Rath Yatra, the car festival, is an annual ritual celebrated at Jagannath Temple in Puri, Orissa. ‘Rath’ means ‘chariot’ and ‘Yatra’ means a ‘pilgrimage’ or ‘procession’. Starting from the second day of the waxing phase of the moon of the Ashadha month (mid June – mid July), the festival lasts for ten days. The festival starts with high pitched celebrations with drums, trumpets and cymbals. The idols of Lord Jagannath, brother Balabhadra and the sister Subhadra, adorned beautifully and placed on decorated chariots pulled manually by thousands of devotees, are taken to the garden temple Gundicha Ghar, during the Rath Yatra Period.
Lord Jagannath was taken out in a sixteen wheeled yellowish chariot of size 35 ft square, 45 ft high and 7 ft in diameter, is distinct with four white horses, a chakra and garuda. The procession lasts for ten days and on the tenth day the lord reaches the main temple. Every year new chariots are made for the festival, without losing any traditional structures and decorations.
The festival has a mythological back ground and is dating back to 10th century. One mythology relates the chariot procession to the journey of Lord Krishna to Mathura. There are other beliefs also associated with this festival. This is a grand festival which no visitor to Puri can miss.