Jagannath Ratha Yatra Puri

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This is the main entrance to the Jagannath temple called Singhadwara (Lion Gate). The idols of Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra are taken out of the temple through this gate before the Ratha Yatra. A magnificent sixteen-sided monolithic pillar known as the Arun stambha stands in front of the main gate. This pillar has an idol of Arun, the charioteer of the Sun God Surya, on its top.

There are three other entrances facing north, south and west. They are named after the sculptures of animals guarding them. The other entrances are the Hathidwara or the Elephant Gate, the Vyaghradwara or the Tiger Gate and the Ashwadwara or the Horse Gate. This is the Ashwadwara i.e. the Horse Gate

The view of the temple from the Bada Danda i.e. the Grand Road along which the chariots are pulled on the day of the Ratha Yatra. The current temple was built in the 11th century on the ruins of a previous one, by the Eastern Ganga dynasty King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. The temple spire rises to 214 feet (65 m) above the inner sanctum where the deities reside. On top of the temple is a eight-spoked wheel of Vishnu called the ''Srichakra'' or ''Nilachakra''.

That’s me standing on the Grand Road, in the morning after the Ratha Yatra. It’s a 2 km long road which connects the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple. The Jagannath Temple is one of the four important places of Hindu pilgrimage (Char Dham).

The three chariots stand on the Grand Road, outside the Jagannath Temple. The idols are placed inside the chariots on the day of the Ratha Yatra. On the left is Balaram''s chariot (red with blue stripes, 44 feet high), in the center is Subhadra''s chariot (red with black stripes, 43 feet high) and on your right is Jagannath''s chariot (red with yellow stripes, 45 feet high)

Around two million people visit Puri during the Rathyatra festival. The festival takes place in the month of June, when its hot and humid. The government arranges for water tankers to spray cool water on the pilgrims, and emergency medical facilities are kept on stand-by.

We watched the Rath Yatra from the balcony of a hotel on the Grand Road, for a nominal charge. We were actually lucky to be allowed in since most of the places were already full. The first chariot was that of Balarama''s. The chariots stop at many places along the way, to enable the devotees to catch a glimpse of the deities. The police play a very important role in clearing the area in front of the chariots, and guiding the ropes, which are pulled by the devotees.

The chariot stood next to our hotel for quite some time. The ropes had to adjusted before it started moving again.

Look at the number of temple priests (pandas) on top of the chariot. They are having the ride of their life! Not only is this unsafe, but it also prevents the devotees from catching a glimpse of the dieties inside the chariot.

This is Subhadra''s chariot. All the chariots are constructed anew every year, from a special type of wood, by a specialist team of carpenters who have hereditary rights for building the chariots.

Once again you can see the police guiding the ropes. They do a remarkable job, and considering the immense crowds, the festival passes off with very few incidents. The people have gathered on the rooftops and balconies.

The chariot wheels are seven feet in diameter. Subhadra''s chariot has 12 wheels, Balaram''s chariot has 14 wheels and Jagannath''s chariot has 16 wheels.

Finally its Jagannath''''s chariot. The crowds swelled up considerably, and there was loud chanting and singing, beating of drums and blaring of trumpets. It is said that anyone who is present during the Rathayatra festival gets absolved of all sin.

Jagannath means "Lord of the Universe". He is worshipped in different yugas in different forms. In the Kali Yuga he is identified with Lord Krishna.

The chariot passes by our hotel, pulled by the devotees, with a immense crowd of humanity in front. The chariots will cover the 2 km distance to the Gundicha Temple and the idols are taken inside the Gundicha Temple the next morning, where they stay for 7 days. After this they return back to the Temple of Jagannath, in another joyous procession known as the Ulta-Rath.

The Jagannath Ratha Yatra led to the coinage of the English term ''Juggeranut'', which refers to an unstoppable force. This picture gives you an idea why.

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