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Car Festival of Lord Jagannath

Which is the Chariot Festival of India?

Every year in mid-summer, Lord Jagannath, with his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra, goes on vacation, traveling on grand chariots, from his temple in Puri, to his garden palace in the countryside. This belief of the Hindus has given rise to one of the biggest religious festivals in India – the Rath Yatra or the Chariot Festival. This is also the etymological origin of the English word ‘Juggernaut’. Jagannath, believed to be an avatar of Lord Vishnu, is the Lord of Puri – the coastal town of Orissa in eastern India. Rath Yatra is of great significance to the Hindus, and especially to the people of Orissa. It is during this time that the three deities of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken out in a grand procession in specially made gigantic temple-like chariots called raths, which are pulled by thousands of devotees.

Ratha Yatra, also referred to as Rathayatra, Rathjatra or Chariot festival is any public procession in a chariot. The term particularly refers to the annual Rathayatra in Odisha, Jharkhand and other East Indian states, particularly the Odia festival that involve a public procession with a chariot with deities Jagannath (Vishnu avatar), Balabhadra (his brother), Subhadra (his sister) and Sudarshana Chakra (his weapon) on a ratha, a wooden deula-shaped chariot. It attracts over a million Hindu pilgrims who join the procession each year.

Rathayatra processions have been historically common in Vishnu-related (Jagannath, Rama, Krishna) traditions in Hinduism across India, in Shiva-related traditions, saints and goddesses in Nepal, with Tirthankaras in Jainism, as well as tribal folk religions found in the eastern states of India. Notable ratha yatras in India include the Ratha yatra of Puri, the Dhamrai Ratha Yatra and the Ratha Yatra of Mahesh. Hindu communities outside India, such as in Singapore, celebrate Rathayatra such as those associated with Jagannath, Krishna, Shiva and Mariamman. According to Knut Jacobsen, a Rathayatra has religious origins and meaning, but the events have a major community heritage, social sharing and cultural significance to the organizers and participants.

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