Jagannath Rath Yatra
The Jagannath Rath Yatra or the Festival of Chariots of Lord Jagannath originated five thousand years ago in India on the east coast state of Orissa in a city known as Jagannatha Puri. Every year, the presiding deities of the main temple, Sri Mandira, Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra, with the celestial wheel Sudarshana are taken out from the temple precincts in an elaborate ritual procession to their respective chariots. The huge, colourfully decorated chariots, are drawn by hundreds and thousands of devotees on the bada danda, to the Gundicha temple. After a stay for seven days, the deities return to their abode in Sri Mandira.
Today, this festival is celebrated not only all over India but also all over the world. It is an annual celebration in which Lord Jagannatha, the Lord of the Universe, along with his brother Balarama and sister Subhadra come out of their temple precincts to give Darshan to all devotees irrespective of any sect or community.
The Rath Yatra is suffused with devotional sentiments for the Lord and devotees earnestly pray to the Lord to steer the chariots of their mundane lives through the vicissitudes of Samsara. It is said that those who participate in the Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra earn passage to Heaven.
A glimpse of Lord Jagannatha on the chariot is considered to be very auspicious and saints, poets and scriptures have repeatedly glorified the sanctity of this special festival.
The sanctity of the festival is so great that, it is believed, that even a touch of the chariot or even the ropes with which the chariots are pulled is considered enough to confer the results of several pious deeds or penance for ages.