Rath Yatra or Ratha Jatra or Chariot Festival – A Hindu Festival Associated with Lord Jagannath in a Holy Destination!
Rath Yatra is a Hindu festival that is one of the most celebrated holidays in India!
The Celebration of Rath Yatra
Welcome to Puri, India, home to the largest festival of “the chariots” or Rath Yatra. This day symbolizes the three gods that leave the temple of Jagannath in order to allow the rest of the faithful to see them. These deities include Jagannath, the incarnation o Vishnu; Balabhadra, his brother; and Subhadra, their sister. This holy festival is usually held in July of each year, with thousands flocking to India to celebrate this amazing day.
Experiencing Rath Yatra
Each year in India, the faithful and veteran attendees make their annual journey to the Rath Yatra. This festival is a celebration, spiritual gathering, and a time to find a deeper connection with others, with Vishnu and with Hinduism.
The Rath Yatra festival was born out of a desire to celebrate Lord Jagannath and have people gathering in the name of this Hindu God. For a few days, thousands gather to celebrate Rath Yatra one of Hinduism’s very sacred festivals. Though this festival lasts between one and three days, there is a lot of preparation and celebration that happens several days before the event itself.
This festival is truly dedicated to the community and offers meals for those that are in need or anyone looking for camaraderie. Throughout the festival preparation, the holy book is read for two days while performances with music, dancing, drumming and other activities take place throughout the event. The festival of Rath Yatra use of color, lights, decoration and showcases and amazing procession of drummers, dancers, and worshippers.
The Temples and the Sacrifices
Leading up to the festival, people will ornately decorate the temples, or places for prayer, with lights, flags, and flowers. Flags and decorations are found all around the buildings and businesses in the area. Colorful decorations also line the streets and the temples, as a way to visually unite the country and the celebration.
During the week before Rath Yatra, the procession and preparations for the festival begin.. When the day of Rath Yatra finally arrives, temples open at 3 am to allow worshippers to begin their worship during the early hours of the day. Hymns and poems are recited and sung as sacrifices of food and drink are made outside on the temple streets.
A Full Moon and Bright Lights
Throughout all the goings on at Rath Yatra Festival, be sure to fully take in all of your surroundings. The timing of the festival coincides just right with the full moon every year. This beautiful night paired with the glowing candles, the bright Temple of Jagannath, and the beautiful decorations are all some of the best sights you will ever see!
Many that are not religious do travel to this festival just to get a look at this beautiful festival. Do bring a good camera and get amazing shots but remember that it is so much more important to be in the moment rather than trying to capture the moment.
Celebrating Rath Yatra Festival
Rath Yatra is totally about celebrating Vishnu and the other deities that have chosen to be with the rest of humanity for a day. Do yourself a favor and read up Hinduism a little more. Many that attend this festival are Hindu, but some do come to learn more about Vishnu, and Hinduism itself.
While the Rath Yatra Festival is indeed a religious holiday, the festival is rich with tradition, history and culture as traditional worship songs, chants, and dances play a huge part of the event. Do your best to be respectful if you are just visiting.
You do not have to believe in Hinduism to join in on the celebration and you do not need to be religious at all, you just need to have respect and courtesy for those that do, but try to fully understand the importance of all the cultural and traditional activities that take place during this event.Take some time to immerse yourself in the beliefs and understanding of Hinduism before coming to Rath Yatra Doing a fair amount of research before hand will save you from asking disrespectful or ignorant questions while people are trying to worship.
The Procession of the Deities
When you arrive to celebrate Rath Yatra you will see the honorable holy people praying and wandering through the crowds. These people range from monks that roam around the streets and temple areas to devout worshippers that are hoping to see a glimpse of the Deities.
These Holy men and many of the devout worshippers have given up earthly desires and material needs. Many live lives that consist of ascetic yoga and the offerings of other Hindus who bring them food and coins. In return for the offerings and good karma, these men place ash and white paint to mark the followers.
The Jagannath Temple
The sacred Temple is really one of the most sacred temples of Vishnu and is one of the most holy sites in Puri and the Hindu religion. Thousands of people visit this 2,000 year old temple on a daily basis to worship and pray. During Rath Yatra , the temple is a sight to see as it is illuminated by the giant full moon and lit with lights and beautiful decorations. Be sure to visit the temple during your stay but be mindful of those that are praying. Take pictures, but be respectful.
The Temple’s history is deeply embedded in the history of Nepal as well as the religion itself. The temple has stood for several thousands of years and continues to remain a very important part of Hindu culture. There are many stories to read involving this temple, take some time to research them before your visit.
Preparing for the Festival
When it comes to getting ready for Rath Yatra , there isn’t THAT much that you need to prepare for. The key to having an all around uplifting, life changing, and spiritually awakening trip is to pack light.
Check the weather to see how cold the Himalayas gets during its Winter nights to help you determine what to take for clothing and warmth. Remember that you will be outside the majority of the time so wear light, comfortable clothing that you can move freely in. Remember that all attendees are there to get to know themselves and each other better so don’t focus that much on your outward appearance.
Do keep in mind that you should try to dress modestly, whatever you do choose to wear. Take a look through some of the suggested attire to wear in India and look at pictures of past Rath Yatra. Wearing inappropriate clothing to a very holy festival is something you definitely do not want to do. Stay away from skimpy attire and anything that calls too much attention to yourself.
Getting to and Lodging at Rath Yatra Festival
While most of the attendees of Rath Yatra live in the area, several do fly in for the event. Make sure your country allows you to fly in to India during November, you don’t want to prepare for an adventure that you can’t take! Do be sure to have a current passport as well as it takes months to get a new one.
When it comes to accommodations, many people choose to stay nearby for the entire festival of Rath Yatra . If you are staying for the whole celebration, you will find it beneficial to try to find lodging as close as possible. You may be up for well over 22 hours, so make it easier on yourself by finding a hotel within walking distance. Try shopping around for the best deals and take a look at Air BnB as well for a different, and possibly more authentic, lodging experience.
Tickets and Pricing
As Rath Yatra grows bigger with every year, so do the crowds at this annual event. Do your best to purchase tickets a few months in advance as they almost always sell out quickly. In addition to festival pricing, book your flights in advance as well as with a few extra days before or after the festival just to rest. Rath Yatra is a non-stop celebration, so you don’t want to step off the plane hitting the ground running. In between flying, jet lag and celebrating, you are in store for one incredible journey.
Try getting in contact with a travel agent to get the inside scoop on Rath Yatra . The more you know about this event, the more you’ll get to see! Having a travel agent with inside tips can save you from making mistakes that most tourists make.
Now that you have a little more information about Rath Jatra, take some time to plan a trip to visit Puri, India one of these days!
Visit information about festivals section to explore a full list of festivals happening around the world yearly!