Meaning ‘chariot festival’, the Ratha Yatra festival is the parade of the chariots of the Hindu deities, Lord Jagannatha, Subhadra and Balarama. The spiritual home of the festival is the Jagannatha temple in the city of Puri, Eastern India but it has been celebrated by Hindus in the Western states since it was introduced by the spiritual teacher, Sria Prabhupada, in 1967. Today, the festival is sometime known as Lord Jagannatha’s Divine Festival, and is celebrated by Hindus all over the world.
During Ratha Yatra, statues of the Hindu deities are removed from temples, loaded onto huge chariots and paraded through the streets in exuberant procession. Crowds line the streets to greet the chariots with jubilant singing, dancing and chanting the maha-mantra (the great mantra for deliverance) to the rhythmic sounds of cymbals and drums. After the procession, Hindus celebrate with a festival and feast of prasadam (sacred free vegetarian food).
Interestingly, the English word juggernaut comes from the Ratha Yatra chariots made in Jagannatha’s honour. For more information about Radha Yatra please click here