» Foundation of Jagannath Ratha Yatra Celebration

Foundation of Jagannath Ratha Yatra Celebration

Posted On: 02 Jul, 2013| Festival: Jagannath Rath Yatra

Several stories are famous and well-known on the origin of the Jagannath Ratha Yatra Celebration, some of the causes are:

  • Kamsa, the maternal uncle of Lord Krishna, invited Krishna and Balaram to Mathura with the malicious intention of killing Them. The evil Kamsa sent Akrura with a Ratha (Chariot) to Gokul. Lord Krishna and Balaram climbed onto the chariot with Akrura, taking leave of the Gopis to proceed to Mathura. This day of departure of Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama is celebrated by the devotees as Ratha Yatra Festival.
  • Krishna devotees celebrated the day when Lord Krishna, having vanquished the evil Kamsa, gave them darshan in Mathura in a Ratha (Chariot) with His brother, Balarama.
  • Devotees in Dwarka celebrated the day when Lord Krishna, accompanied by Balarama, took Subhadra - His sister, for a ride on a Ratha (Chariot) to show the beautiful City of Dwarka.
  • Once in Dwarka, Lord Krishna's eight queens requested mother Rohini to narrate the transcendental pastimes of Lord Krishna with Gopis in Vraja Vrindavan. Rohini Mata agreed, however, considering it unbecoming of Subhadra to hear such episodes (Leela), she sent her to guard the Palace Doorway. Soon, Lord Shri Krishna and Balarama arrived at the Doorway. Subhadra stood between the two, preventing Them from entering. However, from where they stood, Rohini's narration of the transcendental pastimes soon engrossed Them all! Just then sage Narada arrived. Seeing the siblings standing together like murtis, Narada humbly prayed, "May the Three of You grant darshan in this manner forever." Lord Krishna granted the boon. And the three eternally reside in the Jagannath Mandir in Puri.
  • There is an interesting story of Lord Krishna becoming the Sarathi - driver of Arjuna's Ratha (Chariot), during the eighteen-day battle of the Mahabharat at Kurukshetra.
  • When Lord Krishna was being cremated in Dwarka, Balarama, overcome with grief, dashed into the ocean with Lord Krishna's partially cremated body. Subhadra too, followed both the brothers. At the same time, on the eastern shore of India, King Indradyumna of Jagannath Puri had a dream that the Lord's body would float up to the shores of Puri. He should build a huge temple in the city and consecrate the wooden murtis of Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra. The bones (asthi) of Lord Krishna's body should be placed in the hollow in the back of the murti. The dream came true. He found the splinters of bone (asthi) and took them. But the question was who would carve the murtis(images).

It is said that Vishwakarma,the architect of the gods, arrived at King Indradyumna’s Palace, as an old carpenter. He stipulated that while carving the murtis nobody should disturb him and if anybody did, he would stop work and leave. A few months elapsed. Driven with impatience, King Indradyumna opened the door of Vishwakarma's room, who vanished instantly as he had stipulated. Despite the incomplete murtis, the King Indradyumna consecrated them, placing the holy cinders of Lord Krishna in the hollow of the murti and installed them in the temple. Every year a grand procession is carried out with the murtis of Lord Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra in three gigantic Rathas (Chariots).


The Rathas (Chariots) are pulled by devotees as the celebration of Ratha Yatra Festival in Jagannath Puri. The murtis are changed every twelve years. The festival begins with the Ratha Prathistha or invoking ceremony in the morning, but the Ratha Tana or chariot pulling is the most exciting part of the festival, which begins in the late afternoon when the Rathas (chariots) of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra(Balarama) and Subhadra start rolling.


Each of these carriages have different specifications: The Ratha (chariot )of Lord Jagannath is called Nandighosa, has 18 wheels and is 23 cubits high; the Ratha (chariot) of Lord Balarama (Balabhadra), called Taladhvaja has 16 wheels and is 22 cubits high; and the Ratha (chariot) of Subhadra is called Devadalana, has 14 wheels and is 21 cubits high.


Each year these wooden Rathas (chariots) are constructed a new in accordance with religious specifications. The idols of these three deities are also made of wood and they are religiously replaced by new ones every after 12 years. After a nine-day sojourn of the deities at the country temple amidst festivities, the divine summer vacation gets over and the three return to the city temple of Lord Jagannath.

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