Jul 072016

Where The Divine Travels: Rath Yatra Puri

The map only showed that Puri is on the sea shore of Bay of Bengal, there was no mention of the ocean of humanity that submerges the city of Lord Jagannath every year. As per legend every year Lord Jagannath and his siblings Balbhadra and Subhadra visit their aunts’ home. The journey happens on three temples chariots pulled by devotees.

 When I reached the main square where Raths were getting final touches, more than the size of the Chariots I am overwhelmed by humanity around me.  It seems the world has congregated on the path the Lord takes for his journey to his aunt. For most of us Indians, the first trip is to our relatives and the second is a pilgrimage to see our gods. Rath Yatra is both. The pilgrims are visiting the Lord, and he is leaving his abode to give a darshan to mortals, outside the haloed chambers.

Rath Yatra Puri

The Raths get last touches before Rath Yatra in Puri

The temple square is full, but people keep pouring in from every tributary to merge in the ocean in front of the chariots. Personal space is reduced to inches. My city-bred nose tries to revolt only to be snubbed by desi heart that wants to merge with millions to be ONE with the divine.

Rath Yatra Puri

A devotee plays the favorite musical instrument of Krishna

 I try to capture the colors of chariots against the azure sky and rural India in their finery to get a glimpse of the Lord and get a chance to pull the chariots.  Before I could reach chariots my head starts spinning, after all how long a couple of Idlis can stand for you in the blazing sun?  A volunteer sprinkles water on me and guides me to the pavement, I settle on a small patch vacant by some miracle.  An old woman gestures me to cover my head and settles next to me.

 An old women at Rath Yatra Puri

I will watch from here and he will come to me such is my faith

  A Panda appears with a pot of Prasad & drowns in waves of “Hari Bol, Hari Bol”, in seconds his pot is empty, and his fist is stuffed with soiled notes.  Another man looks at my camera and offers me a roof top seat for a few thousand rupees.

Sir come to the roof, that is the place for people like you”, I wonder what is people like me, the urban middle class perched on rooftops looking down on the very Lord they are praying to.

King of Odisha Rath Yatra Puri

Former King of Odisha cleans the Chariot of Lord before the Rath Yatra begins

As I walk to my hotel I meet some boys conducting their own Ratha Yatra in a narrow alley.

Rath Yatra Puri

Boys conduct their own little Rath Yatra

 I return in the evening to join chants of “Hare Rama Hare Krishna” with devotees lighting lamps and offering prayers to Lord Jagannath.

Rath Yatra Puri (9)

Devotees lighting lamps in front of the Raths in the evening

Rath Yatra Puri ISCON devotees

Hare Rama Hare Krishna -Hare Krishna Hare Rama- The world is Krishna and The Krishna is World

Next morning as I walk past the Raths, the idols have moved to the Gundicha Temple and a lone officer is trying to protect himself from the drizzle. The devotees are gone and so is the frown on his face.

Rath Yatra Puri Police man on duty

A lone policeman in front of the Raths the next day. The ocean of humanity is gone only to return next year

But just like thousands of years, the Ocean will return next year, and hopefully me too, for who does not want to be part of an Ocean?

Rath Yatra Puri

Come rain or shine the show must go on

Let us see when I get a chance to revisit the abode of Lord Jagannath to watch his annual spectacle that is like nothing else on this planet. Jai Jagannath.

Rath Yatra Jagannath Puri - Nandighosa Chariot

Nandighosa the Yellow and Red Chariot of Lord Jagannath

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  17 Responses to “Rath Yatra Puri : A Divine Festival of India”

Comments (17)
  1. I remember reading this one on somebody else’s site earlier. It is an an absolute delight being a part of this Yatra!

  2. Beautiful photos

  3. Awesome captures from the festival. Your pictures seem to have captured the energy of the place. It feels great to see the Puri Rath Yatra here on desitraveler. Thank you Prasad.

  4. Beautiful description of a grand festival where thousands of devotees gather to form a human ocean, keeping aside all differences and being one… The pictures are equally vibrant.

  5. that is wonderful 🙂

  6. Jagannath Rath Yatra is an experience to cherish and even though you had to leave it half through, the devotion shines brightly through your heartfelt words and pictures. My favourite picture is of the boys conducting their own Rath Yatra, such beauty in prayers!

  7. Your words and pictures recreated the holy moment…

  8. Beautiful pictures . I have been to Puri once but not during Rath yatra. I wish to witness it once .

  9. An absolute spectacle!

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