Bihu Chhath Gangaur Goa Carnival Jagannatha Ratha Yatra Kumbh Mela
Onam Pongal Pooram Pushkar Mela Skanda Shasthi Teej
Teej Skanda Shasthi Pushkar Mela Pooram Pongal Onam
Kumbh Mela Jagannatha Ratha Yatra Goa Carnival Gangaur Chhath Bihu


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Jagannatha Ratha Yatra
Thousands of pilgrims from all over India bear witness to this event and participate in pulling the chariots to their summer sojourn. It is believed that all who pull the rope of the chariot of Jagannatha and his brother and sister will go to heaven. According to another ancient belief, anyone who dies under the massive wheels of the chariot will attain salvation. Hence in the past, many devotees, wanting to attain salvation, flung themselves under the wheels. The practice has now been banned and the state and law enforcement take huge precautions to prevent anyone from doing this. Devotees now content themselves by simply pulling at the rope attached to the chariot. On this auspicious day, devotees hurl obscenities and profane abuses at the god. Locals believe that there existed an incestuous relation ship between Jagannatha and his sister Subhadra, which provoked abuses when the images were out in public. Hurling obscenities at the statue appears to be an old practice, observed for years. The entire Jagannatha Rath Yatra is a symbolic humanization of god. All the rituals associated with this festival demonstrate an attempt to bring the god down from his pedestal of glory to a more human level.
pilgrims at ratha yatra
This ritual is believed to be part of that attempt. On the day of the journey, people get up early in the morning and after bathing, offer prayers to Jagannatha. The three chariots are kept ready, lined in front of the Puri temple. The King of Puri with great pomp and ceremony then brings the deities to their respective chariots. Devotees then climb onto the chariots to offer prayer sand take the blessings of the deities. Descendants of the King of Puri, heralded by gaily-caparisoned elephants then sweep the chariot platforms with a gold-handled broom and sprinkle scented water to demonstrate that in the eyes of god, kings are no different from the lowliest of men. Only the King of Puri and the King of Nepal are allowed to enter the temple and touch the idol as they belong to the Chandravanshi dynasty, the same dynasty as Krishna. Then comes the most important moment. The teeming pilgrims line up Jagannatha Rath Yatra holding the ropes and pull the chariot with all their might. Everyone's sole aim is to have the supreme privilege of helping the chariots on their journey. This is believed to absolve them of all their sins. When the chariots reach the summerhouse, prayers are offered. The idols of Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra are installed in their respective places. With this, the festivities come to a close.
The week passes quietly, with only a few local people offering prayers to the deities. The journey back consists of another ritual, observed on a much smaller scale, known as Phera Rath Yatra. Every year, the great chariots are broken down and its wood is sold as relics. A replica is made on exactly the same pattern the next year. However the images of the deities are preserved. It is only in a year in which two Ashadha months occurs one after the other that the images are changed. This usually happens once in 12 or 24 years. The ceremony, called Naba Kalebar, consists of burying the old images inside the temple. Then new images are created from the wood of the lime (Citrus acida) tree. This practice of replacing the idols stems from the belief that in such a year, everything in the universe changes shape and form, and therefore Jagannatha receives the same treatment. The year 1996 was the most recent year of Naba Kalebar, and the one before that was 1974. In the evening, people dress in new clothes and go visiting. Shops and houses are decorated with flowers and lights, and traditionally with rangoli. Special dishes and sweets are made on this day. Fried papad is usually eaten in every home. Pakoras are also popular favorites. Most people refrain from eating non-vegetarian food.
Being of utmost importance, especially to the people of Orissa, this day is a public holiday in the state. As this chariot festival falls during the monsoon season, people also thank the gods for their mercy and bounty, by participating in the procession. The special significance of the Rath Yatra is that god comes out from behind the curtains of rituals to move amongst ordinary people and offer redemption. Nowhere else is a deity, once consecrated, taken out of the temple. The only exception is when a temple requires some repair work. However, even then, the idols are removed following the strictest of guidelines. The Jagannatha Temple at Puri is the sole exception to this general rule. In fact during the Rath Yatra, the chariots become mobile temples, which sanctify the city.
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