December 5, 2016: Subrahmanya Shashti
December 6, 2016: Nanda Saptami
December 7, 2016: Kala Bhairavasthami
The Rath Yatra at Temple of Jagannadha Swamy in Puri, Orissa is one of the major events in the Hindu calendar. The yatra, also popular as the Gundicha Yatra, Ghosa Yatra, Navadina Yatra or Dasavatara Yatra, holds much reverence for the devotees. Getting a glimpse of Lord Jagannatha on the chariot is considered to be very auspicious. It is also believed that if one gets to touch the chariot, or even the ropes with which it is pulled for that matter, the person is absolved of penance for ages. Devotees feel that the chariot, the wheels as well as the grand become one with Lord Jagannatha himself on this occasion.
Almost a fortnight before the yatra, the three festive deities, Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra, are given a ritual bath on the Snan Vedi, an open platform. On the day before the procession, three special chariots are decorated and lined outside the gate. On the day of the yatra, the priests bring out the bejeweled idols to the chariots. The first one to come out is Lord Jagannath. After this ceremony is over, Gajapati (the ceremonial King of Puri) comes and expresses his humility before God. Then, he cleans the chariots with a golden broom and then, sprinkles holy water on them. The journey with the three deities then begins towards the Gundicha Temple.
Rath Yatra commemorates the journey of Lord Krishna from Gokul to Mathura. According to Hindu mythology, Krishna, the ninth incarnation of Vishnu, was the eight son of Basudeva (or Vasudeva) and his wife Devaki. Professional astrologers tell Kansa, the demon King of Mathura, that the child of Vasudeva and Devaki will kill him. Kansa, therefore, imprisons Basudeva and his wife, and slew their first six sons However Balarama, the seventh to be born, was abstracted from Devakiís womb and is transferred to that of Rohini, another wife of Basudeva and is thus saved.
On the birth of Krishna, the father escapes from Mathura with the child and crosses the River Jamuna. He entrusts the infant Krishna to the care of the herdsman king, Nanda of Vraja. In Gokul or Vraja Krishna grew up to manhood. At length, Kansa heard of him and sends a messenger to bring him and his brother to Mathura. The brothers drove in their chariot victoriously to Mathura, where Krishna killed Kansa and begins to rule the region.
This episode in the life of Krishna is commemorated by the Rath Yatra. On this occasion the images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are removed from the temple and taken in great chariots to the garden house along the Bara Danda road, which is about a mile and a half long.
Here the Gods remain in the car at night, and are taken out next morning and placed in the shrine. They remain there for a week and are then again put in to the cars taken back to the temple thus commemorating the return journey of Krishna. The rule is that the whole festival should last 9 days, allowing a day the journey to the Gundicha- bari, a day for the return journey, and 7 days for the stay there; but in practice it lasts much longer, the return journey sometimes taking many days. The cars are large structures of considerable height, resembling lofty towers bedecked with tinsel, paintings and wooden statuary. The largest is the car of Jagannath, which is 45 feet in height and 35 feet square, and is supported on 16 wheels with a diameter of 7 feet.