructed wooden chariots bearing the splendidly decorated wooden idols of Lord Krishna and his sibling deities Balbhadra and Subhadra will be taken along a 2 Km route from the Jagannath temple housing the three deities to the Gundicha temple of their aunt and back, by the pulling of ropes tied to the chariots.
An act of devotion, participated in by thousands of ardent devotees, and witnessed by lakhs of pilgrims and foreign tourists, in this holy temple town, the procession after the invoking ceremony at the Jagannatha Temple, with the Nandighosa or 18 wheel chariot bearing Lord Krishna, the Taladhwaja or 16 wheel chariot bearing Lord Balabhadra and the Devadalana or 14 wheel chariot bearing the deity Subhadra, winds its way slowly with the chanting of hymns and singing of devotional songs by the devotees pulling the chariots and echoed by the onlookers, to the Gundicha Temple.
The Rath Yatra celebration in praise of Lord Jagannatha may be celebrated largely by Hindus but the followers of the Lord include ardent devotees from other religions and castes too. Bhakta Salabeg was a staunch devotee of Lord Jagannatha as did Mohammed Aziz who is famous for the Lord Jagannatha bhajans. Both were muslims. The main Temple Complex has a small replica in its rear portion where the back door of the temple has a cross on it, indicating Jesus Christ having visited the Lord. Buddha scriptures have the mention of his love for lord Jagannatha while Guru Nana the founder of the Sikh faith also admired him.
The only day in the whole year when non-Hindu devotees get the opportunity to actually see and feel elevated in the holy air surrounding the idols of the deities, the Rath Yatra is an act of faith and devotion, a symbol of unity and integration that knows no boundaries. In recent times it has reached a new level of global awareness, thanks to the dedicated and painstaking efforts of ISKCON in its religious outlook, encouraging zeal and wholehearted participation.
Legend and lore, has always engaged the Indian psyche. But the land is also known for its deep-rooted religious beliefs and innate faith in the Lord and his mysterious ways. Hence the tale of Lord Jagannatha and the miracles wrought by him in people’s lives has become even more significant in an age fraught with the cares and worries associated with competition and fast paced living.
Come let us remember Lord Jagannatha and pray for his benevolence on this auspicious occasion of the Jagannatha Rath Yatra. May he make our souls lighter, our spirits stronger and give the confidence and capability to tackle any problem big or small, with the full knowledge and awareness that he is always by our side.