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The Ratha Yatra of Puri is popularly known as Car Festival. It is celebrated on Aashada Suddha Vidiya day i.e on the 2nd day after Amavasya (moonless night) in the Hindu month of Aashaad. This is one of the most popular Hindu festivals that is celebrated with great fervor.
Puri is a small traditional temple town in the East coast of Odisha. It is one of the most important pilgrim centres of the Vaishnav sect. The place is considered as one of the important dhams i;e pilgrim places. Jagannath temple in Puri is heavily crowded with devotees round the year. The uniqueness of the temple is that unlike the main deities in other Hindu temples, the main deities of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Subhadra Devi in this temple are made of wood of Deodar tree.
On Ratha Yatra day the 3 huge wooden deities along with the Divine Disc Sudarshana are taken out from the Sanctum sanctorum in a ritualistic procession and are placed in the respective rathas i.e. chariots. The wooden rathas are beautifully decorated in different specified colors. Each rath / car has its own specification and name.
Nandighosh - the Ratha of Lord JagannathThe ratha of Lord Jagannath is known as Nandighosh. It is 23 cubits in height and has 18 wheels. The chariot is colorfully decorated and covered with bright yellow and red color clothes.
Taladhwaja - the Ratha of Lord BalabhadraTaladhwaja is the chariot of Balabhadra. It is 22 cubits in height and has 16 wheels. The chariot is brightly decorated and covered with green and red color clothes.
Devadalana - the Chariot of Subhadra DeviThe ratha of Subhadra Devi is known as Devadalana. It is 21 cubits high and has 14 wheels. The chariot is decorated with bright colors of red and black.
On Jyestha Purnima day (full moon day) the 3 wooden idols are brought from the sanctum sanctorum and placed on a big platform in the temple premises which is close to Ananda Bazaar. These idols are given a celestial shower (snaan i.e. bath) on this pendal and then the idol are decorated / get ready for Ratha Yatra. On Ratha Yatra day the main idols are placed in the chariots and are then pulled by thousands of devotees through the main road (bada danda / Grand Ave) of the town in a huge procession.
The chariots are taken to Gundicha temple which is around 2 miles from the main temple. The deities are kept in this temple for seven continuous days. The deities are brought back in a return procession known as Bahuda from Gundicha temple to the main temple or Srimandir of Lord Jagannath.
Lord Jagannath is believed to be an incarnations of Krishna / Lord Vishnu.
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- Each year the chariots are carved with fresh wood as per the religious requirements.
- The huge deities are made of Devadaru (deodar) wood.
- Once in every 12 years, when there is Adhika Aashadam (an extra month of Aashad in addition to the original Aashadam), the old wooden deities are replaced with the new ones. Such a replacement of new wooden idols takes place in festivity known as Nab Kalebara Jatra. In 2015, there was Adhika Aashadam and Nab Kalebara Jatra was celebrated.
- The great event of Ratha Yatra at Puri is showed live on Doordarshan and other private channels. Devotees of Lord Jagannath across the world can watch the event live.
- Ratha Yatra festival attracts a huge crowd and is celebrated in the rainy season, the tourists and visitors need to take extra health care.