The auspicious Rath Yatra spread over nine days begun in the holy city of Puri on 3rd of July 2011. This annual festival began with the “Mangala Aarti” at 4am and the Rath Yatra, also known as Car Festival started its journey to Gundicha temple at 3.30pm. The city paints a pretty picture of devotion, faith and belief of the thousands of devotees who throng the city each year.
The significance of one of the most splendid and propitious events in the Hindu Calender, celebrates the journey of Krishna from Gokul to Mathura. It also signifies a journey to light from the dark, which begins on the 2nd day of the bright fortnight in the month of Asadha (June/July). Stories around devotees throwing themselves under the massive wheels of the chariots to die a death in hoping to attain eternal bliss, date back to the ancient times.
The highlight of this sacred journey are the statues of Lord Jagannath of Puri with brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra to the Gundicha temple, where they are kept for the next nine days. The colossal wooden chariots carrying the three deities are pulled by thousands of ardent devotees along a distance of 2 km. On the way, deities are treated to special Cake, Podapitha offered at the shrine of goddess Aradhamsini (aunt or masi) of Lord Jagannath.
Once the beautifully draped mammoth chariots reach Gundicha Ghar of Mandir, the devotees are given darshan every day. After a rest of eight days, they return to Jagannath Temple with a similar procession. The revelry attract about 5-6 lakh devotees each year.
Once the festival concludes, each year the chariots are broken and the pieces are used for firewood in the temple kitchens or sold to pilgrims as vestiges. New chariots are made each year to stiff specifications of craft laid down in temple's ancient manuals.
The amalgamation of devotees from all over the country, the sounds of the gongs and the bedecked chariots sure provides for an experience to treasure.