Whether you are a pilgrim or a curious traveler, the divine spectacle of Puri’s Chariot Festival or Rath Yatra is an event that leaves an indelible mark on the soul

OdishaPlus Bureau

Debasnana Purnima, also popularly known as Snana Yatra, is a significant and sacred festival celebrated in the divine town of Puri, Odisha, marking an important prelude to the world-renowned Rath Yatra or Chariot Festival. Held on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Jyeshtha, this auspicious occasion draws millions of devotees and tourists from around the globe, eager to witness the grand bathing ritual of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra, and Sudarsan.

The Bathing Ritual
On Debasnana Purnima, the deities are brought out from the sanctum sanctorum of the Jagannath Temple and placed on the Snana Bedi (a special bathing platform). Here, they are ceremoniously bathed with 108 pitchers of purified water, drawn from the sacred well within the temple premises. This ritual bath is believed to purify the deities and rejuvenate their divine essence, symbolizing the commencement of the larger Rath Yatra festivities.

The Healing Period
Post the elaborate bathing ceremony, the deities are said to fall ill, a unique occurrence known as ‘Anavasara’. During this fortnight-long period, they are kept away from public view and given elaborate traditional treatments and herbal medicines. This phase signifies their recuperation and is called the ‘Naba Jaubana Darshan,’ marking their youthful rejuvenation before the grand chariot procession.

The Grand Rath Yatra
The Rath Yatra, also known as the Chariot Festival, is the highlight of the celebrations, featuring several important rituals:

Sri Gundicha Yatra: This marks the beginning of the Rath Yatra, where the deities, now rejuvenated, are carried out of the Jagannath Temple and placed on their splendidly decorated chariots. The massive chariots, pulled by thousands of devotees, proceed towards the Gundicha Temple, their aunt’s abode, about 3 kilometers away on the grand road. This journey is a grand spectacle of devotion, color, and fervor.

Bahuda Yatra: After a week’s stay at the Gundicha Temple, the deities return to the Jagannath Temple in a similar grand procession. This return journey is known as Bahuda Yatra, equally celebrated with great enthusiasm and participation.

Suna Besha: Following Bahuda Yatra, the deities are adorned with gold ornaments and attire, a sight of unparalleled splendor and divine opulence, on the chariots in front of the Sinhadwar of the magnificent Jagannath Temple. This ritual, known as Suna Besha or golden attire of the Lords, attracts a vast multitude of devotees eager to witness the divine magnificence.

Adhara Pana: This ritual involves the offering of a special sweet drink to the deities, served in large pitchers. The drink is believed to appease the spirits and protectors of the chariots.

Niladri Bije: This marks the conclusion of the Rath Yatra, where the deities return to the sanctum of the Jagannath Temple. A unique aspect of this ritual is the symbolic gesture of Goddess Lakshmi (Lord Jagannath’s consort) barring Lord Jagannath’s entry to the temple as a playful reprimand for leaving her behind. After a symbolic enactment of appeasement by offering of unique sweet Rasagolla to Mahalaxmi, the deities finally re-enter the temple.

A Global Spiritual Experience
The Rath Yatra of Puri is not just a festival but a profound spiritual experience that transcends cultural and geographical boundaries. It stands as a testament to the rich heritage and enduring faith that defines India’s spiritual landscape. Every year, millions of devotees and visitors throng the holy town of Puri, making it the second-largest spiritual tourism destination in India.

For those seeking an immersion in deep spirituality, vibrant culture, and unparalleled devotion, Debasnana Purnima and the ensuing Rath Yatra offer an unforgettable journey into the heart of Indian religious fervor. Whether you are a pilgrim or a curious traveler, the divine spectacle of Puri’s chariot festival is an event that leaves an indelible mark on the soul.

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