Rathayatra is the main festival of Hindus organized in the month of Ashar(.i.e.July). Usually ‘Rath’ means ‘Chariot’ and ‘Yatra’ means ‘Procession’. The name of Lord Krishna is closely associated with the chariot. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu started the Rathayatra in Bengal. In West Bengal, Mahishadal of east Midnapore, Mahesh of Hoogly, and the Rath of the ISKON of Kolkata and Bangladesh are famous. Fairs are organized at various places on the occasion of Rathayatra.
But the Rathayatra of Jagannath Deva of Puri of Orissa is the famous Rathayatra. Visiting Jagannath Deva on a chariot for a moment is considered to be the result of many virtuous deeds. This ceremony is so sacred if one touches the chariot on this day, even touching the rope of the chariot, one can reap the fruits of many holy deeds. Although there is no king’s reign every year, the people of the royal family of Puri still follow the rules of the chariot with wreaths, and the broom is given with golden brooms, and perfumed water in front of the chariot. Then the Rathayatra is started.
The main attraction of the Rathayatra of Puri is the position of the three deities in the three separate chariots of Balaram or Balabhadra, Subhadra, and Jagannath. The name of Jagannath Dev’s chariot is Nandighosh. This chariot is 45 feet high and has 18 wheels. The whole chariot is wrapped in red and yellow cloth. The name of Subhadra Rath is Darpadalan and Balaram’s name is Taladdwaj. On the day of the chariot, each chariot is tied to a 50-yards rope and pulled separately.
This chariot is compared to our bodies. The idol in the chariot can be compared to Paramatma(.i.e. the supreme spirit), the charioteer of the chariot is compared with the knowledge, and the horses by which the charioteer drives the chariot have been compared to the mind and the senses.
Rathayatra provides indescribable joy and nearness to God among the masses. In the end, the Rathayatra is a combination of communal harmony.