The Rath Yatra or Chariot Festival is to be celebrated on Sunday, the 29th of June, 2014. and Lord Jagannatha shall once again be worshipped with fervor and devotion amidst pomp and splendor in a public gathering of several lakh devotees in Jagannath Puri, Orissa, India. Thousands of the gathered millions shall be pulling the ropes of the three chariots carrying 45 feet tall, wooden idols of Lord Krishna, his brother Lord Balbhadra and their sister Goddess Subhadra, splendidly adorned and brightly painted in equally grand wooden chariots that have been newly constructed. The procession would move from the Lord Jagannatha Temple to a distance of 2 Km away where the temple of their aunt lies at Gundicha, allow the deities to spend some days (roughly a week) and return the way it had come. Every year this massive exercise is undertaken with inspiring regularity and utmost dedication and the Lord has never let his devotees despair in their whole-hearted efforts to celebrate the occasion. Lakhs of onlookers gather from all parts of India and it is now a part of an international itenary for tourists, thanks to the involvement and active support of ISKCON.
But as with the event being celebrated year after year, there are certain strange observances about the Lord Jagannatha temple that have come to light
So begin the journey of discovering some amazing facts of our beloved Jagannath Temple....
1. It has been observed that the flag atop the temple always flaps in the direction opposite to the direction of the air flow.
2. The Sudharshan Chakra atop the temple is visible from any part of the city of Puri, but surprisingly always seeming to face the viewer.
3. The breeze is generally from sea to land in the daytime and vice versa in the evening. In Puri it is observed to be just the reverse.
4. It is remarkable indeed that planes do not fly above the temple. But more astonishing is the fact that even birds do not fly above it.
5. Whether it is an architectural feat or what the Lord ordained, the shadow of the main dome is never seen at any time of the day.
6. There is a certain doorway or Singha Dwara beyond which you are able to hear the sound of the sea waves. When you cross over to the other side it is just not audible. This has baffled any scientific explanation till date. Legend has it that Subhadra Maharani, the sister of the two Lords wished peace and tranquility within the temple abode and giving in to her wish it was made to happen that way.
7. The Prasadam or holy offering to the Lord is cooked on firewood in seven vessels or pots kept one above the other. The miracle is that the food kept in the topmost vessel gets cooked first, followed by the second and so on till the seventh or lowest one above the fire gets cooked.
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8. The daily prasadam is a fixed quantity throughout the year and aimed for an anticipated 25000 persons who could be visiting the temple. Yet whenever there has been a surplus of visitors or the numbers visiting have decreased, there has never been shortfall or wastage.
9. The Tulasi garden or holy place where the old idols and newly constructed wooden idols are brought face to face, is where the Shaligram or holy stone is removed from the old idol and fitted in the new one for each of the three deities. The transfer of the stone is a physical act done by a sect that has been doing this since traditional times. But the power that is transferred from the old to the stone in the new is a divine force that is actually felt by the very people that undertake this pious task once in twelve years.
10.The old idols that are buried atop one another disintegrate on their own and as per legend, to prevent other witnesses from becoming blind in observing this forbidden sight even inadvertently the city is blacked out till the task is completed. This fact may be ascertained from the veteran priests of the temple and also finds mention in the religious texts n Lord Jagannatha sold in the local shops at Jagannath Puri.
10. The Chariot Festival at Puri was initially performed with two sets of chariots for each diety. Since there was a river flowing in between the Sri Mandira (Jagannatha Temple) and Mausi Maa (Aunty) temple, the first set of chariots used to bring the lords till the river, then the lords had to ferry across the river in three giant wooden boats and were then placed in the second set of chariots to reach the Mausi Maa temple. Very daunting task but with the Lord on your side anything is possible.
12. Every year there is a spot just ahead of the Gundicha Temple where the entire procession comes to a halt on its own. This is a mystery since despite the unwritten rule that the temple doors are closed to the public after 6 P.M. and elaborate planning by the organizers the proceedings have delayed beyond this time in every Yatra. This also gives the opportunity for the throngs of devotees to actually come and touch the idols which otherwise would not be possible in the precincts of the temple. Maybe it is the Lord’s way of saying that all mortals are equal in his eyes.
We are in a modern age and technology has made advances beyond our imagination a few years back. Yet the deep-rooted followers of Indian culture, are as unwavering and steadfast in their godly beliefs and practices today as they were earlier, with age-old customs and traditions still reigning supreme.
It is these renewed acts of faith despite the passage of time that have kept the soul of India vibrant and ticking till this day.